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While the Winter Games were heating up in Pyeongchang, South Korea, artists from Japan and around the world were already looking ahead to summer 2020.

A public call for cultural and artistic projects to be staged in the run-up to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games has received 2,436 applications from 29 countries and regions.

The open call—one of the largest ever organized by the Japanese capital—was coordinated by Arts Council Tokyo, an organization founded by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. The projects are not limited to any particular genre—anything from concerts and theater performances to visual exhibitions using manga, anime, and Japanese traditional arts will be considered.

A woman performs a traditional tea ceremony during the Tokyo Grand Tea Ceremony event in 2016, organized by Arts Council Tokyo.

Each selected project will receive a budget of up to ¥200 million ($1.88 million) and will run during the year leading up to September 2020 as a part of the larger “Tokyo Tokyo Festival,” a series of events planned for visitors and residents around the time of the Olympics.

“The aim of the public call is to explore new possibilities of presenting Tokyo to the world in artistic ways,” said Katsunori Miyoshi, who heads Arts Council Tokyo. The council will consider projects that are accessible to everyone, including foreigners, the elderly, and physically challenged people, and that have the potential to be expanded on a larger scale—even beyond Japan—after the Olympics end.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has recently been pushing to include the arts in the “festival of sports.”

For the first time ever, the Pyeongchang Olympic Village showcased artwork by four Olympian artists—athletes who have taken part in the Games at least once and have a passion for art. A series of short films was shot in the village, and visual artists held workshops to complete 15 paintings inspired by the Winter Games.

These initiatives were a part of Olympic Agenda 2020, the IOC’s strategic roadmap to “further strengthen the blending of sport and culture at the Olympic Games and in between.”

Musicians play wadaiko, traditional Japanese drums. Photo: Ken Kobayashi

Arts Council Tokyo was set up in 2012, the year the selection process began to choose the host city for the 2020 Games. Aimed at turning Tokyo into a globally recognized cultural hub, the organization provides grants to artists and performers. It supports various projects, including street performances, cultural experience classes, and community art projects to regenerate cultural ties within Tokyo.

Miyoshi said the diversity of arts and cultures in the city—from the modern and fashionable Harajuku district to the traditional Asakusa area—is what attracts artists to Tokyo. “The long history of Tokyo as the capital of Japan has created a diverse range of urban clusters within the city, each with its own culture, providing sources of inspiration for arts to evolve along with the local communities,” Miyoshi said.

The open call for projects is also intended to help boost entertainment options in Tokyo for foreign tourists, who sometimes find their choices for activities limited due to language barriers. With a surge in international visitors expected during the Olympics in 2020, Tokyo is also considering other ways of keeping them entertained, such as extending the operating hours of museums and offering late-night theater performances.

In 2016, the historic Meijiza Theater in Tokyo launched a new show that combines traditional Japanese sword battle and taiko drum performances with animation and dance to give tourists a taste of both traditional and modern Japanese culture.

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The open call for projects is also intended to help boost entertainment options in Tokyo for foreign tourists