Japan rocks its way back to normality

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Japan rocks its way back to normality

As Japan plunged into crisis with a triple earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster in March, organizers of the Fuji Rock Festival were faced with a choice over whether the show should go on.

In the aftermath, “audiences didn’t want to go to concerts,” said Johnnie Fingers, director of the Fuji Rock festival organizing company Smash. “Japan needed time for healing.”

However, Fingers - a k a John Moylett - a pop pianist and founding member of the Boomtown Rats featuring Bob Geldof, said it was clear that staging the festival this year would give tens of thousands of fans a release from the steady drum beat of bad news.

“Being the first major gathering of its kind this year in Japan, Fuji Rock will definitely be very emotional,” said Fingers. “Many will want to voice their feelings, both artists and the audience.”

A number of music festivals will take place this summer as Japan strives to return to a semblance of normality following the disasters that left more than 20,000 dead or missing.

Tokyo and Osaka will host Summersonic in August, boasting the likes of The Strokes and The Horrors.

The Rock in Japan Festival will take place in Ibaraki Prefecture at a site just 75 miles from the Fukushima nuclear plant that was crippled by the tsunami, triggering reactor meltdowns and explosions.

Fuji Rock, which opens Thursday through Sunday, is Japan’s biggest and most internationally recognized festival but has faced adversity before, when first put together by founder Masa Hidaka.

The inaugural event, which drew 30,000 people, was held at a Mount Fuji ski resort in 1997. Halfway through a set by the Red Hot Chili Peppers the festival was canceled due to a typhoon.

These days the three-day event attracts around 125,000 people at its current venue far from Fuji, at the picturesque Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata.

Just over an hour’s train ride out of Tokyo, the mountain festival is as famous for rainy weather as the bands it attracts, but it is also regarded as one of the best designed, cleanest and most environmentally conscious events of its kind.

Western acts rub shoulders with Japanese favorites at the festival, which costs 42,000 yen ($540) for three days.

This year 214 artists including Coldplay, Arctic Monkeys, The Chemical Brothers, Kaiser Chiefs and Lee Scratch Perry share the bill with Yello Magic Orchestra, Shonen Knife and Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra.

But with the basic lineup and logistics of the festival put together months in advance, the tragic events of March 11 left organizers scrambling to reassure overseas acts as a cascading disaster unfolded.

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