“Festival” to Increase Voter TurnoutUniversity Music Festa bringing entertainment to social issues

University Music Festa was originally launched by Haruki Takamura during his first year of university, as a group of students who shared a love of music. The group organized festivals featuring music played by DJs in clubs and other venues, eventually attracting up to 800 people. Initially, the events were entirely about enjoying music, with no connection to social issues. Over time, however, local governments and junior chambers of commerce from around Japan began asking the group to organize events in their areas, and increasingly they were asked to organize events to raise awareness of social issues. Through this experience, Mr. Takamura saw that outside metropolitan areas, initiatives to get young people to vote or raise awareness of things like the Sustainable Development Goals were struggling. This gave him the idea of using music festivals, which bring together fans of different types of music across generations, to harness this energy to bring about social change. Recently, UMF organized a festival in Osaka to coincide with the local referendum on a proposed restructuring of Osaka City’s administrative structure.

Haruki Takamura discusses ways to get more people, especially younger people, to vote

Japanese 18- and 19-year-olds have had the right to vote since 2016, but turnout among eligible voters under the age of 30 remains the lowest among all age groups. Matsurigoto OSAKA 2020 was held on October 31 and November 1 to raise interest in the referendum and in politics in general, and to encourage young people to vote. The approach was to make going to vote into a festival, and in addition to the music festival on November 1, a forum was held on October 31. Both events were free, but the music festival required attendees to show that they had voted and fill out a UMF questionnaire. Music festival attendees also received discount coupons that could be used at nearby stores.

Performing at the music festival. Kyoto-based SPRISE
Kobe / Osaka-based Alcott

Election day is the day you can choose your future

The forum included two panel discussions. The first, on the theme of “Society and Me,” featured Mr. Takamura and two other young social entrepreneurs who discussed how they had gotten involved in addressing social issues and the methods they are using to resolve them. The second, on the theme of “The Osaka Metropolis Plan and Me,” was led by journalist Jun Hori and included Mr. Takamura along with four young people from different backgrounds, who discussed their questions about voting and politics. They shared their uncertainty and dissatisfaction regarding politics, noting that they were concerned because none of their friends seemed interested in politics, but at the same time television news is largely negative and that makes it difficult to stay interested. Another sentiment expressed was that “I don’t feel like my voice is being heard, and it seems like I am living in a different world.” Mr. Hori addressed all of these comments and gave everyone attending things to think about, making this a valuable session that showed the importance of exchanging opinions across generations and how agreement can arise through discussion, even among people with different opinions. Mr. Hori stressed that “Election day is the day you can choose your future.”

Journalist Jun Hori (right) discussing panelists’ questions about voting and politics

The music festival followed on November 1, which was also election day. Mr. Takamura noted that he wanted to create a festive atmosphere on election day that gave people a feeling of hope about the future. By spending election day enjoying a festival and shopping with discount coupons, he believes people will come to have a more positive image of politics, and that entertainment will serve as a starting point to get young people to give more thought to politics, and to vote and feel comfortable discussing issues that concern them.

UMF is planning to hold a similar event in July 2021 in connection with the scheduled Tokyo Metropolitan Assembly election.


Public Relations Team
The Nippon Foundation

  • Email: cc@ps.nippon-foundation.or.jp