Keep the Matsuri Alive in Nikko sign now

Nikko is a small town north of Tokyo famous for its World Heritage shrines and temples that are set against breathtaking mountain scenery. In particular people come to see the incredibly decorated Toshogu Shrine, home of the Nemurineko (Sleeping Cat) and Three wise monkey carvings, and the resting place of Shogun Tokogawa Ieyasu.

It is also a popular tourist destination for some of Japans most spectacular Matsuris, or festivals, one of which is the grand spring festival, Shinki Reitaisai. Every year on May 17th and 18th over 1000 armor-clad participants escort three palanquins (ornately decorated covered sedan chairs) through the streets of Nikko to commemorate the day that Tokogawa Ieyasu's remains were brought to his mausoleum in 1617. It is an incredible display of tradition and culture amongst some of the most important Shrine buildings in Japan. Local school children look forward to the first time theyre allowed to participate, and tourists are drawn to delicious foods sold by the festival stalls.

Sadly, this festival is one of many throughout Japan to have been cancelled since the Tohuku Earthquake/Tsunami on March 11th. The reason is not that the area has been damaged; in fact Nikko is still safe, undamaged by the Quake and far away from any radiation scares. However festivals have been cancelled as far as Shizuoka Prefecture and as far into the future as August in a bid to show respect for the victims of the earthquake and resulting tsunami.

While there is obviously a need to pause daily life and pay our respects to those who have been caught up in the destruction that has shocked the world (we dont dispute this at all!), we feel that cancelling cultural events that are so important to local communities is not the right way to do this.
Matsuris are a huge part of the Japanese culture and are used to remember and celebrate things that are important to their communities and traditions; youth, nature, the fleetingness of life, courage, peace... as well as remembering and honouring deeds and events from the past. Communities prepare all year for these Matsuris from building massive wagons and Mikoshi to carry or pull around the city, practising Matsuri specific music and dances, preparing banners for the towns and of course preparing the clothes and costumes that are needed for the participants.
(http://therovingroninreport.blogspot.com/2010/07/uchiwa-matsuri-japanese-fan-festival-of.html).

Festivals are a large part of Japanese culture; surely carrying on as normal, celebrating what is left and having the opportunity to meet friends and enjoy life is a better alternative to stopping life in its tracks? Thousands of businesses are now suffering all across Japan - not as a result of the tsunami's destruction, but of the dramatic decline in the number of tourists that they normally rely on to pay the bills. Hostels and hotels stand empty, while restaurants are shutting up shop early because there are simply no customers. Towns are dying, and we need the lifeblood of the Matsuri to help keep them going.

Many Matsuris have already been cancelled, but we want to see them held all across Japan to celebrate what we have, and what we shouldnt forget. In particular our focus is the Matsuri in Nikko that was due to take place this May.

If you agree that cancelling Matsuris in Japan is only going to prolong the length of time it takes for Japan to recover (both emotionally and economically) and that we should keep them going in accessible, safe areas such as Nikko then please sign this petition.

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Ashlee RussoBy:
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Nikko Matsuri organisation

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