From the amazing punctuality of services to the wide variety of services delivered – whichever way you look at it, Japan's passenger rail services are undoubtedly world class. Tokyo Metro Co., Ltd. (Tokyo Metro) and East Japan Railway Company (JR East) are Tokyo 2020 Official Partners in the category of Passenger Rail Transport Services, and these two companies perform an indispensable role in the daily lives of people across eastern Japan.
In 2017, the two companies kicked off a new joint project entitled TOKYO SPORTS STATION, which will play a major role in building excitement and momentum for the Tokyo 2020 Games by introducing various aspects of the sports and showing highlights of Games competitions on display screens inside train cars. In this interview, we spoke to staff from both Tokyo Metro and JR East about the TOKYO SPORTS STATION.
Fascinating point of "TOKYO SPORTS STATION"
Recently, TOKYO SPORTS STATION has been a regular feature on display screens inside train cars, as well as posters. The contents have very high quality and have great way to communicate information to the general public effectively. What was it that made the two companies get together to undertake this project?
Ms. Tanaka, Assistant Manager, Olympic and Paralympic Project, Management Planning Department, JR East
During the 1,000 Days to Go countdown event, the conversation turned to whether it might be possible for the two official partner companies in the Passenger Rail Transport Services category to do something together. We held a brainstorming session to come up with ideas on how we might work together towards building momentum and excitement in the lead up to the Games, and that's how we hit on the idea of the TOKYO SPORTS STATION, which will introduce sports and show highlights of Games competitions. JR East and Tokyo Metro placed posters in each other's trains to announce the start of the project.
What are the attractions of the TOKYO SPORTS STATION?
Mr. Imoto, Deputy Manager, Public Relations Publicity Section, Deputy Manager, Olympic and Paralympic Promotion Office, Tokyo Metro
I think that introducing the sporting highlights in a slightly surprising way and making the viewer feel that he/she is discovering something new will be among the attractions. We hope that this somewhat unusual approach will prompt people to become interested in the different Games events and competitions. When I showed a proposed plan to work colleagues, there was invariably a reaction with several of them saying, “Oh really!” and “Wow, I didn't know that!” Personally, I thought that the image of surfers looking at weather forecasts to try to find out how the waves would be the next day was quite enlightening. Even though they may seem fairly insignificant, I think that these kinds of small things arouse interest in various Games competitions.
By using trivia and fun ways of introducing things, I think we can pique people's interest in the Tokyo 2020 Games, and they will also start to become more engaged in the Games. We place importance on evoking reactions such as “Wow, that's interesting,” or “Well, I never knew that!” And this will guide our planning going forward.
We received a comment from a customer saying, “I saw a video featuring Wheelchair basketball, and I would love to see more Para sports and other sports that are not very well-known. Good luck with your planning.” When I read this message, I was over the moon. It really made an impression on me, and served as further motivation to continue the project.
It's difficult to portray the attractions of particular sports in 15 or 60 second videos or in a single poster. That's why the two companies put their heads together and decided to go ahead with this project.
I think it's vitally important that we choose words and expressions that are accurate and easily comprehensible to enable viewers to understand with just a single glance. Members of staff at the company check the content from a variety of perspectives, and many revisions and alterations are made.
Mr. Ishikawa, Deputy Manager, Olympic and Paralympic Project, Management Planning Department, JR East
JR East is also conducting a number of construction projects at Shinanomachi station, Sendagaya station and Harajuku station as well as other stations that are close to Games venues. We have informed staff that they should see the success of the Tokyo 2020 Games as an essential part of their personal growth, and everyone feels part of the various ongoing initiatives. We are working hard on projects to raise momentum among not only station staff, train drivers and conductors who come into direct contact with passengers but also our maintenance workers and other staff.
This collaboration has made both companies even more determined to overcome any adversity and cooperate on transportation during the Tokyo 2020 Games
Are there any particular things that make you glad that you decided to launch the TOKYO SPORTS STATION as a joint project? Are there any factors that have been particularly difficult?
The national government of Japan has been a strong advocate of the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. Actually, it's not that unusual for rail companies to work together on projects, but what made this particular joint project possible was that it afforded both companies the opportunity to deepen relations with each other. Among the factors that have made the collaboration difficult are the fact that each company has different decision-making processes and corporate values, and we have to go through a process of compromise until we reach a final decision on what we present to the public. However, overcoming these factors is an important part of the project. Also, this collaboration has made both companies even more determined to overcome any adversity and cooperate on transportation during the Tokyo 2020 Games.
As Mr. Tanaka said, there are some things that haven't always been smooth sailing, but I'm really glad that we have been able to work together on an interesting project aimed at raising interest and excitement in the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020.
Could you tell us about any further developments for the TOKYO SPORTS STATION?
First of all, we plan to produce contents for all the sports included in the Tokyo 2020 Games. With interest and excitement in the Games continuing to rise among the general public, we are looking forward to our project reaching new heights and making a significant contribution to the success of the Games.
We recently broadcast a compilation of the sports that we have introduced to date at an event, and this was very well received by many people attending the event. We will continue to show our TOKYO SPORTS STATION at a diverse range of locations and settings, and our overriding hope is that more and more people will see the videos and become interested in the Tokyo 2020 Games.
I think it would be great if both companies could work together on other projects going forward and demonstrate our collective strengths.
Contribution to raising momentum within the company by being partner of the Tokyo 2020 Games.
Could you please tell us about any changes that have occurred at your company or any new projects you are undertaking as a result of becoming a Tokyo 2020 Official Partner?
To tell you the truth, I was never very interested in sports, but since we have become a Tokyo 2020 Official Partner and started working together on the TOKYO SPORTS STATION project, I am beginning to change my mind about sports. As this project entails us urging people to watch the different sports, it has also contributed to raising momentum within the company.
Ms. Nagata, Olympic and Paralympic Promotion Office, Tokyo Metro
Tokyo Metro is undertaking various initiatives aimed at realising our corporate group philosophy “Keeping Tokyo on the Move.” During the Tokyo 2020 Games, we will also continue to share the charms of Tokyo by playing the role of a "Navigator of Tokyo" and provide smooth passenger rail transportation services, as a "Vital link in Tokyo's transportation network”. We are also carrying out a range of initiatives including flood countermeasures, installing platform gates, constructing barrier-free facilities, installing multilingual signage and the renewal of the Ginza Line. All these initiatives are being carried out under the following key phrases “world-leading level of reassurance to passengers”, “Easy-to-understand and comfortable metro system” and “Cooperation with communities and residents of areas along our lines to make Tokyo fun!”
We also anticipate that many more people than usual will be using stations close to the Games venues, and based on our inspections of passenger safety within the stations and identifying flow obstructions through simulations in stations close to Games venues, we are already examining such procedures as increasing the numbers of station and security staff and where they should be positioned, operations to handle huge increases in passenger numbers, as well as increasing the number of trains we operate and extending the times of last trains.
Tokyo will be welcoming a huge number of overseas athletes, spectators and visitors for the Olympic and Paralympic Games. What are thoughts on so many overseas visitors coming to Japan? We would like them to get the impression that Japan is an amazing country and that they would definitely like to come back again.
I think there are many things associated with stations that will make visitors glad they came to Japan. JR East is urging other rail companies to cooperate with the Vocal Support Campaign it has established. Naturally, we expect this of our station staff, but we are calling on others to ask overseas visitors who appear to be having trouble if they can be of assistance. If the Vocal Support Campaign takes root, it will become a natural reaction to offer assistance to visitors not only in 2020 but way beyond.
An easy-to-understand and comfortable metro system is important, and I hope that visitors will not only visit the Games competitions but also take the time to see some of the other many attractions Tokyo has to offer. I just hope that all visitors have a fantastic time in Tokyo and leave with great memories.
Passion for the Tokyo 2020
Please tell us about your hopes for the Games!
I am a member of the company's Olympic and Paralympic promotion team, and I will come into contact with many sports that I had no previous knowledge of, so my hopes for the Tokyo 2020 Games are very high. During our lifetimes, this will probably be the only opportunity we have to work with the Olympic and Paralympic Games. I want to make the best use of the knowledge and experience I have acquired to date, and share our achievements with all the other people involved
The Tokyo 2020 Games will be a huge festival taking place in the city in which I live. I want to enjoy this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to the fullest, and work towards providing support and momentum for the Games. My company will be supporting the Games from the perspective of providing public transport, but I hope this will lead to both the company and myself personally being able to aim for even higher heights in the future. I am trying to come up with a plan that will enable our staff to share in the experience.
As this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I am aiming to exert the utmost efforts into making full use of the ideas I have had and initiatives I've been involved in so far. I think it's really important to raise interest and excitement among our staff. I would also like to communicate to people in areas that aren't directly hosting Games competitions that the 2020 Games are for everyone. We are responsible for these kinds of activities within the company. JR East's operations cover a wide area, and I believe that there is great potential for all staff across the spectrum to engage with the Games. I will be trying my hardest to make this a reality.
The year 2020, is not the end for railway companies and they will continue on for many, many years to come. People from across the whole of Japan and indeed from around the world will be gathering in Tokyo, and through our contributions to the success of the Games, we will be promoting our group philosophy encapsulated by the slogan “Keeping Tokyo on the Move”, and we hope that many more people will become aware of Tokyo Metro and the vital role it plays in the nation's capital. Until I was assigned to the company's Olympic and Paralympic Promotion Office I wasn't particularly interested in sports, but now I am hoping to discover the fun and enjoyment of sports both at work and in my non-working hours.
Legacies of Tokyo 2020 Games
What do you think the main legacies of the Tokyo 2020 Games will be?
I think there will be several initiatives both tangible and intangible including countermeasures against earthquake, floods and other natural disasters; the construction of barrier-free facilities; the installation of platform gates; further improvements in the provision of information both in stations and on the trains; and raising excitement ahead of the Games. These initiatives will lead to further enhancing Tokyo's branding capabilities and attractions as an international city. I also believe that being part of these efforts to support the urban functions of our nation's capital city will give me greater self-confidence and pride in my work.
I feel that one major difference from the Tokyo 1964 Games is the development of Para sports. As Tokyo Metro is an underground railway operator, our stations include stairs and various other barriers. That's why I feel that the construction of barrier-free facilities will be the most important legacy for us.
I think the legacies will become more apparent later. I don't think they will all be tangible. As Mr. Imoto has mentioned, barrier-free facilities will be an important legacy. But the sense of achievement we will feel having successfully completed various initiatives as well as the framework put in place to provide information for Games operations may also become important intangible legacies.
Last year, JR East celebrated its 30th anniversary. For the next 30 years we have devised a communications slogan “Ticket to Tomorrow” to encourage each and every one of our staff to challenge themselves and discover new possibilities, and raise overall company performance levels. It's difficult to sum up our legacies in just a word or two, but I think our efforts to encourage a mindset of challenging oneself and discover new possibilities, which is encompassed in our slogan “Ticket to Tomorrow” will be one of JR East's major legacies. I am constantly pondering how best to connect this with our initiatives for the Olympic and Paralympic Games towards the year 2020 and beyond, and I will do my best to come up with measures to realise this.
I really believe that the key to the high level of Japan's passenger railway services is the professionalism of all members of staff and the thorough improvements. Tokyo's stations are often described as 'the face of Tokyo', and I am really looking forward to seeing what kind of changes they undergo by 2020.