Tokyo 2020 clues: when Japan’s PM dressed up as Super Mario


Tokyo 2020 clues: when Japan’s PM dressed up as Super Mario

  • 5 hours ago
  • From the sectionAsia
Dancers perform with Japanese flags during the closing ceremony in the Maracana stadium at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016Image copyrightAP
Image captionThe handover to Tokyo2020 was an all-action affair

With athletes and viewers exhausted, the closing ceremony for Rio2016 was passing off as expected…

Until Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe popped out of a giant green pipe dressed up as video game character Super Mario, one of Japan’s best-known exports.

It was then the world got a clue that, for Tokyo2020, the next Olympic hosts would take full and shameless advantage of Japan’s pop culture icons.

Abe making pipe-dream a reality

The Tokyo2020 video beamed to audiences in Rio showed Mario running excitedly around Tokyo then jumping into his famous green pipe.

Cue the slow rise of the green pipe in Rio with a hunched Mario-like figure perched on top.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, dressed as Super Mario, holds a red ball during the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at the Maracana stadium in Rio de Janeiro on August 21, 2016. / AFP PHOTO / LUIS ACOSTALUIS ACOSTA/AFP/Getty ImagesImage copyrightAFP
Image captionPrime Minister Abe popped out of a pipe just as the Mario character he was dressed as does in the Super Mario games

Japan’s Prime Minister, not famous for his extrovert displays and pop culture references, emerges dressed as Super Mario and doffs his hat to enthusiastic crowds, then setting social media alight.

JapanImage copyrightAP
Image captionShinzo Abe going full cosplay.
Closing ceremony - Maracana - Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - 21/08/2016. Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe is seen on stage.Image copyrightREUTERS
Image captionWhat a time to be alive.
@Raitthun tweets: Image copyright@RAITTHUN
Image captionTwitter could barely contain itself

Some were quick to point out that Mr Abe was clearly the star of the show, overshadowing Tokyo’s newly-elected mayor, Yuriko Koike, who was in attendance waving the Olympic flag and dressed in a kimono.

Image copyright@2012SATURI2010
Image caption“Laughing so hard as Yuriko in expensive kimono which was ruined by the rain received the Olympic flag but outdone by Abe’s cheap Mario hat”, said this tweet

The parade ended with Mr Abe holding aloft a now glowing red ball, Japan’s rising sun.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe holds up a ball duirng the flag handover segment during the Closing Ceremony on Day 16 of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games at Maracana Stadium on August 21, 2016 inImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES

Super Mario for the uninitiated

Super Mario is a fictional character in the hugely popular Mario video game franchise created by Nintendo. A stout Italian plumber famous for his red cap and blue overalls, he has appeared in scores of video games, becoming the world’s biggest selling video game franchise of all time.

Super MarioImage copyrightYOSHIKAZU TSUNO
Image captionSuper Mario is a stout Italian plumber who is excellent at kart-racing

And what else can we look forward to in Tokyo?

Mario was not the only pop culture icon in attendance. Doraemon, the animation character with a famous magic pocket from which he can pull out gadgets from the future, also featured in a preview video, along with the mouth-less cat, Hello Kitty.

Girls touch models of Doraemon, a Japanese popular animation character, displayed at Tokyo's Roppongi Hills, 30 July 2016.Image copyrightAP
Image captionDoraemon is one of Japan’s most famous characters
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike (right) waves the Olympic flag during the closing ceremony of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, 21 August 2016, Rio.Image copyrightAFP

Some requests for Tokyo from social media

1. Please can Studio Ghibli help direct the opening ceremony? There were calls for Japan’s most famous film studio, Studio Ghibli, known for its fantastical tales and extraordinary animation to have a role in the opening ceremony.

@wendeego tweets: Image copyright@WENDEEGO

2. Can Pokemon Go become a sport in 2020? There were no Pokemon characters in the ceremony – about the only place they haven’t appeared in the past few weeks – but that did not stop people from suggesting it could become a sport in four years time.

@damienics tweets: Image copyright@DAMIENICS

3. Can Tokyo2020 be staffed entirely by robots? Many put in requests for robot volunteers to staff the Olympics or at least the ceremonies to employ robots as performers.

@tejashpatel_ tweets: Image copyright@TEJASHPATEL_

In Japan, the interest in the ceremony was also fevered, with people apparently excited and delighted by their cosplay PM’s guest appearance.

Some even felt the need to mark the once-in-a-lifetime event with caffeine.

PM Shinzo Abe pictured in a coffee art designImage copyright@GEORGE_10G
Image captionPM Abe’s face was translated into coffee art

Others, however, weren’t as impressed, with one commenting that the event was “nothing compared” to Queen Elizabeth playing a Bond girl in the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony.

Yet Mr Abe’s appearance has provided some form of positive coverage for the Tokyo Games, which has been plagued by controversy. Tokyo was accused of plagiarising its initial Olympic 2020 logo, which it eventually changed, and the original stadium design by architect Zaha Hadid was scrapped due to spiralling costs.

But for now, it seems many people are putting its bad publicity aside, and expecting their minds to be blown by whatever Tokyo has planned for four years’ time.

A huge message is unveiled in the main arena reading Image copyrightEPA

Reappraising Japan-U.K. ties

The Japan Times

Reappraising Japan-U.K. ties


The results of the recent British referendum in favor of leaving the European Union call for a reappraisal of British interests in relation to Japan. These can, in my view, be summed up in the following oversimplified terms.

Japan remains an important trading partner for Britain and significant source of investment in manufacturing and finance. Britain, accordingly, needs a prosperous and politically stable Japan. It is a vital British interest that Japan should remain outward-looking and liberal in its trade policies. Britain, too, must remain open and renew its efforts to encourage and welcome Japanese investment.

Continuing Japanese prosperity hinges on the success of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic policies (Abenomics). So far success has been limited. Abe’s third arrow, which aims at modernizing Japanese business practices and removing anti-competitive barriers, has so far had only modest results. If Japan is to maintain outward-looking trade policies, more needs to be achieved.

While Japan may face a trade deficit in the future as its society ages and its population declines, it is important for Japan’s future trade and economic relations that the outdated mercantilist attitudes and policies adopted by Japan in the postwar era are buried forever. Trade friction can only be avoided if economic relations are handled in a liberal and open manner, and not seen as a point-scoring game.

Britain cannot negotiate or conclude a trade agreement with Japan while it remains in the EU, but consideration should be given to the possibility of a bilateral arrangement based on the draft Japan-EU Economic Partnership Agreement, which is currently nearing conclusion.

The maintenance and development of Japanese manufacturing investments will inevitably depend to a considerable extent on the arrangements that Britain can agree with the EU. The closer these are to full participation in the single market, the better. Until the nature of the sort of arrangement that will replace Britain’s membership of the EU is made clear, the greater the uncertainty for Japanese companies and the greater the likelihood that they will place new investments elsewhere in the EU.

Japanese banks and securities companies are likely to maintain their positions in the London market so long as London remains a key financial center in Europe, but the Japanese commitment to London would be firmer if financial passporting rights in the EU can be guaranteed.

Britain and Japan have important civil aviation and shipping industries, and the rights of these industries will need to be guaranteed in any future Anglo-Japanese negotiations.

Britain and Japan have key roles in meeting the challenges posed by climate change and cooperation in this area should be intensified.

Scientific and technological exchanges will continue to play an important part in our relations. Joint research and development projects are essential elements in investment decisions and need to be strengthened. British withdrawal from the EU must not be allowed to jeopardize these cooperative arrangements.

When Britain ceases to be a member of the EU, bilateral political relations will become even more important. Ministerial visits will continue to provide important opportunities for high level exchanges as will membership of international groupings such as the Group of Seven.

Britain, as a nuclear power with a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, will remain a significant partner for Japan, especially at the United Nations and in nuclear issues.

Japanese defense forces can play an important stabilizing role in the Far East in cooperation with the United States. Britain accordingly attaches importance to the maintenance of Japan’s defense arrangements with the U.S.

Britain recognizes the threat to Japan from North Korea and understands Japanese concerns. It has no illusions about the North Korean regime.

Britain understands Japanese anxieties over Chinese actions in the South China Sea and of anti-Japanese demonstrations in China. It is a major British interest that these do not lead to conflict. The British accordingly attach importance to the development of a peaceful modus vivendi between China and Japan.

Britain also attaches importance to good relations between Japan and South Korea as well as with the countries of Southeast Asia.

Both Britain and Japan are significant aid donors and should continue to work closely together in aid matters.

Good economic and political relations depend on mutual cultural understanding. The British Council’s activities in Japan make a valuable contribution and the Japan English teachers scheme provides essential backing to English-language study in Japan.

In Britain, the Japan Foundation and organizations such as the Japan Society, the Daiwa Foundation, the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation and the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures make useful contributions to understanding of Japan. Their work should be strengthened next year with the establishment of a Japan center in London. Japanese studies in Britain have made significant progress in recent years and more young British people are taking up the study of Japan, its language and culture. But there is considerable room for improvement in wider British understanding and knowledge of modern Japan.

An important element in Britain’s relations with Japan is Japan’s image in Britain. This has improved in recent years as more British people visit Japan and meet Japanese people in Britain and other countries. Japan is seen as a safe and orderly society and parliamentary democracy. The Emperor has won much respect. The resentments arising from the behavior of Japanese Imperial forces during the last war have been largely buried.

Concerns, however, remain, especially among those directly or indirectly involved with Japan, about right-wing elements in Japan’s governing party. The security laws are regarded with suspicion and visits to Yasukuni Shrine by influential politicians are liable to arouse fears of an attempt to revive state Shinto.

Any attempt to force through constitutional amendments, whether of Article 9 or of other provisions in the 1946 Constitution, could revive wartime memories and raise fears about a revival of Japanese nationalist extremism. The majority in the British political establishment remains liberal in outlook and firmly committed to upholding human rights.

Hugh Cortazzi was Britain’s ambassador to Japan from 1980 to 1984.

Source:  “Re-appraising Japan-U.K. ties”, The Japan Times, 11 August 2016 

Oliver (Olly) (4)

Hello Hugo

This is just a short update as I know that I have not been good at updating the blog this summer.  My sister has sent some further photographs of my nephew, Oliver (Olly):







Mikiko Otani

I saw the article reproduced below for the first time last night.  The concept of a Japanese lawyer, particularly one such as Ms Otani, being appointed to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child was, to say the least, surprising.


The Japan Times

Lawyer from Osaka first Japanese to join U.N. child rights panel


Lawyer Mikiko Otani on Thursday became the first Japanese independent expert to be elected to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.

Otani, 51, and an Ethiopian candidate both garnered 152 votes, the highest among the nine experts elected to the committee.

“I think this is a result of trust in and expectation for Japan, rather than me. I want to try my best to help protect the human rights of children around the world,” she told Kyodo News.

Otani is an expert on international human rights law. She served as an alternate representative of the Japanese delegation to the U.N. General Assembly’s Third Committee on human rights in 2005 and 2006.

A native of Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture, Otani graduated from the Faculty of Law of Tokyo’s Sophia University in 1987. She earned a master’s of international affairs degree at Columbia University in 1999.

The committee, which monitors implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by its member states, is comprised of 18 individuals who serve four-year terms. Half of the group’s term will expire next Feb. 28.

Otani and the other eight new members will serve beginning next March through 2021.

Source:  “Lawyer from Osaka first Japanese to join UN child rights panel”, The Japan Times, 1 July 2016

Brexit: David Cameron to quit after UK votes to leave EU


Results in full

EU Referendum results, counting complete


Vote share

Votes 17,410,742 Votes

Vote share

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0 results left to declare


Brexit: David Cameron to quit after UK votes to leave EU

  • 1 minute ago
  • From the section EU Referendum

Prime Minister David Cameron is to step down by October after the UK voted to leave the European Union.

Mr Cameron made the announcement in a statement outside Downing Street after the final result was announced.

He said he would attempt to “steady the ship” over the coming weeks and months but that “fresh leadership” was needed.

The PM had urged the country to vote Remain, warning of economic and security consequences of an exit, but the UK voted to Leave by 52% to 48%.

England and Wales voted strongly for Brexit, while London, Scotland and Northern Ireland backed staying in.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage hailed it as the UK’s “independence day” but the Remain camp called it a “catastrophe”.

The pound fell to its lowest level against the dollar since 1985 as the markets reacted to the results.

Flanked by wife Samantha, Mr Cameron said he had informed the Queen of his decision to remain in place for the short term and to then hand over to a new prime minister by the time of the Conservative conference in October.

It would be for the new prime minister to carry out negotiations with the EU and invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would give the UK two years to negotiate its withdrawal, he said.

“The British people have voted to leave the European Union and their will must be respected,” said Mr Cameron. “The will of the British people is an instruction that must be delivered.”

The referendum turnout was 71.8% – with more than 30 million people voting – the highest turnout at a UK-wide vote since 1992.

Labour’s Shadow chancellor John McDonnell said the Bank of England may have to intervene to shore up the pound, which lost 3% within moments of the first result showing a strong result for Leave in Sunderland and fell as much as 6.5% against the euro.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage – who has campaigned for the past 20 years for Britain to leave the EU – told cheering supporters “this will be a victory for ordinary people, for decent people”.

Mr Farage – who predicted a Remain win at the start of the night after polls suggested that would happen – said it would “go down in history as our independence day”.

He called on Prime Minister David Cameron, who called the referendum but campaigned passionately for a Remain vote, to quit “immediately”.


Area-by-area in maps: See how people voted

Labour sources also said David Cameron “should seriously consider his position”.

But pro-Leave Conservatives including Boris Johnson and Michael Gove have signed a letter to Mr Cameron urging him to stay on whatever the result.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who called for the UK to remain in the EU but was accused of a lukewarm campaign, said poorer communities were “fed up” with cuts and felt “marginalised by successive governments”.

“Clearly there are some very difficult days ahead,” he said, adding that “there will be job consequences as a result of this decision”.

He said the point he had made during the campaign was that “there were good things” about the EU but also “other things that had not been addressed properly”.

Former Labour Europe Minister Keith Vaz told the BBC the British people had voted with their “emotions” and rejected the advice of experts who had warned about the economic impact of leaving the EU.

He said the EU should call an emergency summit to deal with the aftermath of the vote, which he described as “catastrophic for our country, for the rest of Europe and for the rest of the world”.

Germany’s foreign minister Frank Walter Steinmeier described the referendum result as as “a sad day for Europe and Great Britain”.

But Leave supporting Tory MP Liam Fox said voters had shown great “courage” by deciding to “change the course of history” for the UK and, he hoped, the rest of Europe.

And he called for a “period of calm, a period of reflection, to let it all sink in and to work through what the actual technicalities are,” insisting that Mr Cameron must stay on as PM.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that the EU vote “makes clear that the people of Scotland see their future as part of the European Union” after all 32 local authority areas returned majorities for Remain.

Analysis by Prof John Curtice

Remain campaignersImage copyright PA

London has voted to stay in the EU by around 60% to 40%.

However, no other region of England has voted in favour of remaining.

The referendum has underlined the social and cultural gap between London and provincial England.

Remain’s defeat seems to have been primarily the product of the decisions made by voters living north of the M4.

Throughout the Midlands and the North of England the level of support for Remain was well below what was required for it to win at least 50% of the vote across the UK as a whole.

Britain is set to be the first country to leave the EU since its formation – but the Leave vote does not immediately mean Britain ceases to be a member of the 28-nation bloc.

That process could take a minimum of two years, with Leave campaigners suggesting during the referendum campaign that it should not be completed until 2020 – the date of the next scheduled general election.

Foreign exchange in TokyoImage copyright AP
Image caption Traders in Tokyo monitor exchange rates

The prime minister will have to decide when to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which would give the UK two years to negotiate its withdrawal.

Once Article 50 has been triggered a country can not rejoin without the consent of all member states.

Mr Cameron has previously said he would trigger Article 50 as soon as possible after a Leave vote but Boris Johnson and Michael Gove who led the campaign to get Britain out of the EU have said he should not rush into it.

But they also said they want to make immediate changes before the UK actually leaves the EU, such as curbing the power of EU judges and limiting the free movement of workers, potentially in breach the UK’s treaty obligations.

The government will also have to negotiate its future trading relationship with the EU and fix trade deals with non-EU countries.

In Whitehall and Westminster, there will now begin the massive task of unstitching the UK from more than 40 years of EU law, deciding which directives and regulations to keep, amend or ditch.

The Leave campaign argued during a bitter four-month referendum campaign that the only way Britain could “take back control” of its own affairs would be to leave the EU.

Leave dismissed warnings from economists and international bodies about the economic impact of Brexit as “scaremongering” by a self-serving elite.

Source:  “Brexit: David Cameron to quit after UK votes to leave EU”, BBC News, 24 June 2016