That’s not right!
Can’t you listen to me?
In June, just before the Osaka Tenjin Festival, one of the three major festivals in Japan, an exchange of angry shouts echoed through the precincts of the Osaka Temmangu Shrine, which hosts the festival.
The Tenjin Matsuri, a summer festival in Osaka, was held on July 24 and 25, the first time in four years that the event, which boasts a history of more than 1,000 years and attracts more than 1.3 million visitors every year to see some 3,000 fireworks displays, would be held normally due to the effects of Corona. However, the Tenjin Festival is facing a crisis even greater than Corona. The Taiko Naka, a volunteer organization that manages the festival, is in danger of collapsing.
It all started with the former secretary-general of Taiko Naka, Mr. X, who privatized the organization and harassed its members. Taiko Naka has about 800 members and 14 directors. The secretary general is the number two person in Taiko Chū, second only to the general secretary, but Mr. X is actually a former gang leader who used to threaten members of Taiko Chū whom he didn’t like, saying things like, ‘Let’s crush them.
At the Tenjin Festival in 1919, Mr. X and his cronies said, “We’ll sink you! An incident occurred at the Tenjin Festival in 1919 in which Mr. X and his cronies threatened to “sink” a mid-level member, and a damage report was filed with the Tenma Police Department, which accepted the incident as an injury case.
When the previous head of the taiko troupe died in 2008, Mr. X began to interfere in personnel matters, even recommending Mr. A, the nephew of the previous head, for the position of head of the troupe. An influential local resident confides, “Mr. X said, ‘Mr. A’s inauguration is a big deal.
Mr. X pushed through the appointment of Mr. A as the new general manager, saying, ‘Mr. A’s appointment is at the request of Tenmangu Shrine, and he was named as the successor in the previous general manager’s will. However, it was later discovered that both the request from Tenmangu Shrine and the existence of the will were outright lies.
In March of this year, Tenmangu took the situation very seriously and forced Taiko Chū to remove Mr. X from his position as secretary-general, establish a constitution that stipulates the procedures for electing officers, and clarify the accounting. The meeting was held at 11:00 a.m. on June 4 to resolve the internal disputes.
The number two was ousted.
In July of last year, this magazine pursued the allegations of power harassment by Mr. X. After reading the article, Tenmangu Shrine invited the chief priest to participate in the discussion for the first time. It seemed as if the matter had been settled, but a shock came at a meeting of the Taiko Chū board of directors held just two hours after the discussion between the priest and the Taiko Chū board.
Mr. X, who was supposed to have been expelled, was in attendance. Mr. A, whom Mr. X had screwed into the executive board, said, ‘I would like to recommend Mr. X as an advisor to Taiko Chūmei,’ and a resolution was passed to electrify him back into the organization.
Mr. X ruled Taiko Zhong with such terror that many on the executive committee could not openly oppose him. However, some of the board members vehemently objected, saying, “That’s not right. The board meeting was in turmoil. Since then, there has been no formal meeting between Tenmangu and Taiko Naka.
The angry shout at the beginning of this article was just one of the scenes from that meeting.
The problem spilled over into unexpected areas. Mr. B, the number two official at Osaka Temmangu Shrine, which sponsors the Tenjin Festival, was removed from his post.
Mr. B is believed to have been a collaborator in Mr. X’s attempt to install Mr. A as the head of the Tenmangu Shrine, based on a false testament the year before last. At the time, one of the Taichung officers went to Tenmangu Shrine to confirm whether the will had actually been made. The person who responded was Mr. B, a priest (assistant to the chief priest) and head of the General Affairs Department, who was in fact the number two priest at Tenmangu Shrine.
He took out his own notebook to the officer who came to confirm the situation, and made a gesture as if he had the will of the former head priest. Mr. B was dismissed from the post of general manager this year and received a pay cut.
We asked Temmangu Chief Priest Terai directly about the reason for Mr. B’s removal and his opinion on Mr. X’s return to Taiko Chu, but he replied, “I cannot answer here. If you contact me officially, I will answer your questions. Later, we received the following response to our written questions.
We are aware of Mr. X’s return to Taiko Zhong, but we cannot approve it.
We also asked Mr. A, the general manager of Taiko Chū, to confirm the facts, but he said he would consult with his attorney and get back to us, and we did not receive a response by the deadline.
Unexpected disputes continue within one of Japan’s leading festivals. Will the Tenjin Festival really be held without incident next year?
From the July 28, 2023 issue of FRIDAY
PHOTO： Kei Kato, Kyodo News (Fireworks)