１９６４年、ザ・ビートルズはアメリカを席巻する。彼らの前途は、そしてどこまでも続くその成功は、誰からの助けも必要としていなかった。彼らの記者会見からもわかる事がだが、彼らの宿泊先での悪ふざけ、エド・サリバンショーへの出演や、ワシントンDC・フロリダへの旅といったリバプールから来たこの４人の若者は、アメリカ人が一緒に街へ繰り出したいと願う友の様な存在であった。ロン・ハワード監督の映画、「The Eight days a Week」に映るのは、ジョン、ジョージ、ポール、そしてリンゴの４人が、共に過ごす時間を心から楽しんでいる姿である。
１９６４年、ブルガリアの走り幅跳び選手として東京オリンピックに参加していたダイアナ・ヨーゴバは、私に宛てた手紙の中でこう話している。きつい練習の合間に取る休憩時、彼女は女子寮の中にあったミュージックホールへ行き、好きな音楽を聴いた。彼女のお気に入りの一つが「With the Beatles」というアルバムで、これは１９６３年１１月に発売されたものであった。傍らで行われている生け花レッスンを横目で見ながら、そこから漂う花の香りを楽しみつつ、彼女はお気に入りの曲を聴いた。All My Loving, Please Mister Postman, Hold me Tight, I Wanna Be Your Man.
After all, Geesink shocked the judo world by becoming the first non-Japanese to win the World Championships in 1961. More relevantly, Geesink had already defeated Kaminaga in a preliminary bout. So while the Japanese, including Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko who were in the Budokan, were hoping Kaminaga would exceed expectations, all they had to do was see the two judoka stand next to each other to be concerned – the 2-meter tall, 120 kg foreign giant vs the 1.8-meter tall, 102 kg Japanese.
Even though judo purists know that skill, balance and coordination are more important to winning than size, deep down many likely felt that the bigger, stronger foreigner was going to win. After all, the bigger, stronger US soldiers and their allies had defeated the Imperial forces of Japan in the Pacific War.
That was late in the afternoon on October 23. About 13 kilometers southwest of the Nippon Budokan and the site of Kaminaga’s defeat, the Japanese women’s volleyball team was preparing for their finals at the Komazawa Indoor Stadium. They too were going up against bigger, stronger adversaries, from the USSR.
In this case, however, there was a lingering sense that their magical women of volleyball would defeat the Soviets. They had in fact already done so at the World Championships in 1962, walking into the lioness’ den in Moscow and winning the finals. So when nearly every citizen in Japan had settled in front of their televisions that Friday evening, having the choice of four channels to choose from to watch the match, they were gearing up to explode in celebration.
And yet, Geesink had just sunk Kaminaga, as well as Japan’s hopes of sweeping gold in the only sport at the Olympics native to Japan. Maybe we just aren’t big enough, or strong enough, some may have thought.
Hirobumi Daimatsu, coach of the women’s volleyball team, accepted the challenge and worked over the years to train his players to compensate for relative weaknesses in size and strength, with speed, technique and guts. And much to the relief and joy of the nation, the Japanese defeated the Soviet Union in straight sets: 15-11, 15-8 and a tantalizingly close final set, 15-13.
And on that Friday evening, the day before the final day of Japan’s two-week Olympic journey to show the world that they were a nation to be recognized and respected, a team of diminutive Japanese women took down the larger Soviet women.
Whatever lingering sting from Kaminaga’s loss remained, whatever bad feelings of boycotts by the Indonesians or the North Koreans may have left, even perhaps, whatever shame that came from “enduring the unendurable” after the nation’s defeat in the Second World War, may have washed away in that moment the ball fell to the ground for the final point of the match.
On that day, Japan was a nation re-born – young, confident, world-beaters.
Syd Hoare, a member of Team Great Britain’s judo team in 1964, the year judo debuted as an Olympic sport in Tokyo, died on September 12, 2017. While I never had the honor to interview him, I did read his wonderful book, “A Slow Boat to Yokohama – A Judo Odyssey.”
Based on his life story as a young judoka, “A Slow Boat to Yokohama” tells well his journey to Japan to learn at the mecca of Judo in the early 1960s, and then competing at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. I have borrowed those stories for a few of my blog posts:
For a wonderful look at Hoare’s past, here is an obituary penned by his daughter, Sasha Hoare, in The Guardian.
My father, Syd Hoare, who has died aged 78, was an Olympic judo competitor, author and commentator.
The son of Alfred Hoare, an executive officer at the Ministry of Defence, and Petrone (nee Gerveliute), a waitress, Syd enjoyed a wild childhood in postwar London: scrumping, climbing trees, jumping out of bombed-out houses on to piles of sand and being chased by park keepers. At 14, while a pupil at Alperton secondary modern school, Wembley, he wandered into WH Smith and found a book on jujitsu, which led to judo lessons at the Budokwai club in Kensington and sparked a lifelong passion for the sport.
Syd quickly became obsessed with judo and underwent intense training, often running the seven miles back to his home in Wembley to lift weights after a two-hour session at the Budokwai. In 1955, at 16 he was the youngest Briton to obtain a black belt and two years later won a place in the British judo team. He respected not only judo’s physical and mental aspects but its link to eastern philosophy.