Nagoya Dome
A Forum for New Encounters

A moment of tension is broken by an outpouring of energy as high school dancers sweep through their numbers, their bodies covered with sweat and the background music swirling round the large ceiling. These students have devoted many of their after-school hours to rehearsing their dance routines over and over, and today is the day they get to showcase their talents before a full audience.

It is October 19, and the 1997 Aichi Residents' Cultural Festival is taking place at the Nagoya Dome--a new landmark in the Aichi capital that opened in March 1997.

The festival spotlights those attending private schools in the greater Nagoya area, bringing together not just students but also parents, teachers, and community residents. It is held with the aim of fostering schools that are open to and have strong links to their respective communities. Highlights of the program this year included a pop concert, performances by a 1,000-member Japanese drumming troupe and a 3,000-member choral group, and commemorative speeches.

At various locations in the stadium, there were recitals by high school dance groups and brass bands as well as a flea market and booths for exhibits. About 80,000 people of all ages packed into the Dome for the event--the biggest single-day gathering at the stadium since its opening. The 3,000-plus volunteer staff were kept busy all day long.

Nagoya Dome is a 40,500-seat, roofed, all-weather stadium and is best known as the home ground of the Chunichi Dragons professional baseball team. It has 7,500 movable seats, moreover, allowing it to accommodate rugby and soccer matches as well, and it is also frequently used for major cultural events like concerts and lectures.

One high school participant at the October festival said, "It's great being able to roam around the playing field." Indeed, standing in the arena and looking up at the stands gives one the exhilarating feeling of being at the center of attention. And at such times, one forms a strong affinity with the Dome.

A woman in her forties, who said she has been at the Dome before to attend a tax consultation workshop and to hear a lecture, commented, "It's worth coming here just for the food. There are so many shops selling really nice things to eat".

And a college student who has attended a job placement fair at the Dome said, "There're a lot of good concerts coming up, and I'm looking forward to returning here for them".

The October cultural festival was a tremendous success. It brought together under one big roof people active in many different school and community groups, allowing them to broaden their outlook, forge new cooperative networks, and nurture a sense of oneness and belonging. In that sense the Dome is very much like a traditional Japanese house, where sliding doors can be removed to create an expanse of open space.

The Nagoya Dome offers something for everyone, even in this age of diversifying tastes, expectations, and needs. The Dome is a forum for new encounters, and it should play a key role in leading the way to a brighter future for Nagoya and its environs.