Photo Ann C Holland

As the Tokyo Paralympics finishes today, it was fitting to have visited the Oxford Ashmolean where the Tokyo Exhibition was set. This runs at The Ashmolean Exhibition in Oxford from 23 July 2021 to 3 Jan 2022.

Whilst the Olympics and Paralympics in Japan went ahead with some controversy, the organisers did a brilliant job entertaining the world and showing just what the competitors were able to do. The Tokyo Olympics and Tokyo Paralympics were delayed from 2020 because of the pandemic. Many politicians, citizens and activists continued their protests whilst the sports were on! Protesters were on the streets and outside the stadium, because of huge costs and the Covid surge. The public are still split between cheering for the medals and the fear of virus; 78% of Japanese still believe the Games should have been further postponed or cancelled.
At the exhibition, the artwork on show is awesome. The early works of Japanese art are majestic with vivid colours, exquisite lines and the symbolism of the cherry blossom and Mount Fiji.

There is also more recent art showing the harsher side to Tokyo: its poverty, its dangerous position on a tectonic plate boundary and the terror of the war.

There is glorious colour photography but sadly none of the most recent art.

In pre-austerity education days my school had a Japanese teacher for a year of secondment in the Cotswolds. He taught classes, some Japanese and especially enjoyed maths. One pupil whose mother was from East Asia was frightened at the idea of a Japanese teacher as her grandfather had died in a concentration camp. Fortunately we had the support of a Japanese mother whose daughter was in the same class and understanding was reached and divides bridged.

Art and sport are powerful unifiers, shining light on what we share and helping generate common understanding. 

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