Report: Tokyo 2020 Cultural Olympiad Kick-Off Event

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games, Tokyo Metropolitan Government, the Arts Council Tokyo (Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture) and Mitsui Fudosan Co., Ltd. jointly held a kick-off event on Friday 7 October to launch the Tokyo 2020 Cultural Olympiad, an ambitious programme of cultural activities that will run over the four years leading up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The event was held on the Fukutoku Garden Special Stage in Tokyo's Nihonbashi district.

The Japanese actress SHELLY, a member of the Culture and Education Commission, opened the ceremony and unveiled the logo created specially for the Tokyo 2020 Cultural Olympiad. A ribbon-cutting ceremony then took place, followed by the declaration of the domestic and international kick-off of the Tokyo 2020 Cultural Olympiad.

Performances fusing traditional arts and the latest technologies for which Japan is famous were presented on an innovative stage. The musical programme consisted of traditional “Sanbaso” celebratory dancing by Fujima Kanjuro VIII, head of the Soke-Fujima-Ryu Nihon Buyo dance school, and “Yoshino Tennin” by Umewaka Gensho, a holder of “Important Intangible Cultural Property” status for his “shite-kata” role in the Kanze-ryu school of Noh theatre.

Fujima Kanjuro, who has worked on the choreography for a great many kabuki performances, including at the Kabukiza, performed the “Sanbaso”, which calls for peace on earth and an abundant harvest. The dance's inclusion at the opening of the Cultural Olympiad represented a celebration of new beginnings, a treading of the earth and a levelling of the ground followed by a prayer for fruitful achievements in four years' time. This particular performance was a special version, with images of previous performers projected on monitors at the sides of the stage and with the audio presented in 360 degree stereophonic sound. Video and audio special effects employed at the Meijiza theatre were utilised to create a dynamic stage, brimming with presence.

Umewaka Gensho is one of the most famous Noh leading actors of his generation. He was recognised as a Living National Treasure in 2014 and remains tirelessly active in the renewal of timeless classics and in the creation and direction of new works. Umewaka's Yoshino Tennin is an ornate performance evoking otherworldly beauty which reveals heaven in people viewing the sakura blossom, admiring the flowers and treasuring the peace. The performance adopted sakura cherry blossoms, a symbol of Japan, as its theme. This was based on the concept of the blossoming of the flowers of sports and culture, signifying the gathering of Japanese and people from across the world at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The theme was also employed in special video format, with the performance appearing to be transformed by a CG video of sakura trees and a snowstorm of falling blossoms, presented as a real-time projection matching the performers' movements. Finally, a snowstorm of real blossoms erupted from both ends of the venue, delighting the assembled audience.
The dance of the sakura petals carried by the crisp autumn wind was a fittingly beautiful opening to the Cultural Olympiad.

We can all look forward to a whole host of cultural and artistic initiatives across Japan leading up to 2020.

About the Tokyo 2020 Cultural Olympiad
The "Tokyo 2020 Cultural Olympiad" is a festival of culture being held from October 2016 up to the close of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games. The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is working to support cultures in Japan and across the world and pass them down to future generations by stimulating communities with the power of culture and art, encouraging the participation of young people and fostering creativity. We will develop a diverse Tokyo 2020 Cultural Olympiad by collaborating with governments, authorities and cultural and art organisations throughout Japan to extend this initiative across the country.

Experience the event for yourself in our YouTube video.
Tokyo 2020 Cultural Olympiad Kickoff(Open in a new window)

Commission member SHELLY acting as host Ceremony "Sanbaso" by Fujima Kanjuro "Yoshino Tennin" by Umewaka Gensho Sakura snow storm