Behind the Scenes of the Local Newspaper’s “Obnoxious Reports” on the Holding of the “Awa Odori Dance | FRIDAY DIGITAL

Behind the Scenes of the Local Newspaper’s “Obnoxious Reports” on the Holding of the “Awa Odori Dance

...... because "the merit has gone away"?

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For the first time in three years, the Awa Odori dance festival was held outdoors.

This year, too, Tokushima’s summer festival, the Awa Odori, was held for four days from August 12.

This was the first time in three years that the festival was held at the Enmaijo (dance hall), as it was canceled in 2020 due to the new Corona and was also held only on a limited basis last year.

After the festival, however, a considerable number of negative media reports were seen, such as “a person infected in a famous group*” of the Awa Odori dance troupe.

Famous dance troupes: A general term for accomplished Awa Odori dance troupes that are members of the Awa Odori Promotion Association, Tokushima Prefecture Awa Odori Association, and other organizations.

The Tokushima Shimbun, a local newspaper, was particularly notable.

In its August 18 report, titled “Infection spreads among famous Awa Odori dance troupes,” the paper made it sound as if the cluster was caused by the activities of a famous Awa Odori dance troupe.

However, as reported the next day in an interview with the prefectural government, “We do not know where the members of the federation were infected, so we cannot say that a cluster (of infected people) has emerged,” the actual causal link to the Awa Odori dance is not known.

At that time, there were around 200,000 new cases of infection daily throughout Japan, and on many days, the number of cases in Tokushima Prefecture exceeded 1,000. There is no certain evidence of a direct link between the Awa Odori dance and infection. Nevertheless, the Tokushima Shimbun questioned the responsibility of the organizers, saying, “Some have pointed out that the Awa Odori Festival Executive Committee, which organized the festival, took inadequate measures to prevent infection.

The Tokushima Shimbun has also been conspicuously critical in its coverage of the Awa Odori Festival, including articles titled “conspicuously empty seats” and “If public funds are used, objections are inevitable.

Why does the Tokushima Shimbun, which once played a central role as the “organizer” of the Awa Odori, continue to report on the biggest local festival?

One man who has been dancing in a famous Awa Odori dance troupe for many years expressed his disgust.

Before, the Tokushima Shimbun used the Awa Odori as much as they wanted,” he said. However, there was a lot of wrangling, and when newcomer Sawako Naito won the mayoral election the year before last, the management system was drastically changed. A new executive committee was formed, consisting of 30 members from a wide range of organizations, from local business groups to civic groups.

Of course, we asked the Tokushima Shimbun to join the committee, but they stubbornly refused. The previous executive committee had been chaired by the president of Tokushima Shimbun, but the new committee is more transparent and not as structured as the previous one. To put it bluntly, there is little merit in it for them.”

To trace back to the original, it was the Tokushima Shimbun that was responsible for the confusion of the Awa Odori.

Until 2017, the Tokushima Shimbun and the city’s tourism association were the organizers of the Awa Odori dance. However, the Tokushima Shimbun, taking advantage of its role as the organizer, contracted the installation of billboards and storage of materials to group companies on a voluntary basis, and the Tokushima Shimbun took 15% of the billboard advertising fees paid by the companies as “commissions.

Furthermore, of the approximately 100,000 tickets for paid seats, 20,000 to 30,000 popular seats were reserved in advance by the Tokushima Shimbun, making them unavailable for purchase through general sales.

The deficit accumulated by such “profiteering” by the Tokushima Shimbun exceeded 400 million yen. The problem came to light when an executive of the city’s tourist association, concerned about the situation, responded to an interview with “Shukan Gendai” about the actual situation.

Then, for some reason, then Mayor Akiyoshi Endo placed the blame on the city’s tourism association and forced it to dissolve. He then took over as chairman of the executive committee, but in 2006, he unilaterally decided to cancel the traditional “So Odori” Awa Odori dance and received strong opposition from the dancers’ organizations, which worsened the situation.

The following year, the city decided to outsource the event to the private sector in order to “eliminate the deficit,” but this resulted in a deficit of over 100 million yen, which stunned the citizens.

The following year, he decided to outsource the city to the private sector to “eliminate the deficit,” but this resulted in a deficit of over 100 million yen, which appalled the citizens.

The mayor’s successors in the past have gone to the Tokushima Shimbun immediately after taking office, but not Mayor Naito,” the newspaper said. He does not flatter the Tokushima Shimbun and will not let the Awa Odori dance return to their interest, so the Tokushima Shimbun is thorough in its coverage in slamming the mayor. They are also critical of the Awa Odori dance, which the mayor is spearheading,” said a local official.

What is the actual state of the Awa Odori dance? Minoru Yamada, chairman of the Awa Odori Promotion Association, said, “First of all, this year’s Awa Odori is different from the previous ones.

First of all, unlike in the past, we have reduced the number of fee-charging performance halls from four to two this time. Moreover, ticket sales have dropped dramatically since the capacity was reduced to 75% to prevent infection. On top of that, due to the corona outbreak, we were unable to organize group tours from outside the prefecture, and we had to cancel our large cruise ship. That will be an issue for next year. Still, the general dance was a great success with a full house.

The Tokushima Shimbun Group, which had previously taken most of the profits from the event, stopped advertising on billboards, and a new source of revenue was obtained by soliciting naming rights and sponsorships for the performance hall. We were still unfamiliar with the management of the event, so we have a good feeling that we can make a better profit and loss if we improve on the things we regretted,” he said.

The Tokushima Shimbun is expected to report on the Awa Odori not for its own profit, but for the development of the Awa Odori dance.

  • Interview and text Masanori Ogawa

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