1. Japan National Stadium
    Photo: Kisa Toyoshima
  2. Olympic Paralympic mascots
    ©Tokyo 2020The Tokyo 2020 Olympic mascot Miraitowa (left), and Paralympic mascot Someity (right)

11 things to know about Japan at the Paralympics

Some interesting and surprising trivia about the Tokyo Paralympics – and Japan’s participation in the Games

Kaila Imada
Written by
Kaila Imada
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The Tokyo 2020 Olympics have officially come to a close and the countdown to the Paralympic Games, which kicks off on Tuesday August 24, has begun. Team Japan came out of the Olympics with a record medal haul, and now we can’t wait to see what this year’s Paralympic athletes will bring to the table.

The Paralympics have a much longer history than many people realise, and Japan is a key part of it. To set the scene, here’s some interesting Paralympic trivia to help get you pumped up for the upcoming Paralympic Games.

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Japan as the Paralympic host country

Tokyo is the first city in the world to hold the Paralympics twice

Hosting the Paralympic Games from August 24 to September 5 makes Tokyo the first and only city to have hosted the Paralympic Games two times (the first was in 1964). The very first Paralympic Games were held in 1960 in Rome, Italy.

Two new parasports will be introduced this year

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympics will debut badminton and taekwondo as new parasports. You can catch these sports starting on September 1 and 2 respectively. With those new sports, the Games will showcase a total of 22 Paralympic sports during the coming weeks.

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Tokyo’s Paralympic mascot is inspired by cherry blossoms
©Tokyo 2020

Tokyo’s Paralympic mascot is inspired by cherry blossoms

The friendly pink mascot, known as Someity, gets its name from the somei yoshino variety of sakura trees. The pink colour and cherry blossom petals adorning the mascot are all a tribute to this iconic flower of Japan.

You can tell the Paralympic medals apart just by touching them
Photo: ©Tokyo 2020

You can tell the Paralympic medals apart just by touching them

Just like the medals presented at the Olympics, the Paralympic medals are also made from recycled metal sourced from electronics such as mobile phones. However, what makes the Paralympic medals so special are the indentations that have been included on the medals to help the visually impaired distinguish them from each other. The gold medal will have one indentation, two for silver and three for bronze. Each medal will also feature braille letters spelling out 'Tokyo 2020'.

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The Paralympic torch is almost identical to the Olympic torch
©Tokyo 2020

The Paralympic torch is almost identical to the Olympic torch

Similar to the Olympic torch, the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic torch is also shaped like a cherry blossom but is a sakura pink colour, whereas the Olympic torch was more gold-tinged. The design features separate flames emerging from each of the five flower petals that come together in the centre for a stunning effect.

The three Agitos will be on display at Odaiba Marine Park
©Tokyo 2020

The three Agitos will be on display at Odaiba Marine Park

The Olympics have rings, while the Paralympic symbols are the three Agitos composed of three colours: red, blue and green. The shape of the Agito (which means 'I move' in Latin), represents movement. Just like the Olympic rings were, the Paralympic logo will be on display at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo Bay to mark the start of the Paralympics.

Japan’s participation in the Paralympic Games

Japan has participated in every Paralympic Games except for the inaugural 1960 Games in Rome

Japan was, of course, present at the 1964 Paralympics held in Tokyo, and was the only Asian country to participate. It was also the only Asian country present at the first Paralympic Winter Games, which took place in 1976 in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden. 

Japan’s first Paralympic gold medal was in table tennis
©Tokyo 2020

Japan’s first Paralympic gold medal was in table tennis

Yasunori Igari and Fujio Watanabe won Japan’s first-ever gold medal during the men’s doubles table tennis match in the 1964 Paralympics held in Tokyo. Their win was also the country’s only gold medal at the Games.

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Japan has won 376 Paralympic medals

To date, Japan has won a total of 376 medals at the Paralympic Summer Games. The country’s record for most golds ever won at a single Paralympics was set in Seoul (1988) and equalled in Athens (2004), where Japan finished with 17 gold medals.

Japan’s world champion wheelchair rugby team won their first Paralympic medal in 2016

Japan's mixed wheelchair rugby team are currently the reigning champions from their World Championship victory in 2018. The team also won bronze against Canada in the Rio de Janeiro Paralympic Games in 2016. Will they come out on top in Tokyo 2020? We’re keen to find out.

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Wheelchair tennis legend Shingo Kunieda has won the most Paralympic wheelchair singles titles
©Tokyo 2020

Wheelchair tennis legend Shingo Kunieda has won the most Paralympic wheelchair singles titles

Shingo Kunieda is Japan’s Paralympic tennis star. He won the men's wheelchair tennis singles at both the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Paralympics, and also snatched gold in the men's doubles during the 2004 Games in Athens. Kunieda holds two bronze medals in men's doubles from the 2008 and 2016 Games. So it’s no surprise he’s considered one of the greatest wheelchair tennis players of all time. We’ll be keeping an eye on him during this year’s Games.

More Olympics and Paralympics in Tokyo

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