Asagiri Jam - It's a beautiful day!
@ Asagiri Arena (10th to 11th Oct '09)
- High-Altitude Playground : Asagiri Jam with Kids -
As both a father and a seasoned Fuji Rock veteran, I have mulled over the appropriate time to introduce my children to the music festival experience. But in a move that could be considered either wise or selfish, I have kept Fujirock to myself, using it as a time to briefly forget certain familial responsibilities and truly relish the revelry without concerns about diapers, nap times and afternoon snacks. I believed that Asagiri Jam, with its smaller, mellower crowd and a more kid-friendly musical lineup would be a more appropriate place to bring the kids. I was right. Here's why:
- Food is plentiful and excellent
- Family-friendly crowd and lots of kids
- Many kid-friendly activities
- No long walks between toilets, tents and stages
- No long lines for bathrooms
- Most bands are mellow
- Both stages shut down by 11pm
The only major drawback that I see is weather: it gets cold at night, and although the skies were beautiful this year, rain will be a perennial concern, but this is easily remedied by simply preparing ahead with rain gear, a waterproof tent and warm clothing. Fujirock takes place on an off-season ski resort, with hotels and convenience stores nearby, but Asagiri is built from the ground up on a high-altitude clearing facing Mount Fuji. No stores or showers, but also no crowds or lines. And everyone camps, with tents popping up all though the woods like mushrooms after the rain.
The main campground is right in front of the Rainbow stage, and that's where we put our stakes down during the first notes of opening act Oi-Skall Mates. The ska beats fit our mood of excitement and anticipation perfectly. My son, Jamie (6 y/o) and daughter Felicia (3 y/o) had never camped before, so they were thrilled to discover that we would be staying in what they considered a new playhouse. Once set up, we headed down to the kid's area, where the young and friendly staff challenged them to shredded newspaper fights and rides in an inflatable tube.
It was only three in the afternoon, but already there was a slight chill in the air. The name Asagiri itself means "morning mist," but the fog you see there could easily be mistaken for clouds. We walked to the food stalls and ordered some grub to warm us up: yakiniku (Korean BBQ), smoked chicken, some whole tomatoes and cream stew with fresh bread. By the time we sat down to eat, J-pop folkster, Yukawa Shione was playing an acoustic version of Oasis's "Don't Look Back in Anger." Then it was time for a crepe and cup of warm milk. The area surrounding Asagiri has a number of farms which supply plenty of fresh milk products the the fest, and also it an ad hoc mascot: a young dairy calf, which laid about lazily while dozens of onlookers took their turn petting its warm coat.
The kids were stuffed and grinning as we returned to the tent to add another layer of clothing. As we threw on fleece jackets, I could hear the most bizarre cover of Michael Jackson's "Beat It" I had ever heard. It was the Kenji & Gota Super Session, taking the main guitar riff from MJ's classic and twisting it into an almost samba-like funk. Amazing. Felicia thought so to, and tried to dance with the girls who shimmied next to our tent.
The kids were having a blast, not in small part to their sugar high. It seemed like everyone had packed extra sweets specifically to give our kids: some candy from a neighboring tent, a bag of cookies from a passerby and a massive frozen mango drink from one of the stalls. Jamie and Felicia were giggling as we approached the Moon Light stage to see Mouse on the Keys, a jazzy keyboard-based rock trio from Tokyo that I'd been waiting to see, and I was surprised at how quickly we arrived. At Fujirock, the crowds and distance between stages requires quite a bit of travel time, but Asagiri's stages are quite close to each other, and with smaller crowds you can easily move between the stages to see as many acts as you like.
Not that anyone was rushing about. People at Asagiri come to camp and hang out with friends as much as see music. And because the tents are so close and you can hear the music just about anywhere, why get up from the hammock? There was a group of about 10 young Japanese camping right behind us, and I never saw them leave their camping chairs except for food and beer runs.
I, on the other hand, had an agenda, so after the Mouse on the Keys set I trotted back to the Rainbow Stage to see Chicago's Hypnotic Brass Ensemble while my wife and kids took their time stacking wood blocks that had been left out for bonfires later that night. Hypnotic Brass was amazing: eight blood brothers with horns playing tight funk. They were easily the best show of the weekend (look them up on Youtube - I command it). Still buzzing from the show, I ran back to the tent. That's when I discovered that nearly all the tents in the campground were made by Coleman. Just like ours. Why do I point this out? Because it can be quite difficult to find your tent when everyone has the same damn tent. A bit of advice: if you have a Coleman, make sure to put some distinguishing object on it. I recommend something bright, blinking and battery-powered for location after dark.
I listened to half of Yura Yura Teikoku's set while patting the kids to sleep. They curled up in the sleeping bag around my wife and I ventured out again to see Swedish electronica act, The Field. It was very cold after dark - you could see your breath - but that didn't stop the crowd from getting down.
Early the next morning, we boiled water for our instant oatmeal only to discover that the food stalls were already open. We really didn't have to bring any food if we didn't want to. Then at 9:30 a crowd formed by the Rainbow Stage. I thought it was too early for the first act, but then I realized that this was the "Morning Stretch," a group exercise led by an announcer on stage. There they were: 500 or so people stretching in unison like schoolkids of residents of a retirement home: "Ichi! Ni! San! Shi!" Classic.
The rest of the day was spent eating, wandering stage to stage and petting the calf again and again (my daughter, not me), all with a fantastic soundtrack in the background: Setsubun Bean Unit's off-kilter Ryukyu beats, Oval's sunny day funk and Emi the Great's earthy pop to name a few. None of these were mind blowing and I only caught bits and pieces as my wife and I chased the kids around, but having constant warm tones floating through the shockingly blue sky made the day borderline magical. And Mount Fuji! It was right there!
I wanted to see OOIOO and Special Others, but instead we left a little early to beat the traffic. Disappointing, but we had all had a great a fulfilling weekend. Asagiri is an ideal spot for tunes and family fun. Asagiri Jam, Fujirock's baby brother, may actually have the festival vibe down better than its older sibling. It's a place to throw your schedule away and just wander. Isn't that what a weekend away is all about?
mag files : Asagiri Jam
Jam Special '09 : JAP / ENG (09/10/10 - 11) : review by jinki, photos by hanasan, hiroshi & yoshitaka
Jam Special '08 : JAP (08/10/04 - 05) : photos by hanasan, hiroshi, ikesan, & keco
Jam Special '07 : JAP / ENG (07/10/06 - 07) : photos by hiroqui, naoaki, hoya, & saya38
Jam Special '06 : JAP / ENG (06/10/07 - 08) : photos by hanasan, terumi, yoshiki, & ikesan
Jam Special '05 : JAP / ENG (05/10/01 - 02) : photos by hanasan, hiroqui, saya38, keco, ikesan, sam & yusuke
Jam Special '04 : JAP / ENG (04/10/02 - 03) : photos by hanasan, ryota, sama & yusuke
review (02/09/28 - 29) : review by akira noguchi, photos by hanasan & maki
今年は雨 (02/09/28 - 29) : review by nob, photos by ikesan
photo report (02/09/28 - 29) : , photos by ikesan