The 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games   東京オリンピック1964

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The 1964 Olympics opening ceremony

Volleyball match, 1964

The Yoyogi Olympic Stadium

The new Kasumigaoka Olympic stadium under construction

Nihonbashi bridge, dominated by the huge expressway built above it

Tokyo 1964 Olympic Logo

The Olympic flame in the stadium, 1964

The rebirth of an entire country

The 1964 Olympic Games were an opportunity for Japan to recover from the devastation of the Second World War. Through sport, a whole country was able to show its courage and ambition and finally participate fully in this incredible international event.

Recovery through sport

Initially, Japan was a candidate for the XII Olympiad, scheduled to take place in 1940. But the Sino-Japanese war started in 1937, and the outbreak of the Second World War soon put a stop to this project.

After these years of devastating wars ended, Japan was finally able to show a new face to the world. On October 10th, 1964, Tokyo kicked off that year's Olympic Games in the vast Kasumigaoka National Stadium, with the opening ceremony inaugurated by Emperor Hirohito. Since then, this date has become a national holiday in Japan (体育の日 taiiku no hi, Health and Sports Day), synonymous with the celebration of sport, which moved to the second Monday of October in the year 2000. It's expected that in 2020, to celebrate the Tokyo Olympics held that year, that Sports Day will move to July 24th, the day of the opening ceremony of the 2020 Summer Olympic Games.


Advanced infrastructure

At the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, 5,133 athletes from 93 nations competed in 163 events. It was the first of its kind on the Asian continent.

In order to make it a memorial event and erase the stigma of the Second World War, an extensive reconstruction effort took place, including new infrastructure aiming to bring Japan into modernity.

In the transport sector, the aim was for Japanese trains to symbolize power and speed. The main Tokaido train line between Tokyo and Kobe had been fully electrified in 1956, replacing the previous steam locomotives with modern trains that offered a "Kodama" (Tokkyu) service running between Tokyo and Osaka in 1958 that took just under 7 hours.

But most impressive was of course the first high-speed Shinkansen, which beat a world speed record in 1963 at 256km/h, and opened to the public on October 1st, 1964, just before the Olympics. This new Shinkansen linked Tokyo to Osaka in 4 hours!

Another revolutionary means of transport was the Tokyo Monorail, introduced on September 17th, 1964, providing a rapid connection between Haneda Airport and the city center in about twenty minutes. to put this in perspective, it previously took up to 2 hours by car, due to traffic.

The construction work of the Tokyo-Haneda monorail was carried out very quickly, in just one year and three months.

Tokyo monorail

As for the roads, a metropolitan expressway crossed the city of Tokyo, the Shuto Kosoku. It was the era of the all-powerful car, which marked the end of the city's streetcar network. Most of the rivers and canals were also buried to make way for these urban highways, and even heritage sites and treasures such as the historic Nihonbashi Bridge were disfigured. But it must also be said that there were also reasons for this, such as preventing natural disasters.


A great success

Japan, and particularly the city of Tokyo, changed rapidly thanks to these modernization and reconstruction efforts. The entire country wanted to show the world its new ability to enter the race for global economic growth. This propelled the archipelago to second place in the world, behind the United States, in a short time. The urban development that took place was striking.

At the time, sport also became very important to the Japanese, and the government encouraged them to practice it regularly.

The National Kasumigaoka stadium was a major symbol of the 1964 Olympics, and this will also be the case in 2020, with its total reconstruction designed by architect Kengo Kuma. It will host the opening and closing ceremonies, as well as the athletics and football events.

Several other venues that were built for the 1964 Olympic Games will be reused in 2020. They are grouped in what the organizers have called the "Heritage Zone". Among them, the Yoyogi stadium in the heart of Tokyo between Harajuku and Shibuya district.

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