Preparations for the Olympics have been responsible for the increased harassment and displacement of unhoused residents of Tokyo. In particular, the reconstruction of the Olympic Stadium has led to the displacement of residents of Meiji Park as well as residents of the nearby Kasumigaoka Apartments government housing. Other Tokyo public spaces, such as the Miyashita and Shibuya Parks, have also seen increased policing, privatization, and exclusion as developments and gentrification accelerate in the surrounding areas. The increase in surveillance and militarization in Tokyo — trends that accompany all modern Olympics — is occurring alongside national-level efforts to remilitarize and expand surveillance capabilities. With right-wing, conservative forces growing in power in Japan’s government, critics of the Games argue that the Olympics are being used to reinforce nationalist-imperialist narratives.

In 2011, radioactive material was released from nuclear power plans in Fukushima as a result of an earthquake and tsunami. Hundreds of thousands of residents were evacuated. The Japanese government has now cut off housing assistance to all those evacuees on the basis that it is safe to return, and the 2020 Games will be framed as the “reconstruction” or “recovery” Olympics. Although some evacuees have returned and tourism has resumed in the area, some activists, evacuees, and even scientists believe the region is still not safe, as the level of dangerous exposure is disputed. Many evacuees are refusing to return, albeit for diverse reasons that are not all health-related. Activists argue that even if the region is now safe for visitors, the Olympic framing of a complete recovery obscures the fact that tens of thousands of residents are still struggling — now without government support — to recover from the trauma and disruption of displacement.

Originally budgeted at $7.3 billion, the Tokyo Olympics will likely cost closer to $25 billion, according to a report released by the federal Board of Audit in October 2018. Meanwhile, the former head of the Japanese Olympic Committee, Tsunekazu Takeda, resigned in 2019 amid accusations that the bid committee had paid bribes of around $2 million to guarantee the IOC would choose Tokyo to host the 2020 Olympics.

The resistance

反五輪の会 (Hangorin no Kai) is a collective that opposes the 2020 Games. Its name translates to Anti-Olympic Group. Hangorin no Kai has played a leading role in forging transnational connections among anti-Olympic groups, with representatives having visited Rio de Janeiro, Pyeongchang, and Paris. The collective also launched the Anti-Olympic Arts Council and the Planetary No Olympics Network, two platforms that have emphasized and strengthened transnational links. Known for its creative art interventions, Hangorin no Kai grounds its work in lived experiences, in areas ranging from homelessness and disability struggles.

東京オリンピックおことわリンク (Tokyo Olympics Okotowalink, or just Okotowalink) is a coalition of organizations that oppose the 2020 Games. ‘Okotowari,’ written in Japanese in the image above, can be understood as “we refuse!”, such that the group’s name, Okotowalink, is a pun about refusing the Tokyo Olympics.

Neru-kaigi, roughly translated as Sleep Collective, advocates for and supports unhoused communities through weekly activities to monitor and serve the neighborhood of Miyashitu Park.

It is important to note that these three groups — Hangorin no Kai, Okotowalink, and Neru-kaigi — have overlap in membership and work in partnership against the 2020 Olympics and the Games’ impacts.

More recently, the Fukushima-based Anti-Olympic Poster Committee has called for artwork critiquing the Tokyo Games.

Critical art & graphics

Tokyo 2020

Key resources:

General

2019 | Hangorin no Kai | No Time for Your Festivities: No Olympics Nor Emperor! [Statement] [English] [Japanese] [Korean]

2018 | No Thank You to 2020 Olympic Disasters Link – Okotowalink | A Declaration of No Thank You to Tokyo Olympics – July 22nd, 2018 [Statement] [English]

2017 | No Thank You to Olympic Disasters Kick-off Rally attendees – Okotowalink | A Declaration of No Thank You to Tokyo Olympics [Statement] [English]

2016 | Ogasawara Hiroki & Yamamoto Atsuhisa (editors) | Han Tōkyō Orinpikku sengen – The Anti-Olympic Manifesto [Book] [Japanese] [Details in English]

Corruption

2019 | Justin McCurry – The Guardian | Japanese Olympic chief to quit amid corruption allegations scandal [Article] [English]

Environment & sustainability

2018 | Andrew McNicol – South China Morning Post | How the Tokyo 2020 Games are killing rainforests in Malaysia and Indonesia [Article] [English]

Fukushima

2019 | AFP – France 24 | Fukushima evacuees resist return as ‘Reconstruction Olympics’ near [Article] [English]

2019 | Koide Haroaki & Norma Field – The Asia-Pacific Journal | The Fukushima Nuclear Disaster and the Tokyo Olympics [Interview / Article] [English] [Japanese]

Housing

2013 | Ruairidh Villar & Hyun Oh – Reuters | Tokyo man to lose home to make way for stadium: again [Article] [English]

Policing & security

2017 | Julian Ryall – DW | Japan’s new conspiracy law ‘puts handcuffs on democracy’ [Article] [English]

2016 | Joe Jackson – Al Jazeera | Security giants earn huge windfalls from ‘surveillance-industrial complex’ [Article] [English]

Resistance

2018 | William Andrews – Throw Out Your Books | Japanese and Korean activists join together to protest the Olympics in Pyeongchang and Tokyo [Article] [English]

2017 | William Andrews – Throw Out Your Books | Street protests and publications form growing anti-Olympic movement in Tokyo [Article] [English]