Jun 5, 2017

Free Seaside Concert Extravaganza!

    The Matsushima Park Festival might not sound like a big deal in terms of free local music, but attendees to this year's event would beg to differ. Thirteen different stages, each just far enough away from the others for no musical overlap, dotted the coast surrounding Matsushima Bay as event staff helpfully handed out maps detailing not only the locations of the stages and recommended restaurants but also the names of all guests appearing at each stage and the general genres involved. Most of the stages involved pop and rock in addition to either folk or jazz. One of the exceptions was the hard rock stage, located conveniently at Stage A, on my favorite little stretch of beach in Matsushima.

    Behind the stage, the little red bridge connecting the tiny island Oshima to the mainland stood out with postcard-picture precision, juxtaposed by the thrashing of guitars and screaming of local rock groups like DETHSHEAD, Beginning of the End, MURDER HEAD, and STRAWBERRY GUM SYRUP.

    My husband, a lover of hard rock, found the music suitable enough. Though he felt that DETHSHEAD was a bit amateurish, STRAWBERRY GUM SYRUP showed a lot of experience and ability. It is my personal belief that the latter was named as a joke by guys who have been playing long enough to not care about sounding tough anymore. Perhaps I am wrong, but they did sound alright.

Outside the stage area, a whole beach laid before my daughter, and all she wanted to play with was the barrier-rope.

    My husband was also personally offended that the singer of MURDERHEAD appeared to be a young man wearing a backward baseball cap. "He looks like he's {trying to be in} Limp Bizkit!" he said. I did remind him that some of the guys in Pantera also work backward baseball caps sometimes. He was still annoyed.

    One of the fantastic things about staying at that stage for so long was seeing how the musicians interacted with eachother. Each set was only 20 minutes, and many of the band members would stay in the small crowd afterward to cheer on the next act. Part of the reason we stayed for MURDERHEAD was that we had seen guys wearing T-shirts supporting the band in the crowd and not realized that those guys literally were the band.

    Sendai isn't the largest city, so of course the live music scene is a bit more intimate than I imagined. There didn't seem to be any animosity between the acts but instead, genuine comraderie. The female vocalist for Beginning of the End could be seen in the crowd, applauding FLAME SIGN. One of the guys from STRAWBERRY GUM SYRUP was even on the event staff. They seemed like one big hard-rocking family, and something about that was really heartwarming for me.

The walk to Zuiganji temple, which used to be a magical forest before it had to be removed (tree rot + large trees = danger!), but is now in a state or re-growth.

Tokyo Nail Cats rocking out near Godaido Shrine.

    We did finally make out way down to a few of the other venues and caught glimpses of other acts, stopping at Stage I, by Godaido, another lovely red bridge over the ocean offset against angsty music, this time the energetic rock/pop group Tokyo Nail Cats. Following that was a performance from the winners of the High School Battle of the Bands. I didn't catch the name of the group, but each of the 5 members played exceedingly well-- better in fact that some of the adults we had seen that day. During a cover of 20th Century Boy, the three guitarists jumped from the stage in a dramatic flourish-- only to accidentally unplug themselves from their amps. The gaff was quickly remedied, and their enthusiasm was infectious despite the blunder.

Another smaller stage by Entsuuin

Bacon-wrapped rice on a stick. Delicious, according to my husband.

    It was a fantastic way to get a taste of the local music scene, and all for free! If you're in Tohoku especially, keep an eye out for posters in train stations in the Sendai area starting in mid April. The event has run the past three years in late May or mid June. You can also see their (entirely Japanese) website here for more information.



A working mom/writer/teacher, Jessica explores her surroundings in Miyagi-ken and Tohoku, enjoying the fun, quirky, and family friendly options the area has to offer.


  • Tomuu

    on Jun 6

    I'll be honest, this sounds delightfully mad and great fun. I love events like this that bring a real mix to things and give people a chance to showcase there talents. Also, the Matsushima Bay setting must make it one of the most spectacular places to hold a music festival.

  • JTsuzuki

    on Jun 18

    @Tomuu It was! At least I think it was. Probably more fun to take in acts at each stage, though. Staying at the same stage all day feels like not taking full advantage of the situation.

  • Tomuu

    on Jun 19

    @JTsuzuki No, I should imagine so, in fact jumping between stages sounds like this best approach. I'm a bit restless like that.