The annual Air Guitar World Championships held in Oulu, Northern Finland celebrates the beloved guitar without actually using them. Instead, participants channel all the energy, attitude, and athleticism of playing rock guitar into their invisible air guitar while performing on stage.

With the 18th championships being held in August this year, RocketNews24 has assembled our finest imaginary guitarists, Stardust Sato and Fantastic Hatori, to represent us. However, the two must first face the qualifying round. Find out if they made the cut after the break.

Song selection

After deciding to join just one week before the contest, Sato and Hatori immediately had trouble choosing their song.

Despite having been adorned with the moniker “Stardust”, our famous reporter opted against breaking out his best Bowie. Although Bowie’s songs have solid riffs and flowing chord work they didn’t really work for air guitar; at least not at beginner level, anyway. After scrolling through his favorite iPod songlist several times, Stardust Sato decided on Stone Cold Crazy by Metallica for its dramatic power chord punches.

Fantastic Hatori, meanwhile, selected the theme music wrestlers Terry Funk and Dory Funk Jr. used when they performed in Japan: Spinning Toe-Hold by Creation. As it had proven time and time again, this song’s got the goods to get the crowd worked up.


If they were going to make it to Finland, Hatori and Sato would have to train hard. To do that they would need the best facility possible with the finest equipment. So they rented out an expensive studio in the area. In the sound-proof studio surrounded by countless amps and drum kits they plugged in their iPod headphones and got to work.

The RocketNews team had a distinct advantage in that they could coach and give constructive criticism on each other’s performance thus ensuring the best possible routine and furthermore guaranteeing victory.

A record turn-out

On Saturday, 1 June, Stardust Sato and Fantastic Hatori headed down to the Air Guitar 2013 First Qualifying Round. A shaken Hatori gasped “so… so many,” at the 35 total people attempting to qualify – an all-time record high. They had to draw for spots to determine the order. Hatori would perform 33rd while Sato got the 15th slot.


A panel of five judges determine who moves on to the Championship. They are Japanese Air Guitar Association (JAGA) President, Kanagawa IQ; JAGA Secretary, Miyagi Mario; Master of Subculture, Amano Ukelele; Artist, Nash Alex; and popular cartoonist, Pyokotan.

Each judge rates the performances on a scale of zero to six. The highest and lowest scores will be removed, and the remaining scores will be totaled to give the final score. This way a maximum score would be 18.

“Game over”

A rather large crowd had gathered by the time the first air guitarists hit the stage. One by one, a range of guitar mimicry virtuosos wowed the crowd with their majestic strumming and dancing. Hatori and Sato just sat there and watched, awe-struck.

“Game over, man,” uttered Stardust Sato, to which Hatori vacantly replied, “I think they got it…”

Waiting for their turns the two simply sat there wishing they had begun practicing at an early age rather than those stupid guitar lessons their parents made them take.

Stardust Sato

Sato downed the rest of his drink and mumbled “well, it’s time” through his lump filled throat. As he stood there on the stage alone, Fantastic Hatori sat watching with clenched fists. He thought, “if he just does it like in practice, he’s got a shot! Go get’em Stardust!”

In the end Stardust Sato ranked 23th of the 35 contestants, failing to qualify with the following scores.

Fantastic Hatori

Stardust Sato casually returned to the table and ordered another drink. Taking a sip he let out a loud sigh of refreshment and relief while wearing a satisfied grin. Meanwhile, Hatori sat rigid, covered in sweat. He still had to sit through 15 or so more acts until his turn.

Steadily the tension built and built. Hatori looked over to get some comfort from Sato, but he was gone, hitting on one of the female performers. When Fantastic Hatori’s name was finally called, he headed to the stage, all of his muscles tied in knots.

With that performance, Fantastic Hatori earned a commendable 13th place among the 35 competitors, but unfortunately still failed to qualify.


Looking back, however, Hatori felt that he did alright. In spite of the scores he could recall someone yell out from the crowd, “That’s freakin’ awesome!” It wasn’t Sato either; during the performance Stardust was crying in the bathroom after being pepper sprayed by the contestant he was trying to pick up.

Another Chance?

The Air Guitar 2013 Second Qualifying Round is scheduled to be held on 20 July. This will be one more chance to earn a spot at the Championships in Finland and the free accommodation and airfare that come with it.

Depending if it’s enough time for them to lick their wounds, Stardust Sato and Fantastic Hatori may get another shot at the glory – the glory of air guitar.

Japanese Air Guitar Association: Website (Japanese)
Air Guitar World Championships: Website (English)
Photos and Video: RocketNews 24

▼ Startdust Sato’s performance

From another angle

Fantastic Hatori’s performance

Second angle

On the day of the qualifier


Team RocketNews is focused




Choosing the order


The Judges


The other contestants were well prepared



Team Rocket begins to worry, cigs are lit.



“We’re screwed, man.”


Alice Juban member Asami Usagi also came out to play.


Time for Stardust Sato!






Stardust Sato (23rd place)


Ganta-G-Crusher (1st place)


“Crap, crap, crap, crap…”


Bei Toru (4th place)


“Gimme another one!”


Ko Nezumi Nya Suke (6th place)


And now for Fantastic Hatori!




Fantastic Hatori (13th place)


In the end, everyone gets together for a big air rock-out.







“Cheers, Stardust. We did it.” “Yes we did, sir, yes we did.”


[ Read in Japanese ]