Philip Patrick Philip Patrick

Did the people of Tokyo ever really want the Olympics anyway?

One of the first things you need to learn abut Japan is the concept of honne and tatemae. ‘Hone’ refers to one’s true feelings, and ‘tatemae’ is what one says in public. It doesn’t take very long to learn that the two are very rarely aligned.

In a bizarre time warp moment the official Olympic countdown clock that stands outside Tokyo station was reset on Monday (it reads: 478 days to Tokyo 2020(?)). It will no doubt soon be reported that ‘the people of Tokyo’ have been devastated by the postponement, that they had, as one, been passionately enthusiastic about the event, eagerly anticipating the chance to welcome the world for a fortnight of history-making sporting excellence. Much of this will be said by the Japanese themselves; but the truth, as so ever with Japan, is more complex.

Lack of local support had been cited as one reason Tokyo was not chosen to host the 2016 games, so most media outlets took no chances with 2020 with positive and supportive reporting of the bid setting the tone for all subsequent coverage. NHK, the state broadcaster, even produced a patriotic yearlong drama series ‘Idaten’ based on Japan’s hosting of the 1964 Olympics in its prime Sunday evening slot. A concerted effort was undertaken to create an image of a nation united in support and giddy with enthusiasm, and smother any dissent under a blanket of positivity.

Despite these efforts, some naysayer’s voices broke through. Popular tabloid Nikkan Gendai (unlike most newspapers, not a sponsor of the games) has been solidly against it from the start. And high-profile media commentators such as former Asahi TV news anchor Hiroshi Kume, has expressed strident opposition, via his TBS radio show,.

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