Tokyoites get early start on Olympics hospitality

Members of Machida Sado-kai offer ceremonial tea to visitors to Machida Gymnasium in late September.

Some Tokyo residents and companies are getting a head start on preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics as they offer hospitality services near venues of the 68th National Sports Festival of Japan, which closes Tuesday.

Activities have included cleaning the streets and holding tea ceremonies for visitors near the venues of the festival, which opened late last month. For example, volleyball matches were held Sept. 29 in Machida Gymnasium in Machida, western Tokyo. Near the entrance gate, a tea ceremony house was set up with a five-meter-wide golden byobu folding screen and a bright red parasol, called nodate-gasa in Japanese. It looked out of place at a sports event.

Soka Takano, the 61-year-old head of the Machida Sado-kai tea ceremony association in the city, and her kimono-clad students prepared tea using utensils featuring chestnuts and other autumn patterns.

"Samurai warriors had tea to calm their minds before going into battle," Takano said.

Maiko Murase, 16, a second-year high school student from Gifu Prefecture, came to the site to cheer on a friend participating in the sports event. "The nice tea and hospitality of all the people here made me feel comfortable," she said with a smile.

Tea ceremonies are very popular in Machida, and the city government asked Machida Sado-kai to help conduct tea ceremonies for 500 people on a first-come, first-served basis during the three days when the sports event was held in the city. Tea ceremonies are also popular among foreign tourists. Takano is already thinking ahead to the Olympics seven years from now, saying, "I want people from overseas to feel Japan's sense of harmony."

The main arena of the sports festival is Ajinomoto Stadium in Chofu. Many marigolds, the official flower of this year's festival, have been placed along the streets to the stadium from nearby Tobitakyu Station on the Keio Line.

The city government and its chamber of commerce and industry asked residents to plant and grow the flowers. Beginning in June, local children and volunteers planted the marigolds in planters donated by citizens groups. Local residents and employees of nearby restaurants took care of the plants, watering them and removing dead leaves.

Ajinomoto Stadium will be the venue for modern pentathlon and other events in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The city government therefore plans to leave the planters in place after the 2013 event, if local residents consent.

Though keeping the planters will require frequent care such as watering and replanting, Hidefumi Kubota, an assistant chief of the city government's section for promotion of the sports festival, was optimistic.

"We managed to make the city bright, so I hope such efforts will continue until the Tokyo Olympics," he said.

Sailing events are located in the Wakasu district of Koto Ward. On Sept. 18, all 36 companies located in the district cooperated for the first time to collect garbage.

For about 1½ hours before the start of their day's work, 132 of the companies' employees collected such garbage as empty bento boxes and cans that were scattered on roads and in other places. They also distributed leaflets to resting truck drivers to urge them not to throw garbage on the streets.

The district has no residents. Five companies that are core members of a local corporate association began cleaning the district in 2005.

At an explanation meeting attended by all the companies, Teruo Harashima, 63, managing director of Tokyo Lumber Terminal Co., asked for cooperation regarding the sailing events for the Tokyo Olympics, which will be held in the area.

"The cleanliness of a township is the first step in its hospitality," he said.

The first cleaning activity was conducted before the start of the sports festival, so there would be enough time to prepare. The companies plan to continue the cleaning activities once a month over the next seven years.

Harashima said, "I hope this kind of activity will spread to other districts and that people will feel that every township in Japan is clean and safe."