The 1964 Tokyo Olympics: a Symbolic Media Event of the High-Growth Era

July 13, 2011 6:30 PM (finished)

Iwona Merklejn

(Assistant Professor of Japanese Studies at Nicolaus Copernicus University)

Date/Time July 13, 2011 6:30 PM
Location Room 549 5th floor, Akamon Sogo Kenkyuto Institute of Social Science, University of Tokyo  [map]
Abstract The Tokyo Olympics became a major national myth rooted in the collective memory of the whole generation of Japanese who lived the most active part of their lives in the era of postwar recovery and high-economic growth. It became a symbol of success, a new stage of modernization and "the reentry of a rehabilitated Japan into the international community" (K. Ruoff, 2010). On the other hand, it inflamed nationalist feelings as the Ministry of Education put more effort into "patriotic education" in preparation for the Games and elevated controversial national symbols such as the Hinomaru and Kimigayo. The event also raised questions about the high costs of modernization as it completely changed the city landscape of Tokyo. In this presentation, I am going to focus on the symbolic meanings of the Tokyo Olympics and analyze them as a media event. The study of the Olympics provides us with a number of insights into the national identity patterns and ideologies constructed by the Japanese mass media in the high-growth era. As I discuss the Olympic champions who became new national heroes, a gender perspective will also be needed, especially when talking about the "Oriental Witches" volleyball team whose final victory over the Soviet Union won record audience ratings.
Bio Iwona Merklejn is a JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow at the Institute of Social Science, the University of Tokyo, and an Assistant Professor of Japanese Studies at Nicolaus Copernicus University, Poland. Her research interests include the modern history of Japan, media studies and the history of Polish-Japanese relations. Recent publications in English include "Polish Franciscans in Japan – The Beginnings of the Mission in Nagasaki (1930-1945)," in Ewa Palasz-Rutkowska and Inaba Chiharu (ed.), In Search of Polish Graves in Japan (Warsaw: Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, 2010); "The Japanese Media System at the Turn of the Century – Continuity and Change," in Arkadiusz Jabłoński, Stanisław Meyer, and Morita Koji (ed.), Civilisation of Evolution. Civilisation of Revolution. Metamorphoses in Japan, 1900-2000 (Cracow: Manggha, 2009); "The Role of Media in Bringing Aid to Victims of Natural Disasters: a Few Cases from Postwar Japan," Silva Iaponicarum, 4/2005, available online at: