Disability Japan Paralympics Tokyo 2020

A disabled foreigner visits the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Store in Shinjuku

"A visit to Tokyo for work-related reasons in August 2018 left me with some free time, and I decided to visit the ‘Tokyo 2020 Store’ at BIC Camera store in Shinjuku. I am really not a naysayer about Tokyo 2020 and wanted my piece of it."

By Barrier Free Japan

November 9th 2018

I have never been a cynic about a country hosting the Olympics and Paralympics. I left Britain for Japan in August 2012; one of my few regrets about leaving Britain at that time is that I never got to experience the London 2012 Paralympic Games in Britain.

So I was really excited when Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics Games. As a disabled person I have been really impressed how Japan based broadcasters like NHK have been highlighting the profiles of Japanese paralympians.

In February 2018, Japan unveiled its Olympic and Paralympic mascots – ‘Miraitowa’ and ‘Someity’ – they were named in late July 2018 – drawn by the Fukuoka based artist Ryo Taniguchi. In a similar fashion to the heroes of Japanese manga, they were given ‘superpowers’ and the Olympic mascot ‘Miraitowa’ was described in this way:

“The Olympic Mascot is a character that embodies both old tradition and new innovation. While cherishing tradition, it is always up to date with the latest news and information. The Mascot has a strong sense of justice and is very athletic. The Mascot also has a special power allowing it to move anywhere instantaneously. The Olympic Mascot was born from a traditional chequered pattern and a futuristic vision of the world.”

And the Paralympic Mascot ‘Someity’ was described like this:

“The Paralympic Mascot is a cool character with cherry tactile sense and a supernatural power. The Mascot is usually calm, however it gets very powerful when needed. It has a dignified inner strength and a kind heart that loves nature. It can talk with stones and the wind. It can also move things just by looking at them. The Paralympic Mascot was born from a traditional chequered pattern and cherry blossom flowers.”

A visit to Tokyo for work-related reasons in August 2018 left me with some free time, and I decided to visit the ‘Tokyo 2020 Store’ at BicCamera store in Shinjuku. I am really not a naysayer about Tokyo 2020 and wanted my piece of it.

On entering the shop I was struck by one thing in particular: some of the shop was divided by sex and ‘ability’, so that in the ‘women’s section’ there were clothes and other items displaying the mascot and signage of the Paralympics – and admittedly sometimes the Olympics – however, the ‘men’s section’ was almost exclusively displaying clothing and paraphernalia to do with the Olympics.

It made wonder whether I was meant to think that men would simply not be interested in the Paralympics – but women – like the Paralympic mascot ‘Someity’ with its ‘kind heart’, would obviously be interested in the Paralympics.

I appreciate that those who design the layout of the shop have to put the clothes somewhere, and recognize that the store was small. I’m certain no sexist or ableist message was intended by those who designed the layout of the shop, and yet the layout of the shop troubled me. There was a unisex section selling T-shirts for people of all sexes that had both the Olympic and Paralympic logos, but I don’t understand why such a way of displaying their wares couldn’t have been the guiding policy in the shop’s entire layout.

I am delighted to say that the staff at the shop spoke very good English, and I left with a ‘Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games’ umbrella, a T-Shirt and my very own ‘Someity’ mascot.

Gambatte Japan for Tokyo 2020!


Open hours for the Shinjuku Tokyo 2020 Olympic Store: 10:00-21:00 (Everyday)

Address: BicCamera Shinjuku West Store 2F
1-5-1, Nishishinjuku, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo,
Tel: 03-5326-1111 (main telephone number)

Website for Tokyo 2020 Olympic Stores (in English): https://tokyo2020.org/en/news/notice/20181001-01.html


3 comments on “A disabled foreigner visits the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Store in Shinjuku

  1. William Johnston

    You have a lot of very good points. I am not disabled myself, so I cannot speak from that perspective. What I can tell you is this: the mascots themselves were picked by Japanese children from a grouping of other mascots which included shinto creatures (a fox and tanuki respectively). This may be a very large assumption, but the division -could- be due to the culture.

    Men and women are still treated very differently in Japan. There’s a ying-yang sort of ideal mixed with a 50’s aesthetic. The “kind heart” and ‘Someity’s” appearance could be something where the Japanese are trying to push the idea of consciousness of disability. It also could be the “kawaii” aspect. Both characters are considered Kawaii but the shopkeeper could be thinking that the “Someity” character appeals more to women than men. Honestly, these are all speculation.

    What I do know for certain is that the Japanese have been slowly adapting to allow more and more disabled conscious mindset. There’s a remarkable gentleman who uses a wheelchair and who works as a consultant to the Tokyo Metropolitan Govt so that they are more conscientious about disabilities. There are subtle things a visitor to Japan won’t notice on first glance, such as the yellow hued tiles/guideways in stations which are meant to be used by the disabled.

    I am curious to know if you agree with my assessment, or if you have a different perspective.


    • Thank you for reading and your comment, it is nice to know that someone is reading my blog and takes time to write about it.

      You are right to point out that the mascots were chosen by children however, as far as I am aware the mascot’s ‘character descriptions’ were not written by the children, if so there is no reason that ‘Someity’ should have a ‘kind heart’ as a trait.

      I think we are broadly in agreement, both about the way men and women are treated in Japan and how Japan is “slowly adapting to allow more and more disabled conscious mindset”. I do believe that Japan is trying to be more pro-active when it comes to disability issues, and I do applaud Japan for such efforts. However, my plaudits come with this caveat: Looking at the way Japan deals with disability issues when it is a criminal matter – see for example, forced sterilization, where compensation is to be offered to the victims, but only if they know they have been sterilized, their medical records will not be disclosed – does not recommend Japan as a being ‘positive about disability’. One could also look at the way the Sagamihara killings are being dealt with, it has been two years since those killings and it is still in the ‘pre-trial hearing’ phase.

      I’m sure most of this is ‘mis-management’ of the issues rather than the result of a sinister intent, as I wrote above, I do believe Japan is trying to be ‘pro-active’ on these issues. The media, especially NHK and newspapers like The Mainichi has been good at highlighting such issues. I suppose I just think it could be better at being pro-active. For example, I suspect the ‘gentleman who uses a wheelchair’ was hired rather recently, he should have been in place long ago. One might also suggest that the Japanese Government have a ‘Minister for Disabled People’ (as Britain does) whose responsibility is to attend to such issues.


      • William Johnston

        I am new to wordpress, and just found your blog. I try to read and comment on blogs as I find them, and if a topic in particular interests me. This falls not only into interest, however, but intrigue. I like learning about perspectives. I like learning how others view or face things that are different to my experiences. I know that as someone who isn’t disabled, Japan was a very unique experience being that I could walk up the many, many flights of stairs in temples, castles and other places.

        It is true about the description, but if I recall correctly and please tell me if I am wrong, the description went out with the designs. Personally I liked the tanuki and kitsune designs since they seemed more traditional and I thought they didn’t differentiate on gender or whatever as much as the other two contestant designs. I understand why one of those others won though, kids in Japan, especially tokyo where a mass majority are, like the pokemonesque look. At least, that is my impression.

        I had not heard of the forced sterilization issue until now and I am intrigued to hear more. I wholeheartedly agree that the Prime Minister or the Diet itself should make a cabinet level position to represent the disabled population. With 2020 looming, such issues are probably a good time to champion. Perhaps appealing to the Paralympic committee? I am not sure.


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