The majority of Japanese have considered themselves middle class for decades, speaking to the highly meritocratic nature of Japan’s society. This is part three of Faces of Tokyo, a series of posts on how Dentsu explained the Japanese to the rest of the world, in a book called “Tokyo Olympics Official Souvenir 1964.” They did so with a collection of profiles of people, who represented a wide variety of professions.

These profiles represented the average person in Japan, who served the growing Japanese population during Japan’s greatest economic expansion – the 1960s.

Taxi Driver

Taxi Driver: Taxi drivers had a reputation for reckless driving habits – often labeled kamikaze drivers by the foreign press. But it was a living, and not such an easy one. As the profile explained, “the traffic jams of Toyo are among the world’s worst. Day and night 930,000 taxi drivers suffer from bad roads, long labor hours and other inconveniences. But if you’re lucky, maybe you get in the back of the cab of Mr Tadashi Yamamoto, who was recognized as an “Excellent” driver.


Stewardess: As Dentsu wrote, becoming an actress, stewardess or a fashion model “form the triumverate of the modern Japanese teenager’s dream.” Hisako Miki, a 24-year-old stewardess for Japan Airlines, was living that dream. Taking care of passengers on the international routes, conversing politely in English with foreigners, bringing back gifts to her family and friends from the world over, Miki was enjoying a life of relative glamour, that likely would lead to the right marriage – a pilot perhaps.

Traffic Guard

Traffic Guard: Tokyo in the 1960s was crowded, dusty and noisy. But someone had to stand in the middle of the roads so that children could cross the roads safely and get to and from school. Teruko Yokote was a 45-year old traffic guard, whose whistle, hand gestures and stern looks kept impatient drivers at bay. Traffic guards, as the profile explains, were a recent addition to the work force, an attempt to diminish the problem of car accidents involving children.


Student: Dentsu tells us that all those young boys walking around in black slacks, jackets and hats looking like military men are actually students. Student uniforms for both girls and boys, for some reason, are based on 19th century Western European naval designs. The interesting political commentary regarding the Waseda University student aside, the Japanese student is the shining example of middle class meritocracy in the country. Students take tests, and the better the scores, the better the school, the better the job, and hopefully the better the life.

In 1964, the world came to Japan for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, and to most foreigners, particularly from the West, the Japanese were not familiar, foreign perceptions ranging from warlike to exotic to friendly.

The Japanese were intent in facilitating the positive image of the Japanese. In the book, “Tokyo Olympics Official Souvenir 1964”, the publisher Dentsu produced a section called “Faces of Tokyo”, to encourage specific perceptions of the Japanese:

  • That the Japanese are indeed uniquely Japanese
  • That the Japanese are international
  • That the Japanese are middle class.

Uniquely Japanese


The Housewife: Apparently the modern-day housewife of Japan in 1964 is beautiful, loves weekend outings with the family, and wears kimono designed by her husband. Somehow, Dentsu is trying to portray the typical Japanese housewife as beautiful, modern and well to do.

Sumo Wrestler

The Sumo Wrestler: The profiled wrestler was still a relative unknown, but Takeo Morita, who later became known as Fujinokawa Takeo, made it to the heights of sekiwake in the very Japanese sport of sumo. Dentsu explains that sumo emerged out of imperial court functions to become a national sport in the early 20th century. (Real)


The Geisha: The profile here is undecipherable in English – I’m sure this is from a vague description of what it means to be a geisha by a translator who likely gave up and just threw a bunch of English words together….

Buddhist Priest

The Buddhist Priest: This profile introduces the resident priest of Zojoji, Buddhist temple in Tokyo Shiba Koen, very near Tokyo Tower. Not only is he a priest, but he is a Doctor of Philosophy, honorary president of a Japanese university, and through his many books, a go-to guy in Japan to understand Buddhism.

Flower Arranger

The Flower Arrangement Sensei: Although true less and less today, the expertise and techniques of specific skills and trades were handed down from one generation to another very deliberately, often from parent to child, as was the case with flower arranger, Kasumi Teshigawara, featured here. My guess is that the reference to her brother is famed film director, Hiroshi Teshigawara.

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Here is part 4 of a series on how the Organizing Committee of the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 presented the typical Japanese family to the world. In these series of pictures, the writers again show how similar the typical Japanese and Western families actually are. Moms shout out to kids that dinner is ready, and they settle together at the dinner table to a wide variety of cuisine.

13 Amid the cackling and shouting of the kid on the lawn we hear Mother’ s voice. It’s supper time. Japan adopted daylight-saving-time shortly after the war, but the problem of getting the children inside while it was still light out proved too great, and daylight-saving-time was abandoned.

14 All the family members gather in the kitchen area for supper. For dinner you can expect any variety of Western, Chinese, Indian or Japanese food. No other nation offers such an array of homecooking. The availability of fresh meats and an abundant supply   of   fish give the homemaker scores of menu ideas. Rice, the all­ time favorite in Japan is losing some of its popularity to bread, especially at breakfast time. The main food seasoning is soy sauce, which was first introduced. to Japan from China centuries ago.   Try a little on your fish.

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When I read that Japanese typically eat Indian food, I had to pause for a moment. Indian food? Then I realized that one of the most popular dishes in the Japanese diet is indeed curry rice, a thick yellow curry that has been popular since the late 19th century when the British introduced it to the Japanese.

The article ends as does the day of the typical Japanese family – with everyone fast asleep, except the eldest son burning the midnight oil studying for university exams.

16   The   family   has retired for the night.   What a long time we’ve been here!   Only   one   light is burning.   It’s in the room of the oldest boy who is studying for the university entrance examinations .   He is   preparing   for the fiercest competition he may ever face. Taro, the family dog, is keeping the vigil outside. Well, good night now, have a good rest.

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It’s the 1960s! The Japanese economy is booming! This was the time of The Three Sacred Treasures of Post-War Japan, when every family had to have a television, a refrigerator and a washing machine.

This is part 3 about how the Olympic Organizing Committee sought to educate the visiting foreigners about the typical Japanese household. Their message – yes, we’re Japanese, but we’re Western and Modern as well! In an article written in “Tokyo Olympics Official Souvenir 1964”, the writers explained how up to the times the typical Japanese family was. Having said that, the Kato girls are stuck cooking in the kitchen and doing the laundry, albeit with the latest white goods on the market.

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5 Kitchen Area. This functional modern design is gaining in popularity as fewer girls are willing to be house­ maids. The housewife’s aids today are electric appliances. Mrs. Kato and her daughter-in-law are clearing the breakfast table.

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6 Laundry   and   Bath.   The latest model washing ma­chine and spin dryer. Look at the bathtub-in a Japanese style bath you wash and rinse outside the tub, and in this case, in a Western style shower. The water is not replaced for every bather so it’s important that you be clean before   you   get into the hot water of the tub to relax.

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7 The handy folding clothesdryer can be moved to the sunniest areas as the sun moves across the sky.

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10 With the washing in the fresh air, Mother turns to sewing. New electric sewing machines have made it possible for women to make their own kimonos at home. Once kimonos had to be made by professional dress­ makers. Japan currently produces sewing machines, at an annual rate of 3.5 million, many of which are ex ported.

Through the eyes of mother Kato, the writers show how Japan has modernized. First, mom drives! How else can she attend PTA meetings and buy her groceries at the increasingly popular supermarket!

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11 Faced with increasing duties at home and outside, Mother has learned to drive. Alas, she had the new car two months before she could pass the driving test!

12 After attending a PTA meeting at the school of her youngest child, Mother stops at a supermarket on her way home. Supermarkets came into   vogue in Japan about three years ago and have proved so popular with house­ wives that there are some 2,000 supermarkets in Tokyo alone.

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This is part 2 about an article written in “Tokyo Olympics Official Souvenir 1964”, a book designed to make sense of Japan to visiting foreigners during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. While the article was interesting, the pictures were fascinating.

As stated in part 1, the Olympic Organizers wanted to put foreign visitors at ease, that Japan wasn’t so different. The article shows a picture of the family Kato. Kato is a typical Japanese name, but the house they live in – definitely not typical!

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1 Here we are-this is the Kato   home.   Nice, isn’t it? Kato-san is a company manager and he, with his wife and eldest son’s family live in a nine-room, upper middle class home. The house, constructed recently at a cost of ¥9 million (S25,000), is of hinoki (Japanese cypress), considered the best home building material.

Hmmm, I don’t know about you, but 9 rooms, even for an upper middle-class home seems insanely spacious. And then there is the space around the house itself. If you’ve lived in a typical neighborhood, even in an upper-middle class abode, you rarely see such space around the house. More likely is that you could open your window and practically touch the house next door.

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2 This is the front entrance. As we slip out of our shoes and into house slippers, we meet- Kato-san’s eldest son who is making the opposite change. He’s on his way to the office.

Clearly the eldest son is Westernized. He’s not in kimono – rather, he’s in the modern-day office wear of white shirt, trousers and necktie. And another familiar cultural cue of the 1960s: the wife stays at home to do the housework while the husband is working hard for the family.

3 With her husband off to work, the wife is in the living room, guiding the   vacuum   cleaner   over   the   rug and under the Western-style furniture. You’ll notice the display shelves, a genuine Japanese touch.   Resting   on them are some of the family’s art treasures.

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Not only are the Japanese Westernized, they’re civilized!

8   The clock has ticked by a few hours and Mother is in the garden hanging out the wash. She smiles as she hears her daughter practicing scales upstairs. Musical education at home was a rarity in prewar   Japan, but is extremely popular now, especially for young people. Japan is proud to be the producer of some of the world’s finest pianos.

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9 Kato-san’s three grandchildren are on late summer vacation now, from late July to early September. The oldest girl, home from college, is spending her leisure time playing the piano, while her brother, who is a high school student, and the youngest boy, who is in junior high school, are making plastic models and assembling a radio.

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But not everything is Westernized. The Japanese actually do enjoy their green tea. And thanks to this article, foreigners can avoid the embarrassing faux pas of adding sugar to their green tea.

4 Upstairs, Kato-san is sipping hot green tea (without cream or sugar) which his wife has just brought him. He doesn’t have to go to the office until later. This sunny spot is a typical all-purpose Japanese room-a simple airy living room during the day, a dining area when you bring the low table to the center of the room, and at night, when the bedding is taken from the closets, and placed on the tatami presto, It’s a bedroom!

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