Fuji Rock 2018: Day 1
A Fuji Rock First Timer’s Report, Day 1

A Fuji Rock First Timer’s Report, Day 1

Arriving in Yuzawa

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Echigo-yuzawa Station

We arrived in Tokyo a day before Fuji Rock 2018. We took an express train from Narita airport to Tokyo Station and hopped on the Joetsu Shinkansen line to Echigo-yuzawa Station.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
First beer in Japan. In a Shinkansen!

After all that’s been said about how intimidating trains in Japan could be (they are), I would say this: the train and way-finding systems were all pretty straightforward. Station officers and conductors spoke conversational English and they loved to offer help. We survived Thursday rush hour with luggage in tow. You’ll be fine.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Cali and our welcome sign

We were picked up in Echigo-yuzawa Station by our shuttle service, which our hotel, Sporea Hotel Yuzawa, offered for free.

Fuji Rock week is considered high season; so hotels and hostels do not come by cheap. Not only does Sporea Hotel Yuzawa stand within a lazy person’s radius from the train station, it also offers daily. Breakfast. Buffet. The buffet proved divinely useful for the next three days of late nights and sore bodies, which justly affected our ability to decide where to eat. Sporea Hotel Yuzawa was actually not our first choice, but I’m glad we ended up there. Cali and I had to look for a much smaller room after our friends started falling out of Fuji Rock one by one. The hotel even gave us hotel vouchers. Sweet?

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
View from our hotel window at 9/F

Day Zero: Pre-Concert Preps

7-11 is Your Best Friend

After settling in and regaining our bearings, one of the first things we did in Yuzawa was activate and reload our Rakuten Edy cards. Our awesome friend who works for Rakuten mailed us some Edy cards. I read that Fuji Rock merchants have started accepting e-payments for food and drinks, so I thought we’d get in on that. Luckily the only 7-11 store in Yuzawa reloads Edy cards (the hot word for reloading is “chargee”). I chargee’d with ¥5,000 (Php 2500~) to start with and reloaded another ¥5,000 two days later. We paid for 3 days worth of concert food and drinks with Edy. BTW, I do believe anyone can purchase the card online.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Rakuten Edy cards

That same 7-11 was every concert-goers watering hole. What’s amazing was how 7-11 managed to restock everything so fast. There was never a shortage of beer, water, or chips. The sushi and other snacks at the food station always seemed fresh. The floor was always clean despite the influx of customers. The payment counter queue moved despite the horde of ambling foreigners like us, figuring out which paper bill to hand in exchange of goods. You could tell the festival spirit was high because no one seemed to care if you were holding up the line. You could also tell which were locals and which were not by the speed at which a transaction happened. Really lucky we had our Edy cards.

I picked up a bottle of Suntory Whiskey to keep me company for the next 3 concert days – not that Cali wasn’t good enough of a companion 😀 Also picked up boxes of chocolate drinks (¥60), mints, those nori crackers (¥100) that turned out to be so addicting, and an emergency raincoat (¥400). Then on the same day I found out that our hotel had a floor full of vending machines that had all these other drinks and even one just for ice cream?! Thing about Japan: VENDOS EVERYWHERE.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018, photo by Cali
Vendos in the middle of freaking nowhere, I tell ya

Other grocery options:

  • CoCoLo at Echigo-yuzawa Station
  • Small grocery in front of Naeba Prince Hotel just outside the festival grounds, but pricier and lesser options
  • An even smarter option is to do grocery in Tokyo before coming here

 

Day 1

Summary: shuttle to the Fuji Rock, picked up our festival bands, the deal with that Dragondola, and stood front row for freaking ODESZA!

Regrets: should’ve bought merchandise early on, really

We had breakfast at the hotel, took a post-breakfast nap (who does that? Us) while we recharged our gadgets, and walked to Echigo-yuzawa Station around lunch time. Here we took the festival shuttle to Naeba. Almost no line at the shuttle station. A Taiko (drum) band provided entertainment right by the loading station. I thought that was a good way to get the festival mood on!

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Taiko

We handed our ¥250 shuttle roundtrip fee each to the conductor and took the 30-minute trip bus to Naeba. The route was scenic all the way. I could just imagine how lovely it would look in winter.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Shuttle line at Echigo-yuzawa Station. Don’t be fooled! This was hardly a 5-min queue

The shuttle drop-off point at Naeba was a few minutes’ walk from the main festival entrance. We took this into account so that we’d save some more energy for the walk back.

We looked for the Gan-ban booth to exchange our online-purchased tickets. Ticket print-outs were required;  I wished it wasn’t. Japan seems to be reliant on papers for transactions. Again no line. They gave us ¥500 worth of free drink vouchers for exclusive use at the Gan-ban booth, which I used to Coke up my Suntory. Gan-ban is an official ticket and merchandise partner but there are other options as well. I really only chose Gan-ban because it sounded funny. Try saying it about 15 times and you’d be where I’m at. TIP: Buy from Gan-ban! Good e-commerce experience overall.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Food park at Naeba

There was a decent selection of food at the park outside the festival grounds, so we thought we’d have lunch there. With our foldable chairs, we settled right in the middle of the bustle and ate our first meal at (rather, outside) Fuji Rock. Most people have also sat down like us and have started drinking at this point. No one is surprised. But there was no rowdiness or a sense of chaos.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Me!

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Cali

One of my best memories of Fuji Rock was the walk leading up to the entrance. The “Welcome to Fuji Rock 2018” arch began to zoom into view. The pedestrian flow slowed to a stop. People were of course pausing to take selfies or group photos. I, on the other hand, froze there with a stupid smile on my face, thinking, I’m really here! Cali shook me out of my daze and started waving a camera in front of us.

This is me recovering from my excitement:

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Attendance!

I’ve been to festivals but that felt like my first!

Remember to take a photo with these googly-eyed rocks when you see one. No one knows what they are. Or everyone but us. I am wagering they were Fuji Rockers in their past lives.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
I’ve started calling him Kenny

We had most of the afternoon to explore the festival grounds. I had an idea in my head of the amount of walking this festival required from us, but nothing prepared me for how expansive the actual venue was. We traversed the Red Marquee Stage, Green Stage (main stage), White Stage, the Board Walk with the long wooden walkway, Field of Heaven Stage, all the way to the Un Fair Grounds.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Forest in front of the Red Marquee Stage

We thought we’d take the epic Dragondola that everyone was raving about. And by everyone, I mean the poster right outside the Dragondola ticket booth. No line again so this mildly encouraged us. The view was nothing short of breath-taking.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
View of the Green Stage from the Dragondola

You got a bird’s eye view of the festival on one side and an endless stream of trees on the other.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
View of the White Stage from the Dragondola

Excitement quickly turned into concern as it was actually very hot inside the gondola. It was airtight save for a strip of open window near the ceiling where air flowed in from. The farther the gondola rolled from the pick-up point, the higher the level of despair. Ohmygod the ride never seemed to end. Then your thoughts lingered into the abyss: if this gondola stopped and dropped, would I survive? I really wanted to not die before Odesza. How do I find my way back? Maybe let’s not do this again? Except that there’s still the trip back.

The Dragondola was named as such because the ropeway takes you over rolling hills and it feels like you’re traversing the back of the dragon. Also because it’s a loooong 25-minute ride. Definite highlight of the ride was each time the gondola rolled downhill. Being face to face with a steep drop had its thrills – like the feeling you get a few seconds before doing a cliff jump.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018, photo by Cali
The downhills were the best part

Now for the ridiculous part. We knew the Dragondola was a roundtrip thing – but what we didn’t know was they would be asking us to step out of the gondola and line up again to take the return trip. I remember being so irritated and impatient upon finding this out after that epic ride where 25 mins was 3 years. I only slightly calmed down after discovering that there’s a rave party in full swing behind the Dragondola station. The Day Dreaming and Silent Breeze stages were apparently stationed here.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Day Dreaming and Silent Breeze stages

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
At the Dragondola station, about to make a 25-minute mistake

And there goes one of the weirdest days of my festival life: seeing a rave party in broad daylight on top of a hill.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Festival life: camping chairs, map, solar charger

We ended up staying a few hours on this little hill, eating nori chips under a tree while watching each gondola swing by with a hint of regret.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018, photo by Cali
IT WAS THE BEST NORI POTATO CHIPS IN LIFE

I met one half of the Mario Brothers while Cali was chased around by a guy in a woodpecker costume. Strangest sentence I’ve ever written. Two days in this country and Japan has already delivered. But I ain’t seen nothing yet.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018, photo by Cali
It happened

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
I’m not making this up

After taking the dreaded Dragondola ride back, we thought we’d head early to the White Stage to cop good spots for Odesza.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Reggae Stage

…not before we were stopped by the Reggae Stage near this place called Forest Therapy. Turns out Cali has a deep-seated love for reggae. He was a little sad to leave the stage so soon. I promised him we’d be back (never did, because I’m so good at keeping promises).

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Orange Cafe at the Un Fair Grounds (UFG)

We took a dinner break at the Orange Cafe at the Un Fair Grounds (UFG).

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Chuckie and friends have been invited to the party.

UFG housed all the bizarre things that felt out of place in other stages. Thing is there were lots of kids in this festival. Maybe they were as traumatized as me.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Kids at Fuji Rock

The art and performances in UFG just stood out from the rest of the stages. This area was about knife-juggling, slack-lining, bouldering, drumming. The outcasts from other stages all came together and found refuge on the edge of the woods. Ok being dramatic there. UFG became an instant favorite!

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Impressive!

We headed to the White Stage after dinner and managed to catch the tail end of Japanese punk rock band The Elephant Kashimashi’s set. As soon as the crowd dispersed, Japanese concert-goers began began picking up little trash left by the crowd. I felt so moved (and slightly ashamed) that I immediately scouted within my radius for trash that I can pick up. THERE WAS NOTHING. The stage area was generally clean to begin with.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
At the White Stage

Odesza

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Odesza

Odesza’s set was the first full set I watched for Fuji Rock 2018, and rightfully so. Normally, you’d go home at the end of a concert and legit wonder if it was worth it. I had the same question after watching Odesza, and the answer was a definite YES. I would’ve walked away feeling I already had my money’s worth if you told me the rest of the festival was cancelled.

Here’s why: The Odesza Drumline.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Odesza + Drumline

Everyone went nuts over the dramatic opening visuals. The Odesza Drumline delivered an impressive synchronized performance to songs from the “A Moment Apart” (solid album!). It was all too much for me to handle.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Odesza

I have this strange concert luck of finding myself in spots so near the stage that I could do without speakers or monitors to hear what’s going on. I was so close I could hear sound coming straight out of the drums and trumpets. Terribly lucky!

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Odesza

There is no right way to enjoy concerts: live or livestream, front row or back of the row, mosh pit or upper box. The experience is what you make of it. I happen to like to be in the forefront experiencing it.

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Alive <3

I have managed to steer clear of clichés so allow me this: I’ve never felt more alive that night. I daresay this concert has easily became my favorite of all time.

On the way out, on the long walk back to the shuttle station, I caught wind of the Dragondola ropeway’s silhouette snaking up and down. It didn’t look so bad now.

 

Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Who’s up for midnight roadside ramen?

Stay tuned for Day 2!

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2 Replies to “A Fuji Rock First Timer’s Report, Day 1”

    1. Izzz,

      Just prepare for rain/drizzle and wind. Poncho or raincoat and boots for you; plastic cover for your bag or belongings to stay dry. In 2018, it rained 2 out of 3 days. Thanks for reading 🙂

      (PS. Can’t wait to dance to Friday I’m In Love!)

      ~ Kindred

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