One of the characters for one of Tokyo 2020’s four NIPPON Festival programmes will convey recovery and charm of the Tohoku region to the world.
The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) on Wednesday unveiled the design of a 12-meter-high puppet which will make appearances during one of the four main cultural programmes organised by Tokyo 2020 for the Cultural Olympiad. Puppets and mascots are popular symbols in Japanese culture, so Tokyo 2020 has created a giant puppet, named MOCCO, to symbolise the strength, resilience, and kindness of people in the disaster-affected Tohoku region.
MOCCO will be displayed at multiple festivals in the region to collect messages written by local people, and eventually it will be taken to Tokyo with the messages. The initiative is expected to unite people affected by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami and demonstrate to the world the charms of the Tohoku region, which is still recovering.
Under the leadership of creative director Michihiko Yanai, several renowned Japanese artists collaborated to come up with an outline of the programme and the design of MOCCO. Kankuro Kudo, a renowned Japanese screenwriter, director, actor and Japanese Academy Award winner, proposed the name MOCCO. Naoki Matayoshi, a Japanese comedian, screenwriter and Akutagawa Prize winner, came up with the story concept. Children in the disaster-hit prefectures of Fukushima, Iwate and Miyagi, inspired by the story, helped design MOCCO by contributing drawings that they created in workshops held in the three prefectures.Incorporating different ideas from the children’s designs, illustrator Ryoji Arai then created the following design.Then based on Arai’s design, puppet artist Noriyuki Sawa produced a three dimensional model of the puppet whose one-tenth-scale model was unveiled in the press event on Wednesday.
Creative director Michihiko Yanai (Special Assistant to the President and Faculty of Fine Arts Department of Design, Tokyo University of the Arts) said: “An important mission of these ‘Reconstruction Olympic and Paralympic Games’ is to create opportunities for people to learn about the status of Tohoku and to visit the region. This is one of the symbolic programmes of that mission."
"Working closely with Tohoku prefecture and the local people, we have created a Tokyo 2020 official cultural programme to show the world the status of Tohoku, which is still recovering from the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami. The programme will showcase the diverse cultures of Tohoku, including traditional culture, which are helping to fuel the reconstruction, and will leave a new legacy for the children of Tohoku.”
“In Miyagi, where I was born, the local dialect has the expression ‘odatsu mokko’. It refers to a sort of comical person who is influenced by the comments of others. It is said that ‘mokko’ comes from ‘mochikago’ (handbasket). So I chose the name MOCCO because the puppet will carry the thoughts of people around, as if in a basket.,” Kankuro Kudo added.
Ryoji Arai commented, “MOCCO suddenly appears. He looks a little scary, but in a charming way, so neither children nor anybody else is afraid of him. People tease him, but always with respect, and MOCCO understands that. MOCCO conveys dreams and hopes, so people laugh along with him and quietly make their wishes, hoping they will come true.”
Puppet designer Noriyuki Sawa, speaking on 21 May at the Rzeszów International Puppet Festival in Poland, said: “I’m currently touring Europe with my theatre colleagues. I have a show tomorrow and am preparing for it all-night tonight, but I can’t stop thinking about MOCCO. Local staff members here often ask me ‘Nori, how is it going with that huge puppet?’ And I tell them that everyone in Japan is working hard to ensure that our friends in Tohoku will be happy.”
About TOKYO 2020 NIPPON FESTIVAL
The Tokyo 2020 NIPPON Festival, an official cultural program of the Tokyo 2020 Games, will be held from April to September 2020. In addition to strongly disseminating Japan's proud culture both inside and outside Japan, the festival will promote the realisation of a symbiotic society, participation and exchange among diverse people, and opportunities for many people to participate in the Tokyo 2020 Games through cultural and artistic activities, and thereby build excitement for the Games.