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