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2 Years to Go Until Tokyo 2020! Public Day of the Para Arena

August 25, 2018. Exactly two years to go until the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. On this day, various events were held throughout the country to promote parasports to the general public.

Experiencing and Understanding the Depth and Fun of Parasports

Many people also came to the Parasapo “2 Years to Go!” event, held in the Nippon Foundation Para Arena. The event was so popular, in fact, that there was 250 people already lined up when the venue opened at 11:00 AM. Visitors to this event went around the arena quiz-style, answering questions (about universal design details in the arena) and touring the facility, which only opened on June 1. Afterwards, they were able to experience three different parasports—wheelchair basketball, goalball, and boccia. The first 500 visitors also received a pin based on the mural painted by Katori.

Visitors toured the Para Arena while solving quiz questions

Trying out wheelchair basketball was Megumi Koshimizu and her daughter Aina (second-year high school student), who said they arrived at the venue a bit early in the morning. Aina, who played basketball in elementary school and junior high school, gave us her first impressions of wheelchair basketball. “It’s hard to dribble, and it’s difficult to try to shoot without using your lower body, but the game itself is so fun.” Her mother Megumi, who had been a volunteer in the Para-Ekiden in Tokyo 2018 held in March, said she was amazed by the sheer variety of things the Para Arena offered.
It seemed there were many people that were amazed by the facility. There was even a woman in her thirties who commented, “I’m taking care of my mother right now, and I understand so well the need for these kind of shower rooms.”

Mother-daughter pair Megumi and Aina Koshimizu went all in on their wheelchair basketball experience

Elsewhere, married couple Toko and Naoko Araki were trying boccia. Naoko, who had never played boccia before, seemed to be captivated by the sport. “I thought it was a pretty simple sport, but there’s a really good sense of depth in it, including in how the points are counted.” The couple are very interested in the Tokyo Paralympic Games, and are thinking of applying to be volunteers.

Visitors were able to play boccia

A Rise in Awareness, as Evidenced by the Event

Visitors to the “2 Years to Go!” event had been asked beforehand to bring indoor shoes, as the arena does not allow people to wear their street shoes inside. Most of the visitors brought their own indoor shoes, with 60-70% of them actually bringing sneakers instead of slippers—evidence of their determination to really get into and experience the parasports featured in the event.
Tatsuma Muramatsu and the other three members of his group all brought sneakers. They told us that they had become interested in parasports after seeing Katori’s tweets, and had wanted to try it out for themselves. The experience, however, seemed to go a bit differently than they had imagined. Said Muramatsu about his struggles playing goalball, “You really can’t see anything. It’s so hard to get a sense of where to throw the ball.”

Muramatsu and the rest of his four-person group, who tried out goalball

There were elementary school students at the event as well. Mei Karasawa, who attended with her mother Akiko, is a second-year in elementary school. When asked why they decided to attend, they told us that as part of the class curriculum, visually impaired marathon runner Yuichi Takahashi had come to visit Mei’s elementary school (Tamagawa Elementary School, Tokyo), and that Mei had taken an interest in parasports after hearing Takahashi’s story. They also said that Mei’s elementary school is near the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza, which is to be a venue in the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games, and that the locals are becoming very excited about the games coming up.

Mother-daughter pair Mei and Akiko Karasawa, who live near the venue where the Wheelchair Basketball event will be held in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games

Many of the visitors stopped at the entrance to the Para Arena to take photos in front of the Lego mural, which was a recreation of the commemorative mural painted by Katori. “It’s amazing that they were able to recreate this with Legos,” said a group of three women, impressed. They also seemed very happy in general, seeing as they were big fans of Katori.

Two years to go until the Tokyo Paralympic Games. It was a day in which the rise in awareness of people who want to understand and have fun supporting the Paralympic Games was felt in a very real sense.

Commemorative photo in front of the Lego mural!

text by Shinichi Uehara
photo by Hisashi Okamoto

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