The organizers and some artists scheduled to take part in the Rock in Japan Festival, in Ibaraki Prefecture, have expressed frustration over the abrupt canceling of the event even though the prefecture is not under a state of emergency.
The cancellation of the annual music festival, one of the nation's largest and which has been scrapped twice now in just two years, has sparked a backlash by some who noted that the Summer Olympics are to be held despite the state of emergency in place for the Tokyo area.
Also at issue is the canceled event won't be eligible for financial aid from the government. The central government would normally cover up to ¥25 million in costs caused by the shutting down of the event. But because Ibaraki Prefecture is not currently under a state of emergency or quasi-emergency, that is not possible, said Taro Yamada, an Upper House lawmaker and member of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party.
The cancellation does not bode well for the numerous other music festivals hoping to take place this summer.
Hokkaido's Rising Sun Rock Festival scheduled for August has already been canceled. Other summer music festivals that could be affected by the pandemic included the famed Fuji Rock Festival in Niigata Prefecture and Sweet Lover Shower in Yamanashi Prefecture, both also set to take place next month.
“We have to continue preparation while hoping the situation will improve,” said Tomoaki Ishitobi of Smash Corp., which is organizing the Fuji Rock event.
The decision to call off the long-planned Rock in Japan Festival came after Ibaraki’s local medical association met organizers on July 2 and urged them to contemplate canceling or postponing depending on the COVID-19 situation. Even if the show were to go on, the association also wanted further cuts to the number of spectators and more thorough infection-prevention measures at the venue.
The annual festival in Hitachinaka city this year was set to feature such popular acts as LiSA, Sakanaction, King Gnu and Momoiro Clover Z.
Event producer Yoichi Shibuya released a statement Wednesday whereby he apologized to fans and noted that the organizers had worked tirelessly to figure out how they could best host the festival while also reducing infection risks.
“We received approval (for the festival) after following the central government's guidelines and cooperating with the Ibaraki Prefectural Government and the city of Hitachinaka,” Shibuya said.
However, “because the request came just a month before the festival, it was nearly impossible to change the basic plans for the event, and there wasn’t really anything we could do,” so it left the organizers no choice but to cancel, Shibuya added.
Further limiting the number of visitors was unfeasible as tickets had already been on sale and conducting a lottery would damage fans' trust, he said.
Shibuya also said the medical association in their request to call off or delay the event was vague on the specific criteria that would justify such a move.
“We were not sure what constituted ‘the spread of infection’ (according to the association), whether it was the number of infected people, deaths, hospital bed occupancy rates or the issuance of a state of emergency,” he said. “Thus, we didn’t know what measures to take."
"Under these circumstances, we couldn’t delay our decision (to cancel the event)” because the more time we waited, the more the cancellation costs would have increased, he added.
According to the Economic Impact Research Laboratory, operational expenses for the organizers were estimated to be around ¥800 million. Separately, ticket sales were estimated to around ¥700 million.
Yamada noted during an Upper House committee session on Thursday that other prefectures not under the state of emergency or quasi-emergency restrictions would also not be eligible to receive financial support if their festivals were canceled.
“If more events are forced to be canceled in prefectures not under emergency restrictions, it would be difficult to gain people’s understanding of why the Olympics are still being held,” Yamada said as he questioned Yasutoshi Nishimura, the state minister in charge of the COVID-19 response. He said the vague criteria for implementing infection measures are confusing organizers.
The issue was even brought up during Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga’s news conference on Thursday.
A reporter asked Suga how he would respond to people who are questioning why the Tokyo Olympics are going ahead as planned despite the state of emergency while other events are being shut down.
Suga said it was very unfortunate that the Rock in Japan Festival was canceled but stressed that the Olympics and Paralympic Games are being treated the same as other events in terms of restrictions.
Yojiro Noda, a member of popular band Radwimps, which was scheduled to appear at the Rock in Japan Festival, expressed his disappointment over the cancellation.
“Many experts have already pointed out that the number of infections are expected to increase as a result of the Olympics, whether spectators are allowed to attend or not; but things have still proceeded on the premise that it will happen,” he said in a statement posted on his Twitter account.
“Behind this (scenario), domestic industries and events are making sacrifices, and I just feel gutted,” he added.
Takuya Yamanaka, vocalist of The Original Cigarettes, lamented the cancellation in a tweet.
“The fruit produced by many people’s kind hearts and efforts have been shattered. Any idea how heavy this is?”
Information from Kyodo added
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