While they might not bring the same level of debauchery one would find at Coachella or Glastonbury, Japan’s biggest music festivals attract both major stars and indie artists from all over the world. Typically held in the summer months, there are festivals for nearly every genre of music. We take a look at when and where to see the best live music in Japan.
Drawing over 100,000 attendees every summer, this three-day event in Niigata prefecture is the mother of all music festivals in Japan. With seven main stages for the headlining acts as well as several minor stages, there is truly something here for every kind of concertgoer. Previous headliners have included Sigur Ros, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Beck, Bjork, Arcade Fire…the list goes on.
Rock in Japan
This is the best option for fans of J-rock and J-pop. While other festivals of this size typically cater to foreign artists and fans, Rock in Japan features the biggest Japanese acts such as BABYMETAL, Capsule, and Mr. Children. Located in Ibaraki prefecture, the event is spread out over two weekends in August.
Hostess Club Weekender
Held multiple times in both Tokyo and Osaka throughout the year, this indoor festival features some of the biggest names in alternative and indie rock. Previous acts include The National, Blonde Redhead, Best Coast, and St. Vincent.
Another internationally recognized event, Summer Sonic has the distinction of being held in both Tokyo and Osaka over the same weekend in August. On the first day, half the lineup plays Tokyo while the other half plays Osaka, and then the artists swap locations for day two. Fans can purchase a one-day or full weekend ticket. Last year’s lineup included Radiohead, Two Door Cinema Club, Weezer, and BABYMETAL.
A separate event held by the same producers as Summer Sonic, this all-night EDM festival caters more to the club crowd than the alt-rock kids. Get a good night’s sleep the night before, and don’t forget your glow sticks.
Organized by the same group responsible for Summer Sonic, Punkspring has been drawing international punk rock acts, typically from the US and the UK, to Tokyo and Osaka since 2006. The festival has been headlined by bands such as NOFX, Pennywise, New Found Glory, and Buzzcocks.
Located in Tokyo’s massive Ultra Park, this three-day festival attracts the biggest names in EDM and electronic music. Last year’s lineup featured Deadmau5, Kygo, and Martin Garrix.
Like the Rock in Japan festival, MetRock features only Japanese rock bands such as BABYMETAL, The Oral Cigarettes, and Alexandros. It isn’t as large as Rock in Japan, but has the benefit of being held in both Tokyo and Osaka.
One of the largest electronic music festivals held in various locations around the world, the Electric Daisy Carnival got its Japan debut in 2017. The festival features a number of different subgenres of electronic music including trap, EDM, techno, house, and more.
One of the few winter music festivals, Countdown Japan is held in Tokyo and Osaka from December 29-31, the last three days of the year. The event hosts mainly Japanese artists and culminates in an all-night party until 5am to ring in the New Year.