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Tokyo Olympics 101: Get to know the host city

Tokyo Olympics 101: Get to know the host city
Posted at 4:53 PM, Mar 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-03 14:21:11-04

The Games of the XXXII Olympiad are set to take place in Tokyo, Japan.

Tokyo was awarded the 2020 Games after beating out Istanbul and Madrid during an IOC vote that took place in September 2013. It marked the second time that Tokyo had been awarded the Olympic Games, having previously hosted the event in 1964.

Though some events will be held elsewhere in Japan, the majority of the Olympic venues are situated in Tokyo within one of two main clusters: the Heritage Zone, an area in the heart of the city which uses a lot of repurposed venues from the 1964 Games, and the Tokyo Bay Zone, a modern area which is partially comprised of artificial islands.

Learn more about the vibrant Japanese capital city that will host this year's Olympics, and find out what they have chosen for mascots and medal designs, below.

Get to know Tokyo

  • The Tokyo metropolitan area is home to over 37 million people, making it the most populous metropolitan area in the world. It accounts for more than a quarter of Japan’s total population.
  • Tokyo became the de facto capital of Japan in 1868 after a new emperor established his residence there. At the time, the city was known as “Edo” but was then renamed to “Tokyo,” which means “eastern capital.”
  • Tokyo’s Shinjuku Station was recognized by Guiness World Records as the busiest train station in the world. It’s estimated that close to 3.6 million people pass through the station on a normal day.
  • Volcanic mountain ranges sit to the north and the west of Tokyo. Among those mountain ranges is Mount Fuji, which at 12,388 feet is Japan’s highest mountain.
  • Yuriko Koike became Tokyo’s first-ever female governor after being elected to the position in 2016. She won reelection in 2020.
  • Tokyo boasts a number of distinct and vibrant neighborhoods such as Akihabara (arcades, electronics retailers, anime and pop culture shops) and Harajuku (trendy street fashion).
  • Capsule toy dispensers (known as “gachapon”) can be found all throughout the city. The toys are popular with people of all ages, and there are even some shops dedicated exclusively to gachapon.

Japan's Olympic history

  • Japan’s most decorated Olympians are all gymnasts: Ono Takashi (13 medals), Kato Sawao (12), Nakayama Akinori (10).
  • Japanese wrestler Kaori Icho is the only woman in any sport to win individual gold at four Olympics (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016). Her bid to qualify for the Tokyo Games came to an end in 2019.
  • The country has earned more medals in gymnastics (98) than any other sport, though it has earned its most gold medals in judo (39).
  • Japan is coming off its best-ever medal haul after earning 41 medals at the 2016 Rio Games.
  • The 1964 Tokyo Games marked the first time that the Olympics were ever held in Asia.
  • While Tokyo is the only Japanese city to host a summer Olympics, two other cities – Sapporo in 1972 and Nagano in 1998 – have staged the Winter Olympics.

Meet the Tokyo Olympic mascot

This is Miraitowa (pronounced meer-aye-toe-wah), the official mascot of the Tokyo Olympics:

The mascot was selected through a voting process, with Japanese schoolchildren at over 16,700 participating schools selecting their favorite design from among three finalists. Miraitowa’s winning design incorporates the blue checkered motif that’s seen in the official Tokyo 2020 logo and is supposed to represent a merging of “respected tradition and modern innovation.”

The name Miraitowa is a combination of the Japanese words “mirai” (future) and “towa” (eternity). According to Tokyo 2020 organizers, the name represents “the wish that the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will lead to a future of everlasting hope in the hearts of everyone around the world.”

There’s also a separate mascot, Someity (pronounced soh-may-tee), for the Paralympic Games which will take place August 24 – September 5.

Medal Designs

Below are the medals that will be awarded during the Tokyo Olympics. The winning design, which was created by Kawanishi Junichi, was chosen from among 400+ submissions and is said to resemble rough stones that have been polished and now shine with “light” and “brilliance.”

The medals themselves are made from metal extracted from recycled consumer electronics. As part of a nationwide effort, Japanese citizens were able to donate their old electronic devices directly to this initiative. According to organizers, donations resulted in nearly 158 million pounds of discarded devices being collected, including more than 6 million used cell phones.

Silver, gold and bronze medal designs that will be used for Tokyo 2020
The medal designs for the Tokyo Olympic Games. The gold medal (center) shows the font, while the silver and bronze medals show the back.
Tokyo 2020

Japanese athletes to watch

During every Olympics, the host nation always garners extra attention, and that will certainly be the case again this year with Japan, a country that has global stars, Olympic legends and exciting youngsters among its ranks. Here we've highlighted some of the top Japanese athletes expected to compete at the Tokyo Games.

SEE MORE: Japanese athletes to watch at the Tokyo Olympics

 


Want to know more about the Tokyo Olympics in general? The rest of the Olympic 101 articles can be found below.

Tokyo Olympics Learn More