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We visited the Nippon Foundation Para Arena in Tokyo and met with Prince Harry!

We visited the Nippon Foundation Para Arena in Tokyo, which is known as the base of Japan para-sports.

Britain’s Prince Harry, who was visiting Japan to watch the final match in the Rugby World Cup (held in International Stadium Yokohama on November 2nd) happen to be there to interact with Japanese para athletes.  Junior reporters that did not know Price Harry’s visit were so surprised by the unexpected show-up, but they did a great job to cover Para Arena.

Now please check it out!

Does anyone have a plan to watch Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games to be held next year? We, junior reporters, visited the Nippon Foundation Para Arena in Odaiba this time.

The Nippon Foundation Para Arena was built to provide the place for para-athletes to strengthen their abilities, and also to allow many people to learn about para-sports in preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics. The arena is used not only for the training of Japanese national para-athletes but also for those of club teams. It is one of the few valuable facilities which also allow athletes from oversea to learn about Japanese language and culture.

When you first step into the building, you will find a giant artwork on the wall. This piece was designed by Shingo Katori and made from Legos. You can see Tokyo Skytree and Tokyo Tower in the work that expresses a wish to bring the world as one which including all the town.

The arena incorporates universal design principles and made it easy for to understand. It is fully wheelchair accessible that the walkway is wide enough for wheelchair users to pass each other, and also braille blocks and slopes are equipped. Most doors are also wide and sliding-typed for sports-specific wheelchairs. In fact, we did saw wheelchair users passed through a doorway so smoothly.

We walked in the gymnasium called ‘Arena’ and saw some athletes were having the training of Boccia and Wheelchair Rugby.
Boccia involves throwing, rolling or hitting six red and six blue balls toward a white target ball called jack and compete as close as possible. All the athletes were taking careful aim and rolling balls. We could see how earnest they were.

It was also the first time to watch Wheelchair Rugby. It seems that there are some other detailed rules, such as teams have just 40 seconds to score a try. When I look carefully, the wheelchairs which the athletes use are different from ones we usually see, the angle of the wheels is inverted V-shaped. And the structure of wheelchairs is different between attack and defense. When athletes clashed, the echo in the Arena was so loud. I thought this is a bit of dangerous sport. I wondered if athletes were not afraid or hurt to clash and fall.

And as we were watching their training, Britain’s Prince Harry has walked in the Para Arena! And he talked to us!
Prince Harry is the patron of the Rugby Football Union. He is very passionate about sports promotion and visited Japan this time to support the match in the Rugby World Cup final.

Reporters’ impressions
My image of Prince Harry is uptight in a suit and goes everywhere with a bodyguard, but the prince surprisingly showed up in casual clothes with no bodyguard. He sat diagonally forward of me and talked to everybody with a smile. He also asked me “Can you speak English?” and I answered “I can speak just a little.”, but he gently replied, “That’s enough.” It was so impressive to see the prince nearby whom I usually watch on TV.
After a while, the prince walked towards athletes of Wheelchair Rugby and Boccia. I thought he was nice that he talks to every athlete.
I met Prince Harry face-to-face, and now I feel the closeness. At the Olympic and Paralympic Games, I wanted to support both Japanese and British teams. The attraction of sports is boundless! I’m looking forward to the next year.
Yuki Kikuchi, 6th grader

Prince Harry watched Wheelchair Rugby and Boccia enthusiatically. During the tour, he smiled and talked to the athletes who were practicing and also us who were reporting about Para Arena. I was impressed by his kind attitude and his friendly smile. He was gentler than I expected.
Asumi Noghchi, 5th grader

Prince Harry was tall and politely talked to us. The Prince asked me, “Is there a swimming pool in your school?” When I checked about it later, I found out that most schools in Britain do not have swimming pools. I was surprised because it is usual to have swimming pools in Japanese schools. I couldn’t talk to Prince Harry this time because I cannot speak English. I want to study English from now on to communicate with people from all over the world.
Yuina Tsukioka, 5th grader

When the Prince walked in the Para Arena, the atmosphere changed suddenly, and my heart was pounding, but when he talked to us, he squatted down to our eye level. I felt like talking with one gentleman rather than talking to the Prince, and it was very touching!
Sara Kobayashi, 5th grader

Prince Harry was a very friendly and said “hello!” to us, the junior reporters from Tsuzuki Junior Editorial Board. I replied to him questions such as “Which country will win the final in the Rugby World Cup tonight.” and “Is there a swimming pool at my school.” I look forward to seeing British athletes coming to Yokohama next year.
Rintaro Fujie, 6th grader

I had a chance to introduce myself to Prince Harry. The Prince spoke to me very friendly with a smile. He was also talking friendly to Boccia and Wheelchair Rugby athletes.
I was thrilled and impressed by the unexpected opportunity to meet Prince Harry. It was a valuable experience.
Kokono Hirota, 5th grader

Prince Harry observed the training of Boccia and Wheelchair Rugby with us, which are Paralympic sports. After that, he approached to all the athletes and enjoyed talking with them. Prince Harry was tall and kind, and he spoke to many people friendly. I spoke to him a little. I was very happy, but I wish I could talk to him more.
Shota Suzuki, 6th grader