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Tokyo in Full Bloom: Changes and Innovations Brought by the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games

The 1964 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games facilitated the development of transportation systems such as shinkansen (bullet trains), expressways and subway lines. It also led to the improvement of public infrastructures such as water and sewage systems. In this way, the Olympic and Paralympic Games are known for promoting various innovations, and Tokyo 2020 is no different. Here, we will feature the Japan Flower Project, which is drawing attention as one of the more modern initiatives undertaken by the Task Force on Science, Technology, and Innovation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, led by the Cabinet Office.

Nine projects will become the legacies of Tokyo 2020

The Japan Flower Project is one of the nine projects put forward by the Promotion Committee of the Task Force on Science, Technology, and Innovation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which was established by the Cabinet Office. These nine projects are carried out through the joint cooperation of ten government ministries and agencies—including the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications; National Police Agency; Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology; Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries—as well as the Tokyo Metropolitan Government and the Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games. The projects are intended to make Tokyo 2020 a success and also promote innovations that will live on as the legacies of the Games. The Japan Flower Project is one such crucial initiative, led by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF).

Promoting Japan’s technologies to the world

A little-known fact is that Japan’s flowers and ornamental plants (including flowers, trees, moss and bonsai) are regarded very highly in the world, even earning the highest points at a flower breed contest at the World Horticulture Expo in the Netherlands. The Japan Flower Project aims to feature such high-quality flowers to decorate the Tokyo 2020 venues and the city itself at the height of summer. One of the project’s aims is to fill the venues with flowers and greens to brighten up the Games and soothe the athletes’ minds. The project also has a second, crucial aim: to promote Japan’s horticultural skills of developing flower breeds with long life spans, as well as the technologies needed to plant and grow healthy flowers in the city during summer, which presents many difficulties. By promoting such skills and technologies broadly to the world, Japan aims to make flowers and ornamental plants one of the country’s few and precious export items.

MAFF commissioned the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) to undertake this project, which they did starting in 2015. They chose the brightly colored and glorious dahlia flower, which has been gaining popularity in recent years. However, dahlias usually bloom in the fall, so the team needed to develop a new breed of dahlia that could handle the summer heat.

The task of developing a new flower breed takes time and perseverance. Since the team was aiming to create a breed that could thrive in the heat, they spent the hottest days of the year, between the end of July to the beginning of September, repeatedly tending to and harvesting dahlia flowers every day. On days when many flowers bloomed, they had to spend long hours outdoors, cutting and collecting the dahlias. They said that after returning home and showering, they sometimes got on the scale and found they had lost several kilograms of weight compared to the previous day.

Three breeds of beautiful dahlias embody the research results

Through diligent breeding efforts, the NARO Institute of Vegetable and Floriculture Science succeeded in developing three new dahlia breeds with long lifespans in 2020. The names each begin with ‘eternity’ for their long lifespans, and they were collectively named the Eternity series. We’ll introduce each of them below.

Eternity Torch

Eternity Torch was so named because its color and shape make it look like the Olympic and Paralympic Torch. It has a stable lifespan, and the yellow tubular buds at the core of the flowerhead, known as the disc floret, are barely visible, which is another unique characteristic of this breed. The petals of this semi-cactus dahlia roll outward, giving it a large and gorgeous appearance that is perfect for being an ornamental flower.

Eternity Romance

The beautiful pink color of this breed led it to be named Eternity Romance. It has a long lifespan and blooms quickly, ensuring prolific productivity. The flowerhead is fairly large for a pink dahlia and is perfect for putting together a voluminous bouquet.

Eternity Rouge

ternity Rouge was named after its deep red hue like lipstick. Of the three new breeds, it has the longest lifespan. The boat-shaped petals of this formal decorative dahlia are layered one on top of the other, which, coupled with the vibrant and unblemished red, gives off a gorgeous impression. It blooms quickly and can provide a plentiful harvest, making it perfect to meet large demands.

Furthermore, in Aichi Prefecture, the project team engaged in improving the cultivation of an orchid known as Phalaenopsis Aphrodite, which requires air conditioning in the summer. They developed an innovative intermittent air conditioning technology, which can lower air conditioning costs and shorten the cultivation period by making the flowers bloom more quickly. By using this technology, they succeeded in increasing harvest and also improving the flower’s quality.

Where to see the flowers during Tokyo 2020!

You can go see the flowers developed by the project at Tokyo Summerland too

Developed by bringing together Japan’s outstanding technologies, the new dahlia and orchid breeds (a white breed and a pink breed inspired by the Tokyo 2020 mascot Someity’s color) will decorate Tokyo Big Sight, which will be used as the press center during the Games. The dahlias are planned to be displayed during the Paralympic Games only, while the orchids will be displayed during both the Olympic and Paralympic Games, so you may be able to catch a glimpse of the beautiful flowers on TV.

You can also see the flowers in various locations throughout Tokyo, blooming healthily and looking pretty despite the extreme summer heat. Although they can bear high temperatures, that wasn’t the only condition that needed to be met. After a diverse range of experiments, tests and research, the project team determined that the flowers needed to have the following three characteristics to grow in the city during the summer:

1. Ability to bear high temperatures
2. Ability to grow in the shade
3. Ability to bear dry conditions

The first characteristic, the ability to bear high temperatures, is self-explanatory. The second, the ability to grow in the shade, may be a little unexpected. In the middle of the city, where high-rise buildings are clustered together, very little sunlight reaches the ground, so research showed that it was important the flowers could grow in the shade. The third essential characteristic is the ability to bear dry conditions. The dryness is once again typical of cities, where tall buildings cause eddies of wind. Taking these three conditions into consideration, the team selected ornamental flowers that withstood the planting tests in the city and could grow in the summer heat. If you want to see the flowers in person, you can find them at the following locations. There, you can see how the research, experiments and efforts of many people bloomed—literally.

1) Symbol Promenade Park (Daiba, Minato-ku, Tokyo)
2) Mizumoto Park, Toyama Park, etc.
As part of the Flower, Greenery and Summer Project organized by the Agriculture, Forestry and Fishery Division of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, over 30,000 summer flowers, grown by Tokyo florists, are planted in roughly 50 metropolitan parks throughout the city.
3) Yumenoshima Park, Higashi-Ayase Park, etc.
As part of the Summer Flower Project: 2021 Summer Flower Yumenoshima Selection of 100 Cheerleading Flowers organized by the Hibiya Amenis Group, summer flowers grown by florists in Tokyo and its surrounding prefectures are planted in 16 parks, including Yumenoshima Park.
4) Kasai Rinkai Park
The Park is home to Tokyo’s largest flower bed, featuring summer flowers, as well as the largest sunflower bed.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 is imposing various limits on the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Nevertheless, despite these circumstances, research for the Games has continued diligently and is steadily moving toward practical implementation. This project, like many others, will not end when the Games are closed. From the fall of 2022, the dahlia Eternity series are scheduled to line the shelves of regular flower shops. The previous Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games held 57 years ago brought about various innovations that made our lives more convenient. In much the same way, Tokyo 2020 is taking definitive steps toward creating a more fulfilling society.

text by Kaori Hamanaka(Parasapo Lab)

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