It was meant to be the triumph of the 2020 Olympic Games. But now it’s going to be naked.
The controversial New National Stadium, the centerpiece of the Tokyo Games, will not be ready for the opening of the Olympics in five years’ time. In order to be usable, the government says it wants to abandon the plan to have the stadium’s dramatic retractable roof.
Japan’s sports minister, Hakubun Shimomura, says it won’t be complete in time and they need to make cuts to ensure it is ready for the opening. This also entails making 35% of the seats into temporary seating.
Designed by Iraqi-British architect Zaha Hadid, the stadium’s arching roof is meant to rise 70m into the air. The stadium was proposed as a main venue for the 2020 Games as well as the 2019 Rugby World Cup, which is also taking place in Japan.
The 80,000-capacity stadium has been an albatross around the neck of the capital’s Olympic preparations. Much criticized by Japanese architects since it was designed by an outsider and looks like a giant bicycle helmet, its size and budget has been heavily scaled back (it was $3 billion, now it’s “just” $1.42 billion), and the national government and Tokyo are also haggling over who will foot the bill.
One of the main criticisms levelled at the stadium by Japanese architects was the roof, which heavily increases the cost of the project. However, the retractable roof was proposed to give the stadium a second life as a concert venue.
An opening ceremony in the stadium sans roof will affect the content of the ceremony, since the stadium is located in central Tokyo where there are strict rules on noise pollution.
The Tokyo Olympics was marketed as an “eco Games” because it could reuse many venues and facilities from the iconic 1964 Olympics.
However, in reality, the 2020 bonanza has proved a major boon for real estate development around Tokyo Bay and the previous National Stadium has been completely demolished to make way for Hadid’s new stadium.
How do you promote cycle racing, a sport that rarely gets much of a look-in from the baseball-obsessed media?
Easy. You sex things up and push cute girls to the forefront.
Female Keirin was introduced in 2012 and has done a lot to raise the profile of the sport, which has its roots in postwar Japan looking to find a way to offer legal gambling to men.
Currently the Keio Line, which offers direct transport to the Keiokaku Velodome, is decorated with posters of the smiling female cyclists, especially at the Shinjuku terminus.
We love the copy, which can be loosely translated: “It’s not faces; it’s big thighs.”
It might be too much to suggest that the Keirin regulating body is cultivating a fetish for muscular legs — do we spot an AKB48-Keirin tie-up some day? — but you get the idea… Sexist, perhaps, but better than letting the sport die.
This is part of a much longer campaign using the Keirin Girls to advertise the sport.
The plaza outside Shimbashi Station is home to La Pista Shimbashi (a venue in central Tokyo where you watch the races on a TV screen and bet), and we can recall the building a couple of years ago being dominated by a huge poster of popular female cyclist Maimi Tanaka showing off her shapely legs.
Typically the Shimbashi venue is associated with chain-smoking older men, so putting a female face on the sport does a lot to make it more welcoming to outsiders. To many, Keirin means cigarette smoke, drunk men, and gambling. The Girl’s Keirin campaign has dedicated TV commercials and promotions to showing a cleaner, funner side to the sport. (Actually, back in 2013 TokyoByBike made a very interesting suggestion: promote Keirin to the growing number of hipsters in Tokyo and their love for trendy bikes.)
The gambling part is accurate enough. Keirin is one of the few ways to bet legally on sports in Japan. Betters can place money on a trifecta (parimutuel) bet. The other three kouei kyougi sports where gambling is permitted are: horse racing, powerboat racing, and asphalt speedway motorcycle racing. Otherwise, your only choice is to buy a lottery ticket. No betting is allowed for baseball, soccer, sumo or the other major sports.
Japanese horse racing (Keiba) has also campaigned skilfully in recent years to make it more friendly to young and female audiences.
Nike is opening a women-only sports space in Shibuya for the spring.
Opening March 3rd at a location nine minutes’ walk from Shibuya Station, Nike Women’s Studio features a basement training studio and other training programs across two floors.
The first floor will be a store, while the basement training studio is for Nike Training Club members and with running, dance, yoga and other “sports experiences” on offer for visitors.
To promote the opening, Nike has recruited 20 famous women to operate its Nike Women Twitter account. The women include figure skater Miki Ando, dancer Koharu Sugawara, and fashion model Jessica Michibata. The selection deliberately seems to include more women from the world of fashion than sport, indicating that Nike is trying to push the brand as a lifestyle choice, rather than just as orthodox sports. It will be interesting to see how this approach evolves as we head towards the 2020 Olympics.
It will be open only until May 31st, 11:00-20:00. The address is 1-15-8 Jinnan, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo.
This isn’t the first pop-up Nike store by any means. Previous ventures include The Pivot Point, a special Nike Air Force 1 running shoes showcase store that was also in the Jinnan area.
Google has shared shared the top search terms in Japan for 2014.
Here are the top search terms, which were of course originally in Japanese and so vary slightly from the translation or English equivalent.
Overall Searchword Ranking
4. Weather forecast
7. Pazudora (Puzzle & Dragons)
9. Yahoo! Auction
1. World Cup
2. Yo-Kai Watch
3. Sochi Olympic
6. Kei Nishokori
7. Yuzuru Hanyu
8. Dengue fever
9. Ken Takakura
10. Mt Ontake
1. World Cup
2. Sochi Olympics
4. Dengue fever
5. Mt Ontake
6. Ebola virus
7. Nobel prize
9. Asia Games
1. Kei Nishikori (tennis player)
2. Yuzuru Hanyu (figure skater)
3. Ken Takakura (actor)
4. Ryutaro Nonomura (politician)
5. Takajin Yashiki (singer, TV personality)
6. Mamoru Samuragoch (composer)
7. ASKA (musician)
8. Sota Fukushi (actor)
9. Noriaki Kasai (ski jumper)
10. Robin Willians (actor, comedian)
1. Haruko Obokata (stem cell biologist)
2. Mao Asada (figure skater)
3. Ayaka Shiomura (politician)
4. Zawachin (celebrity impersonator)
5. Kanna Hashimoto (music idol)
6. Nippon Erekiteru Rengou (comedy duo)
7. Seiko Yamamoto (wrestler)
8. Takako Matsu (actor)
9. May J. (singer)
10. Keiko Kitagawa (actor)
Trending Deceased Persons
1. Ken Takakura (actor)
2. Ken Utsui (actor)
3. Eiichi Ohtaki (actor)
4. Takajin Yashiki (singer, TV personality)
5. Robin Williams (actor, comedian)
6. Keiko Awaji (actor)
7. Takako Doi (politician)
8. Junko Ouchi (fashion critic)
9. Yoshiki Sasai (stem cell biologist)
10. Akio Sanpei (writer)
Trending TV Dramas
1. “Hirugao” (Fuji)
2. “Ashita mama ga inai” (NTV)
3. “Hanko to Anne” (NHK)
4. “Gochisousan” (NHK)
5. “Shitsuren Chocolatier” (Fuji)
6. “Massan” (NHK)
7. “First Class” (Fuji)
8. “Roosevelt Game” (TBS)
9. “Kuroda Kanbei” (“Gushi Kanbei”) (NHK)
10. “Gomen ne seishun” (TBS)
2. Jibanyan (from Yo-Kai Watch)
We were pointed to this neat Kickstarter campaign for Runbell. The project offers “frustration free urban running”. As keen joggers ourselves, we certainly sympathize with its aims.
Ever been running in Tokyo or another city and encountered pedestrians going about their business in a way that means you can’t jog round them? This is particularly becoming a problem in Japan, where the population is rapidly aging. All this means more seniors clogging up the sidewalks. Not to sound disrespectful but at times they aren’t fully aware of others around them and for obvious reasons tend to move slower. The last thing you want to do is collide with someone or seem rude as your rush past dangerously close to them!
Enter the Runbell: “A stylish wearable bell for runners, solving the problem of how to courteously warn pedestrians on shared pathways.”
It is made from brass for quality of sound and is very adjustable, since people’s fingers come in all shapes and sizes and can even change depending on the temperature. The designers, husband and wife team Kevin Nadolny and Tomoko Yano, have thought of all the details, including making the metal allergy-free and even creating his-and-her versions.
We think this is a super neat idea and looks mighty fine too. There are just 9 days left to fund the campaign, which so far as raised around 75% of its target capital.
Learn more on Runbell on Kickstarter.
Have our worst dreams come true? After ASEAN, will the Opening Ceremony for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games feature a battalion of skimpily clad, underage girls representing Japan?!
This nightmare came closer to reality with the news that Yasushi Akimoto (55), the influential commercial producer of idol mega group AKB48, has been tapped to become a member of the executive board of the Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
“We do not know whether or not Akimoto will be responsible for directing the ceremonies, but he may be involved,” apparently said a source close to the committee.
Quite what a middle-aged music idol group producer has to do with the world’s most prestigious sporting event is anyone’s guess.
Other rumored board members make more sense, such as gymnast Rie Tanaka (26), hammer thrower Koji Murofushi (39), and swimmer Mayumi Narita (43), all whom have represented Japan in previous Olympic Games.
Our candidates for cultural and entertainment figures to be on the board instead of Akimoto include Ryuichi Sakamoto, the composer, Saburo Teshigawara, the dancer and choreographer, or perhaps even Koki Mitani, the playwright and filmmaker. And rather than the latest teenagers in the ranks of AKB48, let’s have Shiina Ringo, Awa Odori dancers and Aomori Nebuta Matsuri floats!
A football match on Saturday between the Urawa Reds, a major soccer team in the J-League Division 1 based in Saitama, just north of Tokyo, and Sagan Tosu, was marred by a banner hung at the venue with a message written in English — “JAPANESE ONLY”.
The match was a home game for the Urawa Reds and the club’s opener for the league. Pictures of the offensive banner quickly spread on social media over the weekend and the club managed to identify the culprits. Both the club and its players have expressed shocked over the banner and its offensive message.
It was hung at a concourse for an entrance gate at Saitama Stadium. Most people who saw it construed it as a xenophobic message, though it may have had a more esoteric purport — such as criticizing (or praising) the fact that the team did not include any non-Japanese players for the game, which the Urawa Reds went on to lose.
Are we to fear that sporting events — and local ones at that — are being invaded by racism?
This latest chilling incident comes after a series of similar developments that indicate a rise in nationalism and xenophobia in certain sections of Japanese society.
In the February Tokyo gubernatorial election in February, the polling results for far right-wing candidate Toshio Tamogami, a former Air Self-Defense Force chief of staff and prominent ultranationalist, also shocked many. Campaigning on a overtly rightist platform, he got 611,000 votes, finishing fourth out of the sixteen runners, with 12% of the total votes — a third of what winner Yoichi Masuzoe achieved. The candidate who has denied Japan’s aggression in World War II and openly challenges issues such as the comfort women got 24% of the votes of people in their twenties (second to Masuzoe), plus 17% among voters in their thirties.
Tamogami also has a lot of support from the fringe but voluble netto uyoku, ultranationalist netizens. One of Tamogami’s most vocal supporters in the non-digital sphere, though, was writer Naoki Hyakuta, recently appointed by the government to the governing board of the national broadcaster, NHK. Hyakuta has denied that the 1937 Nanjing (Nanking) Massacre took place and a film of his book, The Eternal Zero, has proved a remarkable box office success since its release in December.
The Eternal Zero is a war film about a young man who gets recruited to be one of the infamous kamikaze pilots ( tokkōtai or special attack squad). There have been numerous similarly commercial and sentimental war films in Japan over the last ten years which highlight the heroic suffering and death of the Japanese soldiers, conveniently shunning any focus on the reasons for the war or the moral complexities of the conflict. The Eternal Zero‘s success would be little to get worried about if it wasn’t for all the other developments that might indicate a broader shift in mentality.
The outspoken Hyakuta works for national broadcaster NHK, which has also found itself into hot water through the remarks of its newly appointed chairman Katsuto Momii that seemed to downplay the significance of comfort women.
333 items from the Chiran Peace Museum in Minami-Kyushu have also recently been submitted for entry in the UNESCO’s Memory of the World, the register of important international documents that includes the Magna Carta and the Declaration of the Rights of Man.
The Chiran Peace Museum is located on a site where the kamikaze pilots took off to attack the US navy. The museum houses around 14,000 items, such as portraits of the 1,036 pilots who died in the suicide missions towards the end of the war. The collection of documents submitted to UNESCO are last letters written by the pilots before they set off for their final sorties. Every year between 400,000 and 700,000 people visit the museum.
Memorialization can also be construed as celebration or even approval, which is especially troubling in the case of the kamikaze pilots, who were often forced into their suicide missions and whose last letters were likely censored. While films like The Eternal Zero glorify their role, the true context of the events is lost to yet another generation, who needless to say do not study it properly on the national curriculum. Nanjing has responded with submitting its own documents recording and proving the massacre that happened at the city in 1937.
Recently there has been a surge in hate rallies organized by groups like the Zaitokukai, attended by very different sorts of people to the usual ultranationalist black van fringe. They are a small minority but a disturbing one nonetheless.
There have also been an increase in cases of discrimination and other signs of hate against Koreans and Chinese, such as graffiti on vending machines in Shin-Okubo in Tokyo, an area with a visible Korean population.
The western media was also quick to pin the recent strange case of 300 copies of Anne Frank’s Diary being vandalized in public libraries in Tokyo on the racists. (Japan has a tradition of anti-semitism on both the right and the left fringes.) But should we be worried? It is too early to tell, though coupled with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s efforts to change Japan’s military’s constitutional role and his visit to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine, any incident, no matter how minor, is going to rattle the nerves of Japan’s neighbors and western allies.
With Japanese businesses expected to post another record January trade deficit, things look grim for the economy. And when a society faces a fiscal crisis, its people resort to extremes. It is worth remembering that in the turbulent years running up to Hitler’s seizure of power in Germany, only two parties won increases in votes during the frequent elections — the Communist Party and the Nazi Party. The task now is to get the nation out of the doldrums before the extremists can take advantage of vulnerable citizens.
Scuba divers ordinarily use hand signals to communicate underwater but thanks to Casio Yamagata’s Logosease, now they can talk to each other almost as if they are walking on dry ground. All you need to do is face towards your fellow diver(s).
The Logosease modulates your voice into ultrasonic waves. You just tap once to start transmitting. Then you speak into the bone conduction microphone and tap to finish your transmission through the water. Your fellow diver then receives the ultrasonic waves and their Logosease unit will demodulate them via the speaker into an audible voice.
Typically if divers want to talk to each other they have to wear special face masks which are heavy and expensive. The Logosease, though, is affordable and easy to wear, and does not cover the whole face. Simply attach the device to your diving mask and you will be able to talk through the air regulator in your mouth.
The Logosease has a range from 50 to 100 meters (164-328 feet) and can function as far as 40 meters (131 feet) underwater. Of course, voice quality is not going to be as good as when speaking regularly on land but Casio still hails this as a world-first for an instrument of its kind.
It has also been approved recently as a distinctive specialty by the Professional Association of Diving Instructors (PADI) and promises to be an indispensable item for scuba divers around the world.
Thank God for hipsters. When all else fails and the media is amok with already notorious reports (supported by dubious stats) that Japanese people apparently no longer have sex, you can always at least rely on the fashionista to still find ways to enjoy themselves.
Tweed Run Tokyo took place on October 14th, featuring some 150 tweed-dressed cyclists going for a ride around the city. No, they weren’t out on some stag hunt, nor was this a Sherlock Holmes fanatics’ event. It was actually part of Fashion Week and is a spin-off from the original Tweed Run in London. The British version started in 2009, while the Tokyo “run” happened first in 2012 and with the amount of publicity it generated, surely next year’s edition is a sure thing.
“It’s so Tokyo, I would say,” one of the participants told the media. “We are using this traditional fabric in many modern ways. It’s part of the diversity of fashion.”
“So Tokyo”? Well, I wouldn’t say that. Except for the odd bit of Aoyama backstreet tomfoolery, you’d be hard-pressed to find many regular folk dressing as dapper as this. Still it makes a change from the usual exquisitely, expensively decked-out runners and cyclists that can be glimpsed around the Imperial Palace.
Given that this is the nation that created the culture of cosplay, we shouldn’t be in the least surprised that 150 cyclists jumped at the chance to dress up for a group bike ride.
This year’s event saw the costumed bikers tour leisurely from Gaienmae to Ginza over a couple of hours, and the participants seemed like a reasonable mix of ages, though it was clearly male-dominated.
We wonder whether they could introduce some sort of Japanese flavor to the proceedings. How about cycling around in kimono? Oh, hang on…
Anyone who lives in Nagoya can check out the city’s own version of the Tweed Run — remember, it’s cycling, not jogging — on October 26th (barring another typhoon).