Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba, Takarazuka theater troupe provide music as 2021 Tokyo Olympics wrap up.

The Olympics’ opening ceremony is always a visual spectacle, but the Tokyo Games’ was a treat for the ears too as the world’s top athletes entered the stadium accompanied by epic video game music. For the closing ceremony, the organizers once again tapped into Japan’s globally popular pop culture, with the surprise inclusion of “Gurenge,” the opening theme of smash-hit anime Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba.

But while vocalist LiSA’s rousing rock anthem has been one of the most listened-to songs in Japan over the past year, so one had heard “Gurenge” like this before: as an instrumental ska cover.

Providing the performance was Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, whose brassy tunes have been energizing fans since 1990, and the song’s source material was quickly acknowledged by the announcers for Japanese public broadcaster NHK. “Yes, this is the opening theme for the anime Kimetsu no Yaiba,” says one commenter, whose broadcast partner adds “It’s an anime that’s became a hit all over the world,” avoiding the confusion regarding otaku arts that recently plagued the BBC, as a group of yosakoi dancers moved in time with the music.

Tokyo Ska Paradise and Demon Slayer weren’t the only entertainment industry icons lending their star power to the closing ceremony either. 20 members of Japan’s all-female Takarazuka theater troupe, clad in formal kimono and hakama pants, sang Japan’s national anthem as the country’s flag was raised.

The Tokyo Olympics will always have the unfortunate footnote that their potential to promote cultural exchange was greatly limited by taking place during the pandemic, which meant no fans in attendance or even foreign visitors in the country. Still, even if they weren’t here in person, the eyes of the world were on Tokyo for the last two weeks, and hopefully some of the stories that came out of the Olympics are leaving those who watched from afar with a deeper understanding of Japan, and a desire to learn even more.

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