National Geographic October 1964 – Tokyo The Peaceful Explosion Part 3: The Japanese at Play

Nat Geo_The Albion jazz cabaret
Mirror reflects the gaudy glare of a subterranean café on the Ginza. The Albion, a favorite of foreign visitors, features frantic jazz blared over loudspeakers, with house lights that blink eerily to the rhythm. Waitresses in white-satin toreador pants dance, rather than walk, about their chores.

This is part three exploring the words of William Graves, and photos of Winfield Parks, staff of the monthly magazine National Geographic. Graves and Parks spent weeks, if not months in Japan, uncovering the insight that would make Japan in 1964 comprehensible to the West.

In the pictures in this post, Graves and Parks try to help us understand the “leisure boom” of the times, and to show us how Tokyoites played. As (the predominantly male) Western journalists at the time often did, they focused on the night life. Graves tracked down a woman named Reiko, who worked as a hostess at a nightclub called Hanabasha.

In Tokyo nightclub slang, Reiko is what is known as a toranshista garu – “transistor girl” – one who, as the name suggests, is small, compact, and full of energy.

The dance floor resembled the platform at Shinjuku Station in rush hour, so Reikko and I settled for a napkin-sized table in a corner. We talked of Tokyo’s reija boomu – the “leisure boom” – and the city’s fantastic wealth.

“This year, most richest one,” Reiko began. “Japanese call this Year of Tatsu – Year of Dragon. Dragon stand for rich.”

NatGeo_asakusa
Tokyo at play invades Asakusa, a vast neon-trimmed amusement and shopping district that rivals the famed Ginza. Stalls sell everything from cameras to Buddhist funerary images. Advertisement beneath a merchant’s shop sign offers bargains in suits.
Nat Geo_Shichi Go San Cafe Asakusa
Stately chorus line strikes a graceful pose of Shichi-go-san Café in the Asakusa amusement district. Low-priced restaurants in this area serve as an inexpensive substitute for geisha houses, where dinner, rice wine, classical dancing, and song can cost $100 a person. These dancers, who double as waitresses, perform beneath a canopy of artificial maple leaves.
Nat Geo_driving range
Head down, spike heels set, a lunch-hour golfer tees off at the three level driving range in downtown Shiba Park. Tokyo’s fastest-growing sport, gorufu counts fanatics among corporation presidents and salesgirls. Post-war American influence on women extends far beyond fashions and golf links. From voteless status before 1947, Japanese women have risen to fill presidencies of colleges, cabinet posts, and seats in the Diet.
Nat Geo_kids playing in park
Breathtaking leap lifts a Tokyo schoolgirl twice her height on Japan’s high-flying version of the seesaw. Instead of straddling a plank, young enthusiasts grasp the bars and soar in standing position. Like many Japanese, these pupils enjoy freedom from prewar uniforms and taboos against coeducation.
Nat Geo_playing ball on the docks
Start of a mighty swing promises a hit in a dock workers’ lunch-hour game. During spring and summer, noon whistles signal pick-up games in parks, dead-end streets, and eve on rooftops.