After nightfall, the tour bus arrived at the museum’s backdoor. The passengers got out of the bus with reflective yellow bands attached to their media credentials, so that they could be identified as journalists waiting in quarantine at Tokyo Olympic Games.
A few dozen people were there to win a lottery and get a tour of the museum after-hours. The tour chronicles the city’s transformation from a small fishing village into olympic host. They were led through the back door to the otherwise empty exhibition.
The guide tried to make things positive.
She smiled, “It’s only for you,” she said. “You are VIPs.”
The point of the nighttime visits was not to make locals feel uncomfortable.
Many host cities for the Olympics offer tours to journalists in order to promote their destinations. They are trying to do this with a smaller group and keep Olympic visitors in a controlled bubble that is separated from Tokyo’s 14,000,000 residents.
Participants in the “escorted, controlled tour” program signed a promise not to leave the tour. Talking to residents is forbidden. Breaking the rules could lead to deportation.
The 400-year-old Hama-rikyu Gardens, located at the Tokyo Bay’s edge, was the first stop. Around 600 people visited the park that day. They closed the park and the locals left to let outsiders in.
As the sun set, the tour guide pointed out the perfect spot for photos of the iconic Japanese scene: the gleaming skyscrapers rising behind the carefully shaped bonsais pine trees.
The guide then led the group back towards the bus. As Japanese custom dictates, the gardener stood at the huge stone gate waving goodbye.
The bus made its way onto the expressway where tolls were raised to discourage drivers from using it to accommodate Olympians. The bus entered a residential area, where sidewalks were almost empty because Tokyo’s residents are currently under severe restrictions to stop the virus spreading.
It arrived at the museum in darkness. The journalists wandered alone through the hall. Many photographers focused their cameras on the 1964 Olympics, which were held less than 20 years after World War II. As a symbol for peace, 8,000 white peacocks were released at the opening ceremony.
The games are back, but less celebratory. A virus has claimed the lives of more than 4,000,000 people.
The bus took them back to the Olympic bubble safely after they left the back door.