At the end of his speech in July announcing details of this year's Festival/Tokyo running from Sept. 30 to Nov. 12 mainly at venues around Ikebukuro, its director, Sachio Ichimura, dropped a bombshell.

"There is a rumor that F/T is facing the ax," he declared, "but I'm telling you that it will continue. I understand this statement will make waves, but I had to say it here today."

And waves he made, instantly, because no one at that press conference had had the slightest inkling time might be running out for this annual "cool Japan" feast that's recognized worldwide as the country's leading international performing arts event. And to date no one knows why he said what he did.