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Anyone who makes the trek out to the mountains of Naeba for the annual Fuji Rock Festival will tell you two things, apart from that they had a great time: It rains, and it’s clean for an event of such enormous scale. But it’s not completely sterile.

“I don’t like it when things are too clean,” says president of Smash and festival-founder Masahiro Hidaka, with his trademark dry humor. “There are countless types of people out there, so it makes me feel sick to my stomach when things are too strict.”

Nevertheless, the event that he founded in 1997 is known to be the cleanest large-scale music festival in the world. And for good reason, too. Punters will be hard-pressed to find the garbage that is so prevalent on the dance floors and mosh pits of many of the world’s major musical gatherings. That’s because a large portion of it — as well as solar energy — is used to power three of the stages as bio-diesel energy: The New Power Gear (part of the Gypsy Avalon field), Mokudo Tei and The Field Of Heaven.

“If you think about it, throwing a major event in the mountains is a weird thing to do,” Hidaka admits. “It’s ironic. There’s air pollution, garbage and the animals get scared and run away. It’s our responsibility to let people who come to the festival know that.”

Sure enough, Fuji Rock also has a strong charitable streak. The event hosts an NGO Village and Hidaka’s own antinuclear Atomic Cafe sessions, which went through a reboot in 2011 following the nuclear meltdowns that occurred in Fukushima as a result of the Great East Japan Earthquake. According to Hidaka, the event is here to stay.

“I started the Atomic Cafe events in the 1980s and we’ll continue fighting this year, too,” he says. “We don’t need nuclear power. I believe that it’s OK for life to be inconvenient sometimes.”

Being a free spirit himself, however, Hidaka believes that festivals celebrate freedom so he makes sure to keep his message subtle.

“I wanted to have a clean festival from the start, but I don’t like forcing things onto people … I’m not some Nazi,” he says. “I wanted everything to be voluntary and to express things in an easy-to-understand way.”

You can’t help wondering, then, if the festival he runs is so environmentally friendly, does Hidaka live his own life in the same way?

“I suppose I’m pretty eco,” he says. “I don’t use many things, so I don’t create that much garbage. Or much electricity. I reuse old newspapers for other uses. They wrap up fish and chips in newspaper in the U.K., right?”

But ultimately, Hidaka insists that being green at his festival is only a starting point. “The most important thing is not just being aware at the festival itself, but what happens after everyone goes home.”

Fuji Rock will be turning 20 this year, and Hidaka reflects on the festival’s evolution of charity and eco-related activities.

“It’s not about any individual memory,” he shares. “For me, I’m most happy that the people can now control and take care of themselves, throw away their garbage and help people. I feel like when the audience started to do that, then it truly started becoming a real festival.”

Fuji Rock Festival takes place at Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture on July 22, 23 and 24. For more information, visit www.fujirock.com.

In line with COVID-19 guidelines, the government is strongly requesting that residents and visitors exercise caution if they choose to visit bars, restaurants, music venues and other public spaces.

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