The Labyrinth has marked itself out as a top-tier event in Japan. Founded in 2001 by Mindgames, it's become one of the most intriguing destinations for ravers in the country. Its success lies in its secretive approach: line-ups are not announced before the event.
Chosen for: Innovation.
“Mystery and surprise are key elements of artistic experiences,” the founders explained, “but expectations can sometimes get in the way. In the case of a festival, it’s easy to build up expectations via line-up announcements, online recordings and other promotional activities.” Similar to events like Freerotation and Sustain-Release, The Labyrinth has been careful to design an intimate experience for festival-goers. Entry can only be accessed via pre-sale tickets, and none can be purchased onsite. Though it’s attained global recognition, The Labyrinth still manages to maintain a low-key presence, and in 2017, it went one step further in retaining its local atmosphere. That year, the festival’s founders made the decision to downsize and stop selling special international tickets. It was an indication of the festival’s priorities: that the experience of attendees matters above all else, even ticket sales and commercial interest.
“Fewer people should mean more space for camping and dancing and less time waiting in line for drinks, food, and the shuttle bus,” they said. “Fewer people also means less trash and less stress for everyone, and we hope it also makes for a more intimate experience.”
While secret line-ups could cause some hesitation among music fans, especially amidst a sea of fantastic summer programmes, The Labyrinth has proved to be a space for exciting, cutting-edge acts, featuring the likes of DJ Nobu and Donato Dozzy. Each well-thought-out programme is curated as a “three-day ritual story – three cycles of rising, dancing and falling”.
In 2019, The Labyrinth relocated from its former home in Naeba Greenland to Minakami in Gunma. Reviews and press coverage on the event are scarce, especially in comparison to large-scale events on the festival circuit. Other festivals may prioritise ticket sales, but Mindgames have decided to take a different route, focusing instead on creating an experience that’s shrouded in mystery, where festival-goers can "experience something rare in today's world".
The Labyrinth takes place at Minikami in Gunma, Japan. Dates are yet to be announced.