You’ll hear it again and again from anyone who’s been: Fuji Rock is a special festival. Nestled in the mountains of rural Niigata a few hours outside of Tokyo, this three-day festival is as much about the music as it is about soaking in all the gorgeousness that rural Japan has to offer: towering, cloud-capped hills; a burbling river to wade in; glowy nighttime pathways with disco balls scattering light across the trails. And festivalgoers really did soak it in: as seems to be the tradition, it was a rainy Fuji Rock this year, drizzling all three days with a downpour on Saturday. But that didn’t stop the hordes of Fuji goers from having an awesome time — one that, in many ways, is markedly different than most Western festival experiences.
For one, the trash carpet that typically accumulates on the ground throughout the course of a festival was amazingly absent (replaced instead by a nice, goopy mud flooring known for claiming unsuspecting flip-flops). Indeed, Fuji Rock holds itself to high environmental standards like much of Japan, including a rigid recycling system complete with staff ready to guide you through the process should you get confused as to where to toss your chopsticks.
Along with the impressive lack of litter, there was also stark lack of smoke clouds among the crowd given that Fuji Rock is a strictly drug-free affair. Actually, Fuji Rock seems to be a more wholesome festival than many might be used to. Trendy couples decked out in proper hiking gear roamed the festival with strollers and children in tow, and to keep kids entertained if Björk wasn’t really their style, kids were welcome to climb around “Kid’s Land” in the woods, an eco-inspired playground that even adults would be jealous of.
And though Fuji Rock boasted some huge names this year — Björk, Aphex Twin, Gorillaz, and Lorde, to name a few — many Fuji Rockers seem to be regulars, making the trek to the hills every July no matter the lineup. Just looking at the abundance of camping gear, it was clear that many attendees were pros at the whole festival camping thing. Save your Summer ‘17 festival collection — the look for Fuji Rock consisted of hiking boots, oversize ponchos, and the ever-ubiquitous bucket hats. But despite donning gear fit for climbing Fuji’s namesake, many festival pros took the more lax route and staked out in chairs and tarps during music sets, scattered about the hills overlooking the massive Green and White Stages. In the states, you can bet your chair would be gone or your tarp trampled upon if left out for hours at a time, but at Fuji Rock this is a regular occurrence, and like most things in Japan, things surprisingly work out and faith in humanity is restored just that little bit.
This year’s Fuji Rock was a rainy three-day marathon, the brunt of which was reserved for Saturday nighttime festgoers. But to keep the chill away, the festival’s tasty warm ramen was just a stone’s throw away at any given moment, along fire dancers and fireworks, because it’s not a Japanese festival if you don’t have fireworks. Yes, Fuji Rock is too special — and expensive — to waste sitting in a tent, rain be damned! And so, here are the top 10 acts of Fuji Rock 2017.