Shiina Ringo Discusses the Olympics, Japan’s Charm, and More

It’s been a year since the closing ceremony of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. One of the highlights of the event was the handover ceremony, organized by a team of eight which included Shiina Ringo. To mark the occasion, The Asahi Shimbun has published a translated interview with Ringo on their site.

Ringo begins the interview by bringing up a topic which many have had mixed opinions on: Cool Japan. “There is a vague, yet certain curse in the idea of ‘Cool Japan’, isn’t there? But rather than anime, ‘kawaii’ or Harajuku style, the idea of Japan for Westerners is found more in, for example, the subtle and refreshing taste of roasted green tea. At least this is what I have heard from (Japanese musician) Kenji Ozawa, who now lives in New York.”

She didn’t want to go for a concept that relied on stereotypes about Japan because that would be lazy, and also unrealistic in regards to contemporary Japan. “Up to a certain point in the process, the project team for the flag-handover ceremony was very much haunted by such stereotypes as ninja, samurai, and geisha.”

But the ninja stereotype did appear in the handover ceremony in a subtle way. Ringo related how quickly things move in Tokyo to the skills of a ninja. “So, I wanted to present Japan’s ‘ninja’ skills without resorting to using a character in ninja costume for the ceremony. These ideas were expressed on the stage, set to music of 60 beats per minute, or one beat for every second, with Nintendo’s Mario who traveled through time and space to Rio.”

This swiftness is part of Japan’s charm, according to her. “What I consider the true charms of Japan are perseverance, curiosity, and physical ability, as well as the creativity and ingenuity that reside within a healthy body and mind.”

In regards to the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2020 Olympics, Ringo did hint at something that has been a hot topic for years: who will perform. She had a different take on things though. “I also think it would not go down so well in Japan if we were to rely on star power. If a certain celebrity was selected, it would only cause a fight between people who support that person and those who don’t. That is not what our version of Japan and Tokyo ought to be.

She proposes something more harmonious for the ceremony.”I believe collective ideas gathered from the wisdom of ordinary people would be a better representation of the nation.”

The full interview can be read here.