Cartoon entitled "Onna no Manako: Aki no Yoru wa Nagai",, from the November 11, 1964 issue of Shinfujin
Cartoon entitled “Onna no Manako: Aki no Yoru wa Nagai”,, from the November 11, 1964 issue of Shinfujin

One of my purchases in Jimbocho, the center for old books and magazines in Tokyo, is a copy of a popular woman’s magazine, Shinfujin (新婦人). The term “shinfujin” or “new woman” was a phrase that grew out of a feminist movement in Japan in the early 20th century. As Wikipedia states, shinfujin “denoted women who wore fashionable Western dress, socialized with men in public, and chose their own romantic partners.”

Shinfujin, 11 November1964
Shinfujin, 11 November1964

This particular issue was published a month after the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games. In addition to a quick feature on the venues of the Olympic Games, it gives guidance on flower arrangement, fashion and the latest in stereo systems, for example. Towards the end of this issue is a striking cartoon about a single woman’s evening. It is surprisingly dark, with the illustration representing the start of the woman’s evening as the entrance into a snake’s mouth. A date turns into a leche, the train commute home is filled with gropers, and while she dreams of marriage, she cannot escape the nightmare of a snake.

The cartoon is drawn by someone called Inoue Yousuke, which is a man’s name. But I imagine the illustration still captured the unsaid thoughts of many women who read what appears to be a magazine targeting women of refinement.

Has Japan changed in 50 years?

Why does Japan today have train and subway cars that allow only women during rush hour?


Weber Shandwick's City Soft Power Attributes
Weber Shandwick’s City Soft Power Attributes

Cities matter. They are flag carriers for nations, centers for universities and cultural influences, attractors for investment and tourists, as well as experiences for people living and visiting them. In other words, cities are brands. Thus explained Ian Rumsby, Chief Strategy Officer of Weber Shandwick Asia Pacific in a panel discussion entitled “The Growing Strength of Tokyo as a Global Brand”, on September 11, 2015.

At this talk for the American Chamber of Commerce Japan, Rumsby went on to explain that cities have assets, which contribute to their reputation over time. These assets sub-divide into two attributes: hard and soft power. Hard power is the military complex, the political stability and strength and the economic horsepower that support a city. Soft power is made up of attributes that encourage an environment of openness, diversity, livability, growth, sustainability, and creativity.

If Tokyo in 1964 was a successful opening act for Japan on the world stage, will Tokyo in 2020 be a thrilling revival?

As is cited in Weber Shandwick’s report, Engaging Cities – The Growing Relevance of Soft Power to Cities’ Reputations in Asia Pacific – the Tokyo Olympics will be the pinnacle of all the great investments Japan is making to build its brand.

In anticipation of the 2020 Olympics, “Tokyo is delivering on a number of smart investments that will enhance the sense of occasion for those visiting the city as much as the 13 million people who currently live there. Innovative sustainability initiatives are high on the agenda with the Tokyo Metropolitan Government laying out a clear 10-year plan to reduce

There are five more years before the Olympics come to Tokyo, but the commercials have begun. In these early stages, a few themes have emerged. Nomura and Yomiuri emphasize Excellence, while Sumitomo Mitsui Bank and NEC appeal to the Everyman who pursue excellence. Another theme is how the Olympics brings the world together, as does JAL in this case. And finally, there will be plenty of ways to spoof the majesty and drama of the Olympic Games, as does the recruiting company, Sanko. These are all in Japanese, but I think you will get the gist.

The securities company, Nomura, cuts to the essence of why Olympians work so hard, to the point of tears – Because they have a dream.

Yomiuri Shimbun, an established media company, focuses on how the very best emerge from competition, and that the success of the very best has the subsequent support of that competition, and that champions should be grateful for that support.

Sumitomo Mitsui Bank appeals to the everyday person by explaining that it isn’t just the Olympic athlete who gives it their all, we all do in our daily lives as well.

NEC, a large electronics and systems company stresses the pursuit of excellence in Olympic athletes and non-athletes alike.

The largest airline in Japan displays its long history with the Olympics, how it brought the

Japan TImes, October 11, 1964
Japan TImes, October 11, 1964

Tokyo was beaming in the coming-out party of the ages, the opening ceremony of the XVIII Olympiad, framing Japan as the rising star of Asia.

500 kilometers away in Osaka, the Nankai Hawks won the seventh game of the Japan Series over the Hanshin Tigers. The MVP of the series – Joe Donald Stanka.

Joe Stanka of the Nankai Hawks
Joe Stanka of the Nankai Hawks

I am a big baseball fan, but I drew a blank when I heard that name. Stanka graduated from Oklahoma State University and then spent a good part of his career in the minor leagues. He had a short turn in the big leagues with the Chicago White Sox, appearing in two games, 5.5 innings and had a 1-0 career record. Then he took off for Japan, signing with the Nankai Hawks (currently known as the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks) for the start of the 1960 season.

In 1964, when baseball was merely an exhibition sport in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Joe Stanka had one of the greatest records in a baseball championship series you could imagine. In the seven-game series, he started four games and went 3-1, with three shut outs. In a word, he was dominant. Based on his 26-7 season, he went on to take MVP League honors, the first non-Japanese ever to receive that honor.

Stanka made $35,000 playing in Japan, and enjoyed his work-life balance. “There are six teams in the our league and three of them are in Osaka where we live,” he said, explaining why he likes to play ball in Japan. “I’m home most of the time.”

American pitcher Joe Stanka argues call with umpire after he thought he tossed strike to Giants Sadaharu Oh. The catcher is Katsuya Nomura, the Hawks triple crown champion.
American pitcher Joe Stanka argues call with umpire after he thought he tossed strike to Giants Sadaharu Oh. The catcher is Katsuya Nomura, the Hawks triple crown champion.
Japan Times, October 11, 1964
Japan Times, October 11, 1964

I was one. Exactly.

The day the Tokyo Olympics began.

It was a moment

of Pride

of Joy

of Hope

for all Japanese.

Roy around 1 years old, the only nude photo of him on the internet
Roy around 1 years old, the only nude photo of him on the internet

The song, “Konnichi wa, Akachan,” (“Hello, My Baby”) was one of the most popular songs of the time in Japan, and it’s cheerful melody and lyrics or promise represented the mood of the country when Japan welcomed the world.

Michiyo Azusa’s song sold over a million record from its debut in July 1963, written by the singer/composer duo who brought you the equally popular hit, Sukiyaki.

“Hello, my baby, it’s your life!

Hello, my baby, it’s your future!”

Japan was re-born, rising, literally, from the ashes of a tragic Pacific War. And in only one generation , Tokyo was bringing the hot spotlight on Asia for the first time with the debut of the biggest sporting spectacle in the world – the Olympic Summer Games.

The Olympic torch relay passing through Bangkok, Thailand.
The Olympic torch relay passing through Bangkok, Thailand.

The 1964 Tokyo Games were the first Olympics to be held in Asia, and not only was Japan busting with pride, so was a good part of Asia. Thus it was decided that the tradition of transporting the Olympic flame to the host country should include a roadshow through Asia.

“It was the first time the Olympics were held in Asia,” Charanjit Singh told me. “And during that period the Japanese just rose to the occasion. There was so much devastation (after the war),” explained the captain of the Indian field hockey team. “But instead of giving up, they built it back up themselves. The Olympics were a very good show there, and it showed the world that Asian people can do it very well, like the rest of the world.”

From August 21 to September 6 the torch wended its way through Eurasia, first from Greece to Istanbul. After a day in Turkey, the flame hopped on a plane to Beirut, Lebanon, and then to Teheran, Iran. The course continued on to Lahore, Pakistan, New Delhi, India, Rangoon, Burma, Bangkok, Thailand, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and Manila in the Philippines. What I learned was that the sacred flame traveled by plane from point to point – which in hindsight makes total sense but removes the romance of this lonely flame traversing thousands of kilometers by foot.

Picture of Sacred Flame readied for travel.
Picture of Sacred Flame readied for travel.

In the end, the Sacred Flame traveled a total over 16,000 kilometers, about 95% by air. Are spirit-infused flames eligible for mileage points? Did they offer the flame a cool welcome drink?

(All pictures in this post including the ones below are from the “The Games of the XVIII Olympiad Tokyo 1964: The Official Report of the Organizing Committee”)

UPI_1October 1964
UPI_1October 1964

You’re sound asleep, you’re jarred awake by an abrupt shaking of the bed, and suddenly your senses dial up to 100.


That’s how many of us experienced Tokyo at 5:49 Saturday morning. It wasn’t a rolling “uh-oh-something’s happening” kinda tremor. It was a thumper, the kind where your abode goes vertical, and your heart stops oh-so briefly.

Power forward on the US Men’s basketball team, Luke Jackson, recalls an earthquake in the early stages of his stay in Tokyo. It was 4:14 a.m. on September 30, 1964 when an earthquake rattled the city. “The bed started to move across the floor. I didn’t know what was going on. I was told that it was an earthquake. You lose your equilibrium.”

Rock and rollers in Harajuku in 1986
Rock and rollers in Harajuku in 1986

The Olympic Village in Tokyo in 1964 was very popular. The athletes appreciated the well-manicured greenery, the ample and delicious food, the abundance of bicycles that got them around, and the light-touch security. It felt truly like a village.

Before the Pacific War, the area of the Olympic Village was a Japanese military field, where soldiers would practice and conduct parades. The US military converted the area into housing for American military families during the post-war occupation, and they called the area Washington Heights.

Washington Heights
Washington Heights

The inside of these homes, furnished with American white goods and furniture for the convenience of the American families, were a revelation to the Japanese. Emerging out of a devastated industrial and urban wasteland, the typical Japanese would look at these homes with their huge refrigerators, spacious living rooms, and modern look as a vision of a future Japan.

And what happens when you have a concentration of thousands of Americans in the middle of a highly congested Japanese metropolitan area? You get Americanization. Not far from the Washington Heights area is Omotesando, the road currently famous for being the Champs d’Elysee of Tokyo, and the entry way to Harajuku, a global mecca today for fashion-conscious youth. In its hey day,