Marathon Japan

Thomas R. H. Havens

Published by University of Hawaii Press

Published in print February 2015 | ISBN: 9780824841010
Published online November 2016 | e-ISBN: 9780824869083
Marathon Japan

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Japanese have been fervid long-distance runners for many centuries. Beginning with the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, the Japanese government used athletics, especially the marathon, to continue its Meiji-era project of achieving parity with the world powers. During the 1920s and 1930s Japanese men regularly produced the fastest marathon times in the world, a source of government satisfaction, media hype, and national pride. Japanese men again dominated world marathoning in the 1960s and late 1970s-1980s. Japanese women likewise emerged as some of the world’s fastest in the 1990s and early 2000s. Meanwhile the general public took up distance running with enthusiasm starting in the 1970s, continuing unabated today. On a per capita basis at least as many Japanese residents complete marathons each year as in the United States or any other country. Marathon Japan analyzes the origins, development, and significance of Japan’s excellence in marathons and long-distance relays (ekiden) and the reasons for the explosive growth of distance racing among ordinary citizens. The book emphasizes the key role of commercial media companies in promoting sports, especially marathons and ekidens. It highlights the relentlessly nationalistic goals underlying government policies toward sports—above all marathons where Japanese have been so successful—throughout the modern era. It shows that the explosion of open-participation races for ordinary citizens of both genders has created a new civic culture in Japan.

Keywords: marathon; ekiden relays; Japan; nationalism; media; sports; civic culture

Book.  272 pages.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Society and Culture

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