After participating in all kinds of preparatory work beforehand, Seiji finally experiences the culmination of the hard work and dreams of his teammates.
About a month ago, our Japanese correspondent and musician in residence Seiji Nakazawa took part in the preparations for Soraniwa Music Festivalscheduled for Saturday, October 29 from 11 am to 5 pm in the Fujino Mountains, Sagamihara city, Kanagawa Prefecture. As we documented before, preparing for an outdoor event required a whole team of volunteers and hard physical work. First, they had to mow the grass themselves and cut the bamboo undergrowth as part of an agreement with the local owner of the land they had borrowed. Then they had to put together a small stage from scratch and prepare the electrical equipment for use.
For Seiji, one of the coolest things about the team of volunteers assembled was that they went through all life paths before unexpectedly landing here. For example, Annasekai grew up locally and in her youth attended a local art festival (which became part of the inspiration for Soraniw) before moving to Tokyo for a while. Eventually, however, she returned and started a family where she grew up.
▼ Annasekai with one of his children
While the team cleared the vegetation around three weeks before the festival day, several people had to come together each weekend to make further preparations. The most important of these tasks was to build the foundation of the stage, which itself took a full day.
The builders were also able to use some of the bamboo they had previously cut to create the structure of the small hut shown in the photo below.
It took another day to clear the visitor’s walking path from the parking lot to the main facility.
When Seiji went to visit the site the day before the planned festival, preparations were advanced enough that he could clearly see an outline of what the festival would look like. As this year’s event was the first revival since pre-pandemic times, “simplicity” was a major theme for everyone to get back into the swing of things.
When there is an energy demand, the team has partnered with the local energy company Fujino Denryoku to be able to source some solar energy. On that day, they had to carry heavy electrical equipment from the parking lot.
Seiji had no experience with solar panels, so he decided to help carry and dig holes for installation to keep the equipment as safe as possible and away from children running around.
Another team member worked on creating nooks and crannies for lamps in the cut bamboo stalks.
Someone else was working hard to create a different type of structure that Seiji couldn’t quite define.
To his delight, he was soon asked to attend a session to check the sound equipment. Everything seemed to be going well.
Eventually the place was finished. Everyone who was there applauded their hard work over the past few weeks.
▼ The sign reads ‘Soraniwa’
That night, some team members crashed into the house of Batako, a member of the organizing committee who lives in the area. The atmosphere was full of the same feeling as the night before a typical high school cultural festivalwhen, after weeks of hard work, students are ready to present the glittering event of the next day.
So the next morning, everyone woke up in their futons with eager anticipation.
One of the last things to do was bring drinking water to the venue, but otherwise the festival was ready to start late in the morning. The only thing left for the participants themselves was to show up, but Seiji had to wonder – will many of them come? As a musician for 17 years with mixed successes, Seiji has learned that he doesn’t always hope for a spectacular audience.
As there was no entrance fee, the event felt more like a local neighborhood festival than a commercial music festival. It was something the organizers put their heart and time into once a year. This made Seiji’s anxiety grow even more as he thought no one would show up.
However, just at this point …
… People appeared on the path!
Yes, absolutely people were walking towards them on a path that they had spent so much time cleaning!
Before Seiji knew it, the room was filled with guests who chatted and laughed excitedly. The knot in his chest finally untied, and he took a deep breath. He couldn’t wait for this scene in the middle of the mountains to be filled with bouncing rock music in a moment.
The sun finally warmed everything up and it seemed to be the perfect place for a lazy nap.
Of course, the filling up of the parking lot also meant it was time for the volunteers to go to action to drive the cars. Several of them took turns in this role and Seiji was due to start his shift at 2pm. He swallowed his lunch and headed for the parking lot. He was pleasantly surprised when some SoraNews24 readers who enthusiastically read his previous article about the festival welcomed him!
And so the day passed slowly. While Seiji was someone who helped out here and there with the odd jobs, the members of the organizing committee were almost always on the go with their assigned tasks. Annasekai was responsible for welcoming the guests, Yachiko gave various directions via his walkie-talkie, and Makken worked on the stage every time the band changed.
As the shadows grew darker, Seiji thought again about how this group of people from all walks of life had joined forces to carve their own little music place in these mountains out of nothing. He himself only performed in concert halls and other concert halls, so listening to music outside seemed primal and powerful.
And this is how the Soraniwa 2022 Festival ended with success. Talking to Annasekai the next day, it seemed the team had already made a lot of introspection about what went well and what could be improved for next year’s tournament. It was comforting that they were already looking to the future when they would all meet again.
Seiji thought about finishing this piece with one last uplifting note, but all he had to do was share one more unexpected thing that happened the next day …excruciating pain gripped his entire back. He sent a message to his regular chiropractor who replied that it was probably just muscle pain due to all the lifting he was doing.
Compared to the other team members, he felt that he hadn’t really done much in terms of manual labor, and that kind of pain was unreasonable. However, he remembered that he had turned 40 this year. The pains of aging, it seemed, had finally gotten to him. At least he wasn’t told wrap around a giant stuffed panda like his associate, Mr. Sato.
All images © SoraNews24
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