30 of Japan’s Hottest Music Festivals for Summer 2018 and Beyond
Nothing says summer like music festivals. We have the lowdown on the biggest and best festivals across the country this year.
Greenroom Festival, Kanagawa
Located conveniently in the Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse area, this art, film, music, and surf culture festival is a local favorite. Not only are there live performances by Japanese standards like Asian Kung-Fu Generation, Monkey Majik, and Soil & “Pimp” Sessions, the festival’s international line-up boasts Vintage Trouble, The Wailers, and more. There will be plenty of art stalls and shows, as well as movie showings. Or, you can just head to the chillout area and do some yoga — the choice is yours.
When: May 26-27
Where: Yokohama Red Brick Warehouse, Kanagawa
More info: Greenroom Festival
Tokyo Metropolitan Rock Festival 2018, Tokyo
For those who don’t want to leave the comfort of the city, Metrock is the best way to make the most of festival fever without having to travel for miles and miles. The event features some of Japan’s best acts, including UVERworld, Fear, and Loathing in Las Vegas, Man with a Mission, and The Bawdies.
When: May 26-27
Where: Wakasu Seaside Park, Koto-ku
More info: Met Rock
Amuse Fes in Makuhari 2018, Chiba
Originally based in Shizuoka, this pop music party moved to Makuhari last year after a two-year hiatus. Pop princesses Perfume, as well as FLOW, Yu Takahashi, and Porno Graffitti will perform. Also performing will be an exclusive special session band featuring members from Flumpool, Weaver, and more.
When: June 2
Where: Makuhari Messe, Chiba
More info: Amuse Fes
Natsu Biraki — Osaka, Fukuoka, Tokorozawa
Natsu Biraki Music Festival started in 2007 and has grown to a festival of epic proportions, boasting three venues across the country. Their concept is simple: create a festival that’s easy to get to for a day trip from the city, and make it kid-friendly. Not only is there a family area where families have all the amenities needed (nursing and diaper changing rooms for example), kids under the age of 12 get in free! Artists performing at all three venues include Rhymester, Scoobie Do, and Rickie-G.
When: Jul 1 (Osaka), Jul 7-8 (Fukuoka), Jul 14-16 (Tokorozawa)
Where: Osaka, Fukuoka, and Tokorozawa
More info: Natsu Biraki
Dead Pop Festival, Kanagawa
Dead Pop Festival is the brainchild of Shonan punk band SiM (Silence iz Mine), who started the project as an indoor stage show featuring bands from a variety of heavy genres. Since 2015, the festival has been upgraded to a proper outdoor festival affair, now spanning two days every summer in the outskirts of Kawasaki. Bands appearing this year include 10-Feet, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, Coldrain, Dustbox, with SiM naturally headlining each night.
When: Jun 30-Jul 1
Where: Higashi Ogishima East Park Special Event Space, Kawasaki, Kanagawa
More info: Dead Pop Festival
Ocean Peoples 18, Tokyo
Although it’s nowhere near the ocean, it’s for a good cause. Ocean Peoples gathers together those who want to save our beaches and our oceans for a celebration of these beautiful natural resources without trashing them in the process. Entrance is free, making it accessible for everyone. There will be over 100 stalls featuring local artists and entrepreneurs, as well as food from all over the world. Ocean activities like surfing and diving (yes, you read that right) will also be available. On stage, performances from Donavon Frankenreiter, Kaiki, Rickie-G, and more will send beach vibes your way.
When: Jul 7-8
Where: Yoyogi Park, Tokyo
More info: Ocean Peoples
Corona Sunsets Festival, Okinawa
Boasting possibly the best location out of all the events listed, the Corona Sunsets Festival has all the modern festival must-haves: beaches, beer, and great music. There’s no need to imagine the beauty of the ocean and the sand-strewn beaches here! Artists include DJs Hot Chip, Tuxedo, and Kidnap, as well as live musicians Five New Old, and more.
Entry is open to those 20 and over only. Bring a valid photo ID when you attend.
When: Jul 14-15
Where: Chura Sun Beach, Special Event Outdoor Music Stage, Okinawa
More info: Corona Sunsets Festival
Kesen Rock Fes 18, Iwate
Kesen Rock Festival was canceled in 2011 because of the devastation caused to the area by the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. The festival came back with a vengeance the following year, in part because local entrepreneurs and musicians wanted the world to see a different side of the region, as well as give the local economy a boost to help it recover. Five years in, the event boasts a line-up of some of Japan’s best rock acts, including Monoeyes, Hawaiian6, 10-Feet, and more.
When: Jul 14-15
Where: Taneyamagahara Park, Iwate
More info: Kesen Rock Fes
Join Alive 2018
This music and amusement festival in the heart of Hokkaido is in its 9th year, featuring rock bands Alexandros, Orange Range, 10-Feet, and Man with a Mission. Old schoolers Chemistry will also make an appearance, much to the delight of the 30-plus crowd. Non-musical attractions include the Alternative Garden, a collaboration project with sports, art, and performance elements that are fun for the whole family.
When: Jul 14-15
Where: Iwamizawa Park, Hokkaido
More info: Join Alive
Muro Festival 2018
Now in its 8th year, Muro Festival is a Tokyo-based music event headed by Shibuya live house O-Crest. This year’s show will move from its usual location in Shin-Kiba to the Odaiba beachside. Over 50 artists will appear on stage over the two days, including ska band BackDropCinderella, J-rockers Saucy Dog, ballad-lovers Cocoroauction, and more.
When: Jul 21-22
Where: Odaiba Yagai Tokusetsu Kaijo, Tokyo
More info: Muro Fes
Fuji Rock Festival 2018
Japan’s biggest festival of the year kicks off as it always does, deep in the forests of Niigata. Over 200 Japanese and international artists make this music haven their home over three days every July. This year’s highlights include Kendrick Lamar, Bob Dylan, N.E.R.D., Post Malone, and Vampire Weekend.
When: Jul 27-29
Where: Naeba Ski Resort, Niigata
More info: Fuji Rock Festival
Oga Nahamage Rock Festival, Akita
Head north to the home of one of Japan’s most feared demon-like deities, the Namahage. Inspired by these fierce creatures, and perhaps to appease them, the Oga Namahage Rock Festival features some of the heaviest bands Japan has to offer. Metalcore magic makers Crossfaith will take the stage here, as well as Crystal Lake, and Rottengraffty. It’s not all hard rock and ogres though, Akita’s famous babahera (two-flavored ice cream served by old ladies) will also be on site to keep festgoers cool.
When: Jul 28-29
Where: Funagawa Port, Akita
More info: Oga Namahage Rock Festival
Rock in Japan Fes 2018, Ibaraki
For the biggest J-pop and J-rock festival this summer, look no further than Rock in Japan Fes, which spans across four days over two weeks. Kawaii pop princess Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Maximum the Hormone, and Superfly are just some of the major bands and artists in attendance for this epic event.
When: Aug 4-5 & Aug 11-12
Where: Hitachi Seaside Park, Ibaraki
More info: Rock in Japan Fes
Rising Sun Rock Festival, Hokkaido
Located in Hokkaido, Rising Sun Rock Festival offers festgoers a reprieve from the oppressive heat that hits the rest of the country during the height of summer. The event prides itself on having only Japanese bands and artists in its line-up, which may or may not be a dig at larger festivals that mainly host international performers. This year’s event features funk band BRADIO, rockers Okamoto’s, veterans Brahman, and more.
When: Aug 10-11
Where: Ezo, Hokkaido
More info: Rising Sun Rock Festival
Eat the Rock, Shiga
While Eat the Rock sounds like it was made to match Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson’s catchphrase “Can you smell what The Rock is cooking?”, its true nature is quite different. This rock music festival is one-of-a-kind as there is no entry free whatsoever. It’s completely free! Not only that, but the event offers ¥1,500 return shuttle bus tickets to get visitors to and from the venue with ease. While some might consider this a desperate attempt to get visitors to come out so far, looking at the line-up, there’s no need as some of Japan’s best ska acts will be there. Hey-Smith, Hot Squall, and Gelugugu are just some of the bands already announced to attend.
When: Aug 11
Where: Ryuo Sogo Undo Park, Shiga
More info: Eat the Rock
Sonic Mania & Summer Sonic, Osaka & Chiba
One of the “Big Two” festivals along with Fuji Rock Festival, this citybound two-day musical menagerie that takes place in two cities has a prelude that’s almost as big as the main event. Sonic Mania hosts heavyweights Nine Inch Nails, My Bloody Valentine, as well as shooting star DJ Marshmello on the Friday before the main event begins. Both Osaka and Chiba will see Beck, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, and Shawn Mendes on stage.
When: Sonic Mania, Aug 17 (Chiba only) & Summer Sonic, Aug 18-19 (Osaka and Chiba)
Where: Makuhari Messe, Chiba & Maishima Sonick Park, Osaka
More info: Summer Sonic / Sonic Mania
Monster Bash, Kagawa
Already in its 19th year, Monster Bash offers an impressive line-up of Japanese rock and pop staples, such as Dragon Ash, Buzz the Bears, UVERworld, and The Bonez. It’s the must-see Shikoku music festival and a great alternative for those who want to skip the city — or have no interest in Summer Sonic.
When: Aug 18-19
Where: Sanuki Mannou Park, Kagawa
More info: Monster Bash
Sky Jamboree 2018, Nagasaki
Sky Jamboree came about after a chance meeting between producer Katsuro Arimoto and Kemuri frontman and vocalist Fumio Ito. Their belief is that music brings everyone together — not a revolutionary concept per se, but they built on it: when everyone enjoys music together in one place, they create peace in the world. That’s where the festival’s annual theme, “one pray in Nagasaki” comes in. By rocking out alongside friends and enemies, it’s a modern (and very rock’n’roll) way of creating world peace, even if it’s just one corner of Japan for one day of the year. Highlights include Kemuri, The Bawdies, Super Beaver, and Asian Kung-Fu Generation.
When: Aug 19
Where: Inasayama Park, Nagasaki
More info: Sky Jamboree
Rush Ball 2018, Osaka
Celebrating its 20th anniversary, this Osaka-based festival is branching out and will also host a show in Taipei in June. The concept for this year’s fes is “story mind,” to celebrate and contemplate all the stories created at Rush Ball in the past 20 years. The artist line-up isn’t available yet, but it’s sure to be jampacked with Japanese rock legends!
When: Aug 25-26 & Sep 1
Where: Izumi Ohtsu Phoenix, Osaka
More info: Rush Ball
Westside Outdoor Festival, Okayama
For those looking for a proper outdoorsy event, this may be your best bet. The festival takes place on an island in the Seto Inland Sea and makes the most of the abundant nature in the area. It’s family-friendly and boasts several activities ranging from slackline walking, SUP boarding, and even kid-friendly bungee jumping(!). Chill DJs and folk singers make up the main music roster, and there are even woodworking workshops for those feeling crafty.
When: Aug 25-26
Where: Kakuijima, Okayama
More info: Westside Outdoor Festival
Sweet Love Shower 2018, Yamanashi
Starting out in Hibiya Park in 1996, Space Shower TV’s summer festival moved to Yamanakako in 2007, and the move was nothing short of a total upgrade. This pop-rock mega fes not only features some of Japan’s finest — Maximum the Hormone, One Ok Rock, Man With a Mission, and Sakanaction to name just a few — it also offers an unrivaled view of Mount Fuji while you rock out.
When: Aug 31-Sep 2
Where: Yamanakako Community Center Kirara, Yamanashi
More info: Sweet Love Shower 2018
Itami GreenJam 2018, Hyogo
This creative enterprise has made it its mission since 2014 to provide a festival that equally values art, fashion, design, and music. Artsy folks are invited to design the official event supporter T-shirt (deadline June 3). In line with the festival’s creative and open ideas, the whole two-day event is free.
The artist line-up isn’t available at the time of posting.
When: Sep 1-2
Where: Koyaike Park, Hyogo
More info: Itami GreenJam
Music Circus ’18, Osaka
Music Circus prides itself on being based in Osaka. While everyone else looks to Tokyo, MC is a pioneer in creating a festival that distances itself from the capital. Music Circus also wants to create more than just a festival; they want to create an experience. Festgoers can enjoy dancing, jetpack flying, Instagram-snapping, and whatever else they want at this two-day beachside dance revolution. The artist line-up isn’t available at the time of posting.
When: Sep 1-2
Where: Tarui Southern Beach, Osaka
More info: Music Circus
New Acoustic Camp 2018, Gunma
Part of the wave of alternative and family-friendly festivals, New Acoustic Camp is in its 9th year of creating the ultimate outdoor experience. Enjoy the unadulterated sound of acoustic music while relaxing in the shade by day, and chat over open fires and under starry skies at night. There is also an option for a hotel stay with an onsen nearby for those who don’t want to rough it.
The artist line-up will be posted from May 11 onwards.
When: Sep 15-16
Where: Minakami Kogen Resort 200, Gunma
More info: New Acoustic Camp
Shima Fes Setouchi 2018, Kagawa
Shima Fes has the ambitious goal of being an oceanside music event that will last 100 years. The fes started in 2011, so we’ll have to wait another 90 odd years to see if this is an impossible dream or an impressive feat. Regardless, its location is enviable — the fes takes place on Shodo island in the middle of the Setouchi Inland Sea and is accessible by boat from 7 different ports. Performers include Tempalay, Husking Bee, and other pop and folk-rock artist. And, of course, udon will be plentiful.
When: Sep 15-16
Where: Shodoshima Furusatomura, Kagawa
More info: Shima Fes Setouchi
Ultra Japan 2018, Tokyo
This worldwide electronic music festival celebrates its fifth year in Japan. Advance tickets are already on sale, although this year’s artist line-up isn’t available yet. Previous years have included Deadmau5, Dubfire, Alesso, Afrojack, and Skrillex.
When: Sep 15-17
Where: Tokyo Odaiba Ultra Park, Tokyo
More info: Ultra Japan
Iwamuro Rock Festival, Niigata
In an effort to revive the area, Iwamuro in Niigata decided to create its own rock festival, cleverly nicknamed Imwamurock. While relatively minor, the event hosts plenty of local talent and works hard to promote young and upcoming artists in particular. If indie music is your jam, then this music fes is a must.
Details for this year’s festival to be updated this summer.
When: Sep 23-24
Where: Iwamuroya, Niigata
More info: Iwamuro Rock Festival
The Great Satsumanian Hestival 2018, Kagoshima
Yes, that’s festival with an “h.” The “he” represents the word for volcanic ash in Kagoshima’s local dialect, which is fitting, since much of the city is covered in it thanks to the nearby Sakurajima. In fact, the fes will take place on the Sakurajima peninsula, at the foot of the active volcano. In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration, there will be a whole host of sporting events on top of the usual food and music. So far, notable artists announced include Acidman, Keytalk, Ego-Wrappin’, and Soil & Pimp Sessions.
When: Oct 7-8
Where: Sakurajima Yokoyama-cho, Kagoshima
More info: The Great Satsumanian Hestival
Asagiri Jam, Shizuoka
Fuji Rock Festival’s little sister is way more chill, tends to have better weather, and has a front-row view of the “right side” of the beautiful Mount Fuji. This year’s event hasn’t officially been announced yet, but unless anything major happens, it should be taking place as usual. Updates to come in July.
When: TBA (usually held at the end of October)
Where: Fujimi City, Shizuoka
More info: Asagiri Jam
If festivals aren’t your thing and you’d rather hang out in the city, then check out our Tokyo beer garden roundup: