Prince Bernhard at the 1956 Melbourne Games
Prince Bernhard at the 1956 Melbourne Games

There are many stories of Japanese going beyond expectations in helping foreigners in need, but this story was above and beyond the call of duty. Prince Bernhard of Holland lost his Dunhill tobacco pouch while observing equestrian events in Karuizawa. That’s when a platoon of Japan’s Self Defense Forces sprung into action, combing the entire 33 kilometer equestrian course, finding the royal pouch in under 60 minutes. “They are quite wonderfully organized,” he said, referring to the Japanese Self-Defense Forces men. “They are really worthy of a gold medal.” (Did he really say that?)

Japan Times, October 22, 1964
Japan Times, October 22, 1964

Prince Bernhard was not a man of insignificance. He established the World Wildlife Fund in 1961. Unfortunately, he was forced to step down from the WWF after being implicated in the notorious Lockheed scandals, accepting a million dollar bribe in exchange for influencing Dutch aircraft purchases. Lockheed also helped bring

Brian Sternberg
Click on photo for another great story about Brian.

No one had soared higher than Washington native, Brian Sternberg, pole vaulting to a world record height of 16ft 8 inches (5.08 m) on June 7, 1963. A sure lock to compete in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, Sternberg’s plan for glory went awry. As part of his training, Sternberg was working out on a routine technique on the trampouline, one he had done many times before. This time he landed awkwardly on his neck, resulting in paralysis and leaving him a quadriplegic.

Texan, Fred Hansen eventually went on win the gold medal in pole vaulting in Tokyo, jumping only three quarters of an inch higher than Sternberg’s best jump. Not only were he and his fellow pole vaulting teammates beneficiaries from a special fund of $2,500 contributed by the Washington Athletic Club in Sternberg’s honor, which paid for their expenses to Tokyo, Hansen said he learned how to be a better pole vaulter from Sternberg. “Brian helped me out with several things I was

Don Draper is tired of settling for mid-sized clients. He wants to work on the best projects with the biggest players in the world. He sets up a meeting with Dow Chemical, whose CEO is happy with another ad agency, and has no desire to talk with Draper. But Draper taps into the competitive drive inherent in effective leaders. Like high performance athletes, Don doesn’t settle for winning, or just being happy. He wants to win, big, on the biggest stage.

Dow CEO: It doesn’t change the fact that we’re happy with our agency.

Draper: Are you? You’re happy with 50%? You’re on top and you don’t have enough. You’re happy because you’re successful. For now. But what is happiness? It’s a moment before you need more happiness. I won’t settle for 50% of anything. I want 100%. You’re happy with your agency? You’re not happy with anything. You don’t want most of it. You want all of it. And I won’t stop until you get all of it. Thank you for your time.

wilma_rudolphWilma Rudolph was one of the biggest stars of the 1960 Summer Games in Rome, surprising the world by becoming the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field in a single Olympic Games. A member of the famed Tennessee State Tigerbelles, she talks in the October 1, 1964 article below of how important it was for the women’s team in Japan to handle the pressure. My understanding is that Rudolph was one of the most care-free athletes in Rome, taking naps right before competitions, seeming to run without a worry in the world.

And while her compatriots in women’s track did not equal Rudolph’s accomplishments in Rome, Wyomia Tyus took gold in the 100 meters,

One of the things that has not changed in Japan since 1964 is how people outside Japan view the Japanese. No matter where you go, people will say the Japanese are kind, courteous, helpful and respectful. One can argue that the reason the Japanese behave this way is because they truly care about this perception, and will work hard to ensure this view. This UPI report from January 2, 1964, 10 months before the commencement of the XVIII Olympiad, describes this mindset.

The major worry of government, civic and business leaders is not the unfinished projects. It’s the impressions of the Japanese people which the visitors to the games are likely to take home. Will they remember the Japanese as dignified, cultured and courteous, or as a people beset with social ills.

The answer? The former.

UPI, January 2, 1964
UPI, January 2, 1964
Poster marketing the Ali vs Aoki boxing/wrestling exhibition in Japan
Poster of the Ali vs Aoki exhibition match in Japan

Japan’s head of the Olympic delegation, Olympian Kenkichi Oshima, proclaimed 6 days prior to the start of the 1964 Games that Japan must win at least 15 gold medals. Since Japan’s haul for the 1960 Games in Rome was only 4, Oshima’s declaration was uncustomarily boastful.

As it turned out, Japan won 16 gold medals, part of it due to the entry of Judo to the summer games. But arguably the main reason was Japan’s emergence as a wrestling power, as their wrestlers won a surprising five gold medals. Much credit was given to the team’s coach, Ichiro Hatta, famous for his Spartan training methods and singular mindset on winning.

Equally interesting, at least to me, is that Hatta is the one who introduced Muhammad Ali to Japanese wrestler, Antonio Aoki in April, 1975, setting up a mixed martial arts battle in the Budokan on June 26, 1976. In the end, the battle between Ali and Aoki was a bore, and a low point in Ali’s career. But it certainly sticks in my mind as a quirky sports cultural milestone.

From the New York Times Magazine, February 18, 2015
From the New York Times Magazine, February 18, 2015

Hotels in Tokyo are already at record occupancy rates, well over 80%. In many cases, you simply can’t book a room in the major hotels in Tokyo. An acquaintance recently told me that he tried to book hotel rooms for July/August 2020, in anticipation of the Tokyo Olympics, but the hotels weren’t biting. By 2020, Tokyo will have an additional 1,780 more rooms available, but tourism to Japan is increasing, and the Olympics will see a huge spike in tourists. What to do? What to do? Is Airbnb the answer? (In the case of Japan, probably not….) Go to NYTimes article.