Unravel the Enigma

Phase 1 Step 2

Backslide

On July 23, 2018, two years and one day before the foreseen opening of the Olympic Games, the first official licensed Tōkyō 2020 shop was launched inside major consumer electronics retailer BicCamera Shinjuku West. At that time, about 700 articles, such as pins, t-shirts, mugs, booklets, and stuffed toys were for sale. In summer 2019, another 445 officially licensed items got released, including products featuring the 1 Year to Go!  logo and sports pictograms. In pursuance of reaching 5,500 until the Games and generating an income of around ¥ 14 billion (USD 131 million) in total, the number of sold items has gradually been risen. 

Following BicCamera Shinjuku West, two further official retailers, one inside BicCamera Akasaka-Mitsuke and one at BicCamera Ikebukuro East opened in Tōkyō. Then, boutiques got progressively expanded not only in, but also beyond the capital’s area. As of April 2020, there were 89 Tōkyō 2020 stores as well as an online shop operating in Japan. Furthermore, other merchandisers sold nationwide official products. 

Since the announcement of the postponement of the Games of the XXXII Olympiad on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 (release of the new dates as of July 23 to August 8, 2021 and August 24 to September 5, 2021 on Monday, March 30), official fan shops have seen the number of customers drastically decline. Short while after, on April 6, the State of Emergency in 7 out of the 47 Japanese Prefectures until May 6 was declared (Chiba, Fukuoka, Hyōgo, Kanagawa, Ōsaka, Saitama and Tōkyō), which got expanded to nationwide on April 16, and extended to May 31, on Monday, May 4 (though lifted prematurely on May 14 in 39 Prefectures, except Chiba, Hokkaidō, Hyōgo, Kanagawa, Kyōtō, Ōsaka, Saitama and Tōkyō). Consequently, diverse facilities and businesses, including Tōkyō 2020 shops closed temporarily or operate under reduced hours, though once the order lifted they are meant to be reopened. 

However, last week the definite closure of five, and the scale-down of one of the 89 Tōkyō 2020 official goods shops was announced. The Ginza Shop, the Shinjuku East Shop and the Ueno Shop in Tōkyō and the Shinsaibashi Shop and (partly) the Abeno Harukas Shop in Ōsaka are due to close on May 31, 2020, followed by the Yokohama East Shop on June 2, 2020. The decision resulted from discussions of the Organising Committee and shop owners. If or when they ever shall reopen remains at present unspecified and as a matter of fact, many contracts between Tōkyō 2020 and other licensed shop owners are due to expire at the end of the summer.

Although the Games will take place in 2021, they are kept being called Tōkyō 2020, and so, the logos, advertisement, medals and merchandise will not have to be remade. Sponsors as well favoured the 2020 branding, which has been seen all over Tōkyō for years; on posters, taxis, buses, and subways, as well as chocolate and other sweets packages, beverages, dairy products and even soy sauces that feature(d) the emblems and slowly but steadily rose the visibility of the Games in daily life.

Short while after the announcement of the postponement of the Tōkyō 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games, my curiosity guided me to one of the first opened official fan shops located inside BicCamera Akasaka-Mitsuke. I was surprised, not only about the rapid enlargement of offered items (besides rather common articles such as towels, pens, hats and wallets, chopsticks, slippers, ironware teapots, earrings, neckties, Japanese dolls and others were added) but also and especially about seeing some customers, one of them buying articles. 

Observing the scenery, I wondered about the reason for the acquisition: has the purchaser not heard yet that the Olympics are postponed ? Is he nostalgic about the event, already speculating that shops may close, or the Games not be held ? Indeed, a cancellation could stimulate souvenir sales, driving demand for memorabilia from a happening that didn’t take place. Regardless the general uncertainty, the situation at that moment just felt very bizarre. 

Considering the rather atrabilious atmosphere and the recommended distance that people had already started to take, I did back then by politeness not investigate what or why the customer purchased. Afterwards, I though highly regretted my reticence, as when I decided to make a small survey and therefore intentionally visited the same store sometimes again, I could barely find a salesperson, let alone any customer. 

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