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A friend of mine in Denmark recently sent me a wonderful gift – a commemorative souvenir stamp sheet that went on sale on October 10, 1964, the opening day of XVIII Olympiad in Tokyo.

It is a beautiful set that show off some of the iconic venues of the Tokyo Games, including the 30-yen stamp featuring the Nippon Budokan Hall. The popular Japanese martial art of judo was debuting at the 1964 Games, and the Japanese government decided to build  a structure just for judo at the Olympics.

Not only was the stamp publicizing the Budokan, it was helping to pay for it.

From the first Olympic Games in 1896 in Athens, governments have raised funds for Olympiads through the issuance of stamps. According to the IOC, more than 50 million Olympic stamp series have been issued since 1896, generating revenue for Olympic operating committees through surcharges on stamps.

Receipts of Olympic Fund Raising Association
From the final report of the Olympic Games

An organization called the Olympic Fund Raising Association was created in December, 1960, mandated with raising funds primarily from private sources. The Association was responsible for raising funds for the Olympic Organizing Committee, the Japan Amateur Sports Associations to help raise the performance level of athletes in Japan, as well as for the construction of the Budokan.

And according to the final report of the Olympic Games published by the Tokyo Olympic Organizing Committee, stamps were the Association’s best money maker, as you can see in the table below. What’s also interesting is the number of fund raising projects the Association oversaw: advertising in telephone books and trains. And not only did they make money off of selling cigarettes, but also thanks to legalized gambling in motorboat, bicycle and motorcycle racing, among many other things.

The Olympic Fund Raising Association raised a total of around JPY6 billion (USD16 million), and 16% or JPY963 million was due to stamps.

 

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The inside of the commemorative stamp booklet.
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Ad from The Japan Times, October 16, 1964
Ad from The Japan Times, October 16, 1964

When I was growing up in the 1970s, writers would put the words “cheap” and “polyester suit” inevitably in the same sentence. For example, “He folded like a cheap polyester suit.”

But in the 1950s and 1960s, when advances in technology were constant reminders of how more civilized we were becoming, polyester was all the rage. Since polyester was a strong fiber, it would not wrinkle and it would maintain its shape. Additionally, it had an insulating property so that polyester fabrics could be designed to keep the body warm in cool weather.

These artificial fibers that would eventually be called polyester were created by chemists in two different companies, ICI in the UK and duPont in America. In 1957, Japanese manufacturers called Teijin and Toray Industries licensed ICI production technologies from ICI, and eventually went on to create their own polyester blend called Tetoron. From that point on, Japan mastered yet another industrial process started in the West.

Teijin’s ad above displayed in the Japan Times during the Olympic Games tries to express the idea that polyester is not only beautiful, it’s traditional. Teijin probably wasn’t well known in the West, but my guess is that quite a few people were wearing Teijin shirts and slacks. Maybe even the Brady’s

From the back cover of a special magazine on the Olympics, called
From the back cover of a special magazine on the Olympics, called “Tokyo Olympiku Special Edition, Tokyo Shimbun”

“The rising sun, the flames of the Olympic torch and the green grass of the stadium – what you saw in black and white in Rome, you can now see in color!” According to this ad, for about JPY200,000 you can be the proud owners of a 1964 Toshiba Color Television! The ad goes on to claim how America is buying up this TV due to its “wonderful” color technology.

By 1964, Japan’s economy had grown so robustly that 90% all households in Japan owned all of the so-called “three sacred treasures” – a television, a refrigerator and a washing machine. But of course, it was time to get an upgrade on that black and white clunker that was so 1950s, and buy a 1964 Toshiba Color Television!

The phrase, “three sacred treasures” (三種の神器 Sanshu no Jingi / Mikusa no Kandakara), is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the three items (a sword, a mirror and a jewel) that were brought from the heavens and granted to the first Emperor of Japan (a very long time ago). It is said that these items actually exist and the presentation of these treasures to a new emperor is still a significant part of the ascension ceremony.

From a magazine called
From a magazine called “Olympiku Tokyo Taikai Tokushuu No. 4”, Tokyo Shinbun

Is this ad selling the prospect of listening to music in glorious stereo, or the chance to get three free discs from Columbia Records, or something else?

Columbia Records, owned by CBS at that time by CBS (Columbia Broadcasting System), was one of the first to release LPs in stereo in the mid 1950s. Apparently, Columbia also manufactured the delivery device, these beautiful all-in-one radio-record players.

My parents didn’t own a Columbia Stereo. Ours was a Victor, which our cat Miiko enjoyed immensely.

Miiko_circa 1965 #1