Street paper vendors of Tokyo share their thoughts on the Olympics

Photo of Olympic rings.

Photo by Erik Zünder on Unsplash

This year’s Olympics arrived in Tokyo despite an ongoing pandemic and outrage from some of the city’s residents. Often those at the fringes of society are forgotten about when mammoth sporting events like this begin. The Big Issue Japan asked some of its vendors to share their thoughts on the approaching games and also their own personal sporting memories and achievements.

Ito Haruo (54 years old)
Sales location: Hikarigaoka (Nerima), Tokyo
Experience as a vendor: 11 years

I like to watch professional wrestling and baseball, as well as international wrestling such as WWE. Pro wrestling is cool and exciting when the moves are done. I also play baseball, so I understand the fun of that.

When I was a child living in Akita, my hometown, I used to compete in sumo. I once came in second place in a Wanpaku Sumo tournament [a children’s competition]. I can still do it wherever there is a ring.

I want the Olympics to be held. Otherwise, I’ve heard that foreign broadcasters will take trillions of yen in penalties, and I think that’s a waste of money. For me, the Olympics won’t affect my sales and livelihoods because there are no places related to the event around my pitch and no visitors will come here.

M.S. (53 years old)
Sales location: Western area, Tokyo
Experience as a vendor: 1.5 years

Although recently I don’t play any sports, I used to play soccer. So now I’m into watching the games by the national team. I remember I was a “ghost” member of the soccer club in my junior high school days. I hardly attended practice, but the team had me play as a forward to make up the numbers. I didn’t get any goals, but I think I was a good passer.

From the perspective of preventing infection, I don’t think it’s a good idea to hold the Olympics. I can see the Olympic cauldron right above my sleeping place and, in the daytime, I see foreign media people with passes slogging their way to the Tokyo Big Sight exhibition centre. I think the ‘bubble method’ of preventing infections is a stretch.

Nakajima Yoshiyuki (43 years old)
Sales location: Ochanomizu, Tokyo
Experience as a vendor: 9 years

I have been a member of ‘Nobushi Japan’ [the team put together by The Big Issue Foundation in Japan which has participated in the Homeless World Cup) for five years. Originally, we practiced twice a week, and we did so sometimes last year, but this year since March we are having a break in practice while having meetings.

At first, I was scouted and joined the team, and now I go to practice as if I am learning something. It’s more like a routine…rather than playing better. I like traveling abroad [Nakajima loves to buy cheap flight tickets and travel], so I hope to go abroad for tournaments someday, like France or England.

I think it’s better to allow the Olympics to go ahead, since athletes all over the world will have been working hard for these events. It’s a shame that no spectators will be able to come from overseas. I wish they could have enjoyed Japanese culture like authentic sushi.

Courtesy of The Big Issue Japan /

Issues |Sports

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