Japan summer music festival guide 2014

From Fuji Rock to idols and jazz – here's where to spend your summer weekends

Japan summer music festival guide 2014

Scorching heat, troublesome travel and exorbitant prices, sure, but Japan's many summer music festivals also provide an astonishing variety of settings, styles and genres, along with appearances by many world-class bands and a healthy dose of anarchy otherwise so rarely found on these shores. Mega-events like Fuji Rock and Summer Sonic aside, the supply ranges from refined indie fests and relaxed beach parties to celebrations of jazz and idol culture, so all you have to do is check out our list below, choose your favourite, and get ready to rock out in the great outdoors (or indoors, we don't mind).

The Big Three

Fuji Rock Festival '14

July 25-27 | Naeba Ski Resort, Yuzawa, Niigata
Fuji Rock returns to Naeba, Niigata Prefecture in the final weekend of July, and welcomes around 200 bands and artists who will play at 14 different stages. The lineup includes Jack Johnson, Franz Ferdinand, Blur's Damon Albarn, Travis, The Lumineers, Outkast, Lorde and Basement Jaxx – see the official website for the full list.
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Rising Sun Rock Festival 2014 in Ezo

August 15-16 | Tarukawa Wharf, Ishikari Bay New Port, Otaku, Hokkaido
You'd be surprised how many Tokyoites make the pilgrimage to Hokkaido for this two-day affair, where the main stage keeps going until dawn on the second night. The lineup at Rising Sun consists purely of domestic acts, with groups like Denki Groove, Unicorn and Sakanaction scheduled to appear this year. The festival is also a gastronomic delight: look out for stalls selling locally farmed produce, seafood and craft beer.
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Summer Sonic 2014

August 16-17 | Makuhari Messe
Held in the concrete expanses of Chiba's QVC Marine Field and Makuhari Messe, a half-hour train ride from Tokyo Station, Summer Sonic makes up in convenience for what it lacks in atmosphere. This year's festival is headlined by what's left of the legendary Queen, backed up by 'American Idol' Adam Lambert, and alt-rock heroes Arctic Monkeys.
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Sonicmania 2014

August 15 | Makuhari Messe
Held as a warm-up for Summer Sonic each year, the all-night Sonicmania party caters to dance kids who aren't so well served by the main festival itself. The 2014 edition will see appearances by English super-rockers Kasabian, the legendary Kraftwerk (apparently performing a '3D set' – you'll need those movie theatre-style glasses), Scotland's post-rock heroes Mogwai and loudmouthed EDM trio Krewella.
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For a relaxed outdoor vibe

Sukiyaki Meets The World 2014

August 22-24 | Nanto Helios and other venues, Nanto, Toyama
Japan's biggest world music festival takes place in Nanto, Toyama in late August. Going on since 1991, Sukiyaki Meets the World welcomes a diverse crowd of performers from African, Asian and Latin American countries, with this year's edition focusing especially on Africa and Korea. Art exhibitions, workshops and film screenings are also taking place, while the World Food Market will ensure that revellers stay in good spirits. Finally, Japanese artists with 'a worldwide outlook' will be playing on the second night.
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Earth Celebration 2014

August 22-24 | Shiroyama Park and other venues, Sado Island, Niigata
Though they spend much of the year touring Japan and overseas, renowned taiko drumming troupe Kodo return to their base in Sado Island each summer to host this music festival, an annual event that's been taking place since 1988. Earth Celebration centres around three evening concerts in Shiroyama Park, not far from Sado's Ogi Port, where Kodo perform signature pieces and one-off collaborations (this year with dance and gymnastics group Blue Tokyo). However, the highlights are often found elsewhere, be it the drumming and dance workshops, the musicians' seminars, the fringe performances, or even the bustling, DIY-style Harbour Market.
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World Happiness 2014

August 10 | Yumenoshima Park
The family-friendly World Happiness is one of those rare festivals going on right here in Tokyo. The play-it-safe lineup is veteran-heavy (think Yukihiro Takahashi, Keiichi Suzuki & Kera's No Lie-Sense, and Harry Hosono), with a few current hot names (Akai Koen, Cero) thrown in for good measure. There's a special discount for parents with elementary school-age or younger children.
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New Acoustic Camp 2014

September 13-14 | Minakami Kogen Resort 200, Gunma
Take a break from modernity and head out to the forests and mountains of Gunma for this acoustic-only weekend that's been going strong since 2010. Built in the form of a small village, the festival area is filled with stalls selling mainly organic goodies, and a variety of workshops are also taking place. If you're into laid-back singer-songwriters and a semi-hippie atmosphere, this is the party for you.
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For a full-on party atmosphere

Aomori Rock Festival

July 21 | Yogoshiyama Ski Area, Hiranai-machi, Aomori
If you're looking for excitement in the middle of summer, head up north. The one-day Aomori Rock Festival likes to do things differently, from the ludicrously early start time (7am!) to pro wrestler appearances and to the lineup that finds space for workaday indie guitar bands, idol pop, anime song specialists and veteran post-hardcore outfit Brahman.
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Rock in Japan Festival 2014

August 2-3 & 9-10 | Hitachi Seaside Park, Ibaraki
Few music magazines have a better grasp of what the public wants than Rockin' On, the influential periodical behind this most repetitive of music festivals. Held at an attractive seaside park on the Ibaraki coast, Rock in Japan consistently sells out in advance each year, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that the lineup has more repeat performers than any other summer music fest. This year marks the festival's 15th birthday, which apparently calls for even more of the same: Rock in Japan will now take place over two successive weekends.
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Sweet Love Shower 2014

August 29-31 | Lake Yamanaka Kirara Plaza, Yamanashi
Music channel Space Shower TV is behind this lakeside festival taking place in the shadow of Mount Fuji and featuring a mostly uninspiring lineup of domestic rock and pop, including rockers The Hiatus, Kana-Boon and Alexandros, as well as the always busy Kyary Pamyu Pamyu. The risqué name doesn't really do this one justice.
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MTV Zushi Fes 2014

August 8-10 | Riviera Zushi Marina, Zushi, Kanagawa
MTV's popular beach bash takes over the Zushi Marina again this year with a lineup consisting mostly of domestic hip-hop heavyweights like AK-69, Cream, Han-Kun and Rip Slyme. Get your swimsuits ready, and keep your eyes peeled for further artist announcements and ticket release dates.
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Ultra Japan

September 27-28 | Odaiba Ultra Japan Stage
Miami's Ultra Music Festival, one of the largest EDM events in the world, is finally coming to Tokyo. Dutch DJ superstar Hardwell has been confirmed as the headliner, while the rest of the lineup will can be expected to maintain the same high quality witnessed at last year's Road to Ultra pre-party.
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For an underground experience

The Labyrinth 2014

September 13-15 | Naeba Greenland, Niigata
Once you've tried Labyrinth, there's no turning back. Revered by techno nerds worldwide, it must be one of the most fastidiously crafted dance parties on earth: attendance is capped at a few thousand people, the high-end Funktion One sound system is EQed to shimmering, pin-drop perfection – and they only bother to book acts who know how to make the most of it. No word yet about the lineup for this year's event, but if it's of a similar calibre to last year's fest – which featured Peter Van Hoesen, Donato Dozzy and Material Object – then we should be in for a treat.
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Rural 2014

July 19-21 | Mountain Park Tsunan, Niigata
'Rural', indeed. Since starting life in the mountains of Yamanashi Prefecture in 2009, this self-styled underground dance party has emerged as a pint-sized progeny of the more established Labyrinth festival. Much like its most obvious spiritual forebear, Rural offers an alternative to Japan's major dance fests. There's only place for 1,500 eager fans, and the lineup is an eclectic mix of artsy electronic music, including names like deep techno master Claudio PRC, NYC minimal pioneers Ike Yard and British producer extraordinaire Regis, along with domestic powers like Aoki Takamasa, Kohei and Gonno.
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For something completely different

Tokyo Jazz Festival 2014

September 5-7 | Tokyo International Forum
Japan's biggest jazz festival always features a highly diverse (although sometimes uneven) lineup, with this year's edition seeing appearances by everyone from the venerable Herbie Hancock to pianist Makoto Ozone and from the Christian McBride Big Band to R&B wizard Kenny 'Babyface' Edmonds. As was the case last year as well, the main concerts will be complemented by more intimate shows across the road at the Cotton Club, plus free gigs held in TIF's open-air plaza.
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Tokyo Idol Festival 2014

August 2 | Diver City Tokyo and other venues in the Odaiba-Aomi area
After a 2013 edition that saw a total of 111 'idol' groups play for 33,000 adoring fans, this year's version of the Tokyo Idol Festival will have to pull off something really special. They're of course trying to do just that, promising unique 'collaborative' gigs that'll feature top groups sharing the stage for the first time. Expect appearances by units like Idoling!!!, AeLL, Sakura Gakuin, Tokyo Girls' Style, Negicco and Vanilla Beans, along with many up-and-coming performers from across the country, and join idol fans from all over the world for a two-day celebration of cuteness.
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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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