The Tokyo Paralympics and the Dreams of His Majesty the Emperor and His Wife
By Koichi Mori, （Nippon Television Network Corporation, Social Desk, Imperial Household）
On August 24, the Tokyo Paralympic Games opened with the Emperor’s declaration of the opening of the Games. Fifty-seven years ago, in 1964, the Paralympic Games were held in Tokyo. At a time when sports for the disabled were not yet commonplace, the Crown Prince and Princess of Japan – the current Emperor and Empress, made a tremendous effort to make the Games a reality. With this event as an opportunity, the environment surrounding people with disabilities in Japan changed dramatically. (Koichi Mori, Nippon Television Network Corporation, Social Desk, Imperial Household)
Hope” for the 1964 Tokyo Paralympics
On November 8, 1964, the second Paralympic Games in Tokyo opened with the participation of 378 athletes from 21 countries. The head of the Japanese team was Dr. Hiroshi Nakamura, who was called the “father of sports for the disabled in Japan. The Emperor, in his capacity as Honorary President, addressed the opening ceremony, saying, “I hope that hope and happiness will be brought to the physically disabled people of the world.
Prior to the opening of the conference, the Empress attended the formation ceremony of volunteer interpreters for the Japanese Red Cross Society and said, “I hope that this conference will play a role in helping the many people who will participate to rejoice in the new possibilities that lie within them and to entrust bright hopes for the future.
Both of them used the word “hope” together. Many of the foreign athletes were out in the world, living independent lives while competing. Their vivacity amazed the Japanese.
Shigeru Ueno (deceased), who was invited to play wheelchair basketball by Dr. Nakamura at the time and watched the Tokyo Paralympics from the stands, described what it was like six years ago. Shigeru Ueno (deceased), who started playing wheelchair basketball and watched the Tokyo Paralympics from the stands, told me six years ago what it was like. The expressions on the faces of the foreign players were bright because they were working people. The Japanese players are in the hospital, so they look gloomy compared to the foreign players. The foreign players were always smiling and cackling with gestures. It seems that the sight of foreign athletes literally gave hope to the disabled people in Japan.
National Sports Festival for the Physically Challenged” Born from the Wish of the Emperor
After attending the event for five of the seven days and experiencing the vigorous performances of foreign para-athletes, the Emperor expressed his wish that such a tournament be held every year in Japan in front of the participants after the event. In response, the following year, the National Sports Festival for the Physically Challenged, later known as the National Sports Festival for the Disabled, was held after the National Athletic Meet. During their time as Crown Prince, the couple visited the Games almost every year to interact with and support the disabled athletes.
The following year, in 1965, Dr. Hiroshi Nakamura also established Taiyo-no-ie （House of the Sun）as a place to support the independence of the disabled through employment and sports. The philosophy of the organization was “No Charity, but a Chance! ” Eventually, large corporations invested in the facility and built factories and offices where the disabled could work alongside the able-bodied. The emperor and his wife have visited the House of the Sun and related facilities from time to time, and have watched the path to independence for the disabled.
The Emperor’s dream of “true sports
At the Nagano Paralympics, held after the 1998 Nagano Winter Olympics, the sight of the Empress participating in a “wave” that was spontaneously created at the competition venue became a major topic of conversation. Just before the event, the Empress said, “Today, I am deeply moved by the fact that interest in the disabled is growing, welfare is improving, and sports for the disabled are flourishing,” and the environment surrounding the disabled has changed dramatically since around 1964.
In a written response on her birthday after the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games, the Empress said, “I am struck by the beauty of the appearance of outstanding athletes, both able-bodied and disabled, at the moment of their heart’s desire, and I have several of these photographs clipped from my possession,” and she was pleased that the “dream” that the Emperor had wished for immediately after the 1964 Tokyo Paralympic Games had come true.
In addition to the importance of sports as a form of rehabilitation, His Majesty expressed his hope to those involved that, in order for the Paralympics to have a deeper connection with society, sports for the disabled will grow to become a true sport that attracts both players and spectators, just like sports for the able-bodied. The Rio Paralympics will be a great opportunity for the disabled. I believe that the Rio Paralympics was the realization of this dream.
To Tokyo Again… His Majesty the Emperor Carrying on His Father’s Will
Japan Wheelchair Basketball Championships (May 2017)
This summer, after 57 years, the Paralympic Games returned to Tokyo, with approximately 4,400 participants from over 160 countries and regions, and 539 events in 22 sports.
At a press conference in 2018, His Majesty the Emperor attended the National Sports Festival for the Disabled every year during his tenure as Crown Prince, and at the press conference in 2018, he spoke about watching the wheelchair basketball championships with the Empress and Princess Aiko. His Majesty said, “I, as well as Masako (present Empress) and Aiko (Princess), were deeply impressed by the way people with disabilities worked hard to achieve the results of their daily efforts.
His Majesty added, “I feel once again that this is an era in which there is an even greater need to create an environment in which people in so-called socially vulnerable positions, such as the disabled, children, and the elderly, can demonstrate their abilities and play an active role in society while receiving support from the people around them. His Majesty has been working on this issue for many years.
His Majesty also “accompanies” para-athletes.
In June 2018, His Majesty accompanied Misato Michishita, the silver medalist in the Rio Paralympics visually impaired marathon, on the Akasaka Imperial grounds. At a garden party, Michishita asked if there was an opportunity to run with her, and Her Majesty happily accepted, saying it was a good opportunity to understand how athletes compete. His Majesty happily accepted the invitation, saying that it was a good opportunity for him to understand how the athletes compete.
If it had not been for the corona disaster, His Majesty would have wanted to visit the Tokyo Paralympics in person, just as his parents did 57 years ago. I am sure that the family will be eagerly cheering on the achievements of the para-athletes on TV. I am sure that the family will be eagerly cheering on the para-athletes on TV, and I look forward to seeing what kind of “dreams” will come true in this very difficult environment.