Ardent lovers of music festivals and live sports may want to look to our Australasian neighbors this summer to get their fix. Whether your choice travel souvenir is swords, snowboards, signed CDs, soju or sauvignon blanc, there’s a little something here for everyone.
May 12-26 (Tokyo); July 7-21 (Nagoya)
Sumo Wrestling: Grand Tournament
As unique as it is unforgettable, witnessing supersized sumo wrestlers duke it out live should be on every sports fan’s bucket list. Stables of wrestlers only hit the elevated ring for six tournaments a year, but each event lasts 15 days and the steep admission price (B650-4,435) seems all the more reasonable when you realize that dozens of fights occur before a yokozuna (grand champion) emerges the day’s final bout. We recommend showing up first thing in the morning; it’s entirely acceptable to squat terrifyingly close to the action in front-row boxes, as their wealthy owners seldom show up before mid-afternoon when the best fighters toss chalk and take center stage. www.sumo.or.jp
Fuji Rock Festival
In truth, the event was only held on Mount Fuji once, and those who witnessed the legendary show have contributed to the lore that has turned Fuji Rock into Japan’s largest outdoor music festival (the story involves a typhoon, hypothermia and the Red Hot Chili Peppers). The annual event now boasts over 200 acts across seven stages, and in the past two years the crowds have swelled to over the 100,000 mark to see sets from the likes of Coldplay, Radiohead, Jack White, Elvis Costello, the Stone Roses and Noel Gallagher. The line-up for 2013 rolls out over the next few months, but they’ve already announced that Nine Inch Nails and Bjork will be headliners and that acts like Of Monsters and Men, The Cure and The xx will appear. It’s worth the trip north. www.smash-uk.com/frf13
April 1-May 6
Iga Ueno Ninja Festival
Ninety minutes east of Osaka sits Iga, a city that pays tribute each year to the legendary covert mercenaries by hosting ninja performances, competitions and instruction sessions. All of the (awesome sounding) citizens get involved—train passengers dressed like ninjas get free rides, and the city council hosts a dress-up session called Ninja Congress. www.iganinja.jp
Ozzy Osbourne’s signature metalstock hits Chiba (a suburb of Tokyo) with a sick 2013 line-up that includes Black Sabbath, Slipknot, Slash, Deftones, and Tool. Stock up on black hair dye now. www.ozzfestjapan.com
World Cosplay Summit
With 20 countries represented at last year’s event, expect quite a crowd in Nagoya as they crown another world cosplay champion. www.tv-aichi.co.jp/wcs
Summer Sonic 2013
This two-day fest takes place in Tokyo and Osaka simultaneously, and this year’s line-up is absolutely crazy: Metallica, Linkin Park, Muse, The Smashing Pumpkins, M.I.A., Cindi Lauper, John Legend, Carly Rae Jepsen and many, many more. www.summersonic.com
Boryeong Mud Festival
The Korean government likes to credit this festival’s growth to the restorative properties of Boryeong’s mud flats and the natural beauty of this small town, located a couple of hours south of Seoul. Well, with all due respect, we’ve been to the event and let’s just say that it isn’t quiet mud baths that have made this the peninsula’s most popular draw for expats and tourists alike. Convenience stores effortlessly fulfill their beer-selling quotas as the packed beach plays host to mud wrestling, mud sliding, mud swimming and even a mud marathon. For the mud lazy or mud drunk, a main stage hosts live bands all day and fireworks after dark. It’s raucous, filthy fun, but your washing machine (and liver) will hate you for it. tiny.cc/hk-mudfest
Ansan Valley Rock Festival
It’s growing. The rock-a-palooza formerly known as the Jisan Valley Rock Festival had their main stage rocked by headliners Radiohead and James Blake last summer, and while the line-up for this year’s event is still pending, expect similar caliber acts as the venue (or valley, rather) has been upgraded to accommodate more tents and concertgoers. Rock fans based in Seoul are spoiled with festivals in 2013, as it was recently announced that Super!Sonic Music Festival will be returning to Olympic Park in August this year, tasked with topping a stacked 2012 line-up that featured the Smashing Pumpkins, Gotye, Gym Class Heroes, Foster the People, New Order, and Tears for Fears. www.valleyrockfestival.com and www.supersonickorea.com
April to October
Korea Professional Baseball League
Korea is now a global baseball powerhouse, and like any spectator sport experience south of the DMZ, their national league’s games are a riot. Stadiums are divided so that fans only sit amongst their own clan, drinking and chiding the other side with enthusiasm throughout. Next time you’re in Seoul or Busan, take yourself out to a ball game. www.koreabaseball.com
Lotus Lantern Festival
During this annual fest and its flagship parade, the streets of Seoul light up with colorful traditional dress and larger-than-life, rolling tributes to 600 years of Korean history and the birth of the Buddha. tiny.cc/hk-lotus
Rainbow Island Festival
Last year’s event drew over 10,000 musi-campers to catch headlining acts Jason Mraz and Christina Perri, and 2013’s organizers have already confirmed that Scottish post-Britpoppers Travis will take to the stage. www.rainbowfestival.co.kr
Ultra Music Festival is Korea’s biggest mainstream electronic and dance jamboree, packing the stage for two days with industry heavy hitters like Armin Van Buuren, Carl Cox and Avicii. www.umfkorea.com.
2013 Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix
If quiet relaxation isn’t your idea of a good time, infuse your vay-cay with plenty of high-octane fume-spewing action as drivers from around the world speed along the Marina Bay Street Circuit in a bid to win this prestigious title. Singapore’s annual event is F1’s only street race held at night, and if you’ve never taken the opportunity to grab some ear-plugs and join the 110,000-strong crowd that take to the street, there’s no better time than this year. Early bird tickets are already on sale, and the first block of tickets come with a chance to win an autograph session with the drivers. www.singaporegp.sg.
Big Wig Festival
Catch some of the hottest names in the worlds of hip-hop, dancehall, soul and funk as they arrive at Fort Canning Park for this inaugural fest. Local acts like Wicked Aura, Kevin Lester and the Pushin’On Crew should have their profiles raised significantly, as they join a line-up that features a slate of well-known international acts including Pharoahe Monche, The Pharcyde, The Cuban Brothers, Chrom3, and Four Dub playing together with one of the dudes from Jurassic 5. Tickets are on sale now, and word on the street is that the first 500 peeps to show up at the park receive a free wig. It will be sizeable, presumably. www.bigwigfestival.com
World Gourmet Summit 2013
This annual epicurean event brings together the cuisine of top chefs from five-star establishments across the island as well as wines from world-class vintners. www.worldgourmetsummit.com
Emerging artists from Singapore earn their spots through a series of band battles, and those talented upstarts will be joined by established Asian acts from the alternative music scene. www.baybeats.com.sg
Beerfest Asia 2013
With over 50 new beers on show from global brands as well as emerging breweries from Asia, this premier beer festival will also cater to the taste buds of those who prefer champagne, ciders, spirits and wine. www.beerfestasia.com.
Splendour in the Grass
One of the country’s most popular music events, Splendour in the Grass keeps its visitors happily hippified with open-air yoga sessions, market stalls and performance artists. The official lineup won’t be announced until mid- to late- April but rumors are that Bob Dylan, Polyphonic Spree, OutKast rapper Big Boi, Deap Vally and Wavves will take the stage at the three-day festival—which is like the Aussie version of the UK’s Glastonbury and America’s Coachella. There’s an option to camp out at this year’s new location of North Byron Parklands, but if you’re not the sleeping bag type, be sure to book early enough so you can get comfortable accommodation nearby. www.splendourinthegrass.com
June 5-July 6
2013 Lions Tour Australia
For the first time since 2001, the Lions, consisting of players from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales, will play nine games against Australia’s Wallabies and major local clubs on Australian soil. Celebrating their 125th anniversary, team will visit Perth, Brisbane, Newcastle, Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne during their month-long tour. www.lionsrugby.com.
Start your engines as Coffs Harbour (halfway between Sydney and Brisbane) welcomes the FIA World Rally Championship. www.rallyaustralia.com.au
Melbourne Cup Carnival
Australia’s ultimate racing event at Flemington, now in its 153rd year, is a time for fascinators, champagne, the British royal family (Charles and Camilla were there with disapproving looks at the way the plebs were dressed last year), Aussies dressed to the nines falling drunkenly all over the place and, oh yes, horses. melbournecup.com.
Margaret River Gourmet Escape
Relax in nature, breathe in unpolluted air, taste dishes made by world-class chefs and sip wine from Margaret River—the famous wine region in Western Australia. For three days in late November, this relatively new wine destination for tourists is holding its second annual Gourmet Escape where wine snobs, gourmet food lovers and tourists can come together to enjoy tastings from the area’s wineries (there’s close to 100), top-notch cuisine, cooking classes and demonstrations with celebrity chefs, live music playing around the vineyards, and street parties. It’s just over a three-hour drive south of Perth so even if you’re not in town for the event, it’s still worth a trip to visit their cellars or for the a monthly farmers’ market, surf beaches and exhibitions from regional artists. For more info on tickets, the attending chefs and food and wine experts, visit www.gourmetescape.com.au.
June 21-August 31
Hong Kong Summer Spectacular
One of Hong Kong’s largest annual festivities, breathing life into the rainy season, are these four events combined into one. The festival kicks off June 21-23 with the Dragon Boat Carnival, gathering more than 5,000 boat racers from 21 countries, followed by the Summer Pop Live in Hong Kong concert and Lan Kwai Fong Beer and Music Festival—though the full details have yet to be announced. But what most Thais are really mad about is the Visa Go Shopping Indulgence (June 21-August 31), aka the Hong Kong Sale, when most stores on the island, from high-end boutiques to street fashion brands, offer major discounts. www.discoverhongkong.com
Art Basel Hong Kong
While still under the management of Art Basel, a Switzerland-based art fair organizer whose main events are in Basel and Miami, the sixth edition of the Hong Kong International Art Fair will launch with a new name to better reflect its prestigious pedrigree. Art Basel Hong Kong will take place at Hong Kong Convention & Exhibition Centre and will feature contemporary artworks from more than 250 galleries worldwide. The fair also features an extensive talk program offering educational opportunities for willing participants. Tickets are HK$250 (B945). www.artbasel.com
April 17-June 23
Le French May
Hong Kong’s annual French arts festival (known as La Fete in Thailand) is now in its 21st year. This time around it will host more than 500 operas, dances, music showcases (from classical to electro), cabarets and cinema events at different venues throughout the island, including Hong Kong Cultural Centre and Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts. For paid events, tickets are available at www.hkticketing.com. See a complete list of events at www.frenchmay.com