For the past 10-15 years, Japan's festival season has been dominated by four main events: Fuji Rock, Summer Sonic, Rock in Japan and Rising Sun.

Of these, Fuji Rock is by far the best, with its mountain setting in Niigata Prefecture, and dependable lineup of major international acts and interesting local bands. It's also the most expensive, though, with tickets at more than ¥40,000 plus transport and accommodation for three days. Summer Sonic is its big rival in the international-band stakes, but often falls short when it comes to its lineup. Situated in the corporate dystopia of Makuhari Messe, Summer Sonic can seem more like an industry trade fair than a festival.

Of the two big Japanese-music-oriented festivals, Rock in Japan is a reliable indicator of what's going on in the rock scene, if only because they seem to book exactly the same bands every year. From this year's lineup, 55 bands out of the 120 scheduled were also on last year's bill.