Spirited away by tunes at the onsen

November 11th, 2009 by Felicity Hughes

The festival is located in an onsen in Nagano

The venue for Onsen Ongaku Vol. 1

Continuing the trend of music in unusual venues, This weekend sees the world’s very first hot springs music festival launched. Onsen Ongaku Vol. 1 is organized by the Naturally Gushing ambient works project and held in Yamanouchi, Nagano Prefecture. The event runs from 5 p.m. Saturday to 5 p.m. Sunday and the headliner will be dance music act De De Mouse who samples Mongolian vocals on top of sweet electro-pop keyboards. Other acts include Metal Mouse, Asa-Chang, Yoko Nagisa and Snow Effect. Due to the confined space, attendance is capped at 300,  but despite that, tickets cost a rather reasonable ¥6,500.

Adding to the magical and unusual atmosphere is the fact that the building the event is held in is famous for being one of the onsen that inspired the bathhouse in “Spirited Away.” Visitors can’t camp, but there are a number of hotels and inns available to stay in in the town. The best way to get there is by car though the hotel can be reached via 5-min. taxi ride from the nearest station. The place is also famous for its snow monkeys who come to bathe in the onsen, though who knows if the ambient tunes will attract or repel them.

If you can’t make it out to Nagano, you might compromise by attending one of the upcoming Furo Rocks events in Kichijoji,  Tokyo. Not held at a natural spring but in a sento (public bathhouse), the acoustics in the tiled venue are wild as is the awesome painting of Mount Fuji which provides a backdrop for the temporary stage.

There are upcoming events on the Nov. 5 (acoustic and electric night) and on Dec. 10, when Tokyo based Jim O’Rourke will rock the bath. Unfortunately, unlike at Onsen Ongaku, you can’t take a bath at Furo Rocks, though apparently they have a great massage chair and you can wave around your yellow plastic wash tubs to the music. People attending Onsen Ongaku, however, are reminded not to forget their towels.

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