The Asia-Pacific Journal's Tokyo Olympics Special Issue

The Asia-Pacific Journal, an online academic publication, has released a special issue on the Tokyo Olympics. Here are some highlights:

Asato Ikeda, “The Tokyo Olympics: 1940/2020“:

1940 was a particularly important year for Japan. Based on the Shinto myth from the ancient Nihonshoki, it was believed that Emperor Jimmu, a descendant of the sun goddess Amaterasu, established the country in 660 BCE. The government had started planning a national/imperial celebration of the anniversary in 1935, and in November 1940, there were thousands of citizens gathering around the Imperial Palace, and hundreds of events, including theater, performance, exhibitions, and festivals, taking place on a local and national scale (Ruoff 2014). While the Olympics and the World’s Fair did not materialize, the imperial celebration became one of the most important political events involving various aspects of society and culture of this time.

… The 2020 Tokyo Olympics—the Games of the XXXII Olympiad—will take place in a completely different context. The Games coincide with the celebratory mood of Emperor Naruhito’s enthronement, but unlike in 1940, Japan is now (in theory) a democratic country that guarantees freedom of speech and thought, and the emperor is now understood to be a symbol of the country, not a divine political leader citizens are obligated to die for. The relationship between Emperor and citizens has changed dramatically. Emperor Akihito, who succeeded Emperor Hirohito in 1989 and became Emperor Emeritus in 2019, established a new image of an emperor who serves the citizens, regularly visiting those undergoing hardship, such as victims of natural disasters, and publically expressed remorse for those in Asia and other countries who were affected by Japan’s colonialism, even as right-wing politicians maintained wartime narratives and justifications for the country’s violence.

Jeff Kingston, “Tokyo’s Diversity Olympics Dogged by Controversy“:

These days one of the main rationales for hosting the Olympics is branding. While the 1964 Summer Olympics signaled Japan’s return to the comity of nations and promoted its high- tech prowess and recovery from war, the 2020 branding has proven more complicated and way more expensive. The government views hosting as a chance to showcase the nation’s many strengths, including its design prowess, superb infrastructure, social capital, and wants to parry the pessimism of those who have written off the economy and the nation’s prospects. There are also hopes that the games will further boost tourism, although there are many who think this is already too much of a good thing as arrivals in 2019 were nearly 32 million, almost double the figure in 2015.

Kazuhiko Togo, “Unease about Tokyo 2020“:

The most penetrating analysis showing that it was essentially wrong to hold the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo was written by a journalist Murashima Takehito (Murashima, 2016, 54-59). He argues that those who have taken the initiative of holding the Olympics were driven by their desire to gain profits through large scale construction projects. The first initiative came from those who saw a huge opportunity of saikaihatsu (redevelopmentof the Yoyogi Area, Japan’s sacred sporting grounds. Sports-related businessmen, construction firms, and LDP politicians constituted a powerful grouping seeking riken (concessions) in Yoyogi. But as this plan was proceeding, high-level bureaucrats in the Tokyo Metropolitan Office saw another huge opportunity for gaining riken in the Tokyo Bay Rinkaichiku (seaside area). Current support and planning for the 2020 Olympics has been guided by these two groups.

The journal also touches on other topics like the Olympics’ environmental benefits and costs, and the symbolic meaning behind the newly rebuilt Tokyo National Olympic Stadium‎. Do check it out.