Embodying Japan: Cultures of Sport, Beauty, and Medicine 2017

Property of the Country

Rio Otomo describes the way Japanese media portrayed the country’s athletes in the 1964 Olympics. The media’s narrative, Otomo argues, promoted the belief that a person must be “disciplined and managed” (117). Furthermore, it was a citizen’s duty to keep the country “moving forward,” (117) which could be done by sacrificing “the human body” (117) in competitions like the Olympics. It was seen as a civic duty to compete and win medals for your country. Thus, the spectators and athletes formed a sense of national unity and pride, which signified Japan’s return to glory post-WWII.

According to Murakami Haruki, the Japanese women’s volleyball team’s victory at the Olympics is a prime example of  “self-sacrificial deeds for the nation” (120). Yet, Otomo stresses that the team’s dedication is attributed to their mindset of a factory girl’s purpose and the perception of the team as a textile company. Like Meiji era factory managers, coach Daimatsu Hirofumi created a “family-like moral community,” (120) so in the media’s eyes, the players were only acting as “dutiful daughters” (122). However, there was a notion of autonomy by factory girls earning a wage, so was there an innate drive to compete? Consequently, Otomo highlights that the common media portrayal diminished the skill and strength of the players in fear of crossing femininity and masculinity.

The death of marathon runner Tsuburaya Ko¯kichi, Mishima Yukio writes, can be seen as “an ideal warrior’s death” (126), but Haruki rejects this perspective. Otomo claims that Haruki’s description of events lacks “nationalistic sentiment” (127). Consequently, he does not see Ko¯kichi’s suicide as a just act done to honor the country. Yet, what is the public opinion of Ko¯kichi’ suicide and how is it affected by his identity as a male? 

Works Cited:
Rio Otomo (2007) Narratives, the Body and the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Asian Studies Review, 31:2, 117-132, DOI: 10.1080/10357820701373283

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