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Live Updates: Tokyo Olympics: NPR


Tokyo Olympics media center volunteers made origami designs, including cranes and flowers.

Merrit Kennedy / NPR


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Merrit Kennedy / NPR

Live Updates: Tokyo Olympics: NPR

Tokyo Olympics media center volunteers made origami designs, including cranes and flowers.

Merrit Kennedy / NPR

During an Olympics where journalists are largely isolated from the host country due to strict COVID-19 protocols, a group of young Japanese volunteers offer tiny gifts that showcase an art form from their country.

In a corner of the convention center where journalists from around the world work, volunteers diligently fold origami paper into beautiful, elaborate patterns.

A handwritten sign on the front reads: “TAKE FREE”. On top of the table are creations such as multicolored handmade flowers, paper sushi rolls and small boxes. There are paper cranes in many shapes and sizes – which are traditionally given to sick people to wish them good luck.

“It’s very natural for us to learn origami skills early on, like maybe when you’re in kindergarten or elementary school, you have so many opportunities to learn it,” explains the volunteer Chie Kitta.

These young women work at the counter of the press center which helps journalists set up their temporary offices.

Live Updates: Tokyo Olympics: NPR

These volunteers working in the media center wanted to do something to show journalists the culture of Japan.

Merrit Kennedy / NPR


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Merrit Kennedy / NPR

Live Updates: Tokyo Olympics: NPR

These volunteers working in the media center wanted to do something to show journalists the culture of Japan.

Merrit Kennedy / NPR

“But while we waited, we thought that maybe we could do something to show our hospitality to the media partners,” said volunteer Toshimi Yabu.

Journalists arriving in Japan to cover the Olympics are not allowed to leave the Olympic “bubble” during their first 14 days in the country, in order to protect the Japanese population from exposure to possible cases of coronavirus.

Saeko Sumida, one of the members of the origami-making group, explains that the idea is to “make a gesture towards some of the Japanese arts, or part of the Japanese experience, for media partners who cannot. really get out “.

“Maybe at least we can provide some of the Japanese arts that you can enjoy,” she said.

The Olympics generally provide a great opportunity for cultural exchange, and this extends to previous media centers. For example, at the Pyeongchang Games, a booth offered journalists books by South Korean authors to read in 14 languages.

Live Updates: Tokyo Olympics: NPR

Volunteers make origami to give to journalists invited to the Tokyo Olympics.

Merrit Kennedy / NPR


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Merrit Kennedy / NPR

Live Updates: Tokyo Olympics: NPR

Volunteers make origami to give to journalists invited to the Tokyo Olympics.

Merrit Kennedy / NPR

But there has never been an Olympics where the media has been so far removed from the host country.

The Japanese Olympic organizers are making a small gesture by offering tours of the main sites of Tokyo to journalists still subject to severe restrictions, so that they can “soak up the atmosphere of the games and of Tokyo”. These tours are tightly controlled and journalists must win a daily lottery to participate.

Volunteers folding origami also have a board displaying a Japanese word of the day. Today’s word is “excited” or “wa ku wa ku”. There hasn’t been much enthusiasm about these Games in Japan yet, as coronavirus cases increase – but this group is doing all they can to make the most of it.



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