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This week’s featured article

KYODO

Organizers of the Aomori Nebuta Matsuri, which gets underway this Sunday, will not allow much-awaited floats based on “Star Wars” characters to parade on the city’s streets, fearing they go against the festival’s cultural tradition and would attract too many visitors, causing turmoil.

Residents who had been hoping the floats would become a good opportunity to promote the city said they were disappointed by the decision.

Organizers announced in July that Nebuta floats depicting characters from the popular “Star Wars” movies would appear in this year’s festival.

Their design was created under the supervision of Lucasfilm Ltd., the producer of the films, as the festival’s first attempt to create floats using movie characters.

The promoter of the film series asked that the floats be pulled down the main streets of the city, but the organizers refused and instead decided to reveal them at an event to be held on the eve of the festival and put them on display during the festival.

“We put priority on preserving the tradition. I don’t regard (“Star Wars” floats) as Nebuta,” said Hidenori Nara, head of the organizing committee.

The latest episode of the film series is expected to be released in December, and Nara said if the festival is seen as a part of film promotion, it could have a negative impact on the event in the future.

Organizers also said there were concerns that the appearance of “Star Wars” floats would lead to a sharp increase in the number of visitors, making it difficult to ensure safety among the crowds.

The people making the floats said they can’t understand the decision, as their inclusion in the parade would help boost the region’s economy.

Noboru Shirakawa, a 68-year-old resident of Aomori, said children and visitors from abroad would have enjoyed looking at “Star Wars” Nebuta floats more than the traditional floats.

Aomori was recently ranked the most popular tourist site for festival-goers in a survey by major travel agent JTB Corp.

First published in The Japan Times on Aug. 1.

Warm up

One-minute chat about summer.

Game

Collect words related to summer festivals, e.g., fireworks, crowd.

New words

1) float: an exhibit or scene mounted on a mobile platform in a parade; e.g., “A princess appeared on the last float in the parade.”

2) turmoil: disorder and confusion; e.g., “The boss’s decision to quit caused turmoil at the company.”

3) depict: represent in a picture, sculpture, etc.; e.g., “Human figures are depicted on the ancient pots.”

Guess the headline

Aomori festival won’t let ‘S_ _ _ W_ _ _’ f_ _ _ _s join parade

Questions

1) Why did organizers decide not to allow “Star Wars” floats to join the parade?

2) Where will people be able to see the “Star Wars” Nebuta floats?

3) What big event is planned for the “Star Wars” series this year?

Let’s discuss the article

1) What’s your favorite summer memory?

2) Have you been to any traditional Japanese summer festivals?

3) What do you think about Star Wars floats joining Nebuta?

Reference

夏も盛りとなってきましたが、夏らしいイベントへお出かけなさったでしょうか。

夏祭りや花火大会など、夏の催しは地域行事としても私たちの思い出としても非常に大きな意味合いを持つものです。特に、長い伝統を持つ有名な 行事であれば、遠出をしてでも参加してみたいという方が多いのではない でしょうか。

ねぶた祭りもそのような日本が誇る夏の一大行事です。青森にとっては、 県外やさらには海外の方が青森を訪れ、その魅力を知る大きな機会となる でしょう。しかし、青森のイメージを形作る一大イベントだからこそ商業的な 革新に対しては慎重にならざるを得ないというのも当然のことではあります。

長い伝統を守るのか、新しい風を取り込むのか。来年以降も同じような議論が飛び交うのかもしれませんが、夏の一時に皆でお祭りを楽しみたいものです。

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