This FAQ addresses some of the most common queries we receive from artists considering attending our event.
Since our office is busy, we are sorry that we may not be able to respond to questions answered by this FAQ or elsewhere on this site. A number of the questions on this FAQ relate to finances: we regret that the monetary muscle of our Festival is not yet so mighty. Please know that we are working hard to improve every year.
FAQ Last Update: Jun 2023
Section 1 – About the WMDF Event
Q 1-1: Can WMDF pay for our flights or peformances? A: We are sorry, but at the moment we cannot. Please understand our position. We are priviliged to provide a platform for overseas performers. But, we rely on collaboration with groups that have some source for supporting their own travel. We understand that there are many professional groups that would like to perform in Japan, and that performance opportunites are limited. In the long term, we expect to be able to offer competitive reimbursements, but our current finances simply do not allow more than what we state in our terms and conditions. We are very happy to establish connections with groups around the world. But please do not ask us for special permission to cover costs. The answer will be: yes, we would love to, but at the moment we cannot. Q 1-2: Is WMDF a competition? A: No, we are not a competition. We award no prizes, we just thank each group for representing their country. Each group receives a certificate acknowledging our gratitude for their participation. Q 1-3: Can we get information on previous groups? A: Yes, you can see the previous groups listed on the web. Please see the "ARTISTS" links on the sidebar on the right of this page. Q 1-4: Do international groups have only one performance in the festival, or multiple performances? A: Groups definitely have multiple performances. We have multiple stages and venues and each has a different character. Our aim is to afford each group a chance to experience many different performing conditions. Groups should expect to perform somewhere on most days of the festival. In recent years, it is extremely unlikely that groups do not get a day of rest, unless they request to perform every day. Q 1-5: Who runs this event? A:An event of our size takes the efforts of many people. The main organiser is "Worlds Meet Japan". This organisation is registered with the Japanese government as a non-profit, so-called "General Incorporated Association" (GIA). This is a relatively new layer of enterprise in Japan between charities and full companies. Worlds Meet Japan is primarily run by volunteers. Any proceeds of our events go towards transformational social and educational projects locally and internationally.
Section 2 – About Travel Logistics and Staying in Japan
Q 2-1: What is your advised route? A: We advise arriving by plane, at Hakodate airport, since it is the most cost-effective and fastest method, especially if you book ahead. By far the most common route for international travellers is through Tokyo. Another possible route is through Osaka. Q 2-2: How do we transfer planes in Tokyo? A: Japan's two main domestic carriers (JAL and ANA) fly from Tokyo to Hakodate from Haneda Airport. There are a growing number of international flights into Haneda, so you may be able to plan a route that does not require transfer to a different airport. If your flight arrives at Narita airport, changing from international to domestic flights involves some travel, but because the route is very common, it is also quite straightforward. There is a bus that leaves from outside the doors of the terminal building in Narita and goes directly to the terminal doors at Haneda. It leaves every 20 mins, takes 60-90 minutes, and costs 3000Yen. Sometimes it is possible for us to find volunteers in Tokyo to meet a group and help them with the change. This requires negotiation well in advance. Q 2-3: What about trains from Tokyo to Hakodate? Can you advise us on other ways to travel than plane? A: By train from Tokyo to Hakodate is about 4.5 hours with the Shinkansen service that started in 2016. But, groups have to leave from Tokyo station, which is maybe 90 mins from Narita airport. Trains are also busy in August, so please be aware that without seat reservations, it is likely that you may have to stand (although our experience of JR trains is that they will allow groups to travel with large amounts of luggage). You can see the schedule on P1 & P2 of this JR Hokkaido Rail Company pdf. Please note that the station where trains from Tokyo stop ("Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto" station) is still 20Km from Hakodate station. The geography of Hakodate City made it too hard to build Shinkansen tracks all the way into the city, so the Shinkansen stop called "Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto" is not in Hakodate, but in the neighbouring city of Hokuto (population 50,000). It helps us if artists planning train journeys from Tokyo include a change at "Shin-Hakodate-Hokuto" to take the final 15 minute ride to Hakodate station. In the event that you do decide to travel by train, of course WMDF staff will greet your group on your arrival in Hakodate, as we do for all groups. Q 2-4: Do you have any inside knowledge that could help us reduce our costs? From 2015, both main Japanese domestic carriers introduced cheap domestic flights (less than 100USD one way) for people with overseas passports not resident in Japan. We recommend ANA tickets, as at the time of writing they are available for the entire festival period (JAL tickets are available for travel to Hakodate but not for return). Please use the "Japan Explorer Pass" link for JAL tickets, and "Visit JAPAN Fare" link for ANA tickets. Please book early, as numbers are strictly limited. A condition of these tickets is that you already hold an international ticket (or tickets) to and from Japan. (Either the ticket number or reservation code is required at the time of purchase.) Here is an example of the booking system: (click to enlarge)
In the case that your international flights are with ANA or JAL, you may be able to take advantage of their even cheaper domestic transfer policy: if you fly within 24 hours or arriving in Tokyo, the cost can be as little as 5,000Yen. If you choose train travel, consider the Japan Rail Pass, Official site, which allows one person to travel on an unlimited number of trains for 2 weeks for around 50,000Yen (or one week for around 30,000Yen). This can be a good option if you plan to visit other areas of Japan around the dates of our event. Apologies, but we are sorry that we cannot book tickets for you, since our staff cannot be responsible for any problems such as denied travel because of incorrect data entry, or other problems. Q 2-5: Can you quote us exact train fares or plane fares for within-Japan travel? A: The tickets that we, based in Japan, can get for trains and planes are expensive. We recommend you to use a travel agent outside Japan, which should have access to prices much cheaper than we pay ourselves. Also, see previous question for extremely cheap plane and train prices only available to people outside the country. Q 2-6: How about arriving at Sapporo instead of Hakodate? Is it far? A: In general, we don't recommend arriving in Sapporo, but it may be possible for us to arrange to pick groups up there. Some things to note: The airport typically called "Sapporo airport" is officially "New Chitose Airport". It is around 40 mins away from Sapporo by train. There is a train service to Hakodate that involves one change, but is relatively cheap (around 15,000Yen per person). For large groups, a bus is also a possibility, but since a couple of years ago, there have not been enough buses to meet tourism demand in summer in Hokkaido. The period at the beginning of August is the absolute peak of the year, since Hokkaido celebrates the Obon festival in August (usually from Aug 15). We recommend any group that is contemplating arriving in Sapporo to organise bus travel well in advance. It will take around 5 or 6 by bus hours to Hakodate. With a very long advance notice (at least 6 months), it may be possible for WMDF to charter a bus, and it may be possible for one or two Festival staff to accompany this vehicle. Price is around 300,000 JPY one way for a charter bus between Sapporo and Hakodate, if it is possible for us to secure the vehicle. Any charge can be paid in advance, or upon arrival to Worlds Meet Japan. Q 2-7: Can WMDF help us with our travel arrangements? A: Apologies, but we basically require that groups make their own travel arrangements. We are sorry that we cannot afford to take on the financial risk of paying for tickets on behalf of third parties, or the responsibility of refused travel in the case of incorrect entry of details. Q 2-8: Does WMDF help groups with visa applications? A: Yes, we have many years of experience in providing visa documents (in Japanese) to various Embassies. We can help you with the invitation letters and forms that get visas for groups through the normal channels. Q 2-9: What kind of accommodations will groups be staying in? A: WMDF has so far used a variety of shared accommodations ranging from city-owned facilities designed as training bases for group-based outbound education to renovated hotels. Please expect to be staying in shared rooms. Depending on the accommodations, the bathing facilities may be Japanese hot-spring communal baths. Most likely current accommodations: Hakoba Hotel Pension Jokura Small Town Hostel Fururu Q 2-10: What are the catering arrangements? A: WMDF provides three meals each day for all party members. For breakfast, all of the accommodation facilities that we use prepare food in-house, and have some Western options in addition to the standard Japanese breakfast. For lunch, we generally distribute Japanese bento boxes. Evening meals are either in the form of catering at receptions or parties, or the communal catering for staff and artists at the main festival site. WMDF can cope with dietary special requests, and there is a clear space on the WMDF application form to describe these. Q 2-11: Can groups stay in Hakodate longer? A: In general, we request groups to stay within the dates stated on the WMDF pages. Over-running has multiple consequences on staff schedules, bus rental, and insurance, that make it difficult for us to accommodate. Q 2-12: Can groups leave before the end of the Festival? A: We strongly hope not. Since one of our goals is to create a diverse atmosphere of international friendship, each group is an integral part of our plans for the entire festival. Q 2-13: Can groups tour Japan or Asia before or after WMDF? A: WMDF is happy for groups to visit other locations for tourism or performances, outside the dates of our own Festival. Q 2-14: We want to come with more than 25 members. Can we? A: Effectively, this is a question about finances. It costs WMDF around 5000JPY/person/night to accommodate group members, so if groups groups cannot meet the limits we stipulate, this charge may be passed on to them. However, we have in the past granted exemptions for free accomodation of extra group members, so we encourage you to contact WMDF early to discuss your situation. Please tell us how many extra people you need to bring, your reasons, and your budget. We wish to be fair to all groups, so please be aware that it may only be possible to make the final decision on excess charges once WMDF has decided on its final list of participants. Q 2-15: Can we be accompanied by journalists and/or TV crews? A: Yes, but the group size will be counted as the total number of people including the reporters. If the total number increases over 25, then you will need to discuss extra charges with WMDF. Common sense rules on the fair use of only brief portions of the performances of other artists apply. Also, there is a tendency for camera crews to get in each others' way (and sometimes in the way of audience, or even artists). To minimise the chance of problems, camera crews are requested to attend a daily meeting with the Festival Director and/or his representative(s). We also need to know well in advance any requests for access to WMDF infrastructure such as pickup from stage microphones. The minimum requirement for filming is that WMDF is provided with a one-minute overview clip with permission to use on its web pages. For accompanying print journalists we would also very much appreciate being forwarded electronic or hardcopy articles that we can place on our web site. Q 2-16: Can artists be accompanied by family members, children or otherwise? A: We can offer only a small number of such places overall each year. Please contact us to discuss. Our basic policy is to include such members in the category of "artist". This means that they receive an artist pass, so that they can access areas such as backstage and changing areas, which is often important for group logistics. It also makes sense for extra members to be housed in the same location as the group, so that they can use our shuttle buses. There is space to include such members on the WMDF form. Please also indicate rooming possibilities in the space provided in Section 4 of the form. This is a kind of "first come, first served" arrangement, with very limited possibilities, so please contact us early. Maximum party size of 25 still applies. Q 2-17: What about customs? What goods are prohibited or restricted? A: Since we cannot take responsibility for giving incorrect information to this question, we hope that if you have questions about bringing goods into Japan, you could check with the relevant Japanese government information sources. Here are links to: Japan Customs brochures for travellers Main English brochure from the above page Carnet goods passports (no group has ever needed this for our event, but we include it for reference). Typical international standards apply to goods made of furs: they must be presented to customs on arrival for inspection. The taxidermy must be of a sufficient standard to convince customs officials that there is no possibility of disease being brought into the country. Customs may require that items are treated before permitting entry. To check whether specific plant or animal species are CITES-listed under the Washington convention, you need to know their scientific name. For your reference, we list the Japanese government's files below. (There are three categories, each with its own rules and application form. Category I is the most restricted, and Category III the least). CITES-listed animals (pdf) CITES-listed plants (pdf) The above files are from this Japanese government page (J).
Section 3 – About Finances
Q 3-1: Can you help us cover international flights? A: Since we are not (yet) a rich festival, we simply do not have the funds to cover travel fees. On the other hand, we can guarantee to accomodate all groups that come to our site with traditional Eastern hospitality. (Please also see Q 1-1). Q 3-2: We can only pay for costs to Tokyo. Can you help us from there? A: We are very sorry, but we cannot. Our funds are limited, and we have to treat all groups equally. Airplane tickets bought outside Japan typically have very cheap options for connecting flights within the country. Also, special prices are available outside Japan (See Q 2-4). Please ask your travel agent. If you cannot find cheap tickets, you can try finding a route through Sapporo (see Q 2-6). Q 3-3: Can WMDF arrange for us to cover costs by performing at other events in Japan? A: WMDF features an "Outreach" program where our artists perform around the local Hakodate area, and sometimes this includes events organised by other bodies. However, these are not performances that offer fees. We are sorry, but it is difficult for Worlds Meet Japan to find other performance sites to cover fees for groups when they are in Japan. One of the reasons is that there are relatively few events in Japan that work with overseas groups. WMDF is unusual in this regard. The level of foreign languages spoken in Japan is surprisingly low, and most events would have significant difficulty communicating logistics on a daily basis. Our generic advice to groups who want to arrange other performances is to contact the Embassy of their country in Tokyo. They will have access to both events information and to bilingual speakers who will be able to ensure smooth running of logistics, should an event be possible. A number of previous WMDF groups have accompanied their visit to us with Embassy-organised events in Tokyo or elsewhere in Japan. Q 3-4: Can our group make extra performances for the purposes of cultural exchange (for example free-entry in a Japanese temple)? A: For performances before or after the group arrives in Hakodate, yes, we hope that groups will feel free to organise their own schedules. Please see the advice in 3-3 about Embassies. Once the group is in Hakodate, our staff are generally fully occupied with the festival logistics including the main event, outreach, and social events, so we ask that groups follow the WMDF schedule. Even non-ticketed events in Hakodate will require resources to publicise, co-ordinate, prepare for performance, and other logistics, and we are sorry that in this most busy period our expertise is all committed. Q 3-5: Will WMDF pay performance fees for professional groups? A: In the past, we have given some participants financial remuneration, but it is at such a level that is basically clear that the groups are doing us a favour by performing. Ideally, we would treat all groups equally as listed in the conditions, with no fees. Groups view our logistical and accommodation support as "in-kind" payments, worth around USD 600/person over the course of the event. Also, WMDF takes no margin from the goods sold by artists at the event: many groups cover fees with the sale of CDs, etc, and our staff work hard to help groups sell them. Q 3-6: Can WMDF work with us to gain sponsorship, eg from Japan Foundation? A: In general, foundations require applications to be made in the home country of the group. So, WMDF can support groups applying to bodies in their own country, but we cannot apply on their behalf to organisations in Japan. If you have a specific funding body to which you would like WMDF to support your group's application for funds, please send us materials and videos of your group in good time. Since our administration time is limited, it is unlikely that we will be able fill in forms of any size. Please send us completed examples, and a set of clear step-by-step instructions. Q 3-7: Are there any special conditions under which you would pay for us to attend? A: Our Festival has been attracting attention even from individuals and groups with a worldwide profile. We wish that we were in the financial position of being able to take advantage of our popularity as a destination, but at the moment our terms and conditions list all that we can practically do.