Each year, the four-day Mitama Matsuri, a festival held on the grounds of the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, attracts approximately 300,000 revelers.
For many of the guests attending the event, one of the top attractions is the lineup of approximately 200 food stalls and huts, including the popular obake yashiki (haunted house), on the shrine’s grounds.
But for this year’s festival, scheduled for July 13-16, a recent increase in complaints about rowdiness has caused the shrine to pull the plug on the attractions, reports weekly tabloid Shukan Post (July 10).
“There have been a variety of problems for nearby residents,” says a representative of the shrine, “and this has taken away from the true spirit of the event, which is to comfort the spirits of the war dead.”
The troublemakers have mainly been teenagers.
“Recently, it has become like a teen hangout,” says a person from the shrine, “and this has set the stage for a number of troublesome acts, like aggressive nampa (flirtation) and underage drinking and smoking.”
According to the Mainichi Shimbun (June 30), the problem has been exacerbated by the Internet, where the event has become known “nampa matsuri” (pick-up festival).
Since 1947, the obon event has honored the dead through mikoshi (portable shrine) processions, roughly 30,000 lanterns, and dance and music performances.
The Shinto shrine itself has been a focus of international scrutiny due to its enshrinement of roughly 2.5 million soldiers, airmen, and seamen. Crucially for China and South Korea, both of which suffered suffered under the rule of Japan during World War II, the list of those enshrined includes 14 Class-A war criminals.
According to Shukan Post, Chinese and Korean tourists are another source of concern.
“Their bad manners are indescribable, and there have been incidents in which brief skirmishes with Japanese have broken out,” says the aforementioned shrine representative. “Discontinuing the stalls is an unavoidable measure by the shrine to return dignity to the event.”
The suspension is in place only for this year. The shrine will evaluate the situation again before next year’s event.
Source: “ Yasukuni jinja de yatai shutten chushi he miseinen inshu kitsuen chikan higai-to de,” Shukan Post (June 10, page 62)