Japan’s summer music festivals survived the pandemic but they now face new threats: extreme heat, a weak yen and aging audiences. Music writer Patrick St. Michel joins us to talk about the “Big Four” festivals and how these challenges are changing the way we have fun during summer.

Hosted by Shaun McKenna and produced by Dave Cortez.

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Shaun McKenna 00:09

Welcome to Deep Dive from The Japan Times, I'm Shaun McKenna. I'm speaking to you from an air-conditioned room at The Japan Times because outside it's hot. We're at around 34 degrees Celsius, or 93 degrees Fahrenheit, but the humidity has it feeling more like 38, that's around 100. This isn't a new issue. The heat has been affecting the way we live more and more recently. I heard on the news this morning that the North American West Coast is preparing for a major heat wave from July 4. So I hope everyone takes care of themselves there. I guess the question that raises is, how will this affect our idea of what summer is? So in Japan, summer has always been hot, yes, but people think of cold drinks, wind chimes, Yukata and fireworks. And for an entire generation, summer has also meant outdoor music festivals, so some kids grew up camping at Fuji Rock with their parents, or maybe heading to Hokkaido for Rising Sun, but the heat is increasingly becoming a threat to this form of summer activity. It's not a new thing, but maybe we didn't see it as much during the heavy COVID years. My guest today is music writer Patrick St. Michel, and he has been following how the heat is affecting the summer music festival industry and in Japan, the heat isn't the only challenge these events are facing.

Joining me now is Patrick St. Michel, he writes about culture for The Japan Times and several other publications, and he has a Substack called Make Believe Melodies. Patrick, good to have you back.

Patrick St. Michel 01:48

Thank you for having me back. How are you doing today, Shaun?

Shaun McKenna 01:51

I’m doing OK. Thank you for asking. You recently wrote a piece for us, “Can Japan's summer music festivals adapt to a post-pandemic reality?” Before we get into it, when we're speaking of outdoor summer music festivals in Japan, what are the big ones that we should be thinking about?

Patrick St. Michel 02:07

There are a sort of “Big Four” of Japanese summer music festivals. They are the Fuji Rock Music Festival, held every July, Rock in Japan, held multiple weekends in August, you have the Rising Sun Rock Festival held up in Hokkaido, and then Summer Sonic held concurrently in Tokyo and Osaka in the middle of August.

Shaun McKenna 02:29

OK, and they've all been around for a while now, yeah?

Patrick St. Michel 02:32

Yeah, Fuji Rock was the first, that was held in 1997, and then that kind of like almost introduced a boom for summer music festivals. Rising Sun debuted in 1999 then the other two in 2000

Shaun McKenna 02:44

OK, so they're all kind of hitting 25 at least.

Patrick St. Michel 02:49

Yeah, yeah, yeah, they're all hitting that, like two-decade mark. They're all like reaching maturity.

Shaun McKenna 02:54

Cool. How did they fare during the pandemic?

Patrick St. Michel 02:56

Not great, but they survived. So during the pandemic in the first year, 2020, of course, nothing could happen. All four of them were canceled. But, after that, most of them tried to come back in a sort of limited way. For example, Fuji Rock returned to its location, which is out in Niigata Prefecture, in a little ski town called Naeba, and they had a sort of smaller festival with only Japanese acts. An important thing to note is that Fuji Rock and Summer Sonic are very internationally focused. They usually bring in big Western acts and big foreign artists from across Asia. But in 2021 Fuji Rock only did a domestic lineup with greatly reduced capacity. Meanwhile, Summer Sonic didn't happen in 2021 instead, they held a sort of mini version of Summer Sonic in September called Super Sonic, which actually featured international artists. I want to say the headliners were like, EDM touchstones Zedd and Steve Alki working together.

Shaun McKenna 04:06

There was a big controversy, right? Because Zedd was allowed into the country.

Patrick St. Michel 04:12

Yes, Zedd, a very well-known European EDM DJ, came to the country to perform at Super Sonic at a time when most non-Japanese, even residents of the country weren't being allowed in> So he made like an Instagram post that was like, “Hey guys, here I am in Tokyo. Here's my really cool hotel room. I got into the country,” kind of like flexing on everyone. That did not make people who couldn't get into the country very happy. So no joy on social media that day, but he was able to perform and this sort of mini version happened in 2021

Shaun McKenna 04:46

OK, so this is where your piece kind of finds them. The festival organizers have a reason to be positive, because this year, all of the pandemic-era restrictions are lifted. Do you want to remind us of what some of those restrictions were?

Patrick St. Michel 04:58

Of course. So even up until last year, back in the summer of 2023, there was kind of a lot of concern over actions that might, in theory, spread the COVID-19 virus. So you had a lot of, like, staff being like: no screaming, no singing, no stage diving — which, to be fair, is a whole different safety concern — no, like, moshing. That was especially enforced in 2022 where before every set at both Fuji Rock and Summer Sonic, they would do, like, it felt like a training seminar of being like, here's what not to do with the show you're about to see. Last year was a little more loose, but they still went through this kind of rigmarole of being like, yeah, try not to scream too loudly. We all remember “scream inside your heart” during the peak of the covid years from that roller coaster.

Shaun McKenna 05:59

For those who don't remember, back in the summer of 2020, Fuji Q Highland amusement park was worried screaming on roller coasters might spread COVID-19, so they implored riders to “please scream inside your heart” and put out a video with two executives, almost expressionless, demonstrating how to ride the Fujiyama Roller Coaster. That way I can put a video in the show notes. So, it's OK to cheer again and we're ready to party. But you're here to tell us: not so fast.

Patrick St. Michel 06:28

Not so fast, revelers. Because even though the Japanese live music industry is coming out of the COVID era, it's entering a new era of challenges, ones that were probably already in place and were maybe kind of just overshadowed during this weird period where foreign artists couldn't come in and just the entire live industry was disrupted. Now we're in a period where there's, like a variety of issues kind of coming together all at once and creating new challenges for all of the major festivals in their own unique ways.

Shaun McKenna 07:05

OK, well, let's start with what I think is the biggest challenge, and folks, it's ruining everything — I'm talking about, climate change.

Patrick St. Michel 07:13

We always gotta go to this joyful topic. Welcome to Deep Dive. I guess, to set the stage a little bit to zoom out from Japanese summer festivals themselves, climate change and super high temperatures, particularly in August, have been a persistent issue in Japan over the last few years. It was a huge topic in the lead up to the Tokyo Olympics in — advertised as 2020, happened in 2021 — and you know, there's a lot of discussion about, like, is this safe to have events, athletic events, in the middle of periods where, like, the temperature in Tokyo goes well over 30 degrees Celsius, like almost every day, the humidity is brutal.

Shaun McKenna 07:57

Yeah, so like last year, in 2023, that was the hottest summer on record, and Tokyo logged actually 57 days with a high of 30 degrees Celsius or more, and just under 10,000 people were rushed to hospital for heatstroke.

Patrick St. Michel 08:11

And it is not gonna get any cooler anytime soon. I think, based on things I've read in The Japan Times, honestly, I think a lot of experts are predicting this summer to be even hotter? In part because of the effects of systems like La Nina, which will be impacting all of the world, of course, this isn't just a Japan issue, but hey, we're going to be feeling it, so let's talk about it. It's hot, it's humid, and festivals all happen in the middle of the worst time for these conditions.

Shaun McKenna 08:41

Yeah. So Fuji Rock is held in like this mountainous area of Naeba, in Niigata Prefecture, and it's a ski resort in the winter, actually. But when it comes to the weather up there, it's pretty much like a coin toss, I'd say, between, like rain or shine. The times that I've gone, I got pretty good weather, but Summer Sonic takes place in like a cement-filled stadium.

Patrick St. Michel 09:01

It takes place in, yes, the middle of a baseball field that does not have a roof. The sun is just beating down on you. The festival starts at noon on a Saturday and Sunday in the middle of August. And a lot of times in order to drum up excitement for Summer Sonic, the organizer, Creativeman, will put on a really hyped-up artist at noon, in this baseball stadium. And this results in it being packed and kind of a lot of people being exposed to the worst weather possible at its peak. This actually led to a big controversy of sorts last year when the really popular K-pop act NewJeans performed on the Saturday in Tokyo at Zozo Marine Stadium at noon, and this was their first Japanese performance ever. So like people had already really gotten used to them. There was tons of excitement around it. I remember waking up that day and opening Twitter, as one does, and I saw that, like, people had been lining up to get in since 4 a.m. Like people had left the sort of electronic event the night before to go home, and they're like, What are these people doing? It's like, Oh, they're here for NewJeans. There's a lot of excitement. I got there at 11 a.m. to stand in line and just barely got in. The stadium was filled like it was a headliner like this might as well have been Blur or Post Malone, and the rules for the stadium made it so that these people, who many of which like came in the early morning, they could bring water or tea in, but they couldn't bring sports drinks such as Pocari Sweat or Aquarius. And also, there was nowhere in the stadium to get more water or tea. So even if you brought it in and you drank everything, people weren't going to leave, because then you'd be losing your premier spot to watch this kind of historic show. Yeah. So people were just kind of gathered there for hours under very, very hot conditions. I think this was the hottest day of the festival. As a result, more than 100 people reported heatstroke symptoms and like ambulances had to be called in. Again, this isn't a Japan-only issue. This is a problem that summer music festivals around the world have to grapple with. So for example, multiple events in Australia have been canceled so far this year during their summer because of the extreme heat. And these are, like, really prominent electronic festivals, like, it's really showing that like, Oh, this is a challenge for everybody. I was able to speak to a professor who covers this world, the world of climate change, Yasuko Kamayama, and she said that what can be done depends on each festival itself. So, for example, with Summer Sonic, they hold most of it in a stadium, but the other half is held in Makuhari Messe, a convention center that's like closed, air-conditioned, much cooler. So you could just shift more things to there, or even start the festival a little later in the stadium. You know, do a bunch of stuff at the convention center in the morning and afternoon, and as temperatures go down, as the day goes on, start ramping up things in the stadium, while still taking into account the area's very strict curfews, which make it so you can't really perform past 10 p.m. so little bit of a balancing act, But that might be it.

Shaun McKenna 12:42

Did you speak to anyone from Creativeman about, you know, they're the promoters in charge of Summer Sonic but did they have anything to say about all this?

Patrick St. Michel 12:48

Yes, I was able to chat with Naoki Shimizu. He's the president of Creativeman. And as I mentioned, those curfew laws have made it pretty difficult compared to other festivals in like the United States, for example, curfew laws tend to be a little less strict, like festivals can go later into the night, and as a result, you can start everything later. It's not as big an issue. But in Japan, it's much harder, if you held the event in a way that knocked out those morning hours that like 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. period, you're just missing out on so much of both the event and also like revenue. But this year, they are making changes. They've been able to adjust the rules at the stadium to allow sports drinks in, which is good, and then they're setting up more water stations all around the venue itself, which will allow people to sort of bring their own bottles and refill them so that they'll stay hydrated, which is very common for one in like Western music festivals. And then two, it just is a great way to make sure people don't suffer from heatstroke.

Shaun McKenna 14:01

Yeah, it would be hard to line up early for a headliner and then have to, you know, camp out in the sun all day. And, you know, people are going to do it because they're not going to, like, sacrifice those really good spots at the front.

Patrick St. Michel 14:12

Dedicated fans are not going to budge, so they'll risk everything to see whoever their favorite is. Professor Kamayama also suggested something that maybe went at first brush sounds radical because it would upend the entire idea of the summer music festival ecosystem, but might be the right move. She said, What if you just held them at a cooler time of the year, like September?

Shaun McKenna 14:37

Well, that came up as a solution for the Olympics heat issue, which we mentioned earlier, but ultimately that didn't happen.

Patrick St. Michel 14:44

That didn't happen for the Olympics, for whatever reason, but for summer music festivals, which are, of course, a yearly part of the Japanese entertainment calendar, it's something that I think more people are talking about at least? A good example of this is Rock in Japan, which is the biggest domestic music festival in the sense that they only have Japanese artists. This year's their 25th anniversary, and they're celebrating in big style. In the middle of August. They're doing what they've been doing for the last few years, which is hold the event in Chiba, Chiba Prefecture, that's kind of like par for the course. But then what they're kind of presenting, as, you know, a special thing, but in my opinion, also kind of looks like a trial of sorts. They'll be holding additional dates in September in Ibaraki Prefecture, where for, I think, about 20 years the festival was held, until COVID actually bumped it out of there. So in the middle of September, they'll be doing like a second festival. And to me, that feels like, oh, is this feasible? Like you have the classic August, and then this new September event to compare. And if it goes well, maybe Rock in Japan will say, Well, what if we, like, just avoid these heat problems by waiting a month. And even though Summer Sonic has found itself in the spotlight when it comes to climate change and Japanese music festivals, they too, actually did experiment a little bit with the aforementioned Super Sonic, which was held in September. And it's tough, in retrospect, to be like, How successful was that? Because this was during COVID-19, and because of that, it's like, there's a much more limited capacity. And the atmosphere was very weird. You had people walking around, like, not yelling, but being like, “Hey, pull your mask up.” It was very like music festival, but also kind of prison, so a little weird. However, the actual feeling of it was great. It was a little cooler than what you would experience in August.

Shaun McKenna 16:57

Did you go?

Patrick St. Michel 16:58

I did go, for The Japan Times, go check that out, get that archive option. And I went, it was cooler, it was pleasant ... it was a festival. It felt like a festival. It did not feel weird that it was like Sept. 18 or whatever,

Shaun McKenna 17:13

Right, well, correct me if I'm wrong, but I think one of the big concerns about doing these in September is that it's not summer, right? So you're less likely to get young people to go because they might be in school?

Patrick St. Michel 17:23

That's a fair point. Young people might not go, but if you were able to bring them a lineup that you know was still very attractive, most of these festivals happen on the weekend, so in theory, they could still go. You have festivals like the electronic dance music festival Ultra Japan, that always happens in Odaiba in September, and it always attracts a younger cohort of music fans.

Shaun McKenna 17:51

Well, that's a good segue, because, speaking of young people, the next challenge, kind of facing outdoor music festivals involves them, right?

Patrick St. Michel 17:58

Yep. Young people are killing music festivals. Not quite, not quite. So, again, this is a global issue, but earlier this year, the music magazine Consequence, this publication described 2024 as the year of the underwhelming festival headliner. And they're mostly looking at Western festivals. They were focusing on Coachella and Lollapalooza. So these are the biggest like music festivals in North America, in California and Chicago, respectively, and both from journalists and fan perspectives, the takeaway from their headliners in particular was ... “meh.”

Shaun McKenna 18:40

The dreaded Gen Z “meh.” Who are the headliners in Japan this year? Are they any good?

Patrick St. Michel 18:48

Well, I'll leave that to the listener to decide. But at Fuji Rock this year, it's complicated. Originally, the Friday headliner was supposed to be the American R&B star SZA, and we'll talk about her in a sec. But she has canceled her performance, and because of that, it's now the American rock band, The Killers. Perhaps you remember the song “Mr. Brightside.” After them on Saturday, it's the German techno pioneers Kraftwerk playing, I believe, one of their last shows ever, though it's not 100% confirmed. We'll see. And then Sunday Fuji Rock goes to its bread and butter, British rock band Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, one half of Oasis returning to Naeba. Get excited ’90s kids. Meanwhile over at Summer Sonic, they're trying something a little different this year on the first day in Tokyo. Well, we'll talk from the Tokyo perspective. They are bringing former Eurovision champions and quote unquote, “saviors of rock and roll,” Maneskin, to Zozo Marine Stadium. And then the next day, they're bringing the British heavy rock outfit Bring Me The Horizon to the stage. Both of these acts are notable for one, being quite young, especially if we're going to compare them to Kraftwerk and Noel Gallagher. And two, they've collaborated with Japanese franchises, like Maneskin did a collaboration with the anime series beastars, and then Bring Me The Horizon has collaborated with BabyMetal, the idol-meets-rock trio that's still going strong. These are both very vocally we-love-Japan groups. They come here a lot. They have a very strong following here, for sure.

Shaun McKenna 20:38

So what about the Japanese festivals Rock in Japan and Rising Sun?

Patrick St. Michel 20:41

The two domestic-focused festivals are a little different in the sense that they don't really like hype up a particular headliner, per se. They kind of spread the big names around throughout the day, especially in the case of Rock in Japan, practically like every J-pop artist of the moment shows up there over the course of their four days in August. So, for example, this year, and these are shared between the two Rock in Japan and Rising Sun, you have people like the anime singer LiSA, you have the versatile rock star Vaundy, you have vaguely emo trio Hitsujibungaku — they basically represent everything that's kind of like at the peak of J-pop right now. So, just like, look through a Spotify list and you could pretty much imagine their lineups.

Shaun McKenna 21:31

OK, so what's wrong with the headliners at the festivals in Japan this year?

Patrick St. Michel 21:35

It's tricky, but especially in the case of Fuji Rock, I would say they're mostly geared towards older fans. Fuji Rock has a reputation for they rely a lot on British rock, as mentioned earlier, they're kind of the Glastonbury of Japan, if you need a comparison, right? Because of that, they lean big on ’90s Britpop and whatever is kind of like big in the U.K., even if that ends up being U.S. bands that kind of cross over. Summer Sonic, on the other hand, has always been a bit more quote, unquote pop and maybe a bit more American, in that they've always featured more pop stars. This is where you could see Ariana Grande or Beyonce in the past. And they're also a little more experimental, because they're willing to put a rapper as the headliner, whereas with Fuji Rock, I think, unless it's the Beastie Boys, it's quite rare for a rapper to be on the green stage, the biggest stage. So as a result, you look at Fuji Rock's lineup, and you have Kraftwerk. And you know a group whose peak days were the ’70s, great group, but also very much nostalgia act, almost. And then you have Noel Gallagher and His High Flying Birds, which is the ultimate Fuji Rock. Go to what's interesting about Fuji Rock this year was the promoter, Smash, was trying to actually find a way to also cater to a younger audience, a perceived younger audience, with the inclusion of SZA, who's a really young artist, I mean, especially compared to the other two, and who really connects with younger listeners all around the world, honestly. In Japan, she's like coming up in the sense of most people don't know who SZA is, like in a mainstream way, but younger people who follow rap or R&B or even just American music in general, do know her, and they were really excited for her being included on the Friday as the headliner.

Shaun McKenna 23:41

And they paired her up with Awich, who's kind of a really major Japanese woman rap star, right?

Patrick St. Michel 23:48

Yeah, yeah, yeah. So the sort of like, I guess, subheadliner is the fair way to say it? Was Awich, an artist featured in The Japan Times in the past, who is kind of like the guiding force of contemporary Japanese rap. So you had this combination catering towards, in theory, a younger audience, especially when you include that Friday also features a lot of young DJs and young bands. Friday was like Youth Day at Fuji Rock, right? And part of what makes that important is it was like, Can any of these artists kind of become the future go-to headliners for Japanese music festivals?

Shaun McKenna 24:28

So Fuji Rock is kind of, like, looking for new acts to create a relationship with, that they can go back. Because I looked at some of their past headliners, and I noticed that they do have repeat headliners a lot. I think that the one that stood out the most was Bjork? But Franz Ferdinand, Foo Fighters ... anybody connected with Oasis, yeah.

Patrick St. Michel 24:48

Flip a coin every year. Which brother are you gonna get?

Shaun McKenna 24:52

So would one of these festivals, like, have been better off kind of recruiting Olivia Rodrigo, or maybe like Taylor Swift? Fingers crossed, I don’t know?

Patrick St. Michel 25:01

Swiftie alert over here, Shaun. I mean, yes, the answer would be absolutely yes. However, things are never that simple. Olivia Rodrigo, for example, will be playing her own show in September, and she's the sort of rising star who can command attention all on her own. She doesn't necessarily need to be at a festival. Taylor Swift, of course, performed at Tokyo Dome for four nights earlier this year — all sold out, a big event — and, I mean, just to underline it, more huge success. Yeah, these big names for one don't need a Summer Sonic or Fuji Rock to introduce themselves to a new audience in the same way that a SZA, or one of last year's headliners that tried to do something similar — a Lizzo — need it as a stepping stone in the Japanese music industry.

Shaun McKenna 25:52

Well, it's interesting because, you know, something similar is happening in the film world just now, like there's this idea that there are no younger stars who can open a blockbuster film, besides Zendaya, who was in the “Dune” series and “Challengers,” recently.

Patrick St. Michel 26:07

Well put, Shaun, because it's the same problem affecting the festival industry around the world. People like Noel Gallagher or the Foo Fighters, you know, they can bring in crowds, but it's a very specific crowd, an aging crowd, one that maybe in the future won't be able to justify these trips out to Naeba or even Chiba in the near future, just as they get older. Younger generations, meanwhile, you know, they consume entertainment in such a more fragmented way than when you or I were growing up, people used to unite around a big star, you know, Oasis for you maybe, or, like...

Shaun McKenna 26:48

Blur, I was a Blur guy!

Patrick St. Michel 26:50

For the record everybody. Umm, like, in the 2000s you would see people go to the Strokes or The Killers, which we can talk about in a minute. Like that kind...

Shaun McKenna 26:59

Kind of a monoculture.

Patrick St. Michel 27:01

Exactly. There was more of a monoculture, but thanks to the internet, let's blame that. You know, people don't necessarily. People can find their own pockets of entertainment now, right now, we don't need these sort of towering single-name stars as much anymore. And the ones that we do have, your Taylor Swifts, your Olivia Rodrigos — they can do their own thing. They don't need to go over to the festivals anymore unless they really see something in it. So because of that, festivals find themselves being like, OK, who's the next headliners when Foo Fighters do call it a day? When Noel Gallagher's finally content like to not fly out to somewhere in Japan every summer, like, who do we put on the bill then?

Shaun McKenna 27:43

Well, I don't want to go into everything from your piece, but there was another challenge that you described as more Japan-specific. What was that one?

Patrick St. Michel 27:51

Yes, and it actually relates very closely to the SZA cancellation, at least perhaps in “rumor mode.” So SZA, she did play the Primavera Sound Festival in Barcelona the week that she canceled Fuji Rock, maybe the week after. And a lot of Japanese fans went out to Primavera Sound, that's another huge one in Europe, every June, it attracts a lot of festival fans from all around the world. And Japanese fans who watched SZA’s set, they, you know, recorded video of it, and then they would go on social media and be like, “This looks really expensive.” Like the production, the backup dancers, everything looks like, you can hear the cha-ching going as you're watching it, and it's like, could Fuji Rock afford that?

Shaun McKenna 28:44

Something similar happened with Kanye West, right back in 2014 he pulled out due to what I think were described as artist circumstances. But, I mean, at the time, he had that really ambitious stage show with I think it was like a floating stage, yeah, and there was, like, a lot of talk that maybe, you know, it was just too expensive to bring to Japan.

Patrick St. Michel 29:06

And that was 2014 right?

Shaun McKenna 29:09

That was 2014, 10 years ago. Yeah.

Patrick St. Michel 29:10

So one of the ... I'm sure most of our listeners can relate to this one, the yen is super weak now. So imagine trying to get an artist like SZA, who has this elaborate live production with a bunch of backup dancers, video, custom stages, plus a person who's just risen up in popularity so fast. Their rates are already really expensive in an American context or a European context. Now convert those rates to be in the yen, and that price tag starts looking ... Smash is sweating when they see that. They're like, “Can we justify this?” Like, “Is the future really worth this?” So because of that, a lot of speculation has been that SZA pulled out because Smash ultimately couldn't match the price. This is all speculation. I tried reaching out to SZA’s side to hear why they actually canceled, did not get a response. Talking with Smash for the article, they sounded just as surprised as anyone that SZA canceled. So yeah, the weak yen is absolutely, like, making it even harder for Japan to attract the top-level talent that can, like, maybe bring in a younger audience.

Shaun McKenna 30:27

And I guess prices are kind of going up in general as well, right?

Patrick St. Michel 30:31

That's true, too. Again, an issue that's impacting every festival. I think that's one of the reasons so many fans and critics have been so “meh” about things like Coachella and Glastonbury, just because, even if they can get more quote-unquote, “youthful headliners,” it still doesn't seem as exciting when you expect a real, like ... you need at least one legacy act or something. And one of the things that's happened recently, that I learned talking with other industry insiders, is because of this, you're seeing more deals that allow bands from the States or from Europe to kind of almost turn it into a mini Asian festival tour. So, for example, there's a hardcore band from the U.S. called Turnstile, and they'll play Fuji Rock as part of that, though, they'll also be going to a festival in Indonesia, they'll also be going to a really well-known festival in South Korea, and that's because Smash works with the other promoters to make sure it's like, “OK, we're gonna make this so that everyone wins.” That way they're not spending entirely on Turnstile. It's a shared effort to give Turnstile a little Asia tour, basically.

Shaun McKenna 31:43

OK, so there are more music festival trends in Patrick's piece, “Can Japan's summer music festivals adapt to a post-pandemic reality?” And we've put a few other pieces on the changes going on at theme parks this summer. Patrick, there's a new Disney section. Have you been?

Patrick St. Michel 31:57

I have not been to Fantasy Springs at Tokyo DisneySea. My daughter wants to go, but it would take, I believe, 12 hours to get in. So we'll hold off a little bit. Looks great. Food looks delightful.

Shaun McKenna 32:12

Well, the theme parks piece is by Yuko Tamara and Kim Kahan has written up something on the fireworks festivals happening this summer. Oh, Patrick, you're going to be covering Fuji Rock for us this summer. Is there anyone in particular you're interested in seeing?

Patrick St. Michel 32:24

Yes, I would check out Taeko Onuki. I would also check out the group PAS TASTA — Japanese band. And then you know who would be fun? I want to see Kim Gordon.

Shaun McKenna 32:37

Ah, right. That would be a nice one. So cool. You can check them out and check out our Summer coverage at japantimes.co.jp. Thanks again, Patrick.

Patrick St. Michel 32:45

Thanks for having me.

Shaun McKenna 33:14

My thanks again to Patrick St. Michel for coming on to talk about summer festivals. We're already at the halfway point of 2024, and culture coverage at The Japan Times has been, I gotta say, pretty impressive. Patrick also interviewed the group Atarashii Gakko! and rap duo Creepy Nuts, whose song “Bling-Bang-Bang-Born” is, well, the song of the year so far. Kim Kahan, who we mentioned earlier, also interviewed the rock band bed, right now they seem to be like the band that you have to see if you're going out to catch a live show. And if music isn't your thing, watch out this weekend for a few articles on the TV shows and movies that have made the first half of the year special. There's one film in there that got five stars, that's a perfect score from our critic, Mark Schilling, and that one's called, “Evil Does Not Exist.” The director, Ryusuke Hamaguchi, won two Oscars in 2022 for the film “Drive My Car,” if you remember that one. Deep Dive is produced by Dave Cortez. Our outgoing music is by Oscar Boyd. Our theme music is by the Japanese musician LLLL, and I have been your host, Shaun McKenna. Until next time, podtsukaresama.