TOKYO: The official mascots of this summer’s Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, Miraitowa and Someity, helped promote the Games although their activities were limited amid the coronavirus crisis.
The mascots “worked hard behind the scenes though they were at the mercy of the pandemic,” said Ryo Taniguchi, the 47-year-old designer of the mascots.
Taniguchi began designing characters under the influence of his father, who was an illustrator. At the start of his career, Taniguchi sold on the streets handmade goods and postcards of characters he designed.
Miraitowa, the Olympics mascot featuring an indigo blue checkered pattern similar to the emblems for the Tokyo Games, and Someity, the Paralympics mascot bearing a pink checkered pattern, were chosen for the Games in a nationwide vote by Japanese elementary school children after going through strict screening.
“You have to sow the seeds for flowers to bloom,” Taniguchi said.
“I thought, ‘Let’s give it a shot,'” he said, recalling his feelings when he submitted the pair of mascots to the contest.
Taniguchi was awarded 1 million yen for winning the contest, as well as the right to attend the opening ceremonies of the Olympics and Paralympics.
However, the mascots’ roles were reduced significantly due to the coronavirus, which caused most of the Games to be held without general spectators.
On July 23, Taniguchi watched the Olympics opening ceremony live at the Japan National Stadium in anticipation of Miraitowa’s appearance.
To his disappointment, however, Miraitowa was nowhere to be seen.
“I was surprised that (Miraitowa) did not appear at all,” Taniguchi said with a wry smile.
Later, images of Miraitowa and Someity promoting various sports and interacting with athletes began to be posted on the Games’ official Twitter account.
Many Twitter users showed support for the pair, posting comments such as “(the mascots are) working hard” and “(they’re) doing the best they can, how cute.”
Many people were delighted to see both Miraitowa and Someity perform at the closing ceremony of the Paralympics on Sept. 5.
“I was pleased to see not just Someity but Miraitowa as well” at the ceremony, said Taniguchi, whose birthday happened to be that day.
“Of all official Games mascots in history, Miraitowa and Someity were perhaps given the hardest task,” Taniguchi said. “I have nothing but praise for their effort.”