The summer festival season in Japan kicked off June 30th with the hastily organized CUE Music Jam-Boree, which took place in the small town of Yubari on the northern island of Hokkaido.
About 6,500 people attended the festival, which was held at a ski resort. Some of Japan’s most popular acts performed, including Puffy AmiYumi, the Okinawan reggae group Begin, and Glay, a pop metal band that is so huge it usually foregoes festival appearances and just tours baseball stadiums by itself.
Yubari has attracted a great deal of media attention for the past year as it was one of the first of many projected Japanese towns to declare bankruptcy.
Once the home of a very profitable coal mine, the town has struggled in vain since the 1980s to find another source of economic support.
As more and more manufacturing jobs have gone overseas or to concentrated industrial areas near Nagoya, Tokyo and Osaka, young people have departed Yubari, leaving only the elderly and a dwindling tax base.
The festival successfully filled all the hotel and inn rooms in Yubari and the surrounding area, but its main positive effect will be in keeping the town’s name in the minds of the Japanese public.
Tourism seems the only viable means of keeping such towns alive.
Despite Japan’s reputation as an expensive tourist destination, Hokkaido has seen some success in recent years attracting visitors from Taiwan who come for the snow, and from Australia, buying up cheap condominiums near popular ski resorts.