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Hot! Japan's summer 2012 music lineup
From leviathans like Fuji Rock to tradition-steeped taiko shows, the hottest months look amazing
Summer’s here, and like most every other year, Tokyo and Japan at large, are abuzz with live music.
Whether it’s the latest indie band, a pop starlet or the sounds of the philharmonic that pique your interest, Japan has something for most music fans over the long, hot months ahead.
Here’s a quick rundown of the best the country has to offer this summer -- everything from performances by rock ‘n’ roll and jazz legends, to alternative supergroups and traditional Japanese taiko ensembles.
Yes indeed -- even fans of those giant, earsplitting drums have a season to look forward to.
Fuji Rock Festival
Dates: July 27-29
Founded in 1997, the Fuji Rock Festival has evolved into Japan’s largest and best-known summer music event.
With over 200 bands, artists and DJs set to play on the festival’s 15 stages, Fuji Rock 2012 promises to be one of the best editions yet.
Acts include notable headliners Radiohead and The Stone Roses, as well as the recently reformed At the Drive In and Refused.
Tickets start at ¥17,800 (US$225) for single-day entry and run up to ¥42,800 for a three-day pass. Free shuttle buses run to and from JR Echigo Yuzawa Station.
Just make sure to pack a set of rain boots for the festival’s muddy fields and mosh pits.
Fuji Rock Festival, Naeba Ski Resort, 202 Mikuni, Yuzawa-machi, Niigata; www.smash-uk.com
Rock In Japan
Dates: August 3-5
Considered a domestic answer to other events where the lineups are heavy on international talent, the Rock In Japan festival started in 2000 with the intention of featuring only local bands and artists.
With over 150 acts set to perform on its five stages and the DJ booth, Rock In Japan 2012 features sets from bands like Good 4 Nothing, Kreva, The Hiatus, Polysics and Acidman.
Tickets start at ¥13,000 for a single day, ¥25,000 for a two-day pass, and ¥34,500 for a three-day pass. Free shuttle buses run to and from JR Joban line Mito and Katsuta stations.
Rock In Japan, Hitachi Seaside Park, Hitachinaka, Ibaraki; rijfes.jp
Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto
Dates: August 4-September 7
Founded in 1992 by world-renowned conductor Seiji Ozawa, who served as the Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1973-2002, the Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto was originally designed as a tribute to the late cellist Hideo Saito.
This year, the broad-ranging event is set to take place at four separate venues in Nagano Prefecture -- Matsumoto Performing Arts Center, Agata no Mori Bunka Kaikan, Kissei Bunka Hall and The Harmony Hall.
The festival has become Japan’s version of Tanglewood, featuring the Saito Kinen Orchestra and any number of acclaimed ensembles.
Ticket prices vary per event, from ¥1,000-¥14,000.
Saito Kinen Festival Matsumoto. Nagano can be reached from Tokyo via the JR Chuo Tosen Line and by Shinkansen; www.saito-kinen.com
Rising Sun Rock Festival
Dates: August 10-11
Another one of Japan’s all-local festivals, the Rising Sun Rock Festival earns distinction because of its northern location in Hokkaido and a DIY ethic that sees the organizers promoting over 90 bands without any mainstream sponsorship.
It also happens to run right through the night, making it very unusual in Japanese entertainment terms.
With bands like Radwimps, Asian Kung-Fu Generation, Unison Square Garden, Bonobos, Rekishi, Yoko Yazawa and The Bohemians performing across six stages, Rising Sun is a great reason to finally travel to Japan’s second-largest island.
Tickets start at ¥9,000 for a single day on August 10, ¥12,500 for a single day on August 11 and ¥18,000 for a two-day pass. Prices do not include camping fees.
Shuttle buses (¥600 one-way) to the dedicated site in Ishikari run from Asabu Station, which is about 10 minutes from Sapporo on the JR Namboku subway line.
Rising Sun Rock Festival, Ishikari City, Hokkaido; rsr.wess.co.jp
More on CNNGo: 50 music festivals for the summer
The Beach Boys
Date: August 16
Sure, this might not be an all-day or multiple-stage mega-event, but it’s The Beach Boys -- and what could better spell summer with a capital ‘S’?
The band is coming to Tokyo on its 50th-anniversary tour, along with a first studio album in 20 years, “That’s Why God Made the Radio.”
Considered by many to be simply a nostalgia act, The Beach Boys are, in reality, more akin to rock ‘n’ roll royalty.
The new album, which sees them reunite with former member David Marks for the first time since 1963, is full of the classic harmonies that made The Beach Boys one of the most-revered bands of all time.
Tickets range from ¥8,000-¥9,000.
The Beach Boys, QVC Marine Field, 1 Mihama, Mihama-ku, Chiba; www.creativeman.co.jp
Date: August 17-19
Hosted by internationally acclaimed taiko drumming ensemble Kodo,
Earth Celebration is unlike any other Japanese music festival because of its emphasis on world music and artist collaboration.
With a combination of headlining shows at Sado Island’s Shiroyama Park and workshops, Earth Celebration is heading into its 25th edition in 2012.
The themes this time are “tataku” (to hit or beat a rhythm) and “primal human expression.” No, neither do we ...
Tickets range from ¥5,000 for a single day (August 19 is ¥5,500) to ¥13,000 for a three-day pass.
Earth Celebration. Sado Island is accessible via ferry from Niigata and Naoetsu Ports; www.kodo.or.jp
Eminem Recovery Tour
Date: August 17
Another non-festival show on this list, hip-hop mogul Eminem and his Recovery Tour roll into Tokyo to support “Recovery,” his seventh studio album.
One of the top-selling artists of the 2000s, Eminem’s previous stints on the Up In Smoke and Anger Management tours have all earned rave reviews.
Loyal fans will be waiting patiently to see if Rihanna, due to perform two days later at Summer Sonic, will show up to sing the hook on “Love the Way You Lie,” or if she’ll just carry on partying back in Tokyo.
Tickets range from ¥9,000-¥20,000.
Eminem, QVC Marine Field, 1 Mihama, Mihama-ku, Chiba; www.creativeman.co.jp
Dates: August 18-19
The mainstream answer to Fuji Rock’s indie cool, Summer Sonic has a lineup from pop’s reigning Caribbean queen Rihanna, to post-rock heroes Sigur Rós.
There’s also no shortage of reformed bands making their second (and more) trips around the block like New Order, Jamiroquai and Garbage.
With pop-punk icons Green Day set to headline the first day of the festival, Summer Sonic 2012 also features some 110 bands and artists across 13 stages in both Tokyo (well, nearby Chiba -- the organizers just brand it after the capital) and 400 kilometers away in Osaka.
Many of the acts double up and play both venues, so if you can't get tickets for Tokyo, there's always the Kansai option as a backup.
Tickets begin at ¥12,500 for a single day at the Osaka event, while ¥27,000 covers a two-day pass in Tokyo.
Summer Sonic, QVC Marine Field, 1 Mihama, Mihama-ku, Chiba; Maishima Summer Sonic Osaka Site, Maishima, Osaka; www.summersonic.com
Tokyo Jazz Festival
Date: September 7-9
Simply put, there’s only one festival in Tokyo where you can watch legendary songwriter Burt Bacharach in 2012, and that’s the Tokyo Jazz Festival.
If Bacharach’s performance at the Tokyo International Forum Hall on September 8 isn’t enough, consider that he’ll be on after “Stand By Me” singer Ben E. King and will be followed by free-jazz innovator saxophonist Ornette Coleman.
The festival, which takes place at three venues across Tokyo, features 40 artists (many of whom will play together) and includes some free performances at Tokyo International Forum Plaza, nearby Tokyo Station.
Tickets range from free to ¥18,000.
Tokyo Jazz Festival, Tokyo International Forum, 5-1 Marunouchi 3-chome, Chiyoda-ku; www.tokyo-jazz.com
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