The main difference between this year’s four-day, end-of-year, all-Japanese-artist rock festival, Countdown Japan, and last year’s is that this year it will only be held in Chiba. For the last three years it was also held simultaneously in Osaka, just like Summer Sonic is in August, but according to Osaka producer Yoichi Kawasaki, with the number of acts (166 and counting), days involved (four) and the logistics of moving all those musicians between Kanto and Kansai, it has just become financially unfeasible to hold two of these monstrosities at the same time. If Kanto wins, it’s for the obvious reason that they can sell more tickets in Tokyo.

The Brobdingnagian airplane hangar known as Makuhari Messe will be sectioned into four stages and a DJ Booth, and on Dec. 28, 29 and 30, the festivities will run from noon until about 10 p.m. Naturally, things go on a bit longer on Dec. 31, until 5 a.m. New Year’s morning to be more precise. There are too many groups and too little in the way of thematic or genre consistency from one day to another for anyone to make recommendations that would mean anything, so it’s suggested that you just go straight to the Web site to figure out which days would suit you best. The thing to keep in mind is that if you have favorite Japanese rock bands and none of them are B’z or Glay or the more popular visual-kei groups, then more likely than not they’ll be playing sometime during the festival. And if you’re into “stars” then maybe Monday is better than others (Puffy, Ryuichi Sakamoto, Unicorn, Kaela Kimura), but obviously tickets will sell out more quickly for New Year’s Eve, especially given the fact that they’re only ¥500 more than the single-day tickets for any of the preceding days. Of course, if you’re totally stoked, you can attend all four days for the bargain price of ¥30,000. You then have 361 days to recover until next year’s Countdown.

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