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Friday, Aug. 8, 2008

Fans, young musicians to unite under the sky at Sora Matsuri


Staff Writer

If nature-lovers are tree-huggers, how to describe people who love the sky? Air heads? Plane-huggers? There isn't much else up there you can wrap your arms around. But you can always express your affection through song.

News photo
Performers including Shigeki Maruyama (center) lead the crowd in a song at the first Sora Matsuri (Sky Festival) held last year in Kato, Hyogo Prefecture. COURTESY SORA MATSURI

Hence at the Sora Matsuri (Sky Festival), scheduled for Aug. 17 at Kokukinen Park in Tokorozawa, Saitama Prefecture, a host of young musicians and performers will come together to serenade the celestial realm.

Hiroaki Kato, a singer in his 20s, is both one of the performers and also the event's organizer. It was his experience of the 2006 earthquake in Java that opened his eyes to the power of nature and the need for people to come together in a spirit of cooperation. "The sky is a symbol of unity. It connects the whole world," he said.

Kato will be joined on stage between 1 and 7 p.m. by a host of performers including Shigeki Maruyama, an acoustic guitar, shamisen and Irish bouzouki virtuoso, the female singer and "slow-life" advocate yae (who describes herself as "half singer, half farmer"), tap dancer Suji Tap (who gained some notoriety by his performance in director Takeshi Kitano's "Zatoichi") and marching-music specialists, the Percussion Performance Players.

Asked how the performers would attract the attention of their distant muse, Kato explained that "all the fans, and all the musicians and everyone else will come together to send a message out into the sky."

"Any message is OK," he added. "It just needs to be from their heart."

Speaking of the sky, the event is being held in an auspicious location. The kokukinen in the park's name means "commemoration of aviation" — a nod to the Tokorozawa Aviation Museum, which is located in the park just near the outdoor stage where the festival will be held. So if there are any plane-huggers out there, there's something for them, too.

The Saitama festival will be followed by similarly themed events in Nishiwaki, Hyogo Prefecture (Sept. 14), Miyazaki (Sept. 20) and Kobe (Oct. 4).

Further details can be found at www.soramatsuri.com



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