Fuji Blue Sky Heaven is a tradition in Japan. It brings together the massive glut of Japanese Harley riders for two days of events, activities, food, and spectacle. While 2011 might not have been as huge as previous years, it did have something that recent events have lacked: blue sky. Thankfully the heavens stayed closed and more than 7,000 riders made the trip up from all over Japan to attend.
Blue Sky is an event organized by Harley-Davidson Japan and is its way of giving back to its customers while strengthening the Harley riding community. For the event, the whole of the massive Fuji Speedway complex, located around two hours out of central Tokyo, is booked out. The main stage and most exhibitions and shops were up behind the grandstand, while dotted around the huge complex were the 17 different campsites. A minor detail for this fact is that many of those campsites were on the circuit’s numerous car parks, so for some this meant a very hard mattress to sleep on.
Most people came with, at minimum a tent and many in fact with Harley brand tents. The more prepared among them had folding chairs and other luxuries, but considering the two-day nature of the event, one item not in short supply was beer.
Many people booked their campsites under group and chapter names, so a lot of areas had cars bring in key pieces of equipment, like BBQs and shelters. Most riders therefore loaded up their bike and rode in. Naturally, the accessories and bags ranged from beautiful carved leather and expensive official gear, to junk. It seemed a common way to carry more gear is to cut down a particular brand of hardware store metal shelving, and just strap it on the bike.
Getting around from the camps to the main event site was made easier thanks to a free bus service that continually looped the inner roads. Conveniently riders could also park their bikes in a number of designated areas.
After dumping their stuff and setting up camp, many people made their way up the mountain to the main exhibition area. It was here that the many shops and food stalls set up giving people a chance to grab a jacket or other accessories if they so wished. A lot of the merchandise was discounted and swift business was done over the two days. As for food, the usual favorites such as fried noodles, curry with rice, boxed lunches, and American dogs, a.k.a. deep fried battered sausage on a stick sold strongly, as did others, like kebabs and beef on rice.
What sets this show apart is that its more family oriented than some other Harley shows. There were kids’ activities and bouncy castles as well as a custom Harley competition and a rock concert. The custom Harley contest wasn’t as successful as hoped due to its entry requirements being that all modifications must be road legal. On this, one Harley official quietly commented, “Yeah, many of the hottest bikes are actually at the campsites.” The main stage also saw fire breathing exhibitions, a talk show, and music at various times throughout the day.
Whereas some shows are all about the ladies, Blue Sky is all about the riders. While, thankfully, none of them were strutting their stuff up on stage, there were a few promo girls around to keep the guys happy. Their role was to officiate bingo games, pose for photos, and model outfits much to the appreciation of the, by then, mostly male crowd.