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Reviewed by:
  • Sport and Body Politics in Japan by Wolfram Manzenreiter
  • Masa Enomoto
Manzenreiter, Wolfram. Sport and Body Politics in Japan. New York: Routledge, 2014. Pp. v+ 315. Notes, references, and index, $125.00 hb.

There are few studies about Japanese sport history in English, but Japan forms different types of sports culture from Western countries. Why did Japanese fans stay behind to clean up the stadium? Sport and Body Politics in Japan by Wolfram Manzenreiter delves into the reasons behind this act.

This book focuses on the role of sport and sport-related body practices in regulating the social relations between subject and society in Japan (254). Using methodologies from [End Page 268] the fields of sociology, anthropology, management studies, political science, cultural studies, and history, Manzenreiter explores and considers this focus. It consists of three parts. Part I, “Configurations of Modernity: Sport, the Body and the Nation,” has three chapters that deal with modern sport in Japan, from the late nineteenth to the early twentieth century when the country opened up to cultural exchange with the Western world. It reveals the role sport played in supporting the totalitarian regime of the imperialist state. Part II, “New Roles, New Face: Sport in the Service of Various Masters,” forms five chapters. Each chapter endeavors to decipher various aspects of contemporary society in Japan: to look at the contribution of school sport to the production and reproduction of a hegemonic gender order (Chapter 4); to analyze the framework of Japan’s sport for all policy and the conditions that shaped the behavior of the state and regional governments (Chapter 5); to show how Japanese state authorities have employed sport to address the challenges of aging and old age in contemporary society (Chapter 6); to examine the degree to which the current debate on health and obesity in Japan has been tainted by neoliberal politics (Chapter 7); and to discuss the political economy of hosting the 2002 FIFA World Cup (Chapter 8). Part III, “Global Dimension: Sport and Geo-Politics of the Body,” includes three chapters that locate Japan and the usage of sport in the East Asian region into the contexts of international relations and global power asymmetries (20).

Sport in Japan has been investigated via many fields such as history, sociology, and anthropology. The majority of these studies have been monographs that are thoroughly referred to and referenced within this book. The impressive point of this study is the use of many references from individual academic fields. As a result, this study does not only show sport history in Japan but also implicitly or explicitly demonstrates contemporary problems within Japanese society through sport and body politics. These issues are based on historical evidence that is detailed in Part I. The pre–World War II Japanese state had molded its citizens into a disciplined and submissive mass (79) by linking physical education with moral education, including spirit-building, solidarity, loyalty with the in-group, national identity, the firm and nearly exclusive placement of sport within curricula, and the social boundaries of the school system (257). These past systems continue to the present day. For example, PE is important for the construction and consolidation of gender identities within schools. The differences in extracurricular sport club enrollments clearly show the tension between dominant and subordinate masculinities and femininities (102). In addition to the issue of a hegemonic gender order, this study explains by using objective data that sport supply, how health management and body surveillance in contemporary Japan have inflated the role of sport in the body politics of the Japanese state (104).

This book as an introductory text naturally contributes to research about sport in Japan through its comprehensive use of references from many academic fields. Moreover, it leads to a clearer understanding of Japanese culture and society through the medium of sport and body politics. Robert Whiting’s The Chrysanthemum and the Bat (1977) uses the medium of professional Japanese baseball to study sports and culture within Japan. While this book concentrates on sport and body politics in Japan, it is much more general and experiential for most Japanese people. Sport and body politics, with different objectives at different time periods...


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pp. 268-270
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