Abe, other dignitaries attend groundbreaking ceremony for Tokyo’s new Olympic stadium

The Japan Times

Abe, other dignitaries attend groundbreaking ceremony for Tokyo’s new Olympic stadium


Prime Minister Shinzo Abe is confident that the new National Stadium will provide an iconic stage for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, he said at the groundbreaking ceremony Sunday.

The main construction work on the stadium in Shinjuku Ward began Dec. 1, about 14 months later than planned, after the original design plans by the late Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid were discarded following a public outcry over bloated cost estimates.

“When we scrapped the original plan last July, I vowed to make the new venue one that will be celebrated by the people and the athletes, a place that can generate dreams and inspiration,” Abe said.

“The new image of the stadium will realize ‘an athlete first’ policy with the best universal design in the world and some Japanese flavor,” he said. “I am very confident that this can be the stronghold of sports and culture for the new era.”

The government settled last December on a design by architect Kengo Kuma, also present at the ceremony, who collaborated with construction company Taisei Corp. and building planner Azusa Sekkei Co.

The stadium operator, the Japan Sport Council, agreed on a contract worth about ¥149 billion this October with a joint venture including Taisei. Kuma the same month revealed Japanese-style interior design schemes.

“The 2020 Games will be the first time the IOC’s Agenda 2020 will be put into practice. The program emphasizes the legacy of the games and environmental sustainability. I’m sure the new National Stadium will be a symbol for that,” Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike said at the ceremony. “I hope the new National Stadium will be a multifunctional legacy after the games … and one that will be loved by people for a long time to come.”

The ceremony ended with a video replete with computer graphics showing how the stadium is expected to look like and function when it is completed in November 2019.

Koike took office in July pledging to host a cost-efficient and environmentally friendly 2020 Olympics.

She has lambasted organizers for failing to keep costs under control.

Fans of the old stadium, built in the late 1950s, lobbied to keep and renovate it. But in the end the government opted to replace it with a more modern facility.

Kuma chose a wooden lattice design that echoes traditional styles seen in Japanese shrines and pagodas. It is intended to blend in with surrounding parkland and will be structured to minimize costs for heating and cooling.

The structure will use Japanese-grown larch in its wood and steel composite roof and prefabricated panels to help speed the work along and contain costs.

Source:  “Abe, other dignitaries attend groundbreaking ceremony for Tokyo’s new Olympic stadium”, The Japan Times, 11 December 2016 


End of Summer 2016 message

Hello Hugo

So ends another summer, your 5th in Japan, although yours will last well into September.

I shall send you a package shortly to bridge the gap between Children’s Day in Japan and your birthday in November.  I will post photographs below after doing so, either tomorrow or next week – I still have some items to buy.

It has been an eventful summer.  The UK voted for “Brexit” and this month saw the 2016 summer Olympics take place in Rio; the UK took second place in the medal tally, eclipsing even the London Olympics 4 years back.  That success  has been attributed to the (at the time slightly controversial) launch of the National Lottery in 1994 to provide funding for arts, heritage, sport, community projects etc.

I wrote about the London Olympics here, the day after Tokyo was successful in its bid to host the 2020 event.  I have posted this, this and this in relation to the Tokyo Olympics – no doubt there will be more such posts over the next 4 years.   No doubt, also, that the 2020 Games will be one of the key events in your childhood – I well remember the 1988 and 1992 Olympics and, more vaguely, the 1984 ones, all of which took place when I was a boy.  You were born in 2008, itself an Olympic year.

I have had something of an Olympic year myself work-wise but the less said about that the better.  The weather has been nice in London for the most part these past months, including this incredibly hot day in July.

Although I don’t want to say too much here just now so as not to prejudice anything that may happen, there are some signs that the Foreign Office here is beginning to take your situation more seriously, albeit 5 years on from your removal to Japan.  I pray that something concrete will emerge.





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

(Final) logo for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

The Japan Times

Baseball legend Sadaharu Oh (left) and Logo Selection Committee Chairman Ryohei Miyata announce the official emblems for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games during a ceremony in Tokyo on Monday. | YOSHIAKI MIURA

Checkered pattern by artist Tokolo chosen as logo for 2020 Tokyo Olympics


Staff Writer

Apr 25, 2016

Tokyo 2020 Olympics organizers on Monday chose logo A — a stark indigo-and-white checkered circle — as the games’ replacement emblem after the original design was scrapped last year amid claims of plagiarism.

The Tokyo 2020 Logo Selection Committee chose the logo from a shortlist of four following a competition open to any resident of Japan aged over 18. Almost 15,000 entries were submitted.

The winning logo was designed by Asao Tokolo, a 46-year-old artist whose works have featured in several exhibitions and who graduated in architecture from Tokyo Zokei University.

“I was thinking of something like a coloring picture that everyone can add their own color to,” Tokolo said. “White against indigo blue — it’s a very clean-cut expression. The games will also be held during summertime and I wanted to add some coolness into my design.”

The design comprises 45 interconnecting pieces forming a checkered pattern known as ichimatsu moyou. Use of the color indigo is intended “to express a refined elegance and sophistication that exemplifies Japan.”

“The committee found this checkered pattern to be very simple and we can feel the refined sophistication of the Japanese tradition,” said Logo Selection Committee Chairman Ryohei Miyata.

“On the other hand, there were people who said it was understated or it made their eyes flash,” he said. “I very much hope that the emblems will prove popular with people everywhere, and we look forward to your continued support toward the Tokyo 2020 Games.”

The Logo Selection Committee, featuring members drawn from the worlds of sports, design and business, held a vote Monday morning before presenting its recommendation to the Tokyo 2020 executive board for final approval.

Tokolo’s design received 13 votes, while logo B had one, logo C two and logo D five. The winning logo was unanimously approved by the executive board.

“Since Sept. 11, 2001, I started a particular concept,” Tokolo said. “There was a big disconnect in the world because of terrorism so I wanted to connect things. This design is based on a similar philosophy.

“I can’t be an athlete, but this was something I could get involved in. I always dreamed of that as a child.”

Tokolo will be awarded ¥1 million and a ticket to the opening ceremonies of both the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.

The logo competition was launched last October after the original logo by designer Kenjiro Sano was scrapped. The designer of a Belgian theater logo claimed Sano had plagiarized his work.

“During this process we have tried to convey as much information as possible in order to be as transparent as possible,” said Miyata.

He bristled at suggestions that the selection committee had already made up its mind before the 10-day public consultation process began.

“We didn’t start with Plan A in mind,” he said. “That was not the process and we were irritated by this report. We worked with the best sincerity so as not to be subjected to these kind of comments. Everybody spoke their minds and then we went to the voting process.”

The Logo Selection Committee chose a shortlist of four designs and four backups in January before subjecting them to rigorous copyright checks. One of the designs on the original shortlist failed to clear the copyright checks and was subsequently dropped.

The committee also invited members of the public to voice their opinion on the shortlist following its April 8 unveiling.

“This time the big theme was participation,” said Tokyo 2020 Chief Executive Officer Toshiro Muto.

“This logo selection process was the first of its kind. For us it was a challenging project, but I think it could serve as a model for future selection.”

The committee received opinions from 39,712 members of the public online and an additional 1,804 comments written on postcards.

Source:  “Checkered pattern by artist Tokolo chosen as logo for 2020 Tokyo Olympics”, The Japan Times, 25 April 2016


Hello Hugo

Your British cousin, joyfully a little boy as per the previous post, was born at about 3pm GMT today.  His name is Oliver; that is the same name as one of your two middle names (i.e. Oliver (English) and Daisuke (Japanese)).  Your cousin’s birth was on the day that Japan announced its shortlist for the 2020 Olympics logo.

You now have a UK cousin and I am now an uncle!