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The Nango Summer Jazz Festival 2012

By Simon Bernard
Guest Writer

The little sleepy village of Nango , located just southwest of Hachinohe , comes alive every July, putting on the largest open-air jazz concert in Tohoku. This year on Saturday, July 28th, the villagers are celebrating the 23rd annual festival, bringing in some of the best world renowned jazz groups from all over Japan and America .

Small beginnings

It all started back in 1989 by the Nango mayor who was a great jazz fan! Inviting local groups from Aomori prefecture to do an indoor show, they realized from the response of the fans that they needed to expand. From 1990 on, they started having the shows outside and even built an outdoor amphitheater to hold the festival with Mother Nature surrounding the event.

Now thousands of jazz aficionados every year drive and bus in to Nango from all over Aomori, Iwate, and Akita prefectures and beyond to dig on the sounds of jazz. The show starts hot from mid-day and goes on while the sun sets and continues with the cool sounds into the evening under the twinkling stars!

Who's coming?

This year's lineup should really appeal the all ages of jazz lovers. Starting at 14:00, the opening session kicks off with the Shinpei Ruike 4 Piece Band (trumpet, guitar, bass and piano.) Hachinohe born Ruike has been called one of the top ten trumpet players now performing world wide! It has also just been learned after the publishing deadline that he is going to be adding a guitarist as well to round out this smooth sounding band!


Now that you are warming up you should be ready for the Second Session: Grant Stewart Quartet (sax, base, drums & piano) featuring Grant Stewart on sax. These Jazz cats from Canada & the US were so popular when they played here the first time back in 2004 that they were invited immediately when it was known they were going to be in Japan at this time.

Hold onto your programs because Nango Jazz is going to be giving away some great prizes to the lucky numbers that will be called at this time. Thought you might be just cooling down after this break? Sorry, not a chance with the next group coming up!


Get ready for the Third session: Naoko Terui Quartet (violin, base, drums & piano) featuring Naoko Terui on violin. Extremely popular in Japan , Naoko is often seen on Japanese TV and in commercials as well. She has won so many jazz awards that space fails to begin to mention them. Also a 2 nd time performer in Nango, her latest album “Libertango in Tokyo ” (EMI Music Japan ) was just released in April 2012!


Now you're cookin' hot and the Fourth Session begins with: Soil & “PIMP” Sessions. (sax, base, drums, trumpet, piano and the “PIMP” as the agitator!) If you are looking for more than just a jazz band but a show that will blast you into the night, you won't want to miss this group that has brought the house down worldwide including the Montreux Jazz Festival, etc.


If that wasn't enough variety of jazz to appeal to you, don't go away! The finale will blast you off into space with all the big names coming back on the stage to do a Jazz jam session, making you clamor “Encore” and not wanting the evening to ever end!


Easy Directions

It takes less than one half an hour to get to Nango from Misawa Air Base. Go out the Falcon (POL) gate and start counting traffic lights. Turn left at the 13th light to get on the Dai Ni (No.2) Michinoku Expressway. At the 1st toll booth, pay 250 yen and get an expressway ticket. Continue straight (you will go past the Shimoda Mall and then the Hachinohe Kita interchanges), the expressway will merge with the Hachinohe Expressway as if you were going toward Tokyo . Get off at the next exit (Nango interchange), and pay the toll! Go to the stop sign and turn right. Go about 1 and a half kilometers and the venue will be on the right next to the Kakko-no-Mori rest stop. Traffic control will guide you to a parking area.

The concert takes place regardless of weather. So take sun block or a rain coat or both! Umbrellas should not be brought in unless you plan on sitting all the way in the back so you do not disturb the view of the people in front of you!

Buy your tickets in advance and save money

Tickets are 4,500 yen in advance (5,500 yen at the gate on the day of the festival) for adults. 2,500 yen for senior and junior high school students, age 13 to 18 (3,500 at the gate). There is free admission for elementary school students and younger kids (12 and under)! Advance tickets can be bought at Misawa ITT on base. Student tickets are limited so buy early. Gates opens at 12:00.

This year again, Misawa ITT will have a bus that will leave at 10:00 from the base library and take you to the festival and back. This bus will fill up fast so reserve your seats early. Call 226-3555 for more information.


Tips from a veteran

There are no bad seats but if you want seats close-up, go very early and get in line with a cooler, meet the people in front and back of you, offer them a soft drink or beer. Once they know you, you can walk around until before the gates open then get back in line, or take turns waiting in line. Or bring some lawn chairs (put them back in your vehicle just before the gates open.) Small camp chairs are OK if used in the back, but lawn and reclining chairs can not be brought in. Bring a blanket, get your seats and again meet some new people around you, then you can get up again! There are a lot of stalls selling all kinds of delicious food and drinks. There are also grassy knolls behind the semi-circle of seats where you can lay a blanket down and watch the show! You might want to pick up some Nango fresh blueberries to munch on or take home!

Can you camp or Bar-B-Q?

There are very limited tent spaces available to camp just outside the gate of the festival site near the field and track area. You will have to come EARLY Saturday morning if you want to get one. The tent sites are free but you must sign in first. Tents and tarps are not allowed in the festival site. Bar-B-Q-ing is only allowed around your tent if you are a signed in camper. You can not Bar-B-Q inside the festival site or make campfires anywhere.

Free warm-up concert

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