Tokyo Olympics: Japanese artists reimagine countries as anime samurai
A group of Japanese artists are hoping to help people embrace both the Olympic spirit and Japanese culture by reimagining flags of competing countries as samurai characters.
Nations large and small are represented in the World Flags project, including India, South Africa, Great Britain, Sri Lanka, El Salvador and Turkey.
"Samurais are unique to Japan and we want everyone to get to know traditional Japanese culture," creator Kamaya Yamamoto said.
He starts by researching the meaning and history of a country's flag as well as the colours and design, and then researches their culture.
For example, because the Mexican flag features an eagle perched on a cactus, eating a snake, Mr Yamamoto blended these elements together to create a samurai with a snake insignia and an eagle companion.
Each character also comes with a short write-up on their personality, strengths and weaknesses - a bit like a character in a video game.
"We hope this can be a way for people to learn about other countries," says Kozo Yamada, another artist on the project. "That's what the Olympics are about."
Samurai soldiers have played a huge part in Japanese history since at least the 12th Century. Although samurais themselves no longer exist, "bushido" - the way of the warrior, based on honour and discipline - is a value system considered important in Japanese culture even today.
Even though the online initiative seems like a fitting promotional campaign for the Tokyo Olympics, the 15 people behind the project don't make any money from it and do it in their free time.
They have so far made samurais out of the flags of 84 of the 200 competing countries.
Some embassies in Japan - like Honduras and Venezuela - have separately contacted the artists because they want to display pictures of the samurais.
The hope is that the images will help people get excited about the Olympics, especially since no-one will be able to actually watch any of the Games in person.
Japan is in a state of emergency because of Covid and all spectators are banned.
"People will only be able to enjoy the Olympics online," says Mr Yamada. "So hopefully our designs will provide a bit of entertainment and relief for all those tired of Covid-19."