We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Japanese Sports

Allen Guttmann & Lee Thompson

Publication Year: 2001

In this first synthetic, comprehensive survey of Japanese sports in English, the authors are attentive to the complex and fascinating interaction of traditional and modern elements. In the course of tracing the emergence and development of sumo, the martial arts, and other traditional sports from their origins to the present, they demonstrate that some cherished "ancient" traditions were, in fact, invented less than a century ago. They also register their skepticism about the use of the samurai tradition to explain Japan's success in sports. Special attention is given to Meiji-era Japan's frequently ambivalent adoption and adaptation of European and American sports--a particularly telling example of Japan's love-hate relationship with the West. The book goes on the describe the history of physical education in the school system, the emergence of amateur and professional leagues, the involvement of business and the media in sports promotion, and Japan's participation in the Olympics.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (35.4 KB)
pp. ix-x

References to “internationalism” have become a refrain in twenty-firstcentury Japan. We can join the chorus with expressions of gratitude to a thoroughly international set of friends and colleagues. We have received invaluable assistance and encouragement from Harold Bolitho, Michel Brousse, Gordon Daniels, Higuchi,...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (67.0 KB)
pp. 1-10

Every June, when the hydrangea are at their best, the Fujinomori shrine on the outskirts of Kyoto hosts an exhibition of kemari, a traditional Japanese sport. A team of men dressed in the colorful robes of eleventh-century courtiers kick a ball back and forth, skillfully keeping it aloft. Next to the ground on which they play their game stands a large rack from which...

Part I. Sporting Practices Before the Black Ships

read more

1. Sumō, Ball Games, and Feats of Strength

pdf iconDownload PDF (134.4 KB)
pp. 13-41

All sports,” wrote the German scholar Carl Diem, “began as cult.”1 This generalization is as much an exaggeration as the Marxist assertion that “all sports were originally one with the means of production,”2 but Diem was right to call attention to the easily forgotten fact that, in the centuries before our more secular age, adults who participated in sports were often...

read more

2. Martial Techniques

pdf iconDownload PDF (110.2 KB)
pp. 42-64

According to the most authoritative Western scholar of Japan’s martial arts, “Archery was the first of the traditional Japanese combat techniques to become modified into a sport form.”1 In part, this is probably because it was easier for archery to make that transition. The bow and arrow was used for hunting as well as combat, and...

Part II. Modern Times

read more

3. The Arrival and Diffusion of Western Sports

pdf iconDownload PDF (127.5 KB)
pp. 67-95

Franciscan and Jesuit missionaries from Portugal and Spain arrived in Japan in the sixteenth century, decades before Tokugawa Ieyasu (1543– 1606) defeated his rivals and consolidated his control over a more or less unified nation. These European missionaries actively propagated their religion among the “heathen,” many of whom were eager to embrace Roman Catholicism. The...

read more

4. The Modernization of Indigenous Sports

pdf iconDownload PDF (107.4 KB)
pp. 96-116

AMeiji-period observer might have predicted that Japan’s adoption of Western sports meant the demise—sooner or later—of the nation’s traditional sports. In fact, some sporting traditions, like inuoumono, did disappear. Some, like kemari, barely managed to survive thanks to the heroic efforts of...

read more

5. Japan at the Olympics: 1912–1940

pdf iconDownload PDF (79.9 KB)
pp. 117-127

When Pierre de Coubertin summoned the youth of the world to appear in Athens in 1896 to participate in the Olympic Games, the call was answered by the young men of Europe and North America. No Asian nation sent its representatives to Greece to compete in the first games of the modern era, nor were Asian athletes present at the games held in Paris, St. Louis, and London. This was a cause of great concern to...

read more

6. From Taishō Democracy to Japanese Fascism

pdf iconDownload PDF (1.6 MB)
pp. 128-160

In a study of Japanese physical education “under Fascism,” Irie Katsumi argues that turn-of-the-century Japanese nationalism was xenophobic and imperialistic.1 The expansionist wars against China (1894–1895) and Russia (1904–1905), the annexation of Korea (1910), and the seizure of Germany’s colonies in the Pacific (1914) can certainly be cited in support of Irie’s characterization. Then came what most historians, including Irie, commonly refer to as...

Part III Postwar Sports

read more

7. Rising from the Ashes

pdf iconDownload PDF (131.5 KB)
pp. 163-192

Apart from Kyoto, which had not been bombed, Japan’s urban centers were a postwar wasteland. Despite the devastation, children played among the ruins and adults began, tentatively, to rebuild the organizations and the material infrastructure of Japanese sports. Like their grandparents in the Meiji period, they wanted...

read more

8. Japan at the Olympics: 1952–1998

pdf iconDownload PDF (95.9 KB)
pp. 193-210

Ayear had not passed after Japan’s surrender before the Japan Physical Education Association began to work for the country’s return to international sporting competition. The first step was to rejoin the nongovernmental sports organizations that administer international sports. A committee to investigate that possibility was set up in July 1946. An “Olympic Preparation...

read more

9. New Directions

pdf iconDownload PDF (108.1 KB)
pp. 211-232

Japan’s political, economic, social, and cultural institutions are by definition unique, but it is undeniable that they have become increasingly similar to those of the United States and Western Europe. This similarity has provoked a reaction from a small army of writers busy with the production of Nihonjinron (theories about Japanese uniqueness). The content of these theories...


pdf iconDownload PDF (168.1 KB)
pp. 233-272


pdf iconDownload PDF (106.6 KB)
pp. 273-292


pdf iconDownload PDF (1.9 MB)
pp. 293-307

E-ISBN-13: 9780824863128
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824824143

Publication Year: 2001