In this installment, I'd like to share with you some of the methods I've used to get to Fuji Rock in Yuzawa, Niigata Prefecture. If you're thinking about going next year, especially if you're heading there from the Kanto region, I hope you'll find this useful!
1. Official tour bus
I didn't have a car when I was living in Tokyo, so I often used the tour bus. We went straight from the meeting point to the location, and all you have to do is follow the instructions of the tour organizers. The tour itself was very exciting. Tour plans are available from each of the major cities in the region and are recommended especially for first-time participants. There are stops at service areas along the way, so you can try out some specialties and buy souvenirs. Come to think of it, I would always buy tomatoes at the Akagi Kogen service area (for dinner!). There are various official tours that include festival tickets and accommodations.
It is important to note that this is a group activity, so be on time. Always be sure to arrive 5-10 minutes early. It is recommended that you send your luggage via courier service directly to your lodgings or tour bus operators in advance. If you are prone to car sickness, you may want to bring along some medicine for motion sickness.
2. The Seishun (Youth) 18 Ticket
This is a very fun memory. We bought 18 tickets for the number of people times the number of days needed in advance at a gold ticket shop, and then my friend and I took the slow train to the venue. It was a slow ride, and the further you get from Tokyo, the more green (nature) and blue (sky and water) the view from the train window becomes, and it's an indescribably pleasant time. On the way back, you can also stop off at a hot springs. If you want to save money or have time to spare, this might be a good one to try out.
Please note that the period of use is limited for the Seishun 18 Ticket. Even when purchased at the Midori-no-Madoguchi ticket office, the ticket sales period is limited. By the way, I once went by train on a slower train than the Seishun 18 Ticket train. I think it was less than 4,000 yen from Nakano to Echigo-Yuzawa. (The route is via Shinjuku - Takasaki - Mizukami - Echigo-Yuzawa.) There is a bus from Echigo Yuzawa to the venue for 500 yen, so use that upon arrival. Depending on the timing of your arrival, you may have to wait in line, so insect repellent is recommended to avoid getting bitten by insects while waiting in line. As with the bus, it is recommended that you send your luggage to the hotel or the official courier service in advance.
3.Shinkansen (Tanigawa and Toki)
In the end, this is the fastest. Echigo-Yuzawa is this close to Tokyo Station? Awesome! Also, the basement floor of Tokyo Station is very well stocked with bento boxes and ready-to-go foods, so get some snacks and beer there and head to the venue like an izakaya bullet train. It's like an aperitif. Transportation from Echigo Yuzawa station to the venue is as mentioned above. By the way, Echigo-Yuzawa station is a great place to visit, too. There is a hot spring and the Niigata brewery. Ponshu-kan is very popular. On the way home, we had a snack at Echigo-Yuzawa station, bought a souvenir, and drank again on the Shinkansen. When I arrived at Tokyo station, I felt like I was dead on my feet.
One thing to note is that you should definitely buy a return ticket in advance. There is always a huge line-up at the Midori-no-Madoguchi at Echigo-Yuzawa station. It's a good idea to buy a reserved seat with plenty of time to spare.
A word of caution: be sure to reserve a parking space. There are some private parking lots nearby, but you won’t find a spot if you wait ‘til you get there. No way! Make sure you either have an official ticket with a parking space or that you reserve a parking space ahead of time. You may end up far from the venue, but that's an experience in itself as well. Note that there’s a battle every year for parking in Lots 1 and 2, which are near the venue. The beauty of going by car is that you can take a bit more luggage, as long as you keep it within the bounds of common sense (i.e. it fits in your car), and you have the freedom to choose the time of departure, and so on, as well as the route. You can drive door to door from home to the venue, and back again. Recently, I've been using my car exclusively. Every year I see calls for carpooling on social media (sharing gas and highway costs). But be careful, because there are sometimes problems, rare though they may be. I don't mean to scare you, but this is Fuji Rock, so I just want you to be able to enjoy it without worries.
Your amount of luggage will be totally different depending on the number of days you spend at Fuji Rock. For the remainder of the time, you'll have to decide whether to stay at an inn or at a campsite, etc. Consider the number of days you'll be at Fuji Rock and consult your wallet and fitness before deciding how to get there. In addition, we see hitchhikers and cyclists every year. There are also a lot of bikers, and some areas for bikers, and many of them are black leather-clad and rugged-looking (but probably friendly). Fuji Rock is fun all the way from departure. This year's event has been postponed due to the deadly Covid-19, but I'm building up my strength for next year. I think that to myself every year.