Taekwondo at Tokyo 2020: It’s all about ‘Omotenashi’



Olympic Games Set to Provide Boost for Sport Nationwide

CHIBA, Japan (Sept 15, 2019) – Noboru Kanehara, president of the All-Japan Taekwondo Association has a message for overseas sports fans coming to the Summer Olympics in Tokyo 2020: “It’s all about omotenashi!” he says.

Er – “omotenashi?”

It is a difficult concept to explain, Kanehara says seriously. He frowns for a moment. Then he beams as he offers this writer a chocolate snack. “This is ‘omotenashi!’” he exclaims. “It means ‘traditional hospitality!’”

Japan is about to turn the omotenashi up to the maximum. Later this month, the Rugby World Cup kicks off in the nation, and next year hosts it big one – the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.

Chiba Gets Ready

The Olympic taekwondo competition runs from 25-28 July 2020 at the Chiba City Makuhari Mess, a 10,000-seat venue that will also host fencing and wrestling.

Chiba itself is a coastal, northern suburb of Tokyo. “We are located very close to Narita Airport and we have Disnelyland here,” said Kanehara. “It’s on the subway from Tokyo: It takes less than one hour to get from central Tokyo by train.”

Kanehara and his team are working to ensure that all goes according to plan – and they have good reasons for optimism.

All attendees at the ongoing Chiba Grand Prix – the first time Japan has hosted an edition of this high-prestige series – have been impressed by the quality of the event thus far.

Proximity of hotels to venue, quality of venue facilities, electronics, food and beverages, etc, are all first class – as would be expected from the world’s third richest country.

From Sept 27-29, 2019 an Olympic test event will be held: “We are testing Olympics for one day and Paralympics for one day,” Kanehara explained. The test event will cover sport management, venue management, medical management and technology management.

In February, the AJTA will host Japan’s Olympic qualification tournament in Hashima City, though whether any will make it through the rankings is as yet unclear.

However, Japan does get four host country places, offering the nation its best chance yet at top-level taekwondo glory. Kanehara also expects to quality three Paralympians – two males and one female.

Raising Visibility, Raising Numbers

Still, it may be as a promotional event for taekwondo in Japan that the 2020 Olympics will leave its longest-lasting legacy.

“It is going to be quite a big influence to get greater numbers of players, and for us to upgrade our performance,” Kanehara said.  “As we are holding the Olympics in Japan, we were able to get a Grand Prix for the first time. That means we have had quite a big influence from Tokyo 2020.”

Marketing and visibility raising is already underway.

On Day 1 of the Chiba Grand Prix, more than 1,000 local school children were invited to watch the action, while the WT Demonstration Team has toured different schools around the city.

Kanehara hopes that the Demo Team, which will perform in the venue during the Olympic taekwondo competition, will also be able to conduct some performances around Tokyo and Chiba around the time of the Olympics.

Before that though Kanehara will be closely watching the Rugby World Cup. Though rugby is a vastly different sport to taekwondo, Japan’s cheerful taekwondo boss wants to see how visiting international sports fans find Japan ahead of next year’s Olympics

What memories does he hope they will take away?

The answer, of course, is generous servings of omotenashi.

“Even if we have a big number of people coming, we think every single one is important,” Kanehara said. “The main message is our traditional hospitality mindset – it’s our culture!”