Rain no pain for Japanese rock festival

By Brady Haran and Kylie Pentelow
BBC News, Fuji Rock Festival, Naeba, Japan

Image caption,
The first festival was held in 1997 in the shadow of Mount Fuji

Heavy rain had little impact on the 14th Fuji Rock Festival, held about 200km from Tokyo this weekend at the Naeba Ski Resort in Japan's Niigata prefecture.

Downpours created vast areas of mud across the mountainous site, yet there were few of the problems associated with wet festivals in England.

"Even when it rains here it's beautiful," British musician Jamie Cullum told the crowd. "When it rains at Glastonbury, it becomes a sewer."

One reason for the difference may be found in the audience's readiness for all conditions.

Most festival-goers - known as 'Fujirockers' - came equipped like SAS soldiers, with garments and tools for every occasion.

Many sported elaborate utility belts and backpacks, fully stocked with drink bottles, folding chairs and water-proof equipment.

But this level of preparedness was not always the case, explains the festival's international spokesman Johnnie 'Fingers' Moylett.

When the first festival was held in 1997 in the shadow of Mount Fuji, wild weather forced its early abandonment.

Image caption,
The event models itself on the world-famous Glastonbury festival

"It was most people's first festival and no one came prepared," explains Moylett, a founding member of the Boomtown Rats.

"They just turned up in shorts and the weather was like a hurricane."

Lessons were learned and the festival - still named after Japan's most famous mountain - has found a happier home in Naeba.

This year Fujirockers enjoyed the usual fare of local music and top western acts on various stages.

High-profile performers included Muse, Roxy Music and MGMT, along with more recent stars like Vampire Weekend and Foals.

Yet while the festival prides itself on the heavy influence of UK and US stars, its atmosphere remains distinctly Japanese.

The picturesque valley site is kept in pristine condition by festival-goers, all of whom adhere to recycling rules with zeal.

Locals made up the majority of the 110,000 people who attended the three-day event, which closes shortly with performances from Massive Attack and Scissor Sisters.

But organisers estimate between 5 and 10 percent of the audience came from places further afield, such as the UK, Australia and the US.

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