27 July, 2009

Fuji Rock and the blue sheets

Last weekend I went on my third pilgrimage to Japan's premier music festival Fuji Rock. Set deep in the Alps of Japan it offers the festival-goer many spectacular sights from mother nature. However, while impressed by the festival's ubiquitous efforts of recycling, and it's two areas set aside for eco & NGO focused stalls, and renewables-powered music stage, it was evident that for most of the festival-goers, materialism was still the dominant force in their lives and indeed their Fuji Rock festival experience.

While the most obvious sign was the enormous queues in front of the official merchandise stalls, more interestingly was the fact that while everyone there seemed happy to be out in amongst nature, for most it seemed only to be on condition that nature was experienced from a distance - in a tamed and orderly manner.

What drew me to this conclusion was the en mass use of blue plastic sheeting to keep them, and all their possessions, separated from the ground. And for many, it seemed that it wasn't even enough to be sitting on a camp chair. The chairs themselves often need to be positioned neatly in the middle of an expanse of blue sheeting, which in turn is perfectly pegged out with proper stake mallets, and all transported on specialised camping trolleys.

And camping trolleys! Only the other day, while perusing a camp shop, I was thinking thinking what marketing geniuses the camp gear manufacturers must be. To have beguiled the camping public into buying so many superfluous items to take with them camping that they now need to buy special camping trolleys to carry it all on. Brilliant! And the greatest superfluous item of them all - the Colman (other brands are available) lantern stand. Granted, it may be, as they claim, multi-purpose, but really! And besides, isn't one of the points about camping to get away from it all, which in my view, includes light pollution.
Anyway, I'm getting away from the main theme; what - in my humble, and yes I know, cynical opinion - the ubiquitous use of blue sheeting represents. As well as a nature controlling device, I also see the blue sheets as a reflection of our ingrained materialism. The sheets seem to represent the desire to own and control material things which in this case is public space. At any one time, out of the thousands of blue demarcated property blocks, only 30% seemed to be occupied - in other words, the owners simply secured their space only to then leave it vacant (or vacantly leave it?) until when they see fit to return. Sharing public space is obviously not a virtue.

Again, I found myself reflecting on the themes that run through the very thought-provoking film The 11th Hour which reminds us that the world's social and environmental problems largely stem from the fact that we humans have separated ourselves from nature, and as a result, no longer see it's beauty. Without seeing the beauty of where we live, there is clearly no incentive by the majority to take care of it. So please, if you live in Japan, next time you go to a festival (of course, including cherry blossom viewing) - leave the blue sheets at home and share the public space with others, and enjoy the ground, the grass, or sandy gravel for what it is.

For a very entertaining and insightful blog on the music content of the festival, I highly recommend my fellow festival-goer's blog islandsofecstacy