Could this be the most chilled music festival on Earth? At Rising Sun Rock Festival in Otaru, Hokkaido, no one seems to mind about the mud, the result of typhoon rains that drenched the festival site just hours before kickoff. The staff look like they’re having a ball, beaming warmly as they stand for hours on end at the mid-site wristband check, pleading jokingly with the revelers to show their passes; at a nearby “tension check,” their colleagues ask the crowd to display their level of excitement with a holler or whoop. A cool breeze sweeps the vast, flat fields, lending a refreshing edge to the 29-degree heat. Anxiety is nowhere to be felt.
Now in its 12th year, Rising Sun Rock Festival (Aug. 13-14) draws together the very best elements of Japan’s other major festivals — the all-night action of Fuji Rock, the family-friendly fields of Rock In Japan, Summer Sonic’s youthful energy — with some neat ideas of its own, including mercifully downplayed sponsorship, a smattering of free-to-use hammocks, stages visible from the campsites and incredible food. And it presents a strong bill of Japanese bands, from superstars to rising stars.