The annual Rock in Japan Festival, one of the country's iconic outdoor music events, was relocated last year to a new venue as the pandemic-caused cancelations wrought damage to its original host city.

The city of Hitachinaka in Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, missed the chance to generate significant income when the rock fest was canceled for two years straight and moved to Chiba -- an easier-to-access location from the metropolitan area.

Hitachinaka, however, found its way back by launching its own music festival in 2022, hoping to keep the local culture alive.

Photo taken in July 2023 shows LuckyFes being held at Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki Prefecture. (Photo courtesy of Ibaraki Broadcasting System)(Kyodo)

That proved successful and this year, over 40,000 people attended the three-day event named LuckyFes. And good fortune will follow as it has been decided that Rockin', short for the Rock in Japan Festival, will be staged in both Hitachinaka and Chiba next year on two separate occasions.

In mid-July at LuckyFes, a woman in her 40s who came with her family from Kanagawa Prefecture, just west of Tokyo, was in the crowd that sang along and twirled their towels to the music of "Shonan No Kaze," one of the acts who performed at Hitachi Seaside Park in Hitachinaka.

She was not only pleased with the entertainment but the available facilities as well at the July 15-17 event.

"There is a nursing room and children's play area, so it's a great event to bring your kids," she said.

Rockin' had been held every summer at Hitachi Seaside Park since 2000, and in 2019 more than 330,000 people showed up over five days.

But with the COVID-19 pandemic, it was called off in 2020 and 2021 and then moved to Soga Sports Park in Chiba, east of Tokyo, last year. Estimates put the missed economic opportunity due to the 2021 cancelation at approximately 1.1 billion yen ($74.4 million).

Dismayed by the situation, Yoshito Hori, the majority owner of local broadcaster Ibaraki Broadcast System, known as LuckyFM, decided to launch a new music festival at the vacated Hitachi Seaside Park, appointing himself head music producer.

"It gave me a sense of mission to do something for my hometown," said the 61-year-old Hori.

Yoshito Hori, founder of LuckyFes, is pictured in Mito, Ibaraki Prefecture, in July 2023. (Kyodo)

Targeting a wide audience, LuckyFes incorporates hip-hop, anime songs, among other genres, and has featured performances by Kaori Kishitani, the former lead vocalist of the all-female rock band Princess Princess, singer-songwriter Maki Ohguro and many other prominent artists.

Lacking any experience in managing large-scale music festivals, Hori, nonetheless, was able to make LuckyFes a reality within six months of announcing it, enlisting the cooperation of a firm with Rock in Japan Festival experience to handle security and the delivery of facilities.

"There were many staff members and spectators who were there for Ibaraki, which naturally created a sense of togetherness," Hori said, adding that according to a survey of this year's spectators, about 40 percent had never been to a music festival before.

The impact on local industry has also been palpable.

"Whole melon cream sodas," a specialty of Rockin' made by using hollowed-out Ibaraki-produced melons as drink containers, sold out. The prefecture is Japan's leading melon producer.

"They sold out even at LuckyFes! I'm sure the melon producers were happy," said Norimoto Isaka, 51, an "izakaya" pub owner who sold the beverage.

Hirotada Kurosawa, 60, head of a Japanese traditional inn tourist association near the event site, hopes to see the atmosphere of the festival continue, saying, "There had been people who came to stay (for Rockin') every year as if they were returning to the countryside."

Music festival producer Yoshito Hori (2nd from L) pumps up the crowd at LuckyFes at Hitachi Seaside Park in Ibaraki Prefecture in July 2023. (Kyodo)

Next year, in addition to the event in Chiba in August, Rockin' will be held for five days in Hitachinaka in September. LuckyFes will take place in Hatachinaka over three days in July.

"It is rare to have two large-scale music festivals in the same place in one summer," said Yasushi Umino, 58, chairman of the Hitachinaka City Tourism Association. "We hope people will visit the surrounding sightseeing spots as well."

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