After previously taking part in all kinds of prep work, Seiji finally experiences the culmination of his fellow team members’ hard work and dreams.

About a month ago, our Japanese-language correspondent and resident musician Seiji Nakazawa took part in preparations for the Soraniwa Music Festival, planned for Saturday, October 29 from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. in the mountains of Fujino, Sagamihara City, Kanagawa Prefecture. As we documented previously, preparing for the outdoor event required a whole team of volunteers and some hard physical work. First, they had to mow the grass and cut back a thicket of bamboo all by themselves as part of their agreement with the local landowner whose land they were borrowing. After that, they had to assemble a small stage from scratch and get the electrical equipment ready for use.


For Seiji, one of the coolest things about the team of assembled volunteers was that they had walked all paths of life before serendipitously ending up here. Annasekai, for instance, had grown up locally and attended a local art festival when young (which became part of the inspiration for Soraniwa) before moving to Tokyo for a bit. However, she ultimately returned and started a family in the very place where she grew up.

▼ Annasekai, with one of her children

While the team had cleared the vegetation approximately three weeks before the day of the festival, every weekend after that a few people needed to assemble again to conduct more preparations. Most important among these tasks was building the base of the stage, which took a full day in itself.

The builders were also able to use some of the bamboo that they had previously chopped down to form the structure of a little hut, pictured in the background below.

Clearing a walking pathway for visitors from the parking lot to the main venue site took another day.

When Seiji went to visit the venue the day before the festival was scheduled to take place, preparations were far enough along that he could clearly see the outline of what the festival would look like. Since this year’s event was the first revival since pre-pandemic days, “simplicity” was the main theme for everyone to ease back into the swing of things.

For power needs, the team had partnered with the local Fujino Denryoku power company to be able to harvest some solar energy. On this day, they had to lug the heavy electrical equipment from the parking lot.

Seiji had zero experience with solar panels, so he elected to help with the carrying and digging of holes for installation to keep the equipment as safe as possible and tucked away from running children.

Another member of the team set about creating nooks for lights in the stalks of cut bamboo.

Someone else was hard at work making some other kind of structure that Seiji couldn’t quite pin down.

To his delight, he was soon asked to take part in a session to check the sound equipment. All seemed to be proceeding well.

At long last, the venue was completed. Everyone who was there gave a round of applause to celebrate their hard work over the last few weeks.

▼ Sign reads “Soraniwa”

That night, some of the team crashed at the house of organizing committee member Batako, who lives in the area. The atmosphere was buzzing with the same feeling as the night before a typical cultural festival in high school, when after weeks of hard work the students are ready to showcase a shiny event on the following day.

And so, everyone awoke in their futons the following morning with a sense of eager anticipation.

One of the last things to do was to carry drinking water to the site, but otherwise the festival was ready to begin in the late morning. All that was left was for the attendees themselves to show up, but Seiji had to wonder–would a lot of them come? As a musician for 17 years with mixed success, Seiji had learned to not always get his hopes up for a spectacular audience.

Since there was no entry fee, the event felt more like a local neighborhood festival than a commercial music festival. It was something that the organizers pour their hearts and time into once per year. That made Seiji’s anxiety rise even higher as he thought about no one potentially showing up.

Just at that moment, however…

…people appeared on the pathway!

Yes, there were absolutely people walking towards them on the path that they had put so much time into clearing!

Before Seiji knew it, the venue had filled up with visitors who were chatting and laughing in excitement. The knot in his chest finally unraveled and he exhaled deeply. He couldn’t wait for this scene in the midst of the mountains to be filled with the sounds of echoing rock music in just a little while.

The sun had also finally warmed everything up and it felt like the perfect place for a lazy catnap.

Of course, the parking lot filling up also meant that it was time for the volunteers to spring into action to direct cars. A bunch of them would take turns in this role and Seiji was slated to begin his shift at 2 p.m. He gobbled down his lunch and headed over the lot, and was pleasantly surprised when some SoraNews24 readers who had read his previous piece about the festival enthusiastically greeted him!

And so the day went on, little by little. While Seiji was someone who helped out here and there with odd jobs, the organizing committee members were pretty much always in constant motion with their assigned tasks. Annasekai was in charge of greeting visitors, Yachiko was giving various directions over a walkie-talkie, and Makken worked around the stage every time a band changed.

As the shadows grew darker, Seiji reflected once again on how this group of people from various walks of life had all banded together to carve out their own little place of music in these mountains from nothing. He himself had only ever performed inside live houses and other music venues, so listening to the music outdoors somehow felt primal and powerful.

And so, the 2022 Soraniwa Festival came to a successful close. Speaking to Annasekai the following day, it sounded like the team had already done a lot of introspection about what went well and what could be improved for next year’s event. It was heartening that they were already looking towards the future when they would all come together again.

Seiji thought about ending this piece with that last uplifting note, but he just had to share one more unexpected thing that happened the following day–his entire back seized up in extreme pain. He messaged his usual chiropractor, who responded that it was likely just sore muscles due to all of the lifting he had been doing.

Compared to the other members of the team, he felt that he hadn’t really done much in the way of physical labor and this kind of pain was unwarranted. However, he then reminded himself that he had turned 40 this year. The pains of aging had finally caught up with him, it appeared. At least he hadn’t been ordered to lug around a massive panda stuffie like his coworker, Mr. Sato.

All images © SoraNews24
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