Conclusion: The Olympics in Postwar Japan

After giving up the 1940 Olympics due to intensification of the Second Sino-Japanese War, Japanese society was completely ravaged by the Pacific War. After rebuilding its economy, however, and achieving rapid postwar reconstruction, sports also regained their popularity. Watching sports became a national obsession, and the success of Japanese athletes helped heal the wounds of the past. The world records of FURUHASHI Hironoshin—the “Flying Fish of Fujiyama,” the world title in boxing of SHIRAI Yoshio, Rikidozan’s wrestling performances, and the development of Nippon Professional Baseball all contributed. And at the same time, many Japanese athletes performed brilliantly in the Olympics. Although unable to participate the 14th London Olympics of 1948, Japan returned in time for the 15th Helsinki Olympics in 1952, where Japanese athletes showed great progress in gymnastics and wrestling as well as continued success in track and field and swimming, in which Japanese athletes were successful in the prewar Olympic Games.

Fujin kurabu
Furuhashi Hironoshin in the swimming competition

Finally, in 1964, Japan hosted the Summer Olympics in Tokyo and in 1972 the Winter Olympics in Sapporo. Although it took an additional 24 years to make Japan’s dream of hosting the Olympic Games in Tokyo a reality, the victory of Japan’s women volleyball team, nicknamed “The Oriental Witches,” is legendary. At these same games, Judo first appeared an official sport. Although the Japanese team dominated throughout, they were shocked by Dutch judoka Geesink’s upset victory over KAMINAGA Akio in the open weight class.

Asahi Shimbun
An article reporting that Tokyo has been chosen to host the 1964 Tokyo Olympics

At the Sapporo Olympics, the “Hinomaru Hikotai” (rising sun squadron) of KASAYA Yukio, KONNO Akitsugu and AOCHI Seiji took all three medals in the 70-meter ski jump competition.
In 1998, Japan hosted the Winter Olympics for a second time in Nagano, where once again the Japanese jumpers dominated.
Tokyo and other Japanese cities continued to bid for the Summer Olympics during the 1980s and 1990s, but none were successful until September 2013, when Tokyo awarded the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics. Much has changed in Japan and in the world in the 80 years since the lost Tokyo Olympics. What will we see in Tokyo in 2020?


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