There are so, so many awesome music festivals that happen in the hot months in Japan. But with entry tickets alone costing upwards of ¥20,000, and some degree of travel usually required, it can be a walletry (yes, we just made up a word) challenge for the cheapo. To give you an idea of how much you’ll need to budget to rock out at one (or all, maybe you’re a hardcore music fan like that) of the major festivals, we’ve put together this guide. So, read on and get ready to make some noise at Fuji Rock and the four other big events this summer.
Fuji Rock Festival (27-29 July)
This is the godfather of Japanese music festivals. If you can only afford to go to one this summer, make it Fuji Rock Festival. The largest outdoor music event in Japan, it’s held at the Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture. Over 100,000 people attend, and with the huge line-up of international and local names, that’s not surprising. In 2018, you can expect to see the likes of Bob Dylan, Skrillex, MGMT and more.
Tickets: ¥19,000 for a 1-day pass, ¥34,000 for a 2-day pass, and ¥42,000 for a 3-day pass if you buy before June 2nd, then prices go up by a few thousand yen. If you’re buying from outside Japan, you have to pay a small handling fee. Cool thing: kids under 15 get in free.
Transport: There are various ways of getting from Tokyo (assuming you’re there, or going through there anyway) to Fuji Rock. The easiest and most economical is taking a Shinkansen to Echigo-Yuzawa Station and then a shuttle bus to the festival venue. For more details—and other options, read our dedicated guide to transport from Tokyo to Fuji Rock.
Lodging: If you’re doing a day trip, this doesn’t apply. Most people going for two or the full three days camp, which costs ¥3,000 and requires you to bring a tent, sleeping bag and all the rest. There are a number of ryokan and hotels within a 20km radius for more comfortable, private snoozetime, but they book up fast.
Summer Sonic (18-19 August)
Hot, sweaty and manic, Summer Sonic is a two-day affair that takes place in Chiba (just next to Tokyo) and Osaka simultaneously. Most of the artists shuttle between the two cities, playing on alternate days. Here, our focus is on the Chiba gig.
There are multiple stages in different areas (see below), so it’s a good idea to plan what you want to see, and when, before you roll through the gates. There is no camping at Summer Sonic—if you want to be there for both days, you’ll need to plan for two separate day trips. Headlining this year’s festival are names like Chance the Rapper, Beck, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Shawn Mendes, Tame Impala and old school rockers Queens of the Stone Age.
There’s a warm-up concert called SonicMania in Tokyo the Friday before the festival proper kicks off, and it costs ¥12,000 to attend.
Tickets: ¥16,000 for a regular 1-day pass, ¥29,000 for a regular 2-day pass. There is a “platinum” option for about twice the price (perks, yo). If you’re buying your tickets from overseas, expect to pay a handling fee.
Transport: Take the train from wherever you are in Tokyo to Kaihimmakuhari Station on the JR Keiyo Line. It takes just over half an hour from Tokyo Station, and costs ¥550. The stages at Makuhari Messe are about seven minutes away by foot, and the ones at Zozo Marine Stadium about 15 minutes away. For more deets and directions, have a look at our dedicated guide to getting to Summer Sonic in Chiba.
Lodging: Most people stay at their accommodation in Tokyo, but you can book into a hotel like Hotel New Otani or Daiwa Roynet Hotel in Chiba if you want to avoid traveling back and forth over the two days.
Ultra Japan (15-17 September)
One for the electronic music lovers, Ultra Japan is a massive late-summer event held at Odaiba Ultra Park in Tokyo. The three-day festival is part of the global Ultra Music Festival brand that can be found in 20+ countries. Japan’s version turns five years old this year. At the time of writing, the line-up had yet to be announced, but there are always mega names on the list. In 2017, fans partied to the sounds of Underworld, Pendulum, Empire of the Sun and KSHMR, among many others. DJ headliners included veterans Carl Cox, Sasha and John Digweed. This video gives you an idea of what to expect.
Tickets: Regular 1-day tickets are ¥15,000 a pop, 2-day tickets are ¥29,000 and the full three days ¥42,000. They might get pricier as the festival gets closer. There are VIP 1-day options available for ¥30,000 a piece, but those just make our cheapo souls ache. Note that you have to be over 20 to attend Ultra Japan.
Transport: The venue is a short walk from Aomi Station on the Yurikamome Line. To get there from Tokyo Station, you take the JR Yamanote Line to Shimbashi, then transfer to the Yurikamome Line. It takes about 30 minutes and costs ¥520, making it a very easy trip.
Lodging: You don’t really need to stay over in or near Odaiba, but if you want to make the most of the festival, you can book into a nearby hotel like Oakwood Hotel & Apartments Ariake or Tokyo Bay Ariake Washington Hotel. There aren’t many low-cost accommodation options in the area. Check out our Tokyo Accommodation Guide for good deals a little further afield.
Rising Sun Rock Festival (10-12 August)
This is a rock fest held out in the rurals of Otaru, Hokkaido. You’ll see “Ezo” on the festival flyers—that’s the historical name for Hokkaido, so don’t go asking people for directions to Ezo when you arrive in, well, Ezo. The Rising Sun Rock Festival has been running since 1999 and is a slightly more chilled event than its mad counterparts on Honshu. Another difference is its focus on domestic artists, with acts like UVERworld, Orange Range and coldrain taking to the stage this year.
Tickets: A 3-day pass is ¥22,000 without a camping ticket, and ¥25,000 with one. A 1-day pass for the 10th is ¥11,000, and for the 11th is ¥15,000 (you can stay until lunchtime on the 12th). Elementary schoolers get in free.
Transport: From Tokyo, the best way to get to the festival is by flying into Sapporo on a low-cost carrier and then taking the train. From New Chitose Airport you head to Sapporo Station, where you change to the subway and make for Asabu Station on the Nanboku Line. When you arrive there, you can catch a festival shuttle to the venue. The train part costs ¥1,840 and takes about an hour, and the shuttle is ¥600 and about a 20-minute ride.
Lodging: Most festivalgoers opt to camp, as the show goes on right into the night. Good chow can be procured from the food stalls at the venue. You could also stay at a hotel near Asabu and shuttle back and forth, if you aren’t one for tenting it. Hokkaido Sun Guest House and Untapped Hostel offer dirt-cheap beds, while HOTEL MYSTAYS Sapporo Station is a notch up. All are within 5km of Asabu Station.
Rock in Japan (4-5, 11-12 August)
Meanwhile, at the Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki Prefecture (just northeast of Tokyo), a mammoth four-day celebration of J-Pop and J-Rock takes place over two weekends. This video conveys the overall vibe. 2018 sees Rock in Japan turn 19. You can expect a huge lineup that includes Acidman, UVERworld, Hyde, Orange Range and more. Tickets come out in batches and sell out super fast, so if you want to join the throngs of Japanese fans, you best get ready to move like lightning (greased, even).
Tickets: Single-day tickets are ¥14,000, 2-day passes are ¥26,500, and a full 4-day set is discounted at ¥44,000.
Transport: To get to Hitachi Seaside Park, take a Limited Express on the JR Joban Line from Tokyo to Katsuta Station, then change to the Hitachinaka Seaside Railway and take it to Ajigaura Station. It takes around two hours and costs ¥4,390. You can save about ¥1,500 by taking a regular train instead of a Limited Express, but it adds an extra hour to your travel time. The seaside park is a 20-minute walk from Ajigaura Station.
Lodging: You can pitch a tent at the official Camp Village, 15 minutes away from the venue, for ¥15,000 (that’s for one night, ouch). You can, in theory, also crash at a hotel in the Hitachinaka area—though the closest vacancies were 30+km away when we looked! So, get ready to rough it, we guess.
At all of these festivals, you’ll need some fodder, so we recommend setting aside a few thousand yen for food and drink. Some festivals get a bit iffy about people bringing in their own beverages or snacks, and guards might check your bag when you go in. If you must smuggle, do so strategically. But it’s better to buy from the myriad vendors selling all manner of tasty treats at the venue. Fresh pad thai, anyone?
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This post was updated in May, 2018.