Spring music festival guide 2015

Start the outdoor party season early at these top gatherings

Spring music festival guide 2015

The summer months are obviously when most of Japan's big-time outdoor music festivals take place, but that's not to say the spring selection isn't deserving of attention: the weather is generally very agreeable from March to May, the crowds are less of a struggle than at summer's big-time parties, and you won't be paying through the nose for the fun. Those looking for variety will also have a field day, as most of the festivals listed below are less about attracting the maximum amount of visitors and more about keeping it real, whatever that means for each organiser and concept. From mainstream rock gatherings to techno parties on the seaside, these are 14 music festivals worth checking out this spring.


Gosetsu Jam

Feb 22 | Jogaoka Pureland, Niigata
Although not as famous as its Sapporo counterpart, Niigata's Tokamachi Snow Festival is also worth a visit, if only for the cozy small-town atmosphere and this outdoor music bash, happening on the last day of the festival. Taking the stage among the snow sculptures and fireworks are artists like vocalist Mika Arisaka with jazz trio Cro-Magnon, funk-poppers Indus & Rocks and smooth post-rock quartet Jizue, while the 'stall village' sells everything from festival food and clothing to local produce.
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Goodness Onsen #1

Feb 28 | Hotel Hikyo no Yu, Iya Onsen, Tokushima
This one-day fest takes place at a hotel in Tokushima'a Iya hot springs area, allowing visitors to combine onsen soaking with gigs by veteran rap crew Scha Dara Parr, alt-rockers Cinema Staff, math-rock foursome Toe and Shimokitazawa's own The Love Ningen. Families with kids will be happy to hear that junior high schoolers and younger kids enter for a mere ¥500.
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Yui no Oto

Mar 7 | Yuki City, Ibaraki
Known as the birthplace of yuki-tsumugi silk craft, western Ibaraki's Yuki City opens its historical sake breweries, storehouses and temples for this festival that brings music to every corner of the town. In addition to the paid concerts, free gigs take place all over the area, while the 'craft and food' zone is where to head if you're feeling peckish. Sounds like the perfect offbeat weekend getaway.
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Snow Monkey Beer Live

Mar 13, 14 | Shiga Kogen Sogo Kaikan 98, Nagano
Combining quality brews with great music and onsen bathing, Nagano's Snow Monkey Beer Live deserves a mention as one of the best early-spring festivals in Japan. Held in the ski resort-filled mountains not far from Tamamura Honten, brewers of the excellent Shiga Kogen line of beers, the party takes place over two days in March and features bands like Zainichi Funk, Polaris and Jizue, plus fine suds from names such as Aqula, Sankt Gallen, Baird, Fujizakura Heights, Minoh and Daisen.
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Go Out Jamboree

Apr 10-12 | Fumotoppara Camp Site, Shizuoka
Run by lifestyle mag Go Out, this camping-friendly festa combines music with sporty activities like bouldering and slacklining. The lineup includes ex-Ellegarden frontman Takeshi Hosomi, world music-rock fusion orchestra Soul Flower Union, reggae man Dozan11, the Wack Wack Rhythm Band and Tokyo No 1 Soul Set stalwart Toshimi Watanabe – an eclectic cast of characters, to say the least.
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Arabaki Rock Fest

Apr 25, 26 | Michinoku Park Campsite, Miyagi
One of the first major music festivals of the year, Miyagi's Arabaki is geared toward domestic indie bands and veteran artists, who regularly juggle their lineups and even team up with fellow rockers just for the occasion. If you're unafraid of a little unpredictable weather and unfamiliar band names, head on up to the Michinoku campsite near Sendai for appearances by the likes of Osaka jazz-rock unit Ego-Wrappin', fellow Kansai veterans Ulfuls, alt-rockers Spitz and unbeatable punk trio Eastern Youth, plus some added flavour from Britain's retro-rockin' sibling trio Kitty, Daisy & Lewis.
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Rainbow Disco Club

May 2-4 | Higashi-Izu Cross Country Course, Shizuoka
Held in Tokyo three times since 2010, this combo event uniting dance music and art packs up and moves out to the Izu Peninsula for its 2015 edition. Formerly a one-day bash, Rainbow Disco Club will now take place over an entire weekend, with artists like The Modern Deep Left Quartet, Rush Hour Allstars, Tim Sweeney and Ata already confirmed.
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Viva La Rock

May 3-5 | Saitama Super Arena
Offering a packed but somewhat directionless lineup of domestic bands, this three-day rock extravaganza again tries to make room for itself on the crowded Golden Week calendar with a variety of extra events taking place inside and around Saitama's Super Arena over the weekend. The highlight among these is the 'market' where aspiring musicians can network and promote their activities.
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Japan Jam Beach

May 3-5 | Makuhari Seaside Park
After spending the past few years locked inside, Rockin' On magazine's annual Japan Jam moves back out into the open for its 2015 edition. Although the word 'beach' isn't exactly how we'd describe Chiba's Makuhari and its seaside parks, at least the outdoor setting should help warm up the crowds in May. The lineup looks very similar to last year's version, with domestic favourites like Zazen Boys, The Oral Cigarettes and Asian Kung-Fu Generation all along for the ride.
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The Star Festival

May 15-17 | Stihl no Mori Campsite, Kyoto
Heading out to Kyoto for this year's edition, Kansai's top dance music jamboree offers a three-day sound trip in lush campsite surroundings. With more artist announcements still to come, the lineup right now has a heavy Teutonic flavour: the German contingent includes minimal house prankster DJ Koze, fellow minimalist Zip and Kompakt co-owner Lawrence, with Tokyo's very own Fumiya Tanaka and Stockholm house hero Axel Boman also along for the ride.
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Circle ‘15

May 16 | Uminonakamichi Seaside Park, Fukuoka
Heading down to Fukuoka in mid-May is something we'd seriously consider, even if it wasn't for this laidback seaside festival that always attracts punters from all over the country. Performing among the plants and animals of Nakanomichi Seaside Park are poppy post-rock duo Kicell, the venerable Harry Hosono, Tokyo's folk rockers Mori Wa Ikiteiru and oldboy trio Sanfujinzu – in other words, light and harmless fare suitable for listeners of all ages.
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Greenroom Festival '15

May 23, 24 | Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse
The surfers are taking over again at Yokohama's Red-Brick Warehouse as the annual Greenroom Festival returns. This surf-themed art-and-music jamboree offers a leisurely introduction to the summer music festival season, with movie screenings and yoga sessions adding to the relaxed vibe. For this year's edition, regulars like Lotus, Tommy Guerrero, Ray Barbee and Tomoyuki Tanaka will be joined by legendary reggae orchestra The Wailers and LA's activist jammers Ozomatli, with extra additions still on the horizon.
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Natural High

May 23, 24 | Doshi no Mori Campsite, Yamanashi
For a family-friendly spring escape from the city, this festival sure is hard to beat. Held in the forests of Yamanashi, around a 90-minute drive from Shinjuku, Natural High has been running on clean energy for a full decade now and combines camping and a laidback vibe with tunes courtesy of names like singer-songwriter Keiichi Sokabe, acoustic folk rockers Overground Acoustic Underground and instrumental foursome Nabowa. Look out for the tasty and healthy festival grub, too.
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Taico Club '15

May 30, 31 | Kodama no Mori, Nagano
Long one of Japan’s better dance festivals, this big-time outdoor bash will once again see a great many fans make the pilgrimage to the mountainside Kodama no Mori campsite in Nagano Prefecture. Albeit incomplete, the lineup already looks appetising: legendary abstract electronic duo Autechre will be making a rare appearance, while innovative jazz pianist and producer Robert Glasper will be bringing his Experiment to the stage as well. Finally, Chicago's 'dark electronics' visionary, Telefon Tel Aviv survivor and occasional Nine Inch Nails member Josh Eustis will be showing off his solo project, Sons of Magdalene.
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By Time Out Tokyo Editors
Please note: All information is correct at the time of writing but is subject to change without notice.


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