015 Is the money mindset relative to paying respect?

In this segment I will start off by contemplating the judging fee, or “compensation for judges” (as described in the official documents) and give my thoughts on the relationship between the money mindset of the Organizing Committee and show of (or lack of) respect.

In regards to judging fees, I had my own private policy that there should be no fees paid out for such roles. When I voiced my intentions of waiving compensation I met a lot of reluctance. So I thought things over and decided to accept the offer because I didn’t want to cause any disruption by going against rules for such a “public” event; furthermore, things were moving fast with very limited time. The fee was set at 23,200 yen per day: 69,000 yen for the three-day review (including transportation). In order to receive the payment I was asked to fill out a total of four documents including a “consent form”, a “note regarding compensation for the judges” and a “bank transfer application”, sign my name and affix my personal seal to each—the paperwork involved seemed a bit excessive. But on the other hand I had a favorable impression that they were being careful about money and expenses. I am speaking about a single event here, but when I think about the long road ahead leading up to the Tokyo Olympics, though I am no expert on such matters, I do get worried when I imagine the huge workload of the people in charge of accounting.

I returned the payment I received for my task by registered mail to the Organizing Committee official in mid-September. The 2020 Tokyo Olympic logo was officially withdrawn on September 1, 2015. When I looked backed upon the string of events starting from the time when I was invited to sit on the judging panel, up to the final withdrawal of the emblem. I remembered the deep frustration bubbling inside me against the Organizing Committee, especially its behavior after the press conference held on August 5. I could not allow myself to keep the money, not even a penny that I received from the Organizing Committee— which prompted me to take action and return the money. As time went by, and considering the fact that the judging session itself was invalidated, I began to wonder about other things—maybe the judging fees were paid out of taxpayers’ money of Tokyo citizens. I noticed some discrepancies—it was stipulated that the money was for three days of judging, but in fact, judges only spent two days for the task. All things considered, I decided that I was not going to hang on to the money.

As I was going to return precious money, compensation that was offered to judges on the panel, which I had accepted at one point, I wanted to make sure the money was delivered safely to the official in charge, and to confirm the money would be properly accounted for. Before and after sending it back, I sent emails to the three relevant officials of the Organizing Committee, announcing my intentions about returning the money. Two months have passed since, but I have not received any confirmation of receipt of the money. Mid-September, I could well imagine how things must have been going crazy in the aftermath of the withdrawal of the emblem. My returning of the judging fee would have been a trifling matter, I am sure. So after some time had passed, I contacted a committee official who had been newly appointed as a replacement. But still there was no response.

On September 4, the Organizing Committee revealed a detailed breakdown of expenses related to the emblem competition, the actual review, the selection and unveiling of the official emblem.

Costs incurred for international trademark research and application for registration: about ¥47 million
Costs for launching competition website, compensation for judges, other related expenses including venue rental: about ¥9 million
Printing costs for posters and business cards, etc.: about ¥1 million
Costs incurred for official emblem unveiling event held July 24: about ¥69 million

According to this breakdown, the committee was willing to splurge 69 million yen for the emblem unveiling ceremony, an event that lasted for a mere few hours. I was amazed by their mindset regarding money—I wondered where it came from. The committee came up with this idea of developing and springing an emblem unveiling event. I remembered that it had also given top priority to the development power of the emblem design—it was so stated in the judging criteria for selecting the emblem. Is there any relevance here? Do I sense a certain cause-and-effect?

When I saw the photo of the emblem unveiling ceremony, I suddenly had a flashback of the image of another press conference: the occasion when the name of the new Japanese era, “Heisei” was revealed. This “unveiling” was a super-simple ceremony, with Keizo Obuchi, the chief secretary of the cabinet declaring that the name of the new era was “Heisei”, upholding a board, crisp white, with the kanji characters “Heisei” written on it. There was no fussy staging. It was a simple affair. But the manner was extremely beautiful, and the picture struck me as being very honest, imbued with integrity. The declaration of the name of a new era was a solemn ceremony that took place after the demise of the Emperor Showa—reflecting a grave sadness. Inevitably, it had to be a tranquil event, signifying the deep mourning of the people. That said, as a form, there was virtue in its frugality. The manner was refreshingly pure. It was a beautiful sight that made us see the philosophy of beauty, the aesthetics of the Japanese people. 

The unveiling of the emblem was a grandiose event in stark contrast to the beautiful scene from the past. To spend a stunning 69 million yen for the event seems, from the common-sense of things, outrageously spendthrift, the opposite of taking good care of “public” money. It shows a very special mindset towards money. I wonder if the ceremony was worth it—was there sufficient value, did it bear results. Finally, I feel there is a common mentality at the base between this unique perception of money and the disrespect shown towards the panel of judges. The same could be said about the behavior towards the 101 entrants, besides the finalists. Ever since they submitted their work, they have heard nothing from the organizers. It is a callous attitude that shows a grave indifference towards creators and their creations—it signifies a lack of understanding and respect. Just for the record, other judges on the panel besides Mr. Kazumasa Nagai never received word about the specifics of the unveiling ceremony. I am sure that no one even knew, at least officially, when nor where it was going to be held. At least I was not told. I was not invited.

Is the organizing committee ready to dish out another 69 million yen, once again, for the unveiling event for the next emblem? If I may put in my two cents worth and dare give some direction, my advice would be to follow the manner of the declaration of “Heisei”. By doing so, we will be able to realize a fruitful, refreshingly dignified, beautiful unveiling, fit for Japan. 

This is something personal, but ever since I got embroiled in the Olympic Games emblem issue, I have tried to face the problem head-on. During my struggle and my contemplation, I have relied on the classic “Genshishiroku” by Sato Issai, a Confucian scholar from the Edo period, to guide my heart.

According to Sato Issai:

“There are four kanji characters that should be favored by those who hold bureaucratic positions. The four letters are “public”, “just”, “clean” and “respect”. The first letter stands for fair-minded selflessness. The second stands for honesty. The third stands for personal rectitude. The forth stands for respect and modesty. If one can abide by these four, one will never be at fault. Furthermore, there are four unfavorable kanji characters. They are “self”, “evil”, “cloudy” and “arrogant”. The first stands for inequality. The second stands for corruption. The third stands for bad conduct. The fourth stands for conceit and arrogance. If one should commit any of these four that will certainly bring harm.” (SATO ISSAI, with annotations by Kusumoto, Bunyu. Zayuban Genshishiroku, Kodansha, 1994)

Keiko Hirano

Keiko Hirano:
Designer/Visioner, Executive Director of Communication Design Laboratory
Hirano served on the panel that chose the official emblem for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, which was ultimately withdrawn.