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Former exchange student's non-profit reviving Japanese festival culture

July 19, 2016

Ma -tourismA former exchange student at Earlham College is working to revive Matsuri festival culture in Japan by infusing youth and tourism back into its celebrations.

Manabu Ohara says his cross-cultural experiences at Earlham inspired the summer launch of Ma-tourism, his Tokyo-based non-profit.

“When I was a student at Earlham, I choreographed Japanese traditional dance with other students,” says Ohara, who studied at Earlham during the 2004-05 academic year before graduating from Waseda University in Tokyo, the site of Earlham’s Japan Study off-campus program.

“It was a very important experience for me,” he says. “I got tons of applause. It made me feel like I was accepted not as an exchange student, but as an Earlham student.”

Ma-tourism promotes the sustainability of Matsuri celebrations across the nation. Ohara says Matsuri is celebrated in 300,000 Japanese neighborhoods and is typically sponsored by a temple or shrine. The annual rituals involve processions featuring large floats, but participation is typically limited to adults in their 50s and older, because of  its tradition and customs.

FACEBOOK: Like Ma-tourism on Facebook and see photo galleries from Matsuri festivals across Japan

“Young people struggle to assimilate to age-old traditions in Japan and foreigners who want to have a local culture experience can intersect with this,” Ohara says. “The traditional family system used to be very strong in Japan but it’s been diminishing. Young people are starting to get interested in having a shared community again, but the real local communities is not easily accessible. So I want to open the opportunities to get involved in it through Ma-tourism.”

Based in Tokyo, Ohara has already infused programming into five communities. Within three years, he hopes to run 100 programs nationwide. Each project involves recruitment and planning for sustainable participation within a diverse audience.

“My goal is to promote diversity in Japan and make Matsuri a common word throughout the world,” he says.

 — EC —

Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. Earlham is one of only 40 national liberal arts colleges ranked among U.S. News and World Reports' "Great Schools at a Great Price."

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and zimmebr@earlham.edu.


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Earlham College, an independent, residential college, aspires to provide the highest-quality undergraduate education in the liberal arts, including the sciences, shaped by the distinctive perspectives of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers).

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