Recently, “Team Japan” scored quite a few points in leading the world in the promotion of sports and culture to achieve economic prosperity and world peace.

The central and local governments, as well as the public sector, worked together in October to bring success to the World Forum on Sport and Culture, which was attended by several thousand people from all over the world.

One remarkable aspect of the event was that politicians in charge of sports promotion from as many as 69 countries, including more than 30 sports ministers or equivalent-level politicians, attended the forum.

“It’s quite a big deal that a single country was able to attract this many sports-related political executives. This must be a first in the world,” said Kumi Fujisawa, an advisor to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, as well as the head of the Office of World Forum on Sport and Culture. “The World Forum on Sport and Culture was a big success as so many people who oversee sports came to see Japan.”

An international forum on sports of this large scale is probably comparable only to the International Conference of Ministers and Senior Officials Responsible for Physical Education and Sport (MINEPS), inaugurated in 1976 by UNESCO. The discussions that took place in Japan’s forum will be addressed again in MINEPS VI, which is scheduled to take place in Kazan, Russia, in July.

“Japan has learned how to make contributions via sports to the world, especially developing countries,” Fujisawa said.

Fujisawa also attributed the success to the fact that the public and private sectors united to make the forum a great opportunity to showcase Japan’s commitment to become the world leader in sports and culture.

The World Forum on Sport and Culture was held in Kyoto on Oct. 19 and 20 and in Tokyo from Oct. 20 to 22, hosted by the sports ministry, the Agency for Cultural Affairs and the Sports Agency, and saw significant support from the private sector.

“This event was a public-private collaboration in the truest sense,” she said. “Until now, similar events were funded by the private sector and the public sector was in charge of realizing them. But this time, both contributed similar amounts of money, were equally engaged in practical preparatory work and shared the responsibilities.”

She also added not only large corporations provided support, but small venture companies did as well by creating promotional movies, lending servers and offering other support.

Japan’s commitment to make the forum successful is connected to Tokyo’s winning the bidding for the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics in September 2013, soon after which the ministry began working on holding the forum.

Also, the timing of the forum was ideal as it was held just a month after the Rio de Janeiro Olympics and Paralympics finished and global attention turned to Tokyo, the venue of the next Summer Games.

Japan will also be hosting other major international sporting events, including the Rugby World Cup 2019 and the Kansai World Masters Games 2021, making the forum even more relevant.

Japan’s commitment was evident as Nijo Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site in Kyoto, held a number of unprecedented events to entertain foreign government officials and executives in charge of sports and culture.

The guests enjoyed the feeling of how it was to be a Japanese emperor receiving the highest quality of hospitality from a shogun at Nijo Castle on the evening of Oct. 20. Forum attendees were treated to a cultural event recreating the 17th-century reception of Emperor Go-Mizunoo by Tokugawa Iemitsu, the third Tokugawa shogun.

Ninomaru Palace of Nijo Castle was used for the first time as the venue for an event showcasing a wide range of traditional Japanese culture. The event included rikka-style flower arrangement by Senko Ikenobou, a bonfire, a white horse at the Karamon entrance gate and performances of noh and court music.

The castle’s shoji were open to provide a better view of the illuminated Ninomaru Palace. The shoji have rarely been opened, but the ministry has persuaded the city of Kyoto to open them and do some other unprecedented things to make the event the best it could be, Fujisawa said.

The event was followed by Ikuko Kawai’s violin concert, “The Oriental Opera,” which offered an unprecedented majestic blending of East and West.

“These events offer a lesson on how to utilize cultural properties” for commercial purposes, Fujisawa said. “Also, we probably learned how to deepen international understanding on Japanese culture via not only anime and other pop culture, but also through Zen, the tea ceremony, noh and other traditional culture.”

Another popular event was “The Land of the Rising Sun,” which combined a variety of performances by Japan’s cutting-edge creators and celebrated performers from many different artistic backgrounds showing the values and spirit that Japanese have treasured throughout history. The performance traced the lineage of Japan from its ancient beginnings through modern daily life in Tokyo.

“That may have given attendees a glimpse of what the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics would be like,” Fujisawa said.

The gathering, also supported by the World Economic Forum, saw Japanese and non-Japanese, including those invited by the WEF, participate in debate sessions on business. Japanese participants were able to gain firsthand experience of what international symposiums are like, she added.

The forum, co-hosted by Kyoto Prefecture, the city of Kyoto, the Nippon Foundation and the nonprofit organization Entrepreneurial Training for Innovative Communities, featured numerous speeches by prominent leaders of international sporting events.

The Tokyo Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games President Yoshiro Mori, International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, International Paralympic Committee President Philip Craven, World Rugby Chairman Bill Beaumont and WEF Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab each delivered speeches.

There is a deep-rooted connection between the World Forum on Sport and Culture and the WEF. Shortly after Tokyo won the bid to hold the 2020 Games in September 2013, then-sports and culture minister Hakubun Shimomura spoke to WEF’s Schwab about holding an international forum on sports and culture.

The significance of the partnership with the WEF is its ability to send messages to the world. The WEF is the organizer of the annual international business conference known as Davos, which sees many world-renowned politicians, businesspeople and other influential people as speakers, panelists and attendees.

The WEF brought such people to World Forum on Sport and Culture. Hundreds of so-called Young Global Leaders and company CEOs from outside Japan who already had strong connections with the WEF came to the World Forum on Sport and Culture.

The timing of IOC President Bach’s visit to Tokyo was also impeccable as he was able to talk to Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike about the venues of the games. Decisions on the venues were delayed after Koike, who assumed the post in August, revised venue construction plans to cut costs.

Bach’s visit to Tokyo, which had been planned two years ago, was seen as likely to speed up the discussions on venues.

Download the PDF of this Davos Special

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.