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Okinawan Studies

Nation Building at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics:

Nation Building at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics:

Torch Relay in Okinawa and Tokyo


The U.S. armed forces’ base, part of which Japan is obliged to expenses for operation pursuant to the Japan-U.S. Security Pact, is talked about as if it is a problem peculiar only to Okinawa. As searching for something on the Internet, people will select only what they want to see, and will not select what they don’t want to see. Are the Japanese such people? (Medoruma Shun 2004 Asahi Shinbun, August 25 evening edition)

Okinawa has been commercialized as a place to represent the diversity and multiracial aspects of Japan, and accordingly, is only thought of lightly. Its unique public entertainment, music and cuisine are much sought after, but its complicated history and politics have been forgotten. Only pleasant images are woven together. (Medoruma Shun 2004 Asahi Shinbun, August 26 evening edition)

  1. Nation and Olympics

The Olympics, proposed by Pierre de Coubertin at the end of the 19th century, has been held principally under the management of the International Olympic Committee (IOC). However, the Olympics are not the same that have been held to date. Developments, in terms of time, and travel, in terms of space, have respectively taken on different meanings in the networks of various power relationships. The Olympics as we know it lead us to memorize discrepant experiences by the virtue of “discrepant politics” in terms of race, gender, nationality and capitalism. (MacAloon 1984, Tomlinson and Whannel 1984, Allison 1986, Hoberman 1986, Guttmann 1994, Eichberg 1998, Riordan and Krüger 1999, Senn 1999, Roche 2000, Shimizu 2004a, Jarvie 2006)

Especially, the Olympics have always thrived on international competition, their symbolic internationalism coexisting with, and being parasitic upon, the national symbols of flags and anthems and the publication of medals tables (Allison 2002: 345-346). As a vehicle for expressing national sentiment, at times the Olympics has stimulated nationalist sentiment, thereby leading to the appearance of authorities who intended to take advantage of its powerful effect to establish state power. In other words, taking advantage of the Olympics, various attempts have been made to inculcate upon people a larger national sentiment, superior to races or ethnicity.

What does the “nation” mean? It is derived from the Latin word “natio,” the verb of which is “natum,” principally meaning “origin” and derivatively a group united by “origin.” Thus, generally “nation” means a group of people having the same origin and living customs. This leads to the discussion of how to define “origin”; whether it should be geographical, biological, lingual or ethnographical? However, as nations and states have been created in modern founded on the definition of “nation,” “nation” is always defined as a concept based on “nation-state.”

In his speech “Reden an die deutsche Nation” made in Berlin under the Napoleon occupation (1807-1808), Johan G. Fichte spoke of “nation” being an organic body united by racial elements and holding in common a language (German) and territory, and its own history (Fichte 1978). On the other hand, in a speech made by J. Ernest Renan in Sorbonne in 1882, he commented that “nation” is “solidarité” that is “conscience morale,” comprised of holding the memories of heritages in common and the sentiments of consent to and a sacrifice (waiver of individuality) for the same program to be realized in the future (Renan 1882). In other words, Renan defined “nation” as an intentional and selective body, not depending on any specific race or language.

“Nation” is a modern conception in actuality, which is constructed a posteriori based on narratives such as “myths,” and “invented” and “selected” traditions. In this process, a national ideology must be disseminated throughout and recognized by the “nation.”

Benedict Anderson defined “nation” as “an imagined political community”, and he stated that print capitalism led to the arousal of “awareness of ourselves” and our attachment to it. The mass publication and distribution of newspapers and novels spread collective memories and nation-related narratives by the virtue of vulgar words among the people. Furthermore, he stated that after the middle of the 19th century, media such as censuses, maps and museums played an important role in legitimizing the territories and colonization of states (Anderson 1983, 1991). This offers an important viewpoint when discussing the identities and cultural politics of visualized space theories and collective memories. Ernest Gellner also stated that “nationalism is a theory of political legitimacy, which requires that ethnic boundaries should not cut across political ones” —that is to say, states—and is originated in industrialization. The industrialized modern society has advanced in terms of mobility and equality, where education is inevitably required to place a focus on developing the abilities to read and write; and it is the state that should play the role to realize it (Gellner 1983).

The author of “The Invention of Tradition” (1983), Eric J. Hobsbawm, also does not regard “nation” as being original and invariable. He states that it is imperative to analyze the awareness, desires and interests of the multitudes who support national ideology (Hobsbawm 1990). In this case, it is required to analyze, referring to individual cases, how the ethnic basis and origin as elements of “nation,” which Anthony, D. Smith calls “ethnie,” are used (Smith 1986).

2. Expression of National Identity and Symbols

According to Alan Bairner and John Sugden, “the interplay between sports and a variety of forms of division is a matter of major concern for sports sociology” (Bairner and Sugden 2000:2). They develop discussions on the relationship between sports and political divisions on the basis of race, people, gender, sexuality, class and nationality, referring to football, cricket and the Olympics in Spain, Canada, North Ireland, South Africa, Belgium, Switzerland, the Republic of Georgia, Yemen, and India (Sugden and Bairner 2000, additionally refer to Mangan 1996, Cronin and Mayall 1998). As John Hoberman states, “sportive nationalism is not a single generic phenomenon; on the contrary, it is a complicated sociopolitical response to challenges and events, both sportive and non-sportive, that must be understood in terms of the varying national context in which it appears” (Hoberman 1993:18).

Bairner has studied sports and national identity, referring to football played in Ireland. He has analyzed the process of nationality creation as an imagined community on the basis of three aspects: 1) what sports arouse at the level of discourses, 2) reality that people experience, and 3) history and social background (including traditional sports) (Bairner 2001, 2005). In particular, the embodiment behaviors including the mimetic emotions of spectators waving their national flags, painting their faces and wearing fashionable clothing to exaggerate “pride of nation” should be carefully analyzed as acts to express national identity. Concerning how to interpret the meaning of cultural nationalism exemplified by acts of waving national flags and various banners, and fanatic cheering performances, it is considered important to participate in and observe such, clearly specifying the times and regions (Shimizu 2002, 2004b).

Then, how did the Olympics construct an image of the nation and nation-state? The Tokyo Olympics was the first Olympics held in Asia, in which athletes from around the world (except those from China and North Korea) participated, where “peace and friendship,” and “the capital city Tokyo and Japanese economic growth” were broadcasted to the world. But this festive atmosphere was built on a foundation where political conflicts between nations and the memories of invasion and colonization were forgotten. What significance did the Tokyo Olympics and its torch relay have for Okinawa before its return to Japan on May 15 1972? I intend to study how the national flag and anthem were treated, and what the Olympics brought to people in Tokyo and Okinawa.

3. 1964 Tokyo Olympics: Focusing on Urbanization and Economic Growth of Japan

Operation of the Tokaido Shinkansen began, and improvements in main trunk roads like the Metropolitan Highway were carried out. Furthermore, measures to develop and improve not only water supply and drainage, but also waste disposal were introduced. Tokyo had seemingly transformed into clean, hygienic city. (Ishiwata 2004). The changes in Tokyo during the 1960s were image indicators for showing continuous “rapid economic growth.”

Nakade Kazuo (56 years old at 2006) living in Shibuya Ward (an operator of a private study school), recollecting the Tokyo Olympics commented as follows. His comment can be said to be a case study example, being influenced by a new type of nationalism, people tend to choose to renew their daily lives with the awareness of “foreigners are coming” as a momentum.

Yoyogi Park, one of the sites of the Tokyo Olympics, was once called “Washington Heights,” (remnants of U.S. armed forces) a place where Japanese were prohibited to enter. In June 1964, a letter from the Shibuya Ward Office was delivered to my house near Washington Heights. The letter informed me that “the Shibuya Ward is ready to make a loan to me to change my privy to a flush toilet.” I guessed the reason was that we Japanese should be ashamed of using a privy, especially if a foreigner happened to visit. I now realize that there was no possibility of any foreigner visiting my home. But at that time, my mother immediately agreed and changed our house’s privy to a flush toilet. My father worked for the railways. He learned English at his own expense to be prepared for foreigners visiting his station. People living around our house also were always stressed, saying, “The foreigners are coming any way.” In the summer of ’64, we had less rain. When I sprinkled water on the street in front of my house, a neighbor got angry with me, saying, “Save water for the foreigners,” as if he regarded me as an unpatriotic man. (Nakade 2006)

The developments completed included areas such as Meiji Jingu Gaien, Yoyogi and Komazawa, and improvements and maintenance to roads connecting those areas signified the advent of a new age and a new metropolitan Tokyo. More importantly, the completion of Aoyama-dôri made it possible not only to connect those areas, but also connect them with central parts of Tokyo (e.g., Tokyo Station, Ginza, Diet Building, etc.).

However, it is questionable if a vision of city planning was discussed deeply when organizing the Tokyo Olympics, the cost of which was an enormous 987,363 million yen. This expense included costs for the Organization Committee, the construction and improvement of Olympic competition facilities and businesses related to highways, parks, water supply and drainage, the Tokaido Shinkansen, Tokyo International Airport (Haneda), hotels, ryokans (Japanese-style inns), communication facilities like the NHK Broadcast Center, and the removal of Washington Heights (removal of remnants of U.S. armed forces).

In those days, the Tokyo Metropolitan Government did not hold deep discussions about overall city development or future city planning (Kurokawa 2004: 61). The city development planned and implemented at that time was evaluated based on the comments of then-governor Azuma Ryûtarô:

We have succeeded in building a firm foundation to promote future redevelopment business. (Azuma 1965: 4)

It can be said that the 1964 Tokyo Olympics was organized and held utilizing sites and facilities belonging to the Imperial Family and locations designated for military use, including those previously occupied by the GHQ, and this is shown in the history of the Olympic facilities. In other words, the Tokyo Olympics offered the opportunity to fill gaps between “transforming from an Imperialistic city to disarmament and a normal city, in a period leading towards an era of “new post-war nationalism.” Therefore, having identified Tokyo as the capital, additional construction was further promoted although processes were falling behind due to insufficient financial resources. Even so, many facilities in the Yamanote area and western suburbs of Tokyo that either belonged to the Imperial Family or were designated for military use, were diverted to the city infrastructure. As city development in the above-mentioned areas advanced, disparity between the downtown area and infrastructure in the eastern area increased. (Machimura 2007: 13)

By virtue of the Olympics, Tokyo came to be visualized as a city of continuous growth, rising from the depths of destruction like the rising sun. Various aspects made this clearly notable. Nevertheless, understanding that many of the sites and facilities were owned by the Imperial Family or were designated for military use, it can be said that this wave of new nationalism led to helping forget memories of the past, especially amidst the development going on in metropolitan Tokyo.

4. Performance of the Body

Athletes from around the world (except those from China and North Korea) participated in the Olympic competitions. These contestants witnessed the transformation of Tokyo with their own eyes via impressive presentations such as the Tokyo Olympics posters and the torch relay. But how did these people really view those events? Azuma Ryûtarô, governor at the time and member of the IOC and Tokyo Olympics Organization Committee, wrote an essay entitled, “Thinking over the Tokyo Olympics,” which is summarized below in, “The Significance of Holding the Tokyo Olympics.”

One of the intangible legacies of the Tokyo Olympics is that it gave Japanese people the opportunity to be united for the first time since World War II.

Additionally, the Tokyo Olympics succeeded in playing a vital role in connecting the east and west in terms of worldwide peace and sports. As a result, “the world began to show greater respect for Japan and its people.” Another intangible legacy was that sportsmanship, commonly only advocated in words or on the field, truly grew through the virtue of the Tokyo Olympics. As IOC Chairman Brandage commented, when thinking of sportsmanship, what other excellent amateur sport can bring human beings to this point. It is clearly imprinted on the minds of everyone, and a contribution to the Tokyo Olympics. (Azuma 1965:4)

“World peace and Japanese citizens’ decision to focus on the host” and “visualizing sportsmanship” during the Olympics were expressed in various media. Kawamoto Nobumasa commented:

“Remembering the impressive festival”

As time goes by, I feel that I have gradually come to understand the depth and real greatness of the Olympics. Those 15 days, from the brilliant opening ceremony through the impressive closing ceremony, fascinated people throughout Japan; something I would describe as “100 million people in ecstasy.”

As I sat in the stadium, I sometimes hallucinated as if I were floating somewhere in outer space, far away from Tokyo, Japan and Earth. It was an amazing feeling to be in such a state! Something anyone can seldom experience in his or her life. During the term of the Olympics, there were few people on the streets as many stayed inside to watch competitions on TV. It’s beyond imagination when such a situation will occur again.

In thinking of previous Olympics, there was no other choice except to go abroad to enjoy it. But the Tokyo Olympics brought the world to Japan for the first time. Everybody could see the world in Japan, and found Japan in the world. In an international atmosphere, the national flag, national anthem and patriotism created a sense of harmony among people. It was an exceptional experience that most Japanese people had forgotten since the visit of foreign ships to Japan around the end of the Edo period. (Kawamoto 1965: 30)

5. Poster: “The Hinomaru and Modernization,” Kamekura Yûsaku

It is certain that the Tokyo Olympics, with the participation of athletes from around the world, was like a paradise floating somewhere in outer space. Everyone was in a state of ecstasy, for it was held in Japan, in the capital city of Tokyo where to demonstrate its remarkable progress and presence in the international society.

In this context, it can be said that the “Hinomaru (Rising Sun)” image (first poster, adopted as the symbol mark for the Tokyo Olympics in a design competition held in June 1960) was a “very simple and powerful image easily reminding people of ‘Japan’ at first glance” (Maemura, 2006a: 58). This made it quite different from all of the other symbol marks of previous Olympic Games, giving it an extremely high reputation both domestically and overseas. However, the concept of Kamekura Yûsaku, the designer of the symbol mark, was of a completely different view.

I drew a large red circle on top of the Olympic symbol mark. People may have considered that this large red circle represented the Hinomaru, but my actual intention was to express the sun. I wanted to create a fresh and vivid image through a balance between the large red circle and the five-ring Olympic mark. I thought that it would make the Hinomaru look like a modern design. (Kamekura 1966)

According to Kamekura, the symbol mark was designed as a modern form represented by a simple and powerful red circle rather than as the Hinomaru, with the intention of expressing the power of Japan during its rapid growth and the dynamism of sports. It was the dynamism of historical and cultural senses derived from the conflicting two aesthetic senses in terms of tradition and modernism that made the poster a masterpiece. This was the primary characteristic of Kamekura’s design. (Maemura 2006b: 100)

Kamekura’s opinion was, “Visual design is a common language of all human beings, and designers should keep this in mind when designing forms.” On the other hand, he also advocated that designers should make the most of tradition as something spiritual, not merely as a pattern or technique; this being done while accepting “what Japanese attempted to express” in standardizing their work at the global level. For instance, he advocated that designers should pursue the modern and geometrical beauty of traditional Japanese crests, connecting them with the “trademarks” of modern industries.

Tradition is one of the problems Japanese designers must work with. For designers, it is a burden that must be born, and there is no means of refusing it. It is our duty to breakdown our tradition into pieces once and then reassemble those pieces as new tradition. (Kamekura 1961: 31)

After the Tokyo Olympics, Kamekura produced posters for mega events such as the 1970 Osaka Expo and the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics. The objective of his visual designs was to present a globally common genre through a new design that eliminated the confrontation between traditional and modern essence. As mentioned above, it was also true that the “simple and powerful image that reminded people of Japan at first glance,” and easily articulated images of the Olympics and nationalism to all people.

6. 1964 Olympics Torch Relay

In terms of reminding people of Japan at first glance, the Olympic torch relay contributed to making people around the world aware of the actual geographical conditions of the Japanese Islands. The torch relay began at the site of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, a total of 100,743 people participated in the torch relay, the torch being carried through 12 countries over a distance of 7,484 kilometers, and taking 51 days to complete the journey. The number of official torch carriers was 870, revealing that the number of people who ran alongside of the official torch carriers was surprisingly large. (Mainichi Shimbun-sha 1964: front page 1)

The Olympic Flame, lit by Mrs. Aleca Katselli in Olympia (Greece) on August 21, reached Naha on September 6 (Author’s note: actually reached on 7 because of the typhoon in Taipei) after traveling through Istanbul (Turkey), Beirut (Lebanon), Teheran (Iran), Lahore (Pakistan), New Delhi (India), Katmandu (Nepal, air transportation), Calcutta (India), Rangoon (Burma), Bangkok (Thailand), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), Manila (Philippines), Hong Kong and Taipei. It reached Okinawa (a territory of the United States of America at that time) via Hong Kong and Taipei, bypassing China and the Korean Peninsula. It was transported by air from Naha to Kagoshima, and then made its way to Tokyo via four different courses over a period of one month, from September 9 to October 9, arriving the day before the opening ceremony.

– Course No.1: From Kagoshima continuing north along the coastline of the Sea of Japan.

– Course No.2: After being transported from Kagoshima to Miyazaki, it was carried north mainly along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean.

– Course No.3: Transported from Miyazaki to Chitose Airport, and the carried from Sapporo to Aomori, traveling south along the coastline of the Sea of Japan.

– Course No.4: After being transported to Aomori, traveling south mainly along the coastline of the Pacific Ocean. (Mainichi Shimbun-sha 1964: front page 2)

The course of the torch relay passed through some Asian countries which Japan had once invaded; the Japanese haven seemingly forgotten about their once aggressive war actions. The Olympic Flame reached American territory, Okinawa, via Hong Kong and Taipei, bypassing China and the Korean Peninsula, and was then carried to Tokyo via the Japanese Islands. The divided flames were gathered together as the Olympic Flame in front of the Metropolitan Government Office, which was then transferred to a flame holder at the Palace Plaza. The road from the Palace Plaza to Jingu Gaien via Aoyama was a new trunk road representing “new urban Tokyo.” This torch relay virtually showed that the Japanese had nearly forgotten Japan’s aggressive war past, and viewed “Tokyo, at the core of the Japanese Islands, as the center of Japan’s economic development.”

Furthermore, the anchor torch carrier was 19-year-old Sakai Yoshinori, the genbakukko (atom boy). He was born on August 6 1945 in Miyoshi, Hiroshima Prefecture, 70 kilometers from ground zero, only one-and-a-half hours after the nuclear attack on Hiroshima. Having been designated as a candidate runner for the 400-meter and 1,600-meter relays in the Olympics, he lost his chance to represent Japan in the final qualifying race. Even so, having been born on the day of the nuclear attack on Hiroshima, he was designated as the anchor torch carrier. Afterwards he commented, “Thinking back on the past, I ran toward the future, looking for a flash of hope.”

The Tokyo Olympics was a festival to demonstrate to the world the brilliancy of Japan being at the gateway of rapid growth. We were messengers to transmit the spiritual uplift of Japanese throughout the country. (Nishinippon Shinbun-sha 2005)

The Olympic torch relay was a dramatic presentation by means of which contributed to people forgetting and/or keeping memories. The geo-politics in terms of the geography ranging from Olympia to Tokyo worked to show only events desired to remember, presenting the effects anticipated by the Japanese. Even if those events were to have people image their future and hope on metropolitan Tokyo, they were based on the preposition of allowing the Japanese to forget the historical memories concerning the East Asian countries Japan had invaded and colonized.

7. Olympic Torch Relay in Okinawa

7-1. History of Okinawa and U.S. Forces Japan

Okinawa consists of land masses stretching from the Amami Islands to the Yaeyama Islands. It has been regarded as a geo-political keystone in the Pacific Ocean for East Asia and Southeast Asia. Its history is consumed of countries that have controlled it. The name “Ryûkyû” was used from 1429 to 1879 with the approval of the Emperor of China (the Ming dynasty) in the middle of the 15th century. The country prospered as a point for transit trade between Korea, China, Japan, countries of Southeast Asia, and Spain. While its suzerain was Ming (Ch’ing later on), Ryûkyû was invaded by the Satsuma clan in 1609, and was then controlled by both Japan and China. From 1872 to 1879, it was colonized by Japan and became to be known as Okinawa Prefecture, pursuant to the Ryûkyû Annexation.

During the Second World War, Okinawa was the only major land mass in where the American armed forces forcefully landed, and over 200,000 people died in offensive and defensive battles. After the war, the United States established the “Ryûkyû Government” and placed Okinawa under military administration. In 1953, the Amami Islands were returned to Kagoshima Prefecture and became Okinawa Prefecture on May 15 1972.

At present, Okinawa Prefecture has a population of 1,374,189 (as of May 1, 2008). United States Forces Japan (USFJ) in Okinawa are Futenma and Kadena Air Bases, Camp Foster, Camp Hansen, Camp Schwab, Camp Lester and Camp Kinser, etc. amounting to 75% of the American armed forces bases in Japan. The number of American forces and related support totaled 46,497, which is 46.8% of the total number (99,295) in Japan.

7-2. Torch Relay and “Hinomaru” in Okinawa

At the general meeting of the IOC held in Munich in May 1959, it was decided that the 1964 Olympics would be hosted by Tokyo. Okinawa appealed strongly to the Tokyo Olympics Organization Committee (established on September 30 1959) and other related organizations to have the torch relay pass through Okinawa as well. At that time, Okinawa was under the administration of the United States, and a territory over which Japan only had residual sovereignty. Nevertheless, mainly owing to the fact that the Okinawa Athletic Association had already been recognized as a branch of the Japan Athletic Association, the Torch Relay Special Committee decided on July 4 1962 that the torch relay in Japan would be carried out in all prefectures, torch carriers would be young people, and the first landing place of the Olympic Flame would be Okinawa.

It is not certain if the government intended, with this decision, to take advantage of the torch relay to arouse public opinion for the return of Okinawa. (Tomiyama 2007b: 28) The stance of Japan on the return of Okinawa at that time is represented by the following comment that then-Foreign Minister Kosaka made when he spoke with State Secretary Harter and Ambassador Reischauer:

The Japanese government will not demand the return of Okinawa, and yet, to keep down public opinion on the return, it is decisively important to improve the living standard in Ryûkyû. … Japan has no intention to infringe upon or nibble away the administration right of America. (Miyazato 2000: 203)

Irrespective of the government’s policy on the right of administration, in Japan there was public opinion demanding the return of Okinawa, as well as that on the issue of the northern territories between Japan and the Soviet Union. It may be said that securing and expanding Japan’s presence—that is to say the, Hinomaru—in Okinawa was an important tactic for the Liberal Democratic Party as the ruling party. (Tomiyama 2007b: 29)

Foreign Minister Kosaka had repeatedly demanded that the U.S. allow schools to freely fly the Hinomaru (i.e., U.S. armed forces prohibited this activity in Okinawa). However, High Commissioner Booth rejected Kosaka’s demand, stating as follows:

We are not ruling Ryûkyû in terms of the partnership with and confidence in Japan. … Any national flags can be absolute political symbols, which let all people have strong national sentiments as what is justifiable. (External Affairs Office of the U.S. Local Government 1960)

7-3. The Torch Relay

The torch relay was a valuable experience for Okinawa in taking part in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. The Okinawa Torch Relay Committee was established in March 1964. The Subcommittee for Beautification appealed to people to beautify the course of the torch relay, tying up with the New Life Movement Promotion Council and municipalities along the course. Public health centers prepared cleaning guidelines and all the people of the Ryûkyûs developed cleaning activities in concert. People considered that even though occupied by the U.S. armed forces, Okinawa was recognized as a Japanese territory, and that having been chosen as the first place for the Olympic Flame to land meant that their nature as “good Japanese” was to be verified. (Tomiyama 2007b: 29)

In a practice torch relay carried out on August 9, one month prior to the arrival of the Olympic Flame, however, there were a considerable number of absentees and dropouts among accompanying runners. Some of runners put on their leather shoes and ran, but could not run the course within the scheduled time. A local newspaper ran an article expressing apprehension, stating:

Unless studied and examined repeatedly, the torch relay will be thrown into confusion, and not only Okinawa, but also Japan will lose face with the world. (Ryûkyû Shimpô, August 10 1964: “Practice Torch Relay as Observed”)

As a result, 3,473 young people including official runners, substitute runners and accompanying runners came under great pressure.

The Olympic Flame, carried onboard a plane named “City of Tokyo”, which was delayed one day due to a typhoon, arrived at Naha Airport from Taipei at noon on September 7 1964. Yosano Shigeru, the general secretary of the Tokyo Olympics Organization Committee, who came to Okinawa to greet the Olympic Flame, stated as follows:

Being Japanese territory, Okinawa is the first place for the Olympic Flame to land in Japan. In terms of administration, however, it is inappropriate to regard everything the same as on the mainland. So, Okinawa is the terminal point of the overseas course of the Olympic Flame. (Okinawa Times September 4 1964: “Delegation to Greet Olympic Flame Coming Tomorrow”)

On the other hand, the media in Okinawa placed a focus on reports that “Okinawa is the starting point of the Olympic Flame in Japan.” All media covered the arrival of the Olympic Flame as if the people of Okinawa were longing for a story describing the Olympic Flame landing in Japan’s Okinawa. The torch of the flame of the Olympics, a festival of peace and friendship, delivered to the mainland by the people of Okinawa, “the Japanese living under the occupation of the U.S. armed forces.” (Okinawa Times September 8 1964: “Joyful as if to Celebrate ‘the Return’ to Japan, Olympic Flame Has Arrived”)

7-4. Course Lined with “Hinomaru

After the greeting ceremony held at Naha Airport, the torch carried by the first runner left the premises at 12:40 and reached the Ounoyama Athletic Stadium at 13:00. The stadium, which had a place to hold the flame, the main site of the greeting ceremony, was filled with over 40,000 spectators, “whose round of applause and shouts made it difficult to hear the fanfare being performed under the flame holder” (Information Services Section, Planning Bureau, Ryûkyû Government 1964: 6).

Following the firing of the Olympic Flame, a Hinomaru flag was hoisted up the main pole while the national anthem Kimigayo was being played. Nagamine Akio, the speaker of the legislative council, commented as follows:

The domestic torch relay for the Olympic Games held for the first time in Asia is to start from our native land, the place where the Second World War ended. Therefore, the relay is the most significant event leading to world peace, and I wish for its success from the bottom of my heart. (Omission) I earnestly hope that under the Olympic Flame, the greatest festival and its competition will be developed brilliantly, leading to the achievement of the purpose of peace. (Information Service Section, Planning Bureau of the Ryûkyû Government 1964: 8)

For five days, the torch relay in Okinawa, which started in Naha, made its way southward, then went northward along the east coastline, went to the west coast via Shioya, then returned to Naha again via Futenma, Urazoe, Nishihara, and Shuri. After traveling a 247.1 kilometer circuit across the main island of Okinawa, the Olympic Flame left Naha Airport at 3:50 p.m. on September 11, flying on a U.S. armed forces aircraft bound for the flame-combining ceremony in Kyûshû.

During this period, the course of the torch relay was fully lined with Hinomaru flags. All the runners wore the same uniforms, with a red circle and the five-ring Olympic emblem (a simple design by Kamekura Yûsaku) drawn and the words “Tokyo 1964” printed on the chest of the uniform. The red circle was especially striking in the design, expressing to everyone the image of the Hinomaru.

The Ryûkyû Shimpô proposed developing a “movement to greet the Olympic Flame with Hinomaru,” and shop owners and others agreed to the proposal. It was decided that the national flag would be put up at relay points, and in front of every school and home. Villages, schools, women’s associations and young men’s associations participated in the movement. People had small Hinomaru flags in their hands and waved them continuously.

Right after landing in Okinawa in 1945, the U.S. armed forces prohibited the flying of the national flag of Japan, and performing and singing of the Japanese national anthem in groups. In 1949, they further prohibited the flying of all other national flags in Okinawa, leaving it permissible to fly only that of the United States. However, when the peace treaty with Japan came into effect in 1952, the U.S. armed forces came to permit the flying of the Hinomaru at private houses and private meetings for non-political purposes. And then, in light of the talks between Prime Minister Ikeda and President Kennedy in 1961, it came to be allowed that Hinomaru could be flown at public buildings only on legal holidays. (All of these regulations were abolished in 1969)

Around 1964, the “Let’s Fly the Hinomaru” movement began. Although flying the Hinomaru on days except for legal holidays was not permitted, the U.S. armed forces tacitly permitted the Hinomaru being displayed along the relay course and at the ceremonial site.

Following the hoisting of the Hinomaru and the singing of the national anthem in unison at the greeting ceremony, the torch relay reached another climax when the Olympic Flame approached the south battlefield’s ruins. In front of the Himeyuri Monument, members of the Himeyuri Senior Women’s Association and bereaved wives holding the pictures of their husbands who had been killed in action were watching the torch relay together with 500 children holding small Hinomaru flags in their hands. The torch carrier running on the Mabuni Hill was a child of a person killed in action. The grand figure of the torch carrier holding the torch was recognized by people as the best memorial service to the dead who had fought for the sake of the Hinomaru in the past. (Tomiyama 2007b: 32)

7-5. Toward Wild Enthusiasm in Tokyo…

Okinawa’s experience of participation in the Tokyo Olympics was not only the torch relay. In addition to the arrival of the Olympic Flame at Okinawa, a microwave line between Japan and Ryûkyû, in which a huge amount of money was invested, opened as one of the Japanese government’s projects to assist Okinawa. There was only a single one-way TV line from the mainland to Okinawa, and the microwave line made it possible to relay-broadcast the Tokyo Olympics simultaneously. (Tomiyama 2007a: 229) Thus, the people of Okinawa were able to enjoy the athletic performances in Tokyo, and visually experience and memorize the gold medals won by the women’s volleyball team, “Witches of the Orient”, and other events.

8. Reconsidering the Significance of “Hinomaru”

8-1. National Athletic Meet in Okinawa

In commemoration of the return of Okinawa to Japan (May 15 1972), the Okinawa Special National Athletic Meet, “Wakanatsu Kokutai”, was held from May 3 to 6 1973. The meet, different from regular national athletic meets, was held without preliminarily contests, selecting participants equally in number from each prefecture.

After that, in 1987, the 42nd National Athletic Meet, “Kaihô Kokutai”, was held as the final national athletic meet held successively in circuit around the country every year and also in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the return of Okinawa.

Each time the national athletic meet is held, it is customary for the Emperor to attend the opening ceremony, to hoist the national flag Hinomaru, sing the national anthem Kimigayo in unison, and it was inevitably assisted by the Self-Defense Forces. As known well, the Emperor visited each prefecture of Japan during the period from 1946, the year following Japan’s defeat in the war, until 1954, resulting in the establishment of a sentimental support base for the symbolic Emperor system. However, it was impossible for the Emperor to visit Okinawa while under the control of the U.S. armed forces. After that, when the Okinawa International Ocean Exposition was held (July 20 1975 ~ January 18 1976) to draw public investment and social capital for the Okinawa Advancement and Development Plan (1972~1981), the Crown Prince (present Emperor) visited Okinawa as the honorary president of the exposition. During his visit, fire bottles were thrown at the Crown Prince at the Himeyuri Monument even though 2,400 policemen and 1,400 staff members of the Okinawa Prefecture Police were mobilized to guard him (July 17 1975).

Frustrated with the belief that economic conditions would not turn favorable even after Okinawa’s return to Japan, in addition to various problems related to the U.S. armed forces, the people of Okinawa showed strong reactions against the Hinomaru and Kimigayo.

A law concerning the national flag and anthem stipulated that the national flag is to be nisshoki (Hinomaru) and the national anthem is be Kimigayo was promulgated on August 13 1999 and enforced on the same day. Before that, the then Ministry of Education sent an official notice concerning the “Proper Handling of The National Flag and Anthem” to all local boards of education in the country. The notice announced that the Hinomaru is to be hoisted and Kimigayo is to be sung in unison at commencement and entrance ceremonies in all public elementary, middle and high schools in Japan. (For example, the head of the elementary/middle school education bureau officially announced the results of research on September 5 1985 after sending out the notice on August 28.) (Arasaki 2005: 102-107; for national athletic meets, refer to Kwon 2006.)

8-2. 1987 National Athletic Meet and the “Hinomaru”

The Hinomaru had come to have a completely different significance to the people of Okinawa. In March 1987, at the village assembly of Yomitan, where softball games were played, the then-village mayor made an address against the compulsory guidance on Hinomaru and Kimigayo.

The legislation concerning Hinomaru and Kimigayo reminds us of the movement prevailed in 1935 when Japan started to move on a stretch toward militarism and imperialism. (Omission) The movement is the second advent of the idea “Loyalty to the Emperor and Devotion to the Country,” in other words, a return to prewar days. (Omission) The actual condition forced is really regrettable, which I fear will cause a dreadful result that administrative authorities control even the fundamental human rights.

And the following was resolved at the village assembly.

Sports and education must be free from any despotism whatsoever. In looking back on the histories of wars, we realize that politics always controlled and subordinated sports and education. We must not forget that is why humans went to war with one another.

In addition to the movement of Yomitan, the movement of “Kokutai Liberalization (the state resides in the people)” was widely developed in Okinawa, with labor unions as leaders and thereby arguments were made on issues concerning the Hinomaru, Kimigayo, the Emperor, and the Self-Defense Forces. However, the Ministry of Education and the Japan Amateur Sports Association neglected those movements in Okinawa, and specified “hoisting of the national flag” in the National Athletic Meet Holding Standards.

For the Tokyo Olympics torch relay in Okinawa, the ceremony sites and the relay’s course were fully covered with Hinomaru, coupled with the “Return-to-the-Motherland Movement” and the attachment to the national flag that could not be flown freely. However, in 1987, 23 years after the return of Okinawa in 1972, people stowed Hinomaru away, deep in the closets of their homes, together with their sorrowful experiences of the war. Additionally, the Hinomaru was pulled down from the flagpole and throwed it into the fire at a sports festival, the “National Athletic Meet.”

Tomiyama Kazumi says, “Don’t wave the flag (Hinomaru) easily!” (Interviewed on June 30 2008). It can be said that she made such a comment based on the history of the acts of the people of Okinawa who waved or burned the national flag at times to show the grounds of their identity through the process of being controlled by various state authorities.

9. Conclusion: Olympics in East Asia and Nation Building

For Japanese politicians and a nation with great expectations of the Olympics and joyful experience to come with it, holding the Olympics was a long-held, earnest wish. It was an event of sports as a civilized culture based on the spirit of “sportsmanship” and “fair play” originating from Europe; that is, “the spirit of self-control,” even if superficially, for victory or defeat. From the discourses of politicians and nation referred to in this paper, it can be said that the Tokyo Olympics was to be one of modernization, and the nation hosting it was expected to show civilized behavior. Hosting the Olympics was considered to be a magnificent event, through which the world would recognize the development of the hosting city, Tokyo, Japan’s capital, by virtue of the rapid economic growth achieved after the end of World War II. Thus, it was a peculiar individual case; the Olympics that originated in Europe was relived in “1964 in Tokyo.”

In this paper, I have discussed mainly the building of a nation, taking into account the internal problems of Japan in the 1960s and external problems in terms of historical relationships with America and East Asia. On the other hand, Japan with its history of invasion and colonization in Asia, through the Olympic Torch relay, covered the memories of history, yet staged a performance that caused people to grasp reality with the memories of the final torch carrier, who was a victim of nuclear attack.

Japan therefore planned the 1964 Olympic Torch relay to pass through Okinawa, occupied by the U.S. armed forces since the end of the World War II, encouraging the movement of “Return to the Motherland” using the Hinomaru and promoting a beautification movement as a means of modernization. As it is clear from the history of Okinawa as a geo-political region and that of people living there, the process to build a nation is not simple or easy. Furthermore, as it is clear from case examples of the national athletic meets, the significance of the Hinomaru and Kimigayo has also changed and can be understood as being diverse and complicated.

Now, how is “nation” defined in Japan and East Asia? The definition of nation in Europe and America has been discussed placing a focus on the relationship between nation, nationalism and sports. However, concerning nation in East Asian countries including Japan, South Korea, China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and North Korea, it is necessary to discuss the matter taking into consideration the external relationships in terms of colonization and state building, the historical recognition on the existence of the Emperor, and the symbolism of the Emperor and its history in Japan. The Olympics, a mega-event for physical performance, should be studied as a basis of politics to show the actuality of “nation building” and its background.


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