The idea of big stones painted with mournful eyes and a gaze that petrifies -- to welcome and usher visitors to a rock festival venue, in my view, is a charming and an arresting idea.
As I descended the slow-moving bus (at about 9.00 pm) that brought me from Echigo-Yuzawa station to Naeba Ski Resort, and started walking towards the Green Stage, the first Gon-chan stone resting under a young sakura tree greeted me.
I stopped and looked at it: ‘Welcome to Naeba,’ it seemed to say.
“Why do you look so melancholy,” I murmured.
The shadow cast by the young cherry tree made the rock looked sadder and kind of haunting.
I saw more of these stones as I continued to walk down to the big stage. They were planted along the way like distinguishing landmarks or traffic signs to remind you to slow down and enjoy the environment and atmosphere of the 20th Fuji Rock Festival.
These stones were named after its creator: Robert Gordon McHarg III, a London-based multimedia artist and subway gallerist who hails from Canada. In Japan, he is popularly known as Gordon -- hence the endearing nick name: Gon-chan.
Years ago, these lovable stones were just miniature in size. They were scattered in the clear river running through the valley. Everyone admired them and enjoyed taking their pictures. Even stones, I thought, could grow.
One my second night, I felt, they were looking at me and speaking as if they were my pet dog begging me not to leave them alone.
Throughout the three-day festival, I kept exchanging stares and silent conversations with these rocks planted strategically along the path all over the festival venues. Next to watching the roaring and electrifying performance of the rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers, these ubiquitous silent creatures made my last Fuji Rock attendance memorable and fun.
How would these stones look like in the autumn, winter, and spring? I wondered. Probably, the next time I return to Naeba, it would be to say hello to Gon-chan again. I can't wait. These stones are special. Right? Right?