Japanese Language Blog

Lessons on How NOT to Communicate with the Japanese Posted by on May 26, 2021 in Culture, News, Politics

Not a day is passed without hearing the Tokyo Olympics controversy (論争 ronsou).  Approximately 70-80% of the Japanese residents oppose having the games this summer. People are so frustrated (イライラする irairasuru) that their voices have been ignored by the government.  Approximately 400,000 people have signed a petition so far asking the government and IOC to cancel the Olympics and Paralympics this year.  However, the Japanese people were met by three comments, which many took to be insulting (屈辱的な kutsujokutekina), made by IOC Chairman and the Vice Chairman. And the voices to cancel the Olympics and Paralympics have been intensified.  The IOC officials have seemingly ignored the Japanese sentiments and the memories of the war eras when the people were demanded to sacrifice everything for the country and the country drifted to war.

In May, John Coates, an IOC vice president, drew criticism in Japan after saying the Games would proceed even if the host city was still under a state of emergency due to the coronavirus. “The answer is absolutely yes,” Coates, who is overseeing preparations, said when asked on Friday if he thought they could be delivered despite the restrictions. (The Guardian 05/24.2021)

The above press conference was done virtually on 5/21/2021, and his demeanor (態度 taido) was regarded by many as arrogant (傲慢 gouman), giving no options to Japan.


The Japanese people who have demonstrated their perseverance through their history. It is only because of this ability of the Japanese people to overcome adversity that these Olympic Games, under these very difficult circumstances, are possible. And secondly the athletes of the world who have been dreaming of and preparing for this moment their entire lives. This is why these Games need to take place and why these Games will resonate around the world. (The Australian)

For many Japanese, words like “resilience” (レジリエンス、復活力 rejiriensu, fukkatsuryoku) and “patience” (忍耐 nintai) make the instant connection to “oppression.”(抑圧 yokuatsu)

We have to make some sacrifices to make this possible. The athletes definitely can make their Olympic dreams come true,” Bach said during an online address to the International Hockey Federation congress on Saturday, according to PTI. (The Mainichi)

Many were angered by Bach’s “sacrifices” (犠牲 gisei) comment on 5/21 when Japan and the world have been struggling with the COVID-19, and many lives have been lost.  Again, a word like “sacrifice” instantly reminds the Japanese of the time the country drifted to war. He did deny that the comment had been made to the Japanese people in the above video.

These days, “patience,” “guts,” (根性 konjyo) “sacrifice,” and “willpower” (精神力 seishinryoku) can translate into extreme training measures by coaches, such as running in a PE class under 34°C with 90% humidity (湿度 shitsudo) because some believe such challenges will only make the students strong-willed. But children are fragile, and parents are much more outspoken these days. Still, some “willpower” believers do exist in the sports world, resulting in death and lawsuits.

Although the organization’s name includes “international” and their objective is world peace, many Japanese critics argue that the IOC has been acting like a dictator asking people to sacrifice for the Olympics and to be resilient.  The words like “patience,” “guts,” “sacrifice,” and “willpower” might have touched the heartstrings (心の琴線 kokoro no kotosen) of some senior Japanese and sadistic sports coaches, but for many, these words only remind the Japanese of oppression.  These comments are viewed by many in Japan as a public relations nightmare.

What angered the Japanese more is the lack of reactions from officials of the Tokyo Olympics Committee – silence.  The impression that they gave to many Japanese is that they were completely under the control of these IOC oppressors.  Japanese do not like to confront (対決する taiketsusuru). But many argue that is a part of their job as politicians – to negotiate for the benefits of the country they represent. People are angry.

For many Japanese politicians, this has become a gamble for the next election (選挙 senkyo).  Athletes are feeling caught in the crossfire by getting vaccinated before the medical personnel (52% completed the two shots), senior population over 65 (only 6% completed the first shot,) and the nation as a whole (1.2% completed two shots). One TV commentator said it eloquently, and I fully agreed with her, that she would like to see the athletes, who have been training all of their lives, compete in the Olympics, but so many people’s dreams have been shuttered.  So many restaurant owners lost their restaurants.  Children give up school trips.  My son had to come back from his Study Abroad program.  Why are the athletes so special?

Image by wgbieber from Pixabay

People are desperate thinking that this is a runaway train that cannot be stopped.  Politicians are afraid of IOC for enormous cancellation fines, and the fact that Japan may not be able to host the Olympics and Paralympics in the future.  This story is far from over.

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  1. LAMURE:

    oui cela peut sembler legitime que les japonais s’nquietent de la tenue des jeux a tokyo
    juste une question :
    JE SUIS AU JAPON DEPUIS 2009 et lors du desastre de fukushima ou h je suis alle nettoyer les effets monstrueux du tsunami je n’ai pas vu une mainfestation digne de ce nom dans les rues des grandes villes japonaises
    je crois que les japonais parfois semblent bien hypnotisés par leur tv leur consumierisme et confort de vie
    bien triste constat

    • eriko1:

      @LAMURE Thank you for your comment and interesting topic. I used the google translation (as I do not understand French) so forgive me if I misinterpreted your comment. Just like many people in the world, the Japanese can be easily influenced by media. And just like many people in the world, we are suffering from amnesia thanks to the world of rapid and high volume of information available to us. We were worried about the radiation level in the food produced in the affected area, but from one point, it has changed to “help” and “support” Tohoku sentiment. Suga Administration has decided to release the contaminated water stored in the tanks to the Pacific Ocean in spite of the strong resistance of local fishermen. Well, the government used “scientific data” to support themselves… I will have to think deep inside myself first to answer your question. Thank you very much for your insightful comment!

  2. Claudia:

    I’ve been wondering why the Olympics is still happening. How interesting that the words used by the IOC officials are so politically/historically and emotionally loaded. Fascinating!

    • eriko1:

      @Claudia Several prefectures have requested to extend the State of Emergency as the infection has not been lowered enough to relieve the medical system. As I wrote before, the constitution does not allow the government to order the citizens to stay home or anything. They can only request. So after the first nation-wide request to stay home in 2020, people just got so used to the request, and they stopped listening. The infection has now spread to the rural areas where it has not been touched before. And Olympics, which has been political all the time, has become the focus of upcoming election. Tokyo governor is rumored to run for the first female PM, and whether saying to cancel or not will be shown in the number of votes. Most of Japanese do not know the meaning of having Olympics in the pandemic world…