On this date in 1964 the Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the XVIII Olympiad opened in Tokyo. Tokyo had been awarded the organization of the 1940 Summer Olympics, but this selection was subsequently passed to Helsinki because of Japan’s invasion of China, before ultimately being canceled because of World War II. The 1964 Summer Games were the first Olympics held in Asia, and the first time South Africa was barred from taking part due to its apartheid system in sports.
These games were also the first to be telecast internationally without the need for tapes to be flown overseas as they were for the 1960 Olympics four years earlier. The games were telecast to the United States using Syncom 3, the first geostationary communication satellite, and from there to Europe using Relay 1. These were also the first Olympic Games to have color telecasts (partially). Certain events like the sumo wrestling and judo matches, sports huge in Japan, were tried out using Toshiba’s new color transmission system; but just for the domestic market, not for any international coverage. History surrounding the 1964 Olympics was chronicled in the 1965 documentary film Tokyo Olympiad, directed by Kon Ichikawa.
I remember being absolutely enthralled by the telecasts. We had watched snippets of previous Olympics via tapes that were flown to Australia, or, in the case of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, films shown on newsreels in the local cinema. Besides being able to watch whole events and somewhat continuous coverage, I was amazed by all the new technology – electronic starters and photo finishes, instant replay, slow motion, the works. It was as if the modern world had arrived fully formed into our living room in a rather electronically impoverished corner of South Australia.
TRANSPAC-1, the first trans-Pacific communications cable from Japan to Hawaii was also finished in June 1964 in time for these games. Before this, most communications from Japan to other countries were via shortwave.
The start of operations for the first Japanese “bullet train” (the Tokaido Shinkansen) between Tokyo Station and Shin-Ōsaka Station was scheduled to coincide with the Olympic games. The first regularly scheduled train ran on October 1, 1964, just 9 days before the opening of the games, transporting passengers 515 kilometers (320 mi) in about 4 hours, and connecting the three major metropolitan areas of Tokyo, Nagoya, and Osaka.
Some already-planned upgrades to both highways and commuter rail lines were rescheduled for completion in time for these games. Of the 8 main expressways approved by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government in 1959, No. 1, No. 4 and a portion of No. 2 and No. 3 were completed for the games. Two subway lines totaling 22 kilometers (14 mi) were also completed in time for the games, and the port of Tokyo facilities were expanded to handle the anticipated traffic.
The 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo celebrated Japan’s progress and reemergence on the world stage. The new Japan was no longer a wartime enemy, but a peaceful country that threatened no one, and this transformation was accomplished in fewer than 20 years. Although Japan’s foreign policy was closely linked to the United States during the Cold War, the city of Tokyo hosted the 1964 Summer Olympics in the spirit of peaceful engagement with the entire international community, including the Communist states. The goals were to demonstrate to the world that Japan had fully recovered from the war, had disavowed imperialism and militarism, welcomed high-caliber sports, and sought to engage the peoples of the world on a grassroots level. Sports were kept entirely separate from politics. The event proved a great success for the city and for Japan as a whole, with no untoward incidents. Japan’s foreign policy was expanded to include sports diplomacy as the nation sent teams to international competitions across the globe.
Japanese cuisine was once virtually unknown in the West. For my 21st birthday (1972) I went to the ONLY Japanese restaurant in London where my partner and I were the only Westerners in the place – and the waitresses (dressed as geishas) spoke minimal English. It was a memorable meal which set me on a life course of eating as well as preparing Japanese dishes. It’s possible to prepare a number of dishes at home but you have to have the right ingredients, prime of which is the bonito stock – dashi. I give a recipe here http://www.bookofdaystales.com/ajinomoto-monosodium-glutamate/ Above is an example of my Japanese home cooking – various kinds of fish with dipping sauces. Udon and soba noodles are usually readily available at Asian groceries and are very easy to prepare, simply by poaching them in dashi and then serving them in the stock or cold with a dipping sauce of soy sauce and bonito flakes, or shaved ginger root.
However, for a good variety it’s just as well to go to a restaurant where you’ll find all manner of traditional dishes prepared perfectly and served beautifully.