From an age of planning to an age of action:
Becoming a “model city of knowledge” for the world from 2020, What is the World Forum on Sport and Culture?

Key Person Interview: Kumi Fujisawa

From an age of planning to an age of action:
Becoming a “model city of knowledge” for the world from 2020, What is the World Forum on Sport and Culture?


The Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) is holding the World Forum on Sport and Culture in preparation for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, and the 2021 Kansai World Masters Games. In cooperation with the Innovative City Forum, this Forum is an international meeting that provides a place to discuss international contributions combining sports, culture, and business. We asked the Forum’s preparation room leader Kumi Fujisawa about the background of this ambitious endeavor.

Goals of the World Forum on Sport and Culture

In 2020 and beyond, Japan needs to be healthier. That is why the World Forum on Sport and Culture plans to plant a variety of seeds for 2020 and beyond, starting with a cook-off just after the Rio Games are finished in October. It is hoped this will help culture, sports, and business to pick up collective steam.

What does it actually mean for such things to pick up steam? It means that we need to make sure everyone involved has momentum and moves together. We express this with the catchphrase “Co-Creation, Co-Growth.” This means that each person needs to create the event while finding something in it for him or herself to start from.

What is the significance of this first cooperation with Innovative City Forum 2016?

Tokyo is a city that gets a lot of attention from the world. I am also a member of the Special Investigative Committee on Tokyo Urban Design, and I proposed to that committee that Tokyo should be the world’s model of a city of the future. Japan is being called a “developed country facing new problems.” In the sense that Japan is already dealing with and working out solutions to problems the world will soon face, Japan should also present the future of cities.

One big goal of the Forum is to increase the motivation of people abroad to invest and develop business in Japan. Cabinet meetings are also being held about this. In that sense, I think that cooperating with the Innovative City Forum will show foreigners the appeal of investing and doing business in Japan from the perspective of urban development and new businesses and industries.

Why should foreigners invest in Tokyo?

I personally find Tokyo interesting because it has the ability to take in all kinds of things from around the world. Without any particular regional or municipal objective, it simply takes everything in. This makes things chaotic, but new things are born from that chaos. I think the city of Tokyo is just like a complex systems laboratory. Over 600 foreigners from around the world will come to Japan for the upcoming World Forum on Sport and Culture, and everyone is excited to see what will happen in Tokyo.

One of the World Forum on Sport and Culture’s 3 pillars is “human power”. What does this mean?

We originally came up with the concept of this Forum with the MEXT Minister at the time, Minister Hase. At that time, Minister Hase was always saying that we needed to value the “revival power” of everyone helping each other we had witnessed at the time of the earthquake, and that we should use that as our basis to think about new sports, culture, and business.

I am going on a bit of a tangent, but here is a funny story. There have been all kinds of discussions on whether or not Japan has grown with Abenomics, but Japan has definitely gotten more attention since the Abe administration was inaugurated. The story behind this is that when the World Bank IMF General Assembly was held in Japan, the one thing my colleagues from Davos kept saying was that they were surprised. Deflation has gone on for a long time in Japan compared to other first world countries. The country is crumbling after 25 lost years, and no one thinks to invest in Japanese stock. That is why there are no more analysts. They had no interest in visiting Japan because they thought there was no more hope for it, but when they actually came for the World Bank IMF General Assembly, participants said they discovered something completely different than what they had imagined. Crumbling countries usually become full of slums, but apparently all the Assembly participants wondered if a country where the streets are clean, the people are proper, there is no trash laying around, people line up for trains, and everyone is so wonderful could really have a bad economy. They are saying to each other that perhaps moneylenders suddenly started buying stock because of the 3 arrows of Abenomics. So although these things are natural to us, our human power and moral values seem mysterious from a foreign perspective, and I think this sort of thing is also related.

When a lot of foreigners see the goodness and human power we don’t notice, I think they will bring it to our attention, and we will see this human power as something we need to continue to refine and protect.

A flat Forum that values interaction

When planning sessions, our objective is to limit panel discussions to 30 minutes for each 1 hour session, and to make sure to leave the remaining 30 minutes for interaction (Q&A). However, we received a lot of complaints about this objective during the session planning process. People were saying that since we are getting such prominent figures to participate in panel discussions, it is better to have them speak for the whole hour. But we told them that we wanted to avoid creating a hierarchy of “speakers” and “listeners”. Both speakers and listeners are people with their own wisdom, so the sessions should be a place for exchange, with the speakers merely creating the first impetus for that exchange. In any case, we want the sessions to be exchanges of knowledge.

We are also trying to arrange things so these exchanges can happen amongst the most diverse groups of people possible. For example, we plan to have around 50 countries participate in the Sports Minister Meeting. It is extremely rare for Sports Ministers from this many countries to gather. Also, inspired by the spirit of Davos, we are planning to bring together all types of people including businesspeople, athletes, artists, and politicians for plenaries, buffets, and public-private workshops. We also want to make the workshop speakers as diverse a group as possible, regardless of gender, nationality, and age.

What the Forum will leave behind and produce

What tends to happen with an event is that everything stops once the event is over.
I think this is a big problem, and kickoffs are things that have to keep going. So we are trying to arrange the things we have discussed here so they will continue in some form until 2020.

For example, with the cooperation of the government’s Headquarters for Japan’s Economic Revitalization’s “Reform 2020” working group, we are also looking to work with elements of revitalization strategies. And with the participation of the Japan Tourism Agency Director, for instance, we can think about developing things so that we can touch on tourism policies in our meeting discussions as well. The Japan Sports Agency has also established some foundations of policies for sports industrialization, so we plan to include people from the Sports Agency in discussions on building on those foundations.

This preparation room will be dissolved once the World Forum on Sport and Culture is over, so we plan to delegate one theme to “Reform 2020”, one to the Sports Agency, another to the Agency for Cultural Affairs, another to the Tourism Agency, another to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and so on. In this way we can eventually hand our discussions over to ministries, companies, and organizations that can go on to materialize them.

What will be the next actions of the World Forum on Sport and Culture and the Innovative City Forum?

This is a complex age, so we should not simply think “It would be good to take such and such action.” Rather, everyone should use their own abilities, knowledge, and networks to take action on the things that tug at their own hearts. I feel like the “age of planning” is already over. Action itself is the important thing. If we keep taking action, it will flow and take shape on its own. Therefore, when the World Forum on Sport and Culture and the ICF are over, I think the ideal thing would be for each individual person to start doing something. That pace is what human power is. However, the world will become a mess if people act only for their own profit, so I hope we can build a strong foundation of human power that will inspire everyone to take the next step forward.


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