No Barriers For Tokyo Fest

Tokyo will host a unique “barrier-free” music festival April 17, which means the GC Grand Festival at the Toyosu Pit venue both caters to and is operated by local disabled people.

The festival, organized by the Japan Barrier-Free Association, first took place in 2013 at a smaller venue that held 900 people and sold out quickly. For this second edition, 1,300 tickets have gone on sale. Presented by major nationwide promoter Hot Stuff, with four Japanese acts including popular R&B group Crazy Ken Band as headliner, the festival staff is completely made up of disabled people.

Organizers say one of the purposes is to demonstrate that disabled persons have no problem running a complex organizational system such as a music festival. In fact, patrons are encouraged to watch the staff in action and interact with them.

There is also a section in the venue set aside for booths featuring local companies, some very large, who explain their hiring practices with regard to disabled persons. There are other booths in which disabled person bake pastries and arrange flowers for sale. According to the organizer, the idea for the festival came from a similar event that has taken place in Denmark since 1983 by an organization headed by a man with ALS.

The Japan Barrier-Free Association insists that its goal is not just spreading awareness of disabled people’s “abilities,” but also to “make a profit.”