Japan: DIJ-research on the impact of the Tokyo Olympics on Japanese society
Postponed by a year due to the Corona pandemic, a first in Olympic history, the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 have begun on July 23, 2021. Another Olympic first is that these Games are held without almost any spectators. The German Institute for Japanese Studies Tokyo (DIJ) has analyzed the immense efforts Japan undertook to bring the Games to Tokyo in a recent publication.
"The Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020 were to be presented to the world under the motto of ‘Recovery Olympics’, symbolizing that Japan supposedly had overcome the triple disaster of March 2011. This corresponds just as little to the truth as the slogan issued in 2021 that the Tokyo Olympics could celebrate the ‘Global Recovery Olympics’ as victory over the coronavirus pandemic", says Sociologist and Japanologist Dr. Barbara Holthus, since 2018 Deputy Director of the German Institute of Japanese Studies Tokyo (DIJ). Her field research at the Games is through her role as volunteer for the Games. Her other research areas include Japan’s demographic and social change, as well as happiness and well-being, gender, and rural Japan.
Open access book: Japan through the lens of the Tokyo Olympics
Since May 2018, one research project of the DIJ are social, economic, and political aspects of the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games. Center stage enter of this research project takes the open access edited volume Japan through the lens of the Tokyo Olympics. The editors of the book are Barbara Holthus, Isaac Gagné and Franz Waldenberger (all DIJ), and Wolfram Manzenreiter (University of Vienna).The book went to print just when the news came in late March 2020 that the Games were to be postponed. A postscript on these very different Games was added.
"Tokyo 2020 was to show Japan as a country that embraces diversity and inclusiveness in society, fosters sustainability; it was to boost Japan's economy, improve social cohesion, create a feeling of unity and pride for the country, and increase citizens' active participation in fostering the well-being of society"
Hopes and efforts
The book describes in 34 short chapters not only the hopes and dreams that Japan had for the Olympics, but also the multilevel efforts to make them an outstanding success. It covers the political motivations, city planning and host town organization, financial issues, language use, volunteering at the Games, the anti-Olympics movement, attempts to implement the Olympic ideals of sustainability and inclusion, attitudes toward the Olympics in Japan's periphery, as well as the implementation of diversity in regards to disabilities, sexual minorities and partnerships, and much more.
The book offers hidden insights into the Games and provides a window onto Japanese society, economics, and politics through portraying the way the Olympic Games have influenced Japanese society, government, and businesses already for years before the Games had ever started.
Games under the Mask
To shed new light on "Tokyo 2020" in 2021, the Japanese-German Center Berlin (JDZB) in cooperation with the German Institute for Japanese Studies (DIJ) in Tokyo recently hosted a virtual panel discussion “Recovery Games under the Mask: The Tokyo Olympics through the Lens of Japan Scholars”, to discuss social, political, economic and historical aspects of the Games (Video on Youtube). Discussants were Sonja Ganseforth (Anti-Olympic Movement), Barbara Holthus (Volunteering), Axel Klein (Politics), Wolfram Manzenreiter (Media), and Torsten Weber (History), all authors in the recent publication.
The DIJ is a multidisciplinary research institute focused on contemporary Japanese society, economy, politics, and culture, as well as Japan’s international relations. The institute is part of the Max Weber Foundation, and is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research. It is located in the heart of Tokyo and was founded in 1988. The DIJ’s presence “on site” facilitates access to primary sources, allows field research as well as face-to-face contact with Japanese researchers, decision-makers and other stakeholders in Japan. "This enables us to investigate complex issues and current developments through own surveys and field research in a timely manner and on a continuous basis", stresses Holthus. In addition, the DIJ works closely with local and international partners. "Once the “Olympic dust” has settled, we return to our other focus areas," says Holthus, "for example, digital transformation, demographic change, diversity, or the discrepancy between urban and rural areas."
The editors and authors of the publication Japan Through the Lens of the Tokyo Olympics are well-published Japan scholars from the fields of political science, sociology, economics, history, anthropology, linguistics, social geography, and cultural studies. They are either current or former researchers of the DIJ or scholars at other universities, who are linked to the institute through other joint research projects. Author interviews are available on the DIJ YouTube channel.
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