Tokyo 6420: Exploring the History, Cultural Legacy and Urban impact of the Tokyo Olympic Games

The 1964 Tokyo Olympics made a lasting impression on the cultural heritage of Japan. As Tokyo remade itself for the Olympics from the chaos of wartime devastation and a postwar search for identity, so did Japan reinvent itself for the world stage. The process forced alterations to old traditions and concessions to new ideas, altering the cityscape of Tokyo and eventually Japan itself. The legacy of the highly successful 1964 Olympics is deeply imbedded in Japanese memory and the desire to recapture the boost to prestige and national pride the Games brought to Japan was a driving force for Tokyo to bid for 2020. The transformative forces unleashed by the Games had a profound impact, as the nature of Tokyo as the center of the nation ensured that new ideas rippled throughout society and redefined Japanese identity. By looking back at the aspects of militarism and nationalism that imbued the cancelled 1940 Tokyo Olympics, the message of peaceful technological development that defined 1964, and the current positioning of Japan as a cultural powerhouse for 2020, the ideals through which Japan defines itself and how it is attempting to present itself to the world can be studied.

This project explores the cultural heritage and legacy of urban transformation of the Olympics in Tokyo through popular culture, sports venues, and the structures of the new city that emerged in 1964 centering spatially on four locations: Meiji Jingu Stadium, the National Gymnasium and associated Olympic Village in modern day Yoyogi Park, Nihonbashi Bridge and the Nippon Budokan. Tokyo 6420 uses maps, 360 degree images, and photos to illustrate the way each site changed the city around it, exploring how the Olympics at times reinforced a particular vision of Japanese history and at other times overwrote the past with a new narrative. Additional entries chart the times each location has appeared in popular culture and through that lens observe how the Olympics became a cultural touchstone for Showa era Japan. Alongside the main site, a separate blog provides an avenue for commentary and the dissemination of recent news on the 2020 Games.

Daniel Fandino

2017-2018 CHI Grad Fellow Cohort

PhD Student, Department of History