Asia: Fuji Rock Announces Cancellation; BTS, Big Hit Donate $1 Million To Black Lives Matter
Fuji Rock Announces Cancellation
The organizers of Japan’s Fuji Rock Festival finally announced on June 5 that they would not hold the event this year. The event was originally scheduled for Aug. 21-23 at the Naeba Ski Resort in Niigata Prefecture. It is the first time the festival has been completely cancelled since it started in 1997, when only half of it staged because of a typhoon.
The announcement was expected for some time, given the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Though Japan has fortunately seen little in the way of widespread infections and fewer deaths compared to other developed countries, almost all public events, including concerts, have been cancelled for the time being.
On May 25, the government said it would be easing restrictions for concert events starting in August as long as certain conditions were met: indoor venues should not exceed 50 percent capacity and outdoor events should still maintain social distancing “if possible.”
The main problem for FRF is that the government still greatly limits foreign visitors from certain countries from entering Japan and while the festival is still two months away, there is no certainty that the authorities will lift these restrictions any time soon, meaning foreign acts, which are central to Fuji’s appeal, might not be able to attend.
It should be noted that the official notice by the organizers, Smash Inc., did not say that FRF ’20 has been “cancelled.” It says explicitly that the festival has been “postponed” until next year, a detail that allows current ticket holders for the 2020 version to retain their tickets for next year’s version without having to change them. The postponed event will now take place in August of 2021, again a month later than when it is usually held owing to the fact that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has also been postponed until 2021 due to the pandemic.
The Olympic postponement most likely means that the other major Japanese summer music festival, Summer Sonic, will again not be held in 2021 since it was cancelled this year owing to preparations for the Summer Games, which would have utilized venues used for Summer Sonic. However, the organizers of SS, Creativeman Productions, have put together Super Sonic, which is virtually identical to Summer Sonic in terms of structure and venues but takes place a month later, from September 19 to 21. As of this writing, Super Sonic is still selling tickets, and in the past week or so added several new acts to the lineup, including Black Eyed Peas, Steve Aoki and Clean Bandit.
In related news, one of Japan’s biggest rock bands, Radwimps, has cancelled its 2020 World tour, which would have taken the group to North America in July, as well as to Europe and Asia, due to “concerns about the new coronavirus disease.” Radwimps rocketed to worldwide fame in 2016 with the popularity of the Japanese animated film, “your name.”, for which it supplied the theme song and soundtrack.
BTS, Big Hit Donate $1 Million To Black Lives Matter
The world’s biggest K-pop act, BTS, along with its management company Big Hit Entertainment, donated $1 million to the Black Lives Matter movement last week, and according to various media, the group’s fan base, known as The Army, has matched that amount through its own fund-raising efforts. The charitable arm of the fan club, The One In An Army (OIAA), has in the past done the same thing for other charity causes, including UNICEF’s End Violence campaign.
A statement from OIAA stated, “We’re so proud that Army have once again channelled their power for good and are making a real impact in the fight against anti-Black racism. We stand in solidarity with Black Army. They’re an important part of our family. And we stand with Black people everywhere. Your voices deserve to be heard.” As of June 8, the campaign had raised $1,007,518.
BTS’s own statement regarding BLM, released June 4, read, “We stand against racial discrimination. We condemn violence. We all have the right to be respected.”
Other K-pop acts that have donated to similar causes include Mark Tuan of the boy band GOT7, who pledged $7,000 to the George Floyd Memorial Fund, Korean rapper pH-1, who donated $3,000 to BLM, and Jae from the Korean rock outfit DAY6, who gave $1,000 to the Minnesota Freedom Fund. Korean-American pop star Jay Park and his hip-hop label H1GHR Music donated $21,000 to BLM. Park himself, who is signed to Roc Nation, gave $10,000 of his own money.
As with many international pop music movements througout the world, K-pop owes a debt to African-American music, a debt that some have felt wasn’t sufficiently returned in the past.
Prior to BTS’s donation, the San Francisco-based K-pop artist Soju wrote a letter to Big Hit and other K-pop agencies urging them to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement. “My issue isn’t towards any specific idol groups or agencies, but the industry as a whole,” Soju said, the idea being that the whole industry owes its very existence to Black music.
The industry, or, at least, part of it, has stepped up, but also a goof portion of K-pop fans. As various American media have pointed out, K-pop fans have used their power and skills with social media to hack into and interfere with various anti-BLM movements in the U.S., usually by jamming racist hastags with K-pop videos and GIFs. According to an article in the New Yorker, K-pop fans even dismantled an app distributed by various police departments to trace protesters.
BTS also made news by giving a 12-minute performance at the end of the Dear Class of 2020 virtual commencement event on YouTube June 8, which also featured U.S. President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé.
The band’s speech, encouraging new graduates in a world being challenged by so many hardships, was cited by China’s Global Times as having had a strong impact on young people in China, where BTS is just as popular as they are elsewhere in the world, despite several years of unofficial anti-K-pop sanctions. One Chinese industry analyst told the news outlet, “That this Asian boy band can perform and give an address alongside so many western celebrities on an international platform proves how they have impacted global culture.”
Universal Studios Japan Reopens
Universal Studios Japan in the western city of Osaka reopened for business on June 8 after being closed for three months due to COVID-19. Only annual pass holders were admitted, and they were required to register in advance for what was called a “soft opening” that will gradually expand over the coming weeks into full admission to the general public.
Residents of Osaka Prefecture who do not have annual passes will be allowed to enter the park starting June 15 provided they purchase special passes in advance. On June 19, annual pass holders from all other areas of Japan will be admitted, as well as special pass purchases from the six nearest prefectures.
According to Kyodo New Service, when the gates opened at 10 a.m., the crowds were much smaller than usual, an aspect that visitors seemed to appreciate. One woman told a reporter, “It’s fun to ride attractions without the long wait.”