TOKYO -- At first glance, the website "Tokyo Gorin Gakusei Volunteer Ouendan" (Tokyo Olympic student volunteer support group) looks to promote volunteering among university students for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games -- but the punch line is, it isn't. It is scalding satire that has gone viral on social media.
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Website creator Kazuki Matsumoto, 20, a second-year student at the Waseda University School of Political Science and Economics in Tokyo, did not plan for his website to spread like wildfire. He put the page together in roughly 6 hours on Aug. 19 thinking he might just show it to a few friends. By the next day, however, it had made its way across several social media platforms, and climbed into the Japanese domestic top 3 "trends" ranking on Twitter for a time.
In the introduction at the top of the page, Matsumoto writes, "The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games is trying to gift us with an extremely rewarding volunteer opportunity. From my position as a university student, I have created this site for the purpose of conveying the significance and appeal of volunteering for the event to my fellow university students."
However, when one continues to scroll down the page, the more it becomes clear that this is actually a backhanded compliment.
Concerning the cost of the games, which has ballooned since the original plan was drawn up, the site exalts, "At the original cheap price, the Tokyo Olympics could never become a spectacular event. If it's more than 1 trillion yen, then it will definitely be acclaimed as 'Cool Japan.'" Meanwhile, of Japan's sauna-like summer heat that has become a hot topic surrounding the July 24 to September 6 games, the site reasons, "If we only have strong emotional connections, we will most certainly be able to tolerate any troubles we face."
Matsumoto ends on a scaldingly sarcastic note.
If Japan pulls together the elements of "creation of medals from urban mining reminiscent of the collection of metal items during the war" and "battling the heat with water sprinklers with the determination of (villagers trained to take on U.S. invaders during the war with) bamboo spears," then "the beautiful nation of Japan will be able to realize the finest games ever with its self-victimizing ideology that it can boast of to the rest of the world."
Matsumoto himself is active in school events, and is a member of the university's school festival committee. "I'm not against the Olympics itself, and I even thought that I wanted to participate as a volunteer before," he explained. However, with things like the games' snowballing cost and the fact that the government sought to facilitate volunteer recruiting by sending out a notice to universities across the country requesting they not hold classes during Tokyo 2020, Matsumoto started to feel uneasy.
"(The government) is just trying to exploit the young generation under the pretext of (volunteering) being rewarding," he said. "The government should re-examine how it is using the budget in a way that benefits students more."
Marketing writer Megumi Ushikubo, 50, who often interviews young people, pointed out, "The acceptance by young people that even if something is unpaid, 'there is meaning in simply working up a sweat and doing your best' ended with the bubble generation.
"The young generation today feels rather strongly that they want to be of use to other people. One could even say that is the spirit of volunteer work," Ushikubo emphasized. "Simply calling for participation without being able to concretely explain how volunteering will be helpful will only lead to antagonism. Clearly explaining and gaining understanding (from young people) will be important."
(Japanese original by Kenichi Omura, General Digital News Center)