Japan’s new Olympic Stadium (aka National Stadium, Kokuritsu Kyogijo 国立競技場) was completed in Nov. 2019 and the public could enter the stadium for the first time at the opening event called “Hello, Our Stadium” on Dec. 21, 2019. And on Jan 1, 2020, the new stadium saw its first sports event, the final game of the Emperor’s Cup JFA 99th Japan Football Championship. I went to both events and got a good look outside and inside the stadium.
It’s an oval stadium with a track and field and partially open-air, fixed roof. Some soccer/football fans say that the pitch looks too far from the stands due to the surrounding track. But it’s an Olympic Stadium, after all.
As seen in the photo above, the stadium has three seating tiers divided by the 1st floor and 2nd floor concourses. The 1st floor concourse is actually at ground/street level, and the Tier 1 seating and the pitch/field are below ground/street level. The stadium has three tiers (層) and five floors (階) above ground/street level. On the bottom, Tier 1 is below the ground/street level (most expensive seats), Tier 2 is on the 2nd and 3rd floors, and the Tier 3 is on the 4th and 5th floors.
The concourses are on the 1st floor, 2nd floor, and 4th floor. Tier 2 has two concourses, one is visible from the field and other other is behind the stands. The 4th floor concourse is not visible either since it is behind the Tier 3 stands on the stadium’s outer rim. The 5th floor is the outdoor “Sora no Mori” (Forest in the Sky) walkway deck on the stadium’s outer perimeter. It has potted plants, but the 5th floor has been closed during the events so far.
People might easily confuse the tier number and floor number. When looking for your seats, it’s more important to know which gate and floor rather than the tier. Your ticket should indicate the gate number.
The seats have a random mosaic design in shades of green, brown, and white, designed like fallen autumn leaves. It makes it look like there are spectators even when the seats are empty. Ingenious. Sort of like having fake followers/spectators.
On Jan. 1, 2020, the field was a football/soccer pitch for the Emperor’s Cup JFA 99th Japan Football Championship final game between Vissel Kobe vs. Kashima Antlers.
During the Tokyo 2020 Olympics/Paralympics, the stadium will be the venue for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies, athletics (track and field), and soccer. The capacity for Tokyo 2020 will be 68,000.
The stadium grounds has four outer gates (Sendagaya Gate, Gaien Gate, Central Gate, and Aoyama Gate) from the direction of train/subway stations. This map shows how far each train/subway station is. The closest is JR Sendagaya Station (440 meters) and Kokuritsu Kyogijo subway station (130 meters).
The stadium itself has eight main entrances from Gates A to H. These main gates further branch off into smaller gates such as A1, A2, etc., leading to different floors and seating blocks.
The stadium seating sections are labeled Main Stand, Back Stand, North Stand, and South Stand. Each stand comprise three inclined tiers of seating. The Main Stand is the prime section. The North Stand directly faces the sun. (Sunglasses and cap are recommended.) The South Stand is in the shade. Gate F is nearest to the Japan Olympic Museum where the Olympic rings are.
Near Gate G on the ground floor, you can see a pair of large, fresco mosaic murals by pioneering artist Hasegawa Roka (長谷川路可 1897–1967). The two murals were moved here from the old National Stadium. So the murals date from 1964.
The left mural is Nomi no Sukune (野見宿禰), a legendary sumo wrestler posing as a victor. And the right mural is the Greek Goddess of Victory, depicting “Honor” (勝利の女神).
We all had reserved seating for the opening event so there was no rush to get to our seats. But there was this long line for Gate A for seats on all three tiers in this section on the Main Stand. The line wound back and forth four times before we headed for Gate A. The line moved quickly though. It took about 15 min. to get to the gate to go inside. For the soccer/football match on Jan. 1, 2020, I didn’t see any long lines.
Entering Gate A for security check of our bags. Notice that Gate A branches off into smaller gates from A2 to A6 going to different floors/tiers. (Gate A1 is on the 2nd floor.)
Layout of a block of seats (about 550). The field is toward the top of this diagram (above Row 1). The block numbers indicate the tier. Block 100s for Tier 1 (expensive seats), 200s for Tier 2, and 300s here for the Tier 3 (cheap seats). Here, you should check your seat number and check which side of the block you should enter.
For example, if your seat No. is 111 to 124, enter on the left side of the block. If it’s 125 to 138, go to the other corridor on the right side of the block. If you enter the wrong side, you may have to trouble people already sitting to get to your seat. There’s very little room to move across the seat row.
Tier 3 has a steep 34˚ incline. Tier 1 is more gradual at 20˚, and Tier 2 is 29˚. The stadium was designed this way to keep the seats closer to the field. It’s effective in that sense. The field does looks closer and you get clear views with no heads in the way. The old National Stadium had the top rows really far from the field. Lateral space was also minimized, so it’s quite cramped to move through the seat rows when people are sitting in them. And there’s no walkway traversing the seating area in the cramped Tier 3. You may have to go back out onto the concourse to move to another part of the block.
The top row is also right below the open-air part of the stadium and if it’s windy and rainy, I would think people might get wet here. Must be cold in winter to sit here. But in summer, it might be cooler when there’s a breeze.
With numerous 10-cm wide lumber spaced closely together, the wooden roof eaves was designed after Japanese Buddhist temple roof eaves. All the eaves slant upward, and they are designed to catch and direct the wind down into the spectator stands to make it cooler.
The new Olympic Stadium is actually Japan’s fourth version of a national stadium. The first one was built in 1924, second one in 1958 for the third Asian Games, and third one in 1964 for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Thank goodness they finished the new stadium in time for Tokyo 2020 after a rejected initial design.
As a spectator, my overall impression of the stadium is favorable. It’s thankfully close to train/subway stations, it uniquely uses a lot of wood, and wheelchair accessibility is much improved over the old stadium. The roof carries spectator cheers well too.
It should serve well for Tokyo 2020 as long as the weather is good. Looking forward to seeing track and field test events to be held in the stadium in spring.
Tokyo has been holding some “1 Year to Go!” events. If you visit Tokyo this summer 2019, here are some neat events/things you can see for a limited time.
Olympic Rings at Nihonbashi Bridge
Olympics rings were installed on Nihonbashi Bridge this Aug. Instant hit among passersby taking selfies in front of it. The on-site staff couldn’t tell me how long these rings will be here. They are also lit up in the evening.
Nihombashi City Dressing for TOKYO 2020
To mark “1 Year to Go!”, the Nihonbashi business district has a few major buildings adorned with Olympics/Paralympics decorations called “Nihombashi City Dressing for TOKYO 2020” from July 23 to Aug. 25, 2019. 日本橋シティドレッシング for TOKYO 2020
Tokyo 2020 Olympic/Paralympic torches now on display at Tokyo Metropolitan Government Building No. 1 on the 2nd floor until Aug. 25, 2019, 9:30 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. You can hold it and take photos with it. Made of aluminum and very lightweight. The Olympic torch is gold, and the Paralympic torch is pinkish. The building is a short walk from Shinjuku Station’s West Exit (Nishi-guchi). 東京2020聖火リレートーチの展示
Super Unusual 2020 Exhibition
Also in Nihonbashi was this special interactive exhibition called “Super Unusual 2020 Exhibition” (Futsujanai 2020 Exhibition). It had Olympic sports-related interactive activities that anyone could try for fun. This exhibition in Nihonbashi ended on Aug. 4, 2019, but it is being held at Tokyo Midtown Hibiya during Aug. 8 to 25, 2019. Near Ginza and Hibiya Stations (subway) and the Imperial Palace. On weekends, maybe you can see official mascots Miraitowa and Someity. 超ふつうじゃない2020展 Official site: https://www.mitsuifudosan.co.jp/bethechange/other_changes/cho_futsujanai2020/ Map: https://goo.gl/maps/jRWKYgCi1wSnUYzh7
Tokyo 2020 Official Countdown Clock at Tokyo Station
You can see a few Olympic venues still under construction. From the Yurikamome Line you can see the Ariake Arena and the Ariake Gymnastics Centre under construction. These two venues might require a 15-min. or longer walk from the arrival train station. The so-called “Last Mile” (including the security check) might be a major problem in the summer heat for some venues. The organizer is thinking about how to make it cooler/easier for spectators.
The new Olympic Stadium (New National Stadium) is also clearly visible from the surrounding roads and the JR Chuo and Sobu Lines. The closest stations are Kokuritsu-Kyogijo Station (Oedo Line) and JR Sendagaya Station.
Official Tokyo 2020 Olympics Stores
Official Tokyo 2020 Olympics merchandise is available in official stores in Tokyo and major cities like Sapporo, Sendai, Nagoya, Kyoto, Osaka, Hiroshima, Fukuoka, and Naha. Many of the official shops are inside a BIC Camera store. There’s also an online shop, but it doesn’t ship outside Japan: https://tokyo2020shop.jp/ List of official shops: https://tokyo2020shop.jp/contents/official_shop
Tokyo city buses with Olympic mascot livery
Some Tokyo city buses (Toei) have the Olympic mascot livery. They run in central Tokyo such in Nihonbashi, Shinjuku, Kiba, and Koto-ku. Currently, there are 18 Toei city buses in this livery with more to come. A few Odakyu, Keio, and Seibu buses will also sport this design.
This is the 2019 schedule of Awa Odori dance festivals to be held in the Tokyo/Kanto area (Tokyo, Saitama, Kanagawa, and Chiba Prefectures) from June to October 2019. Nobody has compiled such a schedule so I did it myself.
Most Awa Odori are held in the summer and a few are held in autumn. A few are held as part of a local festival like Tanabata. Most are held on two days, but a few are held only on one day. Some Awa Odori also have a festival eve events on the day before the Awa Odori.
Official websites usually have information only in Japanese. Click on the train station names to see a Google Map of that station. Double question marks (??) indicate information (usually dates) to be announced. Also, an illustrated list of essential Awa Odori vocabulary is provided at the end. (Great for people learning Japanese.)
Note for spectators:
Summer can be very hot and humid. Be prepared with cold drinks, ice pack, etc. Rain (including typhoons) is always possible. A raincoat is better than an umbrella in crowds. Take pictures/videos only from the sidelines, do not enter the parade route to shoot. Do not use tripods. Strollers should not be used. And no smoking.
Festivals can always be canceled in bad weather. Typhoons and rainstorms are always possible in summer. If the weather forecast looks bad, check whether the festival will be held.
*Awa Odori in Tokushima is held annually on Aug. 12th–15th, 2019.
–JUNE 2019 (6月)–
None that I know of.
–JULY 2019 (7月)–
Koiwa Awa Odori 小岩阿波おどり (Katsushika-ku, Tokyo) ・When: July 6, 2019, 6:15 pm–8:15 pm ・Where: Near JR Koiwa Station, North Exit (JR Sobu Line). ・About: New awa odori that started in 2014. About 15 troupes.
・Photos: ・Official website:https://koiwa-awaodri.jimdo.com/
Oedo Niiza Matsuri (Awa Odori) 大江戸新座祭り (阿波おどり) (Niiza, Saitama) ・When: July 20, 2019, 2:00 pm–8:00 pm ・Where: Near JR Niiza Station (JR Musashino Line), South Exit, Furusato Niiza-kan hall area. ・About: The Niiza Awa Odori was held for 32 years until 2014. It has been replaced by this Oedo Niiza Festival in 2015. It is now a local summer festival starting at 11:00 am and featuring a variety of stage entertainment and performers including a school band, hip hop, and samba dancers before climaxing with Awa Odori in the end during 5:05 pm–8:00 pm. About 20 Awa Odori troupes will dance.
・Photos: ・Official website:http://www.ooedo-niiza.com/
Kasei Awa Odori かせい阿波おどり (Nakano-ku, Tokyo) ・When: July 27 (4:00 pm–6:00 pm) and 28 (5:00 pm–8:00 pm), 2019 ・Where: Near Toritsu Kasei Station (Seibu Shinjuku Line). ・About: Held since 1979. About 10 troupes will dance along the narrow shopping street near the train station. Since the dance route is narrow, you can see the dancers up close. The dance route is cut in half (north and south) by the train line. Local troupe is Kasei-ren formed by the local neighborhood when the festival started.
・Photos: ・Official website:https://www.facebook.com/%E3%81%8B%E3%81%9B%E3%81%84%E9%80%A3-369020693216519/
Mobara Awa Odori (Mobara Tanabata Matsuri) もばら阿波おどり (Mobara, Chiba) ・When: July 28, 2019, 6:00 pm–8:10 pm ・Where: Near JR Mobara Station (JR Sotobo Line), East Exit, Sun City shopping street. ・About: Part of the Mobara Tanabata Matsuri to be held on July 26–28, 2019. On July 28, an opening ceremony will be held at 5:30 pm, and Awa Odori dancing will start at 6 pm. Eleven troupes will appear along a circular route starting and ending at Sogo Shimin Center.
・Photos: http://www.mobara-tanabata.com/picture/awaodori2016.html ・Official website:http://www.mobara-tanabata.com/bbs2.html
Hibiya Expo Oedo Matsuri 日比谷大江戸まつり (Tokyo) ・When: July 26–28, 2019, 10:00 am–8:00 pm (till 6:00 pm on 28th) ・Where:Hibiya Park, near Hibiya Station, Kasumigaseki Station, and JR Yurakucho Station. ・About: Only a few awa odori troupes appear in this parade of different festivals.
・Photos: ・Official website:https://www.hibiyapark.info/2019/hibiyaoed-matsuri-2019/
Naka-Meguro Summer Festival 中目黒夏まつり (Meguro-ku, Tokyo) ・When: Aug. 3–4, 2019, 6:00 pm–8:30 pm ・Where: Near Naka-Meguro Station (Tokyu Toyoko Line and Hibiya Line). ・About: It’s a two-day summer festival. The first day (Aug. 4) features Awa Odori (27 troupes) and the second day (Aug. 5) has yosakoi dancers (33 groups). At 5:30 pm on both days, there’s an opening ceremony. They dance along the shopping streets next to the train/subway station, but the streets are narrow and it’s mostly standing room only. Normal people also walk along the streets so it can be hard to get good photos. But you get to see the dancers and musicians up close.
・Photos: ・Official website:http://www.e-nakameguro.com/
Shimo-Kitazawa Ichibangai Awa Odori 下北沢一番街 阿波おどり (Setagaya-ku, Tokyo) ・When: Aug. 17-18, 2019, 6:30 pm–8:30 pm ・Where: Near Shimo-Kitazawa Station, North Exit (Inokashira Line and Odakyu Line). ・About: Held along the Ichibangai shopping streets.There will be around 12 dance troupes on both nights, including Hifumi-ren and Yattoko-ren which are from Shimo-Kitazawa. One troupe will be for anyone to join in and dance (tobi-iri-ren). From 8:10 pm to 8:30 pm, each troupe will give a dance performance at designated places. Note that the streets are quite narrow with little room to sit. It’s basically a standing room-only festival.
・Photos: ・Official website:http://www.shimokita1ban.com/en/awaodori
Ontake Furusato Odori おんたけ ふるさと踊り (Ota-ku, Tokyo) ・When: Aug. 17–18, 2019, 6:00 pm–8:30 pm ・Where: Near Ontakesan Station (Tokyu Ikegami Line). ・About: A two-day dance festival with a Bon dance held on the first night (Aug. 18) and Awa Odori on the second night. There will be around five Awa Odori dance troupes. Most are quite famous in Tokyo. The local troupes includes Kusunoki-ren.
・Photos: ・Official website: https://otakushoren.com/cp-bin/wp/category/events
Koenji Awa Odori (Koenji, Suginami-ku, Tokyo) ・When: Aug. 24–25, 2019, 5:00 pm–8:00 pm ・Where: Near JR Koenji Station (JR Chuo Line) and Shin-Koenji Station (Marunouchi subway line). ・About: Tokyo’s biggest Awa Odori with over 50 dance troupes each evening and a million spectators over the two days. There are multiple venues or roads where they dance. The larger roads are very crowded, but the narrower parade paths are less crowded. Go early if you want to sit in a good spot.
・Photos: https://photoguide.jp/pix/thumbnails.php?album=337 ・Official website:http://koenji-awaodori.com/
Misato Awa Odori (Japan Festa Autumn) みさと阿波おどり (Misato, Saitama) ・When: Oct. ??, 2019, 10:00 am–3:00 pm ・Where:Misato Park (From JR Kanamachi Station on the JR Joban Line, take the bus bound for Misato Station or Misato Chuo Station and get off at Takasu-chiku Bunka Center Iriguchi. Or from Misato Station on the JR Musashino Line or Misato Chuo Station on the Tsukuba Express Line, take a bus bound for Kanamachi Station Minami-guchi and get off at Misato Koen-mae.) ・About: Festival featuring not only awa odori, but also taiko drummers. Misato Park is on the border with Katsushika Ward’s Mizumoto Park in Tokyo.
・Photos: ・Official website:
–AWA ODORI ESSENTIAL VOCABULARY (Illustrated)–
Awa Odori (阿波おどり)
Awa Odori (阿波おどり or 阿波踊り) – Dance of Awa Province. “Awa” is the old name for present-day Tokushima Prefecture where the dance originated. “Awa” does not mean “bubble” (泡) in this case. “Odori” means “dance.” It is based on the bon dance to welcome returning spirits of the deceased.
ren (連) – Awa Odori dance troupe. The troupe’s name is tagged with “ren” at the end. A few troupes use a different tag instead of “ren.” A troupe consists of child, male, and female dancers and musicians. At the head is a pole lantern bearing the name of the troupe. “Jimoto-ren” (地元連) is a troupe from the place where the Awa Odori is held. And “shotai-ren” (招待連) are invited troupes.
Niwaka-ren (にわか連) – Dance troupe for anyone to freely join in and dance (tobi-iri sanka). No special costume required. Easy to spot since they wear no uniform and look disorganized. Some Awa Odori festivals have a Niwaka-ren. Or sometimes at the end, anyone can join in with the dance troupe.
embujo (演舞場) – Dance venue where the troupes dance for spectators. This is usually a section of a street or large avenue. There may be bleachers or just a sidewalk where people can sit and watch. The bleachers are for paid seating. The venue may also be called “kaijo” (会場) which is a generic term for venue and may be numbered.
Nagashi-odori (dance parade)
nagashi-odori (流し踊り) – Dancers dance while moving down the road in a parade.
kumi-odori (組踊り) – Instead of moving in a parade, the dancers perform in one location for a prolonged period around 15-20 min. It could be a special area along the parade route or a stage. Often performed as the final number.
otoko odori (男踊り)
otoko odori (男踊り)
otoko odori (男踊り) – Men’s dance where they crouch low with the knees pointed outward. They usually wear a happi coat, shorts, and tabi socks. They may also dance with an uchiwa fan or paper lantern. Children and women can also dance the men’s dance. In the troupe, otoko odori usually appears before the onna odori.
onna odori (女踊り)
onna odori (女踊り) – Women’s dance. They wear a yukata, crescent-shaped hat, and wooden geta clogs. They dance in various formations while hopping on their clogs. Elegant-looking and the troupe’s main members.
aho (阿保) – Fool. Awa Odori dancers shake their hands above their heads. This is happens to be the Japanese gesture to indicate one’s idiocy. So it is nicknamed the “fool’s dance.”
“Yatto-sa! Yatto-sa!” (ヤットサーヤットサー)
“Yatto-sa! Yatto-sa!” (ヤットサーヤットサー) – “Yatto-sa, yatto-yatto, yoisa, yatto-sa!” A dance cheer often shouted by dancers. It means, “Long time no see! How have you been?” This is not normal Japanese.
yakko odori (やっこ踊り)
yakko odori (やっこ踊り) – Kite dance with an acrobatic dancer miming as a kite controlled by a kite handler with an invisible string. Humorous and dramatic especially when the kite does cartwheels and somersaults. Only a few troupes perform the kite dance.
narimono (鳴り物) – Musicians. They appear at the end of the dance troupe and consist of flute players (fue 笛), shamisen players (三味線), bell player (kane 鉦) who sets the rhythm, and taiko drummers at the end.