Tokyo 2020 NIPPON Festival activities to kick off with world premiere of joint kabuki and opera performance

05 Apr 2019
IOC News

The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games (Tokyo 2020) revealed an outline of its four planned contributions to the Tokyo 2020 NIPPON Festival, a programme aimed at promoting Japanese culture within Japan and globally, and encouraging a greater awareness of diversity in the build-up to the Tokyo 2020 Games. The programme is scheduled to run from April 2020 to September 2020. 

Forming part of the Tokyo 2020 Cultural Olympiad programme, the Tokyo 2020 NIPPON Festival is expected to be a source of new cultural experiences and inspiration that will provide a legacy for the future.

The Tokyo 2020 NIPPON Festival aims to encourage people from various backgrounds to participate in joint projects and communicate with each other in order to promote the concept of an inclusive society. It also aims to give people an opportunity to become involved in the Olympic and Paralympic Movements, creating a sense of anticipation in advance of the Games by means of its various cultural and artistic events.

Tokyo 2020 also unveiled a concept movie and the Tokyo 2020 NIPPON Festival catchphrase – “Blooming of Culture” – which will be used to embody the objectives and values of the festival. Designed to reflect the experience of meeting new people and the importance of the four seasons in Japanese culture, the catchphrase and its Japanese equivalent are easy to remember and pronounce, and will help generate interest in the Festival across Japan and all over the world. The concept movie was produced by various distinguished contributors including Asao Tokolo, designer of the Tokyo 2020 emblems and Tokyo 2020 NIPPON Festival logo.

The themes and provisional titles of Tokyo 2020’s own four Festival programmes are as follows:

1. Celebrating the Start of the Games (provisional title: “Kabuki x Opera”)

2. Participation, Interaction and Dialogue (provisional title: “TOMODACHI; Making Friends with People Around the World - Meeting, Talking and Creating Together”)

3. Diversity and Inclusion (provisional title: Paralympic Movement – Different Personality, Same Beat”)

4. Reconstruction of the Tohoku Region (provisional title: “From Tohoku to Tokyo”)

Ebizo (Getty Images)

The details of each programme are as follows:

1. Kabuki x Opera

The first theme is “Celebrating the Start of the Games”, which in April 2020 will kick off with the world's first stage performance fusing the intangible eastern and western cultural assets of kabuki and opera. The stage on which the performances will take place will feature different aspects of “integration and coexistence between western and eastern cultures and a comparison between the traditional and the modern” – a new cultural initiative that will remain as a legacy after the Games. In this programme, one of Japan’s most famous Kabuki actors, Ichikawa Ebizo XI, and the Maestro Plácido Domingo will collaborate on stage together in Tokyo.

Ebizo commented: “It is an honour and a privilege to be given an opportunity to take part in this exciting performance celebrating the opening of the Tokyo 2020 NIPPON Festival. I’ve always believed that, in addition to 2020 being a sports festival, it is also a great occasion to present the beauty and grandeur of Japanese culture to the world. Above all, we will attempt a new performance which combines kabuki and opera together with the world-renowned opera singer Plácido Domingo. Kabuki and opera may seem very different at first glance, but these performing arts have a lot of similarities, including their origins and historical backgrounds. I look forward to seeing what we will be able to create for the event. It is indeed my wish for many of you to join us in this special celebration in April 2020.”

Maestro Domingo added: “I have never imagined that my stage performances over the years would bear fruit in the form of a new kabuki performance. This performance will be a special cultural event commemorating the Olympic and Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020, and I am proud and honoured to have the opportunity to perform on that stage. I look forward to performing with the young kabuki star Ebizo, and I hope to learn from him the basics of kabuki acting. I’ve always loved Japan and its cultural background. I couldn’t help admiring the unique ties that Japanese people have built between art and beauty. I am therefore honoured to be a part of Japanese culture, even though it may be for just one night.”

Plácido Domingo (Getty Images)

2. TOMODACHI; Making Friends with People Around the World - Meeting, Talking and Creating Together

In July 2020, just before the Olympic Games, various events will be hosted under the second theme of “Participation, Interaction and Dialogue”. This programme will create opportunities for people of all ages — particularly children, both in Japan and in other countries — to communicate through the medium of Japanese culture with the participation of various artists. Discussions are underway with the aim of staging a finale event in Tokyo that will unify hearts around the world.

3. Paralympic Movement – Different Personality, Same Beat

In August 2020, just before the commencement of the Paralympic Games, various artistic displays and performances will be staged by a diverse range of people from different backgrounds, including members of the LGBT community and those with impairments. Their participation in the programme will project their personalities and help create new cultural activities based on the theme of “Diversity and Inclusion”.

Creative director of the programme Kenji Kohashi commented: “It is easy to talk about a diverse and inclusive society but it is hard to take action. The reason is that we all grow up in different circumstances and are all different in our way of thinking, our way of life and our appearance. On the other hand, when you look at it from the molecular and cellular level, we are created by the same nature and more than anything we have the same beat. In this festival, I would like to create an experience that goes beyond our various boundaries to a place where different beats resonate.”

4. From Tohoku to Tokyo

During May and July 2020, a programme will be staged in Tokyo and in the Tohoku area under the final theme of “Reconstruction of the Tohoku Region”. A large doll called “MOCCO” will travel around Tohoku and then to Tokyo, collecting local citizens’ messages on the way. New cultural activities are being planned to highlight the many stories the doll is expected to bring back from its experiences of meeting people in the Tohoku region and learning about their local culture.

Creative director of the final programme, Michihiko Yanai, commented: “The Tokyo 2020 Games will be the ‘Recovery Games Connecting with Tokyo and Tohoku’. We believe that one of the major missions of the Tokyo 2020 Games is to make more people aware of the current situation in Tohoku and to encourage them to visit there. I hope that the local citizens will think it was a good idea to host some of the Tokyo 2020 events in the region. It is great to share people’s smiles widely and boost their spirits with the MOCCO doll, cheering them up. The journey of the MOCCO doll will continue after the Games.”

Related News
  • Tokyo 2020

    Olympic flag returns to Tokyo following successful nationwide tour

back to top