TOKYO — Kurumi Mochizuki is the kind of skilled soccer player who can roll a ball from between her shoulder blades to the top of her head and onto her right foot, keeping it aloft for more than a dozen kicks. She makes it look so easy.
Yet when she practices with her local club team in southeastern Tokyo, her coaches sometimes advise her to take longer breaks than her teammates, and warn her not to pick up heavy bags of balls when clearing equipment from the field.
All because she is a girl.
Kurumi, 13, is the only girl on her team. She plays with boys because there are no girls’ club teams near her neighborhood and no girls’ team at her middle school. Finding a team in high school will be difficult, too. Only one of the 14 schools in Kurumi’s area offers a girls’ team. Her older brother, who plays soccer at his high school, has had no such trouble — almost all the high schools in the district have boys’ soccer teams.
Tokyo Olympics, which open next month, offer an opportunity to anoint another crop of champions to inspire girls with athletic aspirations. But after the Olympic spotlight dims, those like Kurumi will still face powerful obstacles.
Japan has no law like Title IX, the American statute that requires schools receiving public funding to offer equal opportunities to boys and girls, and there is no public data on how much schools spend on extracurricular sports or how it breaks down on gender lines.
Female athletes who persevere often have to push past stereotypes that they are doing something unladylike, jeopardizing their chances of attracting boys and later becoming wives and mothers. Even their coaches view their participation through this lens, in some cases giving them etiquette lessons to ensure they are ready for domestic life.
2011 Women’s World Cup and claimed the silver medal at the London Olympics in 2012.
She followed her brother into soccer when she was 6. “When I was little, I never thought about it,” she said of being the sole girl on her team. “But once I got a bit older, I was much more aware of it.”
The extracurricular soccer team at her public middle school is technically coed, although not one of the team’s 40 players is a girl. Kurumi decided to stick to the club team she had played with since elementary school rather than try to break into a new group at school.
“There is a difference in strength and aggressiveness between boys and girls,” said Shigeki Komatsu, the middle school’s vice principal, standing on the sidelines as the boys scrimmaged on a gravel pitch, their cleats kicking up puffs of dust.
hopes that the situation would improve for female athletes in Japan.
Before that victory, girls in the United States had flocked to suburban soccer clubs after the U.S. women won the World Cup on American soil in 1999.
Koshien, that is more than 100 years old. Just after New Year’s, huge audiences tune in to watch the Hakone Ekiden, a college-level marathon relay that is restricted to male runners.
There are few vocal advocates for female athletes, and most of their coaches are men who often do not provide support for the physical changes that girls undergo in adolescence.
Hanae Ito, a swimmer who represented Japan at the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008, said coaches along the way had told her she was “mentally weak” when she gained weight or suffered menstruation-related mood changes as a teenage athlete.
“I thought it was a problem with me or that it was my fault,” she said. “But I think that this all ties back to Japan being a patriarchal society. Even women’s sports is seen from a male gaze.”
The idea that female athletes need to worry about their future prospects with men is deeply rooted.
After Hideko Maehata, an Olympic swimmer, became the first woman to win a gold medal for Japan, The Asahi Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest newspapers, heralded her victory at the 1936 Berlin Summer Games with the headline: “Next Up Is Marriage.”
Such attitudes persist today. Yuki Suzuki, who played in Japan’s Nadeshiko women’s professional soccer league and taught the sport until she gave birth to her son, is frustrated by the rigid gender definitions.
“Girls are often told ‘be feminine, be feminine,’” said Ms. Suzuki, now 34. “I think we have to change the fundamental culture of Japan when it comes to women.”
Even when girls get the chance to play, a bias toward boys emerges in small ways. At the middle school Kurumi attends, the boys’ volleyball and basketball teams get the gym three days a week for practice, while the girls use it the other two days.
Kurumi said she tried not to worry about the unequal treatment. She does not hold it against her coaches, she said, for barring her from carrying heavy equipment during practice.
“I am sure the coaches just care about me,” she said. “But personally, I know I could carry it.”
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Early last year, as international lockdowns upended daily life, they took with them, one by one, many of the major cultural and sporting events that dot the calendar each year. The N.B.A. suspended its season, the French Open was postponed for several months and the Tokyo Olympics were delayed a year. The future of the Glastonbury Festival and the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival were in doubt. It was a bleak time.
Recently, as conditions in many places around the world have slowly begun to improve, and as countries have begun mass vaccination campaigns, some events and cultural staples have made plans to return, albeit with modifications. While few events, if any, have plans to go ahead free of restrictions this year, some are taking a hybrid approach. Others remain postponed or canceled.
Here’s the status of some of the major events around the world.
scheduled to begin on July 23 with an opening ceremony. The bulk of the athletic events will begin the next day. The first round of Wimbledon begins on June 28 and will run through mid-July. Officials said they were working toward a spectator capacity of at least 25 percent.
scheduled for Oct. 11, and the 50th New York City Marathon is set for Nov. 7.
The 105th Indianapolis 500 will go on as planned on May 30. Officials will allow about 135,000 spectators in — 40 percent of the venue’s capacity. The event was organized with state and local health officials and was approved by the Marion County Public Health Department, race officials said.
The French Open, one of the premier tennis competitions, has been postponed one week to a new start date of May 24. The decision was made in agreement with the authorities in France and the governing bodies of international tennis, said officials, who want the tournament played in front of the largest possible number of fans.
is canceled again this year.
it would not take place this summer.
The Essence Festival of Culture, which usually draws more than a half million people to New Orleans over the Fourth of July weekend every year, will host a hybrid experience this year over two weekends: June 25-27 and July 2-4.
Headliners like Billie Eilish, Post Malone and ASAP Rocky will take the stage at the Governors Ball Music Festival, which is scheduled for Sept. 24-26 at Citi Field in Queens. Organizers say the event will return to its typical June dates in 2022.
Burning Man, the annual countercultural arts event that typically draws tens of thousands of people to Black Rock Desert in Nevada, has been canceled again this year because of the pandemic. It will return in 2022, organizers said.
After being canceled last year, the Austin City Limits Music Festival, the event in the capital of Texas, is scheduled to return to Zilker Park on Oct. 1-3 and Oct. 8-10.
on Sept. 13. A second event is scheduled for May 2022.
NYC Pride 2021 will move forward in June with virtual and in-person events. The Pride March, which was canceled last year, will be virtual this time. (San Francisco Pride, also in June, is planning similar adjustments, while Atlanta Pride is planning to hold an in-person event in October.)
from Aug. 10. In order to keep concertgoers safe, organizers said events will not have intermissions and its venue will have a limited number of available seats. Similarly, the Salzburg Festival in Austria kicks off in mid July with modifications.
The Edinburgh International Festival, a showcase for world theater, dance and music in the Scottish city since 1947, will run Aug. 7-29. Performances will take place in temporary outdoor pavilions with covered stages and socially distanced seating.
E3, one of the video game industry’s most popular conventions where developers showcase the latest news and games, will be virtual this year from June 12-15.
The New York International Auto Show, which showcases the newest and latest automobiles from dozens of brands, will run Aug. 20-29. The event last year was postponed and eventually canceled because of the pandemic.
The Cannes Film Festival in the South of France, one of the movie industry’s most revered and celebrated events, has been postponed to July 6-17 from mid-May. The 2021 edition of the event, which was canceled last year, is currently scheduled to be in person.
After more than a year of no theater performances, Broadway shows will start selling tickets for full-capacity shows with some performances starting on Sept. 14. (Some West End shows will resume as early as May 17.)
After being virtual last year, New York Comic-Con will return with a physical event Oct. 7-10 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Manhattan. The convention will run at reduced capacity to ensure social distancing, organizers said. This year’s Comic-Con International event, which is normally held in July in San Diego, has been postponed until summer 2022. There are plans for a smaller event called Comic-Con Special Edition however, that will be held in person in November.
TOKYO — For Olympic host cities, one of the keys to a successful Games is the army of volunteers who cheerfully perform a range of duties, like fetching water, driving Olympic vehicles, interpreting for athletes or carrying medals to ceremonies.
If the rescheduled Tokyo Games go ahead as planned this summer, roughly 78,000 volunteers will have another responsibility: preventing the spread of the coronavirus, both among participants and themselves.
For protection, the volunteers are being offered little more than a couple of cloth masks, a bottle of sanitizer and mantras about social distancing. Unless they qualify for vaccination through Japan’s slow age-based rollout, they will not be inoculated against the coronavirus.
“I don’t know how we’re going to be able to do this,” said Akiko Kariya, 40, a paralegal in Tokyo who signed up to volunteer as an interpreter. The Olympic committee “hasn’t told us exactly what they will do to keep us safe.”
assure the globe that Tokyo can pull off the Games in the midst of a pandemic, the volunteers have been left largely on their own to figure out how to avoid infection.
Much of the planning for the postponed Olympics has a seat-of-the-pants quality. With less than three months to go before the opening ceremony, the organizers have yet to decide whether domestic spectators will be admitted, or hammer out details about who, besides the athletes, will be tested regularly.
Tens of thousands of participants will descend on Tokyo from more than 200 countries after nearly a year in which Japan’s borders have been largely closed to outsiders. The volunteers’ assignments will bring them into contact with many of the Olympic visitors, as they pass in and out of a “bubble” that will encompass the Olympic Village and other venues.
leaflet distributed to volunteers advises them to ask visitors to stand at least one meter — a little over three feet — apart. During shifts, they should disinfect their hands frequently. If offering assistance to someone, they should avoid directly facing the other person and never talk without a mask.
“Mask wearing and hand washing are very basic, but doing that to the max is the most important thing we can do,” said Natsuki Den, senior director of volunteer promotion for the Tokyo organizing committee.
“People often say, ‘That is so basic, is that all you can do?’” Ms. Den said. But if every volunteer implements these basic measures, she said, “it can really limit the risk. Beyond that, it is hard to think of any magic countermeasures, because they don’t really exist.”
Even as a majority of the Japanese public has remained opposed to hosting the Olympics this year, many volunteers say they are committed, at least in principle, to fostering international fellowship after more than a year of isolation. (The ranks of volunteers did take a sizable hit when about 1,000 volunteers quit after the first president of the Tokyo organizing committee, Toshiro Mori, made sexist comments.)
But volunteers worry about their own health as well as the safety of the athletes and other Olympic participants, especially as Tokyo experiences new spikes in virus cases. The capital is currently under a state of emergency.
“I am scared that I would get the virus and show no symptoms, and accidentally give it to the athletes,” said Yuto Hirano, 30, who works at a technology company in Tokyo and is assigned to help athletes backstage at the Paralympics events for boccia, a ball sport. “I want to protect myself so that I can protect them.”
postponed last year encouraged them to “address people with a smile.” In online sessions and other messaging since, Ms. Holthus said, “they still keep saying, ‘Oh, and your smile is going to be so important.’”
“We’re supposed to be wearing masks,” she said. “So I find that very insensitive.”
Not every volunteer has serious concerns about safety. Some said that they expected widespread compliance with the rules, given what’s on the line.
“I think athletes will do whatever it takes to participate in the Olympics,” said Philbert Ono, a travel writer, photographer and translator.
“If we tell them to wear a mask, they will wear a mask,” he said. “When they have meals, they will sit way far apart and separated and facing only one direction. So I think they are very disciplined and they know what is at stake.”
Hikari Hida contributed reporting from Tokyo.
TOKYO — Daisuke Hayakawa is the coach of Japan’s Olympic skateboarding team, which is likely to dominate the sport when it makes its debut at this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo. But that does not mean he would dare set his skateboard down on a city sidewalk.
He may be a rebel in Japan, but he has manners.
“Skateboarding became one of the sports at the Olympics, but the image of skateboarding in Japan is that it’s an activity for unruly kids,” he said.
So as evening fell on a warm summer day last year, Hayakawa, 45, carried his board in the crook of his wrist. He left home in central Tokyo and took the subway to Kanegafuchi Station, a half-hour train ride north of downtown, and walked about 15 minutes toward the Sumida River.
The streets and sidewalks were mostly empty. Yet his skateboard still never touched the ground.
relegated to the unkempt shadows of Japanese society — far more hidden and distrusted than in other places around the globe.
Expectations are high. Hayakawa expects Japan to capture at least six of the sport’s 12 medals, including multiple golds.
It is sure to be a strange but exciting time for Hayakawa and others of an older generation, the grown-up misfits most deeply connected to the culture of skateboarding in Japan.
“For my old friends, we want to show that what we did was not wrong,” Hayakawa said. “For the newcomers, who come to skateboarding because of the Olympics, I explain that our culture is cool. We are why they are competing.”
After an hour or so under the viaduct, the red sun swallowed by a distant skyline just starting to sparkle, Hayakawa glowed with sweat. He flipped his skateboard back into his hands and retreated all the way to the station. Then he rode the next train home, carrying his own set of wheels under his arm.
“People gradually see skateboarding as a sport,” Hayakawa said. “But most people will not understand that the counterculture side is the real skateboarding.”
Kantaro Suzuki contributed reporting.
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All through last year, as first Europe and then the United States suffered catastrophically high coronavirus infections and deaths, Pacific Rim countries staved off disaster through an array of methods. South Korea tested widely. Australia and New Zealand locked down. In Japan, people donned masks and heeded calls to isolate.
Now, the roles have been reversed. These countries that largely subdued the virus are among the slowest in the developed world to vaccinate their residents, while countries like Britain and the United States that suffered grievous outbreaks are leapfrogging ahead with inoculations.
The United States has fully vaccinated close to a quarter of the population, and Britain has given first shots to nearly half of its residents. By contrast, Australia and South Korea have vaccinated less than 3 percent of their populations, and in Japan and New Zealand, not even 1 percent of the population has received a shot.
To some extent, the laggards are taking advantage of the luxury of time that their comparatively low infection and death counts afford. And they all rely on vaccines developed — and, for now, manufactured — elsewhere.
dropped a goal of vaccinating the country’s entire population by the end of the year.
In Australia and Japan, the authorities have blamed supply problems from Europe for the slow rollout. Australia has said the European Union failed to deliver 3.1 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine. A spokesman for the European Commission said that only 250,000 doses had been withheld from Australia by Italy in March, but officials in Australia say the reality is that the rest of the doses, blocked or not, simply have not arrived.
Australia has faced further complications as it has advised against giving the AstraZeneca vaccine to people under 50 after reports of very rare blood clots.
reluctant to get vaccinated right away.
overseas spectators have been barred from the Olympics, the Games’ organizers have said they will not require athletes, Olympic officials or foreign journalists to be vaccinated in order to enter Japan. On Friday, Seiko Hashimoto, the president of the Tokyo organizing committee, said that unlike other nations, Japan did not plan to prioritize its athletes for vaccination.
report published this past week in the British Medical Journal urged the Tokyo organizers to reconsider plans to host the Games “as a matter of urgency.”
In Japan, where only doctors and nurses are authorized to administer vaccines, less than a quarter of health care workers have been vaccinated, though jabs began in February. Even a doctor giving shots to older citizens last week in Hachioji, a city in western Tokyo, had not himself been vaccinated.
Dr. Eiji Kusumi, the director of the Navitas Clinic, a private network of medical clinics in Tokyo, said his workers had not been inoculated. “This is the same as World War II,” he said, “when the public was told, without bullets or food, to fight with bamboo spears.”
In South Korea, and elsewhere, residents worry that the country’s early success in managing the virus is being slowly eroded by the dearth of vaccines.
“I get frustrated when I see other countries like the U.S. starting to bounce back to normal,” said Suh Gaeun, 23, a research analyst in Seoul. “Koreans have been very obedient in abiding by the government’s pandemic regulations. And yet we’re struggling to secure enough vaccines for everyone. We’re going downhill.”
Yu Young Jin contributed reporting from Seoul.
FUKUSHIMA, Japan — When Bruna Noguchi signed up to be a torchbearer for the Tokyo Olympics a year and a half ago — before the coronavirus pandemic, before the resignations of two top officials over sexist remarks — she never dreamed it could be a controversial decision.
But as the relay kicked off on Thursday morning in Fukushima Prefecture, the ceremony and those participating in it were at the center of a national debate, with many questioning whether the Games should go on in spite of the virus, the ballooning costs and other growing challenges.
While more than three dozen people, including about 20 celebrities, have withdrawn from the relay, Ms. Noguchi, 22, has decided to participate. She is one of 10,000 people who will carry the torch over the next four months, from Fukushima to Okinawa in the far south to Hokkaido in the north and on to the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo.
“I can understand the feelings of the people who have decided to withdraw from the relay,” Ms. Noguchi, who is from Gunma Prefecture, northwest of Tokyo, said in a recent interview. “But I’m not worried.”
Twitter users accused Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has faced a backlash for his insistence on holding the Games despite widespread public opposition, of timing the decision for the start of the torch relay.
Case numbers have surged in recent weeks in Miyagi and Yamagata Prefectures in the Tohoku region of Japan, which also includes Fukushima Prefecture, and a local state of emergency was declared last week.
Tatsuya Maruyama, the governor of Shimane Prefecture, in western Japan, said early last month that it was “difficult to cooperate” with the torch relay and the Tokyo Games because of the coronavirus situation.
restrictions on the torch relay. The grand ceremony on Thursday and the first section of the relay were closed to the public. Routes will not be announced until 30 minutes before the start time, and spectators can attend the relay only in their home prefectures.
No cheering or shouting is allowed, and fans must offer “support with applause or using distributed goods.” The relay will be live-streamed by NHK, Japan’s public broadcaster.
Despite the precautions, some people in Fukushima said they were still worried. Shuhei Ohno, 34, a chef in Koriyama, said he feared that the torch relay may “raise the infection risk” nationwide.
“The vaccine hasn’t spread widely enough in Japan yet, so how can there already be plans to host the Olympics?” he said.
Still, the organizers are pressing ahead. Over the next 121 days, Ms. Noguchi, the runner from Gunma, and her fellow torchbearers will trot across Japan’s 47 prefectures, including islands off the coast of Tokyo, before completing the torch’s journey on July 23, the day of the opening ceremony.
Ms. Noguchi remains sanguine. She wishes to use her 200-meter run with the torch later this month to thank the community that raised her, as well as to bring hope after a year plagued by an increase in suicides, economic hardship and intense sacrifices by health care workers.
Although the authorities seem determined to hold the Games, Ms. Noguchi acknowledged that if the coronavirus situation worsened severely between now and July, it could still force a postponement or cancellation.
“At least in that case, I was still able to run in the torch relay,” she said.
The organizers scrapped their first logo after plagiarism accusations. The president of Japan’s Olympic Committee was indicted on corruption charges related to the bidding process. Out of fears of extreme heat in Tokyo, the I.O.C. moved the marathon to Sapporo, on Japan’s northern island, 500 miles from the Olympic Stadium.
Taro Aso, the country’s finance minister, has described the Tokyo Olympics as “cursed.”
For Japan, the prospect of recouping its costs has grown only more distant, after the Tokyo organizing committee said on Saturday that it would not allow foreign spectators. Without these visitors, there is now little upside for hotels, restaurants and other tourist attractions.
The organizers say that their focus is primarily on safety, and that they have earmarked $900 million in spending on measures to combat the virus. They have watched in recent weeks as other major sporting events — the Australian Open, the N.C.A.A. men’s and women’s basketball tournaments — have gone ahead. For the Games, some countries are pushing Olympians to the front of the vaccination line, and the I.O.C. has agreed to supply Chinese vaccines for those who need one.
The organizers say vaccination will not be mandatory, however, and many athletes, delegates and others will be coming from places where vaccines are unlikely to be fully available. Japan itself will not start vaccinations for those over 65 until next month, and there has been no indication that athletes will be prioritized.
Infections and deaths in Japan have never spiraled to the levels seen in the United States or Europe, but the country is still recording more than 1,000 new infections each day and dozens of deaths. The Tokyo region was under a state of emergency until Sunday, and the country’s borders remain closed to most overseas visitors.
With more contagious and perhaps deadlier variants circulating around the globe, epidemiologists warn that the Tokyo Olympics have the potential to turbocharge the virus’s spread.
Controlling the pathogen will be “almost close to mission impossible,” said Dr. Kentaro Iwata, an infectious disease specialist at Kobe University Hospital. “Canceling the Olympic Games would be much easier.”