Olympics 2020 : The Japanese Way

It was quite an unusual atmosphere inside the stadium. There was no usual bustle and commotion of fans celebration within, but rather was met with protests outside of it. Such is in today’s world, the Olympics is a global event that reaches far and wide. When the global viewers tuned in to witness Tokyo’s opening ceremony, some were left quite confused or puzzled at the abstract performance but not least towards the order of the participating nations parade. Whilst the former, can be talked about separately on the unique way the Japanese view and communicate its humor, on the latter, should have been more straightforward one might think.

Fireworks illuminate over the National Stadium during the opening ceremony of the 2020 Summer Olympics, Friday, July 23, 2021, in Tokyo. (AP Photo/Shuji Kajiyama)

The past Olympics in memory, has always introduced the participating nations via the English Alphabetical order. One would normally expect to see the likes of Argentina one of the firsts, Ireland somewhere in the middle, Uruguay or Yemen towards the end. What transpired, caused some frets to the forehead and the mind to boggle.

#Tokyo2020 parade nation order Me: oh easy it’s alphabetical… Me: oh wait must be by number of athletes per country.. Me: oh wait what? Me: …

The parade had Afghanistan followed by United Arab Emirates (UAE), Andorra by Yemen, had a bunch of countries that start with I at the front end and replaced in the middle by the B letter countries. What’s more puzzling, how come, Romania was sandwiched by Liberia and Luxembourg? It really had some people scracth their heads in bewilderment. (Full list can be found here)

Well, this is due to the simple fact, that bar from Greece, France and Japan, it was using the Japanese Alphabet as the order of the day. The Gojūon of Japanese kana to be exact. The order follows Japanese pronounciation syllable by syllable. ie: a , i, u, e , o, ka, ki, ku, ke, ko, sa, si….. and so forth. After the first 5 set of vowels, the list goes on to pair the list of consonants with the vowels. Mind you, the R and L are combined and pronounced midway between the two. Dont ask me how or why on this.

You can learn more on this by watching the A I U E O no uta (song). Link here

With this in mind, where chaos seems prevalent, there is actually a logic and order to it. Vowels lead the way followed by the arranged consonents. Andorra followed by Yemen (Ieman), The string of U countries at the front simply by having the U vowel in front. Romania is spelt by the same R with Liberia (Riberia) and Luxembourg (Rukusenburuku). The same logic applies through out. This is only useful if you know what the Japanese call your country by. Well, thats for you to find out right.

The Malaysian Olympic Team with it colourful wear. Hoping for our 1st ever gold at these games



p/s: I have a lot of unfinished posts that I have saved as draft throughout the long hibernation. Hopefully I’ll post more in the near future.

Author: Idris Mahzan

Grew up in the UK. Studied in Japan. Malaysian at heart.

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