Name: Max Power*

Hometown: Newcastle, England

Present City: Newcastle, England

I’m from Newcastle, England, and next to where I live is a marine college that’s recognized worldwide for its engineering, navigation and ship-related disciplines. My dad is from Saudi Arabia, and he was paid by the Saudi government to do his marine course there. He met my mom during his studies, and they ended up moving back to Saudi Arabia, where I was born. They later divorced, and my sister, brother and I grew up in England. My dad remarried in Saudi Arabia and had four more kids, so there are seven of us altogether. My sister Yasmin was one of the first 100 women in Saudi to get a drivers’ license.

I am a technician by trade. I started working for a company that built stages when I was 17, and at first, I did things like packing boxes and pushing them around warehouses. I started working on events and getting hired for all kinds of different gigs, and that’s how I got asked to come work the Olympics in Japan.

I am probably the most unsporty person you’ll ever meet. But it’s probably good to have someone who’s not interested in watching the Games, since that means you’ll always have someone sitting next to the switch kit in case anything goes wrong. One of the big things I’ve noticed about the Olympics is the amount of waste, and the amount of energy and materials it takes to put the events on. All the temporary structures and infrastructure, and the amount of brand new things you see that will probably never get used again; it’s quite concerning. But other than that, it’s kind of an honor to work for the Olympics. It’s definitely a good thing to have on your CV. 

As far as having the Games during a pandemic, would I agree? I don’t think I’m allowed to not agree, since I’m here, getting paid to do it, but yeah, the Japanese government and the Olympic organizing committee might have wanted to think a little bit more about how they’ve gone about putting it on. They should have decided to not have any spectators at all, rather than trying to have spectators and then canceling it at the last minute. I feel they’ve locked down the country for so long just to have the Olympics, and it’s kind of not fair on the country. I’ve chatted with a few people who ask what I’m doing here, and when I say I’m working for the Olympics, they clearly look bothered. They seem to understand that I’m here to do a job, though, and they don’t blame me for it.

On days off, I have been to Kyoto, Mt. Takao, Mt. Fuji and to see the giant Buddha.

Our Japanese contractors are quite nice guys. It is a bit frustrating though, because things here are done in a certain way, and you can’t deviate from it. In this line of work, sometimes you have to go off script in order to make things happen and get systems going. But in Japan, things are expected to run to the exact millimeter on the plan. I think it’s just the culture here: people have to explain every little iota to their manager, who has to explain it to their manager, and their manager. And it just goes up and up the chain. In England, you just answer to your own manager. As long as you get things done safely, nobody’s really bothered. But here, it seems that micromanaging is just the way things are done. 

On our days off, the guys and I have been to Kyoto, Mt. Takao, Mt. Fuji, and to see the giant Buddha. One of my favorite places is Enoshima island. Nice little seaside town; we walked all the way up the hill, went to see all the temples, and had some absolutely fantastic food. We were literally sitting on the edge of a cliff, watching the sea. 

For the most part, people here are friendly enough…quite helpful. But there have been a couple of times where I’ve gotten in a lift and people stepped out, or I sat down in a train and they got up and went and sat somewhere else. I don’t know if that’s a Corona thing or what. And when some guys from my work team and I tried to enter a restaurant in Nakano, and a couple other places in Kyoto, we were told “Sorry, Japanese only.” Again, I don’t know if that’s a Covid thing or a “We don’t like foreigners thing”, although I’d like to think it’s the former. Actually, If I do get Covid I will have caught it from people here in Japan, since we’ve been quite heavily screened. But people don’t know that unless they’re reading up on a daily basis. I guess you can’t really blame them. 

Japan doesn’t really seem to be a great place to travel with kids, so I’d probably leave my two little girls at home. But I’d love to come back here someday on holiday together with my wife. It’s an absolutely beautiful country.

#Olympics #Tokyo2020 #Tokyo #Japan #focusshift #outsiderperspective #COVID #travelinJapan #labor #technician

*Max Power is a pseudonym

About the author

Kimberly Hughes is a freelance writer, translator, editor, university educator and community organizer based in Tokyo. She was a longtime contributor of stories on grassroots socio-political movements for the Ten Thousand Things blog, and her feature stories on social issues, arts/culture and travel have appeared in publications including The Mainichi, The Diplomat, Kyoto Journal, Tokyo Weekender, Sixty-Six Magazine and Craftsmanship Quarterly.

This post is also available in: English (英語)

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Kimberly Hughes is a freelance writer, translator, editor, university educator and community organizer based in Tokyo. She was a longtime contributor of stories on grassroots socio-political movements for the Ten Thousand Things blog, and her feature stories on social issues, arts/culture and travel have appeared in publications including The Mainichi, The Diplomat, Kyoto Journal, Tokyo Weekender, Sixty-Six Magazine and Craftsmanship Quarterly.