InYo: Journal of Alternative Perspectives June 2000

Sport and Physical Education under Fascistization in Japan


by Ikuo Abe, Yasuharu Kiyohara, and Ken Nakajima

This article first appeared in Bull. Health & Sport Sciences, University of Tsukuba, 13 (1990) and was subsequently reprinted with some modifications in the International Journal of the History of Sport, 9:1 (April 1992). It is reprinted here, again with slight modifications, by courtesy of Professor Ikuo Abe, University of Tsukuba and Professor J.A. Mangan, editor of International Journal of the History of Sport. Copyright © Ikuo Abe, Yasuharu Kiyohara, and Ken Nakajima, 1990 all rights reserved.

The authors wish to acknowledge their debt to Dr. Arnold Flath, Professor of Physical Education at the University of Tsukuba, who gave them invaluable suggestions as well as innumerable corrections to this paper.

Editor's note: All names appear in the Western name order.

I. Prologue

The scantiness of the information about sport and physical education in Japanese history has caused foreign readers to be unfamiliar with the subject. Japanese sports historians have not yet established uniform translations for the technical terms in this field. Although we have a considerable accumulation of historical studies in this field, our first step should be limited to a sketchy introduction rather than a detailed and analytical history. This paper aims to demonstrate, as briefly as possible, the consolidating process of Japanese fascism and its influence on sport and physical education.


The formative process of Japanese fascism is subtly but essentially different from Italian Fascism and German Nazism, which had mass parties and are generally called "fascism from below". Japanese fascism is instead typified as "fascism from above". The Emperor System and its power groups have constituted rigid power structures and the charismatic governing apparatus since the Meiji Restoration. For this reason, we adopted the term, "fascistization", and took a relatively long time-span for the explanation of the formative process of Japanese fascism.

Katsumi Irie skillfully described the fascistization of Japanese physical education in four developmental stages: germination (1917-31), transition (1931-1937), domination (1937-41), and culmination (1941-45). Instead of using his precise and accurate turning points, we use two stages -- germination (before the Manchurian Incident of 1931) and consolidation (1931-1945). Simplification, sometimes, is needed for a brief introduction to a topic.

Japanese fascism was one of totalitarian and despotic rule in the developing imperialism, and Japanese leaders were ambitious for the expansion of hegemony over other colonized countries in the age of imperialism that followed World War I. The peculiarity of Japanese fascism, however, existed in "fascism as an Emperor System," which was based on Japanese theocratic fundamentalism. Sometimes it is called "Japanese romanticism" aimed at restoring "Japanism" by rejecting Westernization or Westernized modernization. Japanism adopted the theory of "state-familism" institutionalized by holding the Emperor as the patriarch of the nation. In foreign policy, Japanese fascism had a strongly imperialistic concern for invading the surrounding Asian countries, especially China and Korea, in order to create a political and economic bloc in the Far East to emulate the advanced Western imperialistic countries. Japan's aggressive policy is well demonstrated in such propaganda as "East Asia for the East Asiatics", "A New Order in East Asia," and "East Asiatic Co-prosperity Sphere".

The date of the establishment of Japanese fascism has not been uniformly accepted among Japanese historians. Nevertheless, there is a common understanding that it grew rapidly after the Manchurian Incident (1931). [EN1] Between the Manchurian Incident and the War with China (1937) the militarists grasped political hegemony, and eventually they made the national regime chauvinistic, militarily despotic, and totalitarian. Their means included terrorism and coercive suppressions against politicians, liberal and progressive ideologues, and socialist movements, as well as by creating propaganda leading to the Emperor System. The bureaucrats were, actively rather than obediently, involved in creating a fascist country.

II. Before the Manchurian Incident: Germination of Fascistic Physical Education and Sport


The Meiji Restoration in 1868 brought a drastic change in Japanese history. It brought the demise of the Tokugawa Shogunate and created in its place a new central governing system. It reconstructed the hegemonic, political, economic, and social structures. It gave an incipience of modernization, industrialization, and Westernization. It meant to "restore" the supreme authority of the Emperor (Tenno). It broke down the Baku-han [fief] system and deprived the samurai [feudal warriors belonging to clans] of their fundamental bases. It gave people a certain degree of expectation toward "democracy", while it created a new class system and intended to integrate them as "subjects" with a new notion of "nation".

The ambiguity and complexity of the Restoration followed Japanese modernization like a shadow until the Japanese catastrophe of World War II. The characteristics of Japanese modernization are symbolized by such phrases as "wakon yosai," which meant the Japanese active acceptance of Western technology while preserving the Japanese fundamental mind and attitudes. The new government encouraged the introduction of Western sciences, technologies, education systems, military systems, and the industrial and economic system of capitalism. Whereas the rapid acceptance of occidental civilization changed the base or infrastructure, the superstructure more strongly revived the "Idea of Nation" based on an Emperor. This was done by peculiarly integrating Confucianism, Buddhism, Kokugaku, [EN2] and Shintoism.

Although the feudal samurai military was reorganized into a modern system of conscription in 1872, the old codes of behavior and morals were preserved using the "Imperial Rescript for Soldiers" (Gunjin Chokuyu) of 1882. The Peoples' Rights Movement demanded both the promulgation of a democratic constitution and the establishment of a Diet, but this was repressed during the 1880s. A series of coercive suppressions such as regulations on assembly (1880, 1882), revision of the newspaper regulations (1883), and a law prohibiting disclosure of petitions to the throne and the government (1884) were adopted as countermeasures against radical Westernization movements.

The Meiji Constitution promulgated in 1889 did not guarantee basic human rights. The newly opened Diet carefully preserved the Emperor's rights to rule. The Emperor was the fountainhead of all authority in the state.

Though a Westernized educational system order (Gakusei) was proclaimed in 1872, it soon became nationalistic. The essence of education was maintained in conformity and allegiance to the Emperor system using the "Imperial Rescript on Education" (Kyoiku Chokugo) of 1890.

Along with the conflicts between Western modernization and Japan's traditional and fundamentalist revivalism, another germ of Japanese fascism was a strong concern for the emulation of Western imperialism. Victory in the Sino-Japanese War (1894-1895) and the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) gave impetus to Japan's imperialistic ambition. In the Treaty of Shimonseki (April 17, 1895), China agreed to cede Formosa, the Pescadores, and the Liaodong (Liaotung) Peninsula, though the latter was returned to China after the intervention of Russia, France, and Germany. In the 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth, Russia ceded the southern half of the island of Sakhalin and transferred to Japan its lease of the Liaodong Peninsula and the railways in southern Manchuria. Furthermore, Japan's aggressive foreign policy forced the annexation of Korea and created the Government General of Korea in 1910. World War I gave another opportunity for Japanese imperialism to expand. Declaring war on Germany, as an ally of Britain and France, Japan acquired colonies in East Asia -- Qingdao (Tsingtao) and all the German interests in adjoining areas of China. Japan also seized German islands in the Marianas, Carolines, and Marshalls that were later given to Japan as a mandate by the peace treaty. In 1915 Japan's almost endlessly aggressive ambition also brought a presentation to China of the so-called "Twenty-one Demands" that would have made China a virtual colony of Japan.

The years after World War I brought short-term prosperity and democratization. New educational movements arose, and athleticism reached its zenith. Western democracy and liberalism permeated among intelligentsia, and socialist movements grew. A party Cabinet gradually replaced the oligarchic rule of the early Diet and the universal manhood suffrage bill passed in 1925. However, elements within the government responded swiftly to counteract the democratic trends, and this oppression of liberal and socialist movements, and above all, the government's enforcement of ideology, was another germination of Japanese fascism. As early as 1917, the Ministry of Education set up the Special Council for Education (Rinji kyoiku Kaigi), and reconfirmed its educational policy as "to build an obedient subject with patriotic feeling." The enactment of the Peace Preservation Law of 1925, which was amended more harshly in 1928 and 1941, began to oppress the growing student and labor movements, and to purge liberals, socialists, and communists as soon as they formed political groups. With the Manchurian Incident of 1931 as a turning point, Japan accelerated its fascistization, but the germ of Japanese fascism had already acquired its strong growth by 1931.

Militarization of School Gymnastics

School gymnastics (gakko taiso) is the older concept equivalent to today's school physical education (gakko taiiku). School gymnastics was encouraged by the first Order of Educational System (Gakusei) in 1872, and in the next year, "Illustration of Room Gymnastics" (Shachu Taisoho-zu) and "Illustration of Gymnastics" (Taiso-zu) were officially presented by the Department of Education. Yet, it was not until 1879 that the National Institute of Gymnastics (Taiso Denshujo) was established and started for the purpose of training qualified gymnastics teachers and studying the systems of school gymnastics. George A. Leland was invited from America to systematize school gymnastics in 1879. His systems were drawn mainly from Dio Lewis, and were called "light gymnastics" (kei-taiso) and "normal gymnastics" (futsu-taiso). School gymnastics were then diffused by the rapid growth of national education.

In 1885, the Department of Education was reorganized into the Ministry of Education, and the Ministry promulgated a set of new Education Orders. Japanese education was moving toward nationalism, too, as the new orders for elementary, middle, and normal schools, excluding imperial universities, introduced "military gymnastics" (heishiki-taiso) as a compulsory subject. The light gymnastics was to fade out because of the introduction of military gymnastics. On the other hand, Motokuro Kawase, Akuri Inokuchi, and others actively introduced the Swedish system during the 1890s, and this permeated into many schools because of its rational and scientific system.

After decades of confusion, in 1913 the Ministry of Education proclaimed the Syllabus of School Gymnastics for the first time. In these, school gymnastics was prescribed to consist of gymnastics (mainly Swedish), military drill, and games. A nationally standardized system was established. However, it was by the propositions of the Special Council for Education, set up in 1917, that the school gymnastics was directly connected with the aim of military training. The Council reported "Propositions on the Promotion of Military Gymnastics" in 1917 (it passed in the Diet in the same year), and this said that the main object of school gymnastics was that male "students above middle school should be trained to be a soldier with patriotic conformity, martial spirit, obedience, and toughness of mind and body."

The Special Council for Education was dissolved in 1919, but its policies and function were taken over by the Special Committee for Education (Rinji Kyoiku Iinkai). In 1921, its successor, the Education Council (Kyoiku Hyogikai), was established. In 1924 the Education Council was itself dissolved, and in its place the Educational Cultural Policy Council (Bunsei Shingikai) was created.

Despite these reorganizations, their aims and policies to link school gymnastics to the national defense were consistent. In 1924 the Educational Cultural Policy Council advised the Minister of Education to attach military officers to the institutions above middle schools. This recommendation was immediately brought into realization. The Ministry of Education and the Department of War had joint meetings and in April 1925 promulgated the Order on the Attachment of Military Officers to Schools, as well as to issue the Syllabus of Military Drill. Along with this promulgation, the Army Ministry decided to send inspectors for military drill to schools and made it their duty to report the results of their inspections to the Minister of the Army.

At the kendo school of the publisher Seijo Noma.

At the kendo school of the publisher Seijo Noma.

Photo from Japans Sport in Bild und Wort by Arthur Grix, 1937

In 1931 budo (traditional martial arts) became compulsory with the revisions of Middle School Order and the Normal School Order. Students were required to train themselves in judo or kendo. Budo was particularly expected to mold the ideal of Bushido (samurai spirit), which could serve for the "patriotic spirit" and to help understanding of "the origin of the nation and the dignity of the national constitution". [EN3]

III. Growth of Athleticism

Embryo of Athleticism

Some foreign sports were already introduced before the Meiji Restoration. Western systems of gymnastics, shooting, riding, and the like had been introduced into the Bafuku (Shogunate) or Han (feudal clans) in relation to their military reforms. Although the foreign trading community at Yokohama had started in 1859, it is fair to say that the rush of introductions of "foreign sports" (gairai supotsu) came about after the Meiji Restoration. The routes of foreign sports introductions may be classified in the following ways:

  1. Introduced through military reform or modernization. Examples include gymnastics, fencing, rifle shooting, riding, and skiing.
  2. Introduced through the foreign residents in the trading communities of Yokohama and Kobe. Examples include football (soccer), rowing, athletic sports, tennis, baseball, cricket, and golf.
  3. Introduction through foreign teachers at universities and higher schools. In many cases, foreign teachers and their students had frequent communications with foreign residents of Yokohama and Kobe. Examples include baseball, American football, rowing, athletic sports, rugby, tennis, and skating.
  4. Introduction through foreign missionaries or institutions such as the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). Examples include basketball, volleyball, field hockey, and badminton.
  5. Introduction through the teachers, students, or other Japanese who experienced study or life in a foreign country. Examples include table tennis, handball, basketball, volleyball, etc.
  6. Introduction through the Olympic Games or other international games. Examples include freestyle wrestling, weightlifting, canoeing, etc.
  7. Introduction through voluntary sports clubs. Examples include yachting and mountaineering.
The most active organizers of foreign sports in the early stage of the introductions were the students of universities, higher normal schools, and higher middle schools. As Toru Watanabe precisely surveyed, the early organizers frequently communicated with the foreign residents of Yokohama. He also surveyed the early formation of extracurricular activities in middle schools and suggested that the diffusion and organization of foreign sports in middle schools rapidly rose by the 1890s. These foreign sports were typically for the elite classes.

Weightlifting at the YMCA, 1937

A weightlifting championship at the Tokyo YMCA

Photo from Japans Sport in Bild und Wort by Arthur Grix, 1937

In 1911, the first governing body, Japan Amateur Athletic Association (JAAA; Dai Nippon Taiiku Kyokai) was founded. Its aims were "to encourage our national physical education (athletics)" and to be "representative of Japan for the international Olympic Games." JAAA was set up under the initiative of Jigoro Kano for the immediate necessity of sending Japanese athletes to the Olympic Games at Stockholm in 1912. The Japanese debut to the Olympic Games gave an impetus to the growth of athleticism, and after the foundation of JAAA, many individual sports organizations came into being. In 1925, JAAA was made the jurisdictional body to control all affiliated amateur sport organization. See Table 1.

Table 1: Formation of Amateur Sports in Japan

Notes to column headings:

  1. Year of introduction into Japan.
  2. Year governing body was founded.
  3. Inauguration of national championships.
The Governing Bodies 1 2 3 Remarks
Japan Amateur Athletic Association   1911   The main function of the Association is to delegate Japanese athletes to the Olympic Games. In 1925 function was transformed to govern all affiliated individual sports associations and federations.
Japan Amateur Sports Association   1948   Reorganization of Japan Amateur Athletic Association. The new Association coordinates all affiliated associations for individual sports.
Japanese Alpine Club 1880 1905   Walter Weston, an English missionary, introduced modern mountaineering into Japan around 1880 and encouraged the foundation of the Japanese Alpine Club.
Middle Schools National Baseball Federation 1872 1915 1915 H. Wilson, an American teacher, introduced baseball to Kaisei School (a former institute of Tokyo University) in 1872.
Japan Amateur Rowing Association 1867 1920 1920 Foreign residents in Yokohama set up a rowing club and had a race in 1867. Some university students had taken up rowing circa 1877, but F. W. Strange, an English teacher of the Yobimon of Tokyo University, made the most influential introduction in 1883.
Japan Table Tennis Association 1902 1921 1923 Kanemichi Tsuboi, a professor at Tokyo Higher Normal School, introduced the game in 1902 after studying abroad in Europe.
Japan Lawn Tennis Association 1878 1921 1922 During the 1870s foreign residents in both Kobe and Yokohama played tennis, and in 1878, an American staff member named George .A. Leland introduced tennis into Taiso Denshujo (National Institute of Gymnastics).
Football [Soccer] Association of Japan 1873 1921 1921 Introduction into Kaigun Heigakuryo in 1873 by Major Douglas, a foreign teacher from Britain. Another introduction in 1874 into Kougakuryo by Jones, a foreign teacher from Britain.
Japan Equestrian Federation 1872 1922 1922 A French captain of cavalry introduced Western equitation into the Japanese army in 1872.
Japan [Field] Hockey Association 1906 1923 1923 Introduced into Keio University by the Irish missionary W. D. Grey.
Japan Golf Association 1901 1924 1906 A British tea merchant, Arthur Groome, opened a four-hole golf course at Rokko, Kobe, in 1901. By enlarging this course to nine holes, the Kobe Golf Club was created.
Japan Soft Tennis Association [EN4] 1898 1924 1924 A set of rules was drawn in 1898 for the first match between Tokyo Higher Normal School and Tokyo Higher Commercial School.
Japan Amateur Swimming Federation 1898 1924 1912 First competitive encounter for traditional Japanese strokes against foreign styles was in 1898 at Yokohama against foreign residents.
Japan Amateur Athletic Federation 1878 1925 1913 By an American teacher's initiative, the earliest athletic meet was held at Sapporo Nogyo Gakko in 1878. The most influential contribution to modern athletics was due to F. W. Strange's organization of athletic meets at the Yobimon of Tokyo University in 1883. 
Ski Association of Japan 1911 1925 1923 Major T. E. von Lerch, an Austrian staff officer, introduced Japanese army officers to skiing in 1911.
Tokyo Six Universities' Baseball Federation 1872 1925 1925 H. Wilson, an American teacher of Kaisei School (former institute of Tokyo University) introduced baseball into the school in 1872.
Japan Rugby Football Union 1899 1926 1918 Introduction into Keio University by an English professor, F. B. Clark.
Japan Amateur Boxing Association 1913 1927 1921 Yujiro Watanabe founded a boxing club in Tokyo after his visit to America. For additional details, see Vol. III of
Japan Volleyball Association 1908 1927 1921 Hyozo Omori introduced volleyball into the Tokyo YMCA in 1908; the American F. H. Brown introduced it into the Kobe YMCA in 1913.
National Skating Union of Japan 1877 1929 1930 Mr. Brooks, an American teacher at Sapporo Nogyo Gakko, displayed skating before students in 1877. Inazo Nitobe, then a professor at Sapporo Nogyo Gakko, encouraged his students to skate in 1894. For more about Nitobe, who was also a pioneer English-language writer on bushido, see
Japan Amateur Basketball Association 1908 1930 1931 Hyozo Omori introduced basketball into the Tokyo YMCA in 1908; the American F. H. Brown introduced it into the Kobe YMCA in 1913.
Japan Gymnastic Association 1867 1930 1930 C. H. J. Chanoine introduced a French system to the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1867. In 1879, an American teacher at Taiso Denshujo, G. A. Leland, systematized Japanese school gymnastics.
Japan Yachting Association 1878 1886   Foreign residents in Kobe founded the Regatta and Athletic Club in 1878, and in Yokohama the Yachting Club was set up in 1886.
Japan Amateur Wrestling Federation 1924 1932 1934 Katsutoshi Naito, a student at Penn State University, wrestled at the Olympic Games in Paris in 1924, but the real outset was due to the foundation of a club at Waseda University by Ichiro Hatta in 1931. [Naito was the third person of Japanese descent to win an Olympic medal, the first two being tennis players in 1920.]
Japan Amateur Cycling Federation 1868 1934 1934 Hisahige Tanaka made a bicycle in 1868 for the first time in Japan; Isaac Sato returned from America with a bicycle.
Federation Japonaise d'Escrime 1934 1936 1937 A French fencing master of Rikugun Toyama Gakko (Toyama Military Academy) introduced fencing as a school subject. Tomokiyo Iwakura set up an Olympic fencing club in 1934.
Japan Handball Association 1922 1937 1937 Buichi Otani, a professor at Tokyo Higher Normal School, introduced handball in 1922 after visiting Europe.
Japan Weightlifting Federation 1932 1937 1936 Jigoro Kano sent a set of weights to Japan from Europe in 1932 to encourage weightlifting as an Olympic sport.
Japan Canoe Association 1937 1938 1938 The Organization Committee of the Tokyo Olympics of 1940 nominated canoeing as an Olympic sport in 1937.
Japan Badminton Association 1934 1947 1948 The first official translation of rules was made in 1934; Yokohama YMCA introduced badminton in 1935.


Meanwhile, bujutsu -- Japanese traditional martial arts -- commenced to be reconstructed. They were in existential crisis under the modernization such as the decree abolishing the wearing of swords in 1876 and the reforms of military forces and the adoption of conscription in 1873. Besides, they had various schools of individual arts. These traditionally differentiated martial arts had to fight for their survival during the early part of the Meiji era.

One of the forerunners of the modernization of bujutsu was judo. This excluded certain dangerous skills from jujutsu, and had been reconstructed by Jigoro Kano at the Kodokan since 1882. However, judo was an exceptional example. A general governing body for the diverse traditional martial arts known as the Dai Nippon Butokukai [Great Japan Martial Virtue Society] was established in April 1895. This was to control and preserve the martial arts and to spiritually link them to the Emperor system.

The Dai Nippon Butokukai was patronized by the Royal family and started its work with the celebration of the foundation of Butoku-den, a consecrated shrine for martial arts at Heian Jingu in Kyoto. The aims of the Butokukai were to "revive Bushido," to "promote bujutsu to future military men," and to make Japan "a nation of military prowess." The Butokukai held an annual festival whose various contests consisted of kendo, judo, kyudo (archery), naginata (halberd), sojutsu (spear), kusarigama (sickle and chain), bojutsu (cudgeling), shooting, and riding, and its activities enjoyed rapid growth and expansion. By 1906, branches had been established in forty-two prefectures, and reported about 1,300,000 members. It was the most forceful, influential, and chauvinistic sport governing body, and as a result was dissolved by the Allied Occupation government in September 1946. National archery and judo championships resumed in 1948, and to regulate them the Amateur Archery Federation of Japan and the All Japan Judo Federation were created in 1949. The All Japan Kendo Federation, the All Japan Naginata Federation, and the Federation of All Japan Karate-do Organizations date to 1952, 1954, and 1966 respectively. [EN5]


After Japan's first experience in the 1912 Olympic Games, sports became a national concern. By increasing intercourse among schools and universities, by the 1920s elitist educational institutions consolidated their control over Japanese athletics.

Baseball first came into vogue at the university level. One of the first university baseball games, Waseda versus Keio, a rivalry that still exists, started in September 1903. Waseda University sent its team to Stanford University in California in 1905. Waseda, Keio, and Meiji Universities formed their biannual baseball league matches in 1914; this became, in 1925, the Tokyo Six Universities Baseball Federation, consisting of Waseda, Keio, Meiji, Rikkyo, Hosei, and Tokyo Imperial Universities. The first national middle schools' baseball championships were held in 1915.

Soft tennis was another popular game. Its first contest, another still existing rivalry, was between the Tokyo Higher Normal School and the Tokyo Higher Commercial School in 1898. A national soft tennis championship for middle schools was organized in 1908.

Most sports, though, organized their first national championships during the 1920s and 1930s. Mass communication assisted this trend. The Osaka Mainichi newspaper sponsored the creation of Japan's Olympic Games in 1913, though these did not last long. The Asahi newspaper sponsored the national middle school baseball championships. And Nippon Hoso Kyokai (NHK, Japan Broadcasting Corporation) started a radio broadcast of the national middle schools' baseball championships in 1927.

Mass Exercises in Osaka, 1937

Mass exercises in Osaka, 1937

Photo from Japans Sport in Bild und Wort by Arthur Grix, 1937

The creation of the Far Eastern Championship Games gave another impetus to the evolution of Japanese athleticism. In 1912, the Philippine Athletic Association held the Manila Carnival Games and invited a Japanese baseball team and some tennis players. E. S. Brown, president of the Philippine Athletic Association, proposed the creation of the Far Eastern Olympic Games to China and Japan. His plan was realized in the next year and the biannual Games were inaugurated at Manila. However, Japanese commitment to the Far Eastern Olympic Games was relatively negative during this early stage, and the second Far Eastern Olympic Games held at Shanghai in 1915 resulted in serious diplomatic problems with China. Japanese presentation of the Twenty-one Demands on China caused the delay in sending Japanese athletes to the games. Furthermore, Jigoro Kano, president of the Japan Amateur Athletic Association, was devoted to the international Olympic Games and wanted to delete "Olympic" from the title of the Far Eastern games. His request was accepted and from the third Games held in Tokyo in 1917, both Games and Association were renamed "Far Eastern Championship Games" and "Far Eastern Amateur Athletic Association." However, Kano still held hostility against the Far Eastern Championship Games and decided to withdraw the Japanese from the Far Eastern Amateur Athletic Association in 1919. This decision received strong criticism from other staff of the Far Eastern Amateur Athletic Association and athletes, and some students and amateur athletes participated in spite of the decision. This in turn led to Kano's early resignation as the president of the Japan Amateur Athletic Association in 1921. The Japan Amateur Athletic Association then re-affiliated with the Far Eastern Amateur Athletic Association and received government grants for sending athletes to Far Eastern Championship Games. Later, Far Eastern Championship Games became political and connected with Japanese aggression in China. [EN6]

IV. Sport and Ideological Control

Proletarian Sport

By the mid-Meiji period, the socialist movements arose. In October 1898 Sen Katayama and Shusui Kotoku formed the Study Group for Socialism (Shakaishugi Kenkyukai) and in 1900 they renamed it the Socialist Society (Shakaishugi Kyokai). They sent their delegates to the Second International. However, after the promulgation of the Public Order Police Law in 1900, all kinds of socialist movements were repressed. In 1910, the famous "white terror" which saw the arrest of socialists and death sentences was enforced by the authorities. Under this harsh oppression, a corporate fraternity for working men was formed in 1912.

Socialism revived after World War I. Socialism permeated swiftly into both students' and workers' movements due to the influence of the Russian Revolution and the Rice Riots (Kome Sodo) of 1917-18, and in December 1918 the forerunner of students' socialist groups, the New Man's Society (Shinjin Kai) was formed at Tokyo Imperial University. As the New Man's Society grew, it was renamed, first the Federation of Students (Gakusei Rengokai) in 1922, then the Student Federation of Social Science (Gakusei Shakaikagaku Rengokai) in 1924. These set up the National Federation for Students against Military Drill in 1924 and criticized the tacit connection between rightists and cheering groups (ioendan) and proposed the reform of the athletocrat hierarchy. But as soon as the students' political movements achieved national solidarity, the Peace Observance Law of 1925 suppressed them. Hereafter, students' political groups could hardly survive.

Unionists seem to have made some contributions to organized workers' recreation, and as early as 1913 some fraternal groups set up a section of physical education (Taiikubu) in their organizations. Although details on their activities have not been studied, in 1920 workers of the Yahata Iron Manufacturers organized an intramural baseball match during a strike, and during the strikes carried out at dockyards in 1921, workers at the Kobe Mitsubishi Shipbuilding Company and the Kawasaki Shipbuilding Company held athletic meets on Sundays.

In 1921 these fraternal groups were reconstructed as the General Labor Union of Japan (Nippon Rodo Sodomei). The policies of this organization combined both anarchism and syndicalism, and this led to serious disorganization as the result of confrontations with anarchists and Bolsheviks. The organization broke up during 1925 and 1926, and the most influential members shifted their policies toward working with corporations. In 1940 all sorts of labor unions were amalgamated into a single patriotic association of workers (Sangyo Hokokukai) dedicated to the war effort.

On the other hand, working youths had created a labor movement called the Proletarian Youth League (Musan Seinen Domei). In November 1925 they agitated for the creation of a "proletarian sports organization" in their organ, Seinen taishu ("Mass of Youth"). In 1926, they formed the National Proletarian Youth Union (Zen Nippon Musan Seinen Domei) in order to integrate their activities. However, the National Proletarian Youth Union was obliged to be dissolved by the nationwide arrest of communists which took place on March 15, 1928.

The Japan Communist Party (Nihon Kyosanto) was formed illegally in 1922. Its youth group was organized in 1923 and called the Japan Communist Youth Union (Nihon Kyosan Seinen Domei). Despite the serious damage from the arrests of March 1928, the communists rebuilt their activities swiftly and commenced to develop proletarian sports in Japan. For example, one of the reports presented to the fifth meeting of Kommunistische Jugend Internationale [Communist Youth International] in 1928 was translated by Takamaru Sasaki and called "Youth Comintern and Sports Movement." Sasaki also asserted the necessity of diffusing the activities promoted by Roten Sport-international [Red Sport International] into Asian countries other than Japan. Along with these introductions of the international workers' sports movement, the Japan Communists Youth Union also developed its own theory of proletarian sport, to include issuing a special number of their organ, Proletarian Sport (Musan Seinen), dedicated to "Red Sport." During 1930 and 1931, quite a few other publications on proletarian sports appeared. One of the most famous books was A Manual for Proletarian Sport written by Toshio Sawada in 1931. However, these attempts were coercively oppressed during the latter half of the 1930s.

Reorganization of Youth and Sport as a Means of Ideological Control

The ideological control over working youth and students had a strong connection with the sports policy of the authorities. In June 1920 the Ministry of Education decided to promote "public physical education" and in September 1924 ordered all educational institutions to hold "National Physical Education Day" as an annual school event for the purpose of indoctrinating "collective behavior, moral training, [and] aspiration of national spirit" in the students. In 1926 the Ministry also proclaimed the Order Concerning the Promotion of Physical Education and Athletics (Taiiku-Undo no Sinko ni kansuru Ken), in which the "rational" management of physical activities was directed. (The term "rational" had to do with ideological control.)

The arrest of communists in March 1928 revealed that high proportions of the arrested communists were students. This fact stimulated the Ministry of Education to set up an advisory council called the Physical Education Council (Taiiku-Undo Shingikai) in 1929. This council made two reports to the Minister in November 1929 and published "A Rational Policy for the Promotion of Physical Education" in 1930 and "Healthy Management of Physical Education" in 1931.

In 1932 the Ministry of Education proclaimed the Order Concerning the Control and Management of Baseball, which required institutions organizing baseball games not only to report the plans that they made, but also to get permission from the Ministry. The order also referred to the rules of amateurism and the need to provide disciplined management for cheering groups.

Meanwhile the Ministry set its hand to the organization of working youth. The Youth Training Center Order promulgated in April 1926 regulated a four-year course including 400 hours of military drill, 200 hours of academic studies, and 100 hours of moral and vocational training. The Youth Training Center (Seinen Kunrenjo) was not a compulsory course but instead a kind of preparatory provision for conscription, and by 1940 it was reorganized further.

Women Workers' exercises in Osaka, 1937

Female workers' exercises in Osaka, 1937

Photo from Japans Sport in Bild und Wort by Arthur Grix, 1937

The Ministry of Home Affairs also intervened in the organization of working youth. In 1913 the Ministry issued the "Circular for the Local Youth Groups" that aimed for the apoliticization and spiritual mobilization of youth. In 1916, the Ministries of Education and Home Affairs collaboratively issued two circulars: "Circular on the Instruction and Promotion of Youth Groups" and "Circular for Youth Groups". With these circulars, both Ministries maneuvered for the unitary control over the youth groups.

In 1925, youth groups were reorganized into a quasi-voluntary body called the Greater Japan Federation of Youth Groups (Dai Nippon Rengo Seinendan). A survey published by the Ministry of Home Affairs in 1927 indicates that their sporting activities included kendo, judo, sumo, athletic meets, baseball, tennis, gymnastics, and military drill. Sports were believed by the authorities to be an effective means of ideological control.

The Ministry of Home Affairs initiated another device for control in 1924. This involved the creation of ritualistic games known as the Meiji Jingu Championship Games (Meiji Jingu Kyogi Taikai). The aim of this creation was to "cherish the memory of the Meiji Emperor, the Great." The games were scheduled annually on the date of his birth, November 3, at Meiji Jingu. There were fourteen events including athletics, swimming, rugby, soccer, basketball, volleyball, tennis, field hockey, baseball, judo, kendo, archery and sumo, and the goal was to lead working youth and students to the Emperor System. Sports were effectively used as a ritualistic means of spiritual mobilization of youth.

V. After the Manchurian Incident: Consolidation of Fascistic Sport and Physical Education

With the Manchurian Incident of 1931 to give it momentum, the Japanese government accelerated its fascistization. In 1933 the League of Nations adopted the Lytton Report on Manchuria that judged that Manchukuo was a puppet nation created by Japan's aggressive policy. Japan rejected the judgment and withdrew from the League of Nations. Hereafter Japan headed into international isolation and fell into fascistization. In December 1934 Japan renounced the Washington Treaty of 1922 and the London Naval Treaty of 1930 regulating naval construction and armament, and in November 1936 it concluded the Anti-Comintern Pact, an extension of the Rome-Berlin Axis, with Germany. Furthermore, Japan rushed into the War with China in July 1937.

Along with this isolationist imperialism, the Japanese military domestically grasped a growing political hegemony. Following the incidents of May 15, 1932, in which 77-year old Prime Minister Tsuyoshi Inukai was shot to death by right-wing military officers, the Japanese government became a militaristic regime led by the so-called "Cabinet of National Unity" whose purpose was to keep and preserve Japanese interests in Manchuria. As a result, the militarists began concentrating on mobilizing people and maneuvering manpower. [EN7]

In 1938, after the War with China began continuing longer than expected, the National Mobilization Law was promulgated and imperialistic propaganda such as "all the world under one roof," "East Asia for East Asiatics," "A New Order in East Asia," and "the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere" was created. The totalitarian and unitary control was enforced further by the "new political structure movement" initiated by Prince Fuminaro Konoe in June 1940 and the establishment of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association in October 1940. With the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Japan rushed into the Pacific War. Two atomic bombings, unconditional surrender, the acceptance of the Potsdam Proclamation, and the catastrophe of Imperial Japan were the results.

Militarization of School Gymnastics

After the Manchurian Incident, school gymnastics evolved its superficial "rationalism." In June 1936 the Ministry of Education promulgated a revision of the Syllabus of School Gymnastics that introduced Danish gymnastics, expanded the constituents of athletics and play, and directed the rationalization of teaching methods. However, the aim of the revision was to support a militaristic regime attempting to standardize school gymnastics. The syllabus denoted schools' obligation to conform to the standard, and emphasized the training of character as well as the healthy development of body. It rejected the use of borrowed terminology and translated sporting terms into Japanese. Furthermore, it gave detailed directions for budo.

Field Hockey at Tokyo University, 1937

Field hockey at Tokyo Imperial University

Photo from Japans Sport in Bild und Wort by Arthur Grix, 1937

The Educational Renovation Council created in 1935 had for its major aims the discussion of countermeasures against students' political movements and the reconsideration of the curricula of all subjects. The Council reported to the Ministry of Education that the liberalism of sports should be excluded, and in its stead bushido ought to be stressed "in accordance with out traditional bushido, piety, fortitude, and fairness should be observed, and the harmful effects of championships should be removed." The doctrine of school gymnastics clearly became chauvinistic; liberalism and individualism were denied but esprit de corps was encouraged.

In 1941 this doctrine was realized in the National School Order, which clearly stressed its aim that every national school should train up a "Nation of Emperors" (Kokokumin). The school gymnastics (Taiso-ka) was renamed "physical discipline" (Tairen-ka). In September 1942 a Syllabus of Physical Discipline was issued in which physical activities dedicated to national defense were stressed. Basically, physical discipline was divided into two categories (budo, including judo and kendo, and gymnastics, including gymnastics, games, athletic exercises, drill, and hygiene), and the practical descriptions given to these materials became much more militaristic than before.

Meanwhile, the chauvinistic and militaristic doctrine invaded extracurricular activities, and in September 1940 Kunihiko Hashida, Minister of Education, issued an order concerning the patriotic organization of extracurricular activities. The organization was called "School Patriotic Organization" (Gakko Hokokudan) and its aim was the "establishment of school color dedication [sic] for unselfish behavior and patriotic spirit." In order to attain this aim, all extracurricular activities reorganized to a uniform formation under the control and administration. (See Table 2.) Thus the liberalism and freedom of extracurricular activities were extinguished.

Table 2

Sample Japanese High School Patriotic Organizations: Konan High School during World War II

Department Activity
Training Section Judo
National Defense Training Section Shooting
Cultural Section Scholarship 
  Moral Culture
Life Section Survey
  Social Observation


The Militarization and Unitary Control of Working Youth Sports

From the latter half of the 1930s, militarization of working youth activities accelerated. In April 1935 the Youth School Order was promulgated. According to this order, Youth Training Center was reorganized as Youth School (Seinen Gakko) by integrating Youth Training Center and the Vocational Supplementary School. Youth School provided for the expanded five-year course that formerly was four years, and regulated the obligation of youths' attendance at military drill taught by noncommissioned officers of local militia units.

In May 1937 the Ministry of Education proclaimed the Syllabus of Gymnastic Instruction and Training for Youth School. However, along with this syllabus athletic exercises for national defense came into vogue. These were devised in 1937 in order to "increase the militant capacity for national defense," and included throwing a hand grenade, bayonet drill, and footraces run while wearing armor or carrying a sandbag. However, it was the Youth School Order proclaimed in April 1939 that made the course compulsory for all working youths aged from twelve to nineteen years. According to this order, youth schools were completely combined with the national conscription scheme.

In 1925, voluntary youth groups were reorganized into a quasi-voluntary organization called the Greater Japan Federation of Youth Groups (Dai Nippon Rengo Seinendan) and thereby received certain controls from the authorities. In March 1938 the Greater Japan Federation of Youth Groups published a "Manual of Physical Fitness for Youth Groups" and established voluntary goals for physical fitness. These included such heavy exercises as 2,000 and 4,000-meter runs, broad jumping, shot putting, and carrying weights. According to the results of their performance, boys were awarded fitness badges graded A to C. During the 1930s youth groups also took up various militaristic exercises: youth gymnastics, radio gymnastics, squad walking and running races, marching, athletic exercises for national defense, sumo, judo, kendo, rifle shooting, and combat training.

In January 1941 most youth organizations were more forcefully reorganized into a single body called the Greater Japan Youth and Child Groups (Dai Nippon Seishonendan). This integrated the Greater Japan Youth Group, the Greater Japan Federation of Girls' Youth Groups (Dai Nippon Joshi Rengo Seinendan, founded 1927), the Greater Japan Federation of Boys' Groups (Dai Nippon Shonendan Renmei, founded 1922), and the Imperial Association of Boys' Groups (Teikoku Shonendan Renmei, founded 1931). The aim was to "unify all youth and children under a unitary control and to train them as a useful nation of Emperor and His State." According to this aim the president's seat was yielded to the Minister of Education.

After 1941 youth organizations of foreign origin such as the Young Men's Christian Association (introduced in 1903) and the Young Women's Christian Association (introduced in 1905) virtually stopped their activities. The Boy Scout movement (introduced in 1911) was also transformed, and eventually merged with the Greater Japan Federation of Boys' Group.

With the foundation of the Greater Japan Youth and Child Groups in 1941 as the turning point, all sorts of voluntary youth organizations were subsequently controlled and administered by the government in order to serve the Emperor State. Their activities were strongly combined with the needs of the wartime regime. There was no room to maintain their voluntary basis.

Manpower Policy: A Policy for Fitness

After the Manchurian Incident, the government had a strong concern for increasing people's physical fitness. This was one of the manpower policies that aimed to extend Japan's invasion into other Asian countries, and was part of irrevocable policy of aggression. Examinations for military service revealed the physical degeneration of military conscripts between 1915 and 1935. (See Table 3.)

Table 3.

Results of Examination for Conscription, 1915-1935

  1915 1920 1925 1930 1935
Class A 35.8% 36.1% 33.7% 29.3% 29.7%
Class B 15.4% 14.7% 13.7% 11.6% 11.5%
Class C 18.5% 22.7% 24.7% 20.5% 20.5%
Class D 23.4% 21.7% 23.9% 31.5% 31.8%
Class E 6.1% 4.3% 3.8% 6.9% 6.3%


Toward improving national fitness, the Army Ministry proposed the establishment of a Ministry of Hygiene at the Cabinet conference of June 1936. In June 1937, the Army Ministry maneuvered again to set up a new ministry called the "Ministry of Health and Social Security," and made its establishment one of the conditions for its support of Prince Fumimaro Konoe's new Cabinet. Under these militarists' initiatives, the Ministry of Health and Welfare was established in January 1938. This new Ministry provided a Board of Physical Fitness whose functions covered the planning of the scheme for the promotion of national fitness, the administration and investigation of public health, the provision of facilities, and the control of sports organizations. The Board of Physical Fitness seized overall power over sports and physical activities except school gymnastics.

While the Ministry of Health and Welfare evolved campaigns for national fitness movements such as the "Let's Walk Movement" and the creation of "Greater Japan's Gymnastics," it also enacted the Physical Fitness Badge Test in August 1939 and promulgated the National Physical Fitness Law (Kokumin Tairyokuho) in April 1940. The Physical Fitness Badge Test was based on a prototype devised by the Greater Japan Federation of Youth Groups in 1938 and was for males from 15 to 25 years of age; in 1943, it was adapted to females from 15 to 21 years of age. The test consisted of a 100-meter run, a 2000-meter run, broad jump, throwing a hand grenade, a 50-meter run carrying a sandbag, and chinning exercises. It also awarded badges to performers. The National Physical Fitness Law regulated the obligation that all males under 26 years of age and females under 20 years of age had to be inspected by medical officers to check their diseases, motor abilities, and fitness.

Japanese imperialism and aggressive policy brought the militarists' intervention to national fitness, i.e., the creation of the Ministry of Health and Welfare and a series of fitness movements designed to serve the wartime regime.

VI. Consolidation of Fascism: Totalitarian and Unitary Control of Sport and Physical Education

Transformation of Games

Even after the Manchurian Incident, the Olympic Games attracted the Japanese nation, as they were useful for the state to enhance national glory. Therefore the government supported Japanese Olympic teams with increasing subsidies. (See Table 4.) The Emperor also personally supported the Games by donating 10,000 yen to the 1932 and 1936 Olympic teams. [EN8]

Table 4.

Japan and the Olympic Games

Olympiad Year Place Athletes Sports Medals Subsidy (yen)
5 1912 Stockholm 2 1 0 0
7 1920 Antwerp 16 3 2 0
8 1924 Paris 20 4 5 60,000
9 1928 Amsterdam 43 6 11 60,000
10 1932 Los Angeles 131 8 35 100,000
11 1936 Berlin 180 11 44 300,000


After 1925, the government also supported the Far Eastern Championship Games. See Table 5.

Table 5.

Japan and the Far Eastern Championship Games

Games Year Place Athletes Sports Subsidy (yen)
1 1913 Manila 13 2 0
2 1915 Shanghai 11 3 0
3 1917 Tokyo 154 8 0
4 1919 Manila 19 3 0
5 1921 Shanghai 102 6 1,000
6 1923 Osaka 183 7 0
7 1925 Manila 140 7 60,000
8 1927 Shanghai 174 8 60,000
9 1930 Tokyo 191 8 15,000
10 1932 Manila 132 8 60,000


However, the Manchurian Incident affected the Far Eastern Championship Games profoundly. The Manchukuo Amateur Athletic Association expressed its intention to become affiliated with the Far Eastern Championship Games in 1933. This outraged China, which had strongly opposed Manchukuo's affiliation with the Far Eastern Amateur Athletic Association, and led to the withdrawal of the Chinese delegation from the Far Eastern Championship Games held in Manila in 1934. As a consequence of the Chinese withdrawal, the Far Eastern Amateur Athletic Association was dissolved, and in its place Japan created the Eastern Amateur Athletic Association (Toyo Taiiku Kyokai) in the same year. The new association, however, fell into dysfunction with the outbreak of the War with China in 1937 and no more Far Eastern Championship Games were held before their extinction in 1939.

Sueo Oye over the bar

Olympic athlete Sueo Oye over the bar

Photo from Japans Sport in Bild und Wort by Arthur Grix, 1937

The War with China brought further international isolation and drastically transformed Japanese attitudes toward international games. The cancellation of the Olympic Games to be held in Tokyo in 1940 was decided by the initiative of the Ministry of Health and Welfare in July 1938. [EN9] The Eastern Championship Games (Toyo Senshuken Kyogi Taikai) planned for 1938 were also cancelled.

Despite international isolation the Japanese government decided to substitute a peculiar and ritualistic international competition. (The enforcement of some kind of international games was a matter of national pride.) So, in September 1939, at Manchukuo, Japan and Manchukuo initiated the Championship Games of Amity with Japan, Manchukuo, and China (Nichi-Man-Ka Kokan Kyogikai); the Chinese athletes came from Japan's puppet, Wung Zao Mei's government. The Championship Games of Amity were amalgamated in 1940 with the East Asian Games (Toa Taikai) which were established to mark the 2600th anniversary of the accession of the Emperor Jinmu. [EN10] Both were political and ritualistic measures designed to consolidate the Greater East Asia Co-prosperity Sphere.

Military Fitness and Fundamentalism

With the Marco Polo Bridge Incident of July 1937, [EN11] the Japanese government launched what it called the National Spiritual Mobilization Movement. In December 1937 the Ministry of Education issued a "Circular Concerning Sports Activities under the National Spiritual Mobilization" and defined the aim of sports activities by saying that they should serve solely for the improvement of national fitness and not for their own sake. The circular also referred to the ritualization of games, requiring for the first time the singing of a national anthem, the making of an obeisance toward the Emperor's palace, and the hoisting of a national flag at any occasions of championship or competitive games.

As the total war became inevitable, sports began to be seen as a liberal (and therefore dangerous) activity. The Ministry of Health and Welfare, for example, declared in January 1938 that athleticism was a germ of Western self-pride, and required all sports organizations to associate with the nationally urgent necessity for the improvement of fitness. In 1939 the government set to the reorganization of the Meiji Jingu Championship Games. The organization of the Games was shifted to the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the athletic exercises for national defense were added to the list of events. The Games were also renamed the Meiji Jingu National Training Games (Meiji Jingu Kokumin Rensei Taikai), and the events were completely militaristic: mass gymnastics, air raid drill, budo, and military combat drills were the major constituents. Meanwhile all sorts of sports were eliminated.

Most Japanese militarists, physical educators, and athletes began seeking Japanized physical education and sports. This included creating such diverse terminology as Taiiku-Do ("The Way of Physical Education"), Supotsu-Do ("The Way of Sports"), and Ishiteki-Taiiku ("Physical Education Controlled by Will"). They commonly rejected Western liberalism and attempted to reconstruct the theories of sport and physical education according to traditional and fundamentalist philosophy or codes of behavior. Most theories appearing after the late 1930s were strongly connected with the traditional warrior's feudalistic morality of Bushido. Furthermore, all foreign sports terminology was forcefully translated into Japanese.

Establishment of Unitary Control of Sports and Physical Education

With the onset of the Pacific War in December 1941, the Ministry of Education set up the Greater Japan Promotion Society for Students' Physical Training (Dai Nippon Gakuto Taiiku Shinkokai). This was an extra-departmental body that aimed to reorganize all students' sport organizations into a unitary administration under the Ministry. This society held militaristic events such as the National Students' Marching Festival.

In March 1942 Dai Nippon Butokukai was also reorganized. This time it constructed strong connections with the Ministries such as Education, Health and Welfare, Army, Navy, and Home Affairs, and transferred the president's position to the Prime Minister. The Butokukai's activities became more militaristic and fundamentalist, and to support the war, the reorganized organization supported just five sections: kendo, judo, kyudo, bayonet, and shooting.

The following month the Japan Amateur Athletic Association also was reorganized, and renamed the Greater Japan Physical Education Association (Dai Nippon Taiikukai). This association was placed as an extra-departmental body of the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and the president's position was transferred to the Prime Minister. The Greater Japan Promotion Society for Students' Physical Training was affiliated with it later that same year. Thus by the end of 1942 all sporting activities were absorbed into the Imperial Rule Assistance regime created to deal with the combination of the War in China and the Pacific War.

The government ordered the mobilization of student labor in January 1942, and sent the students to the front in December 1943. Tokyo experienced its first air raid in April 1942 and by 1943 almost all sports and their championships and games were prohibited by a series of government orders. The most popular sport among the people, the Six Universities Baseball Federation, stopped its activities in 1943. The public performance of professional baseball, whose league had been in existence since 1936, also ceased in September 1944. Japan was no longer a sporting land but a monstrous totalitarian, militaristic, and fascistic country striving in a hopeless war.

VII. Epilogue

 Before the Manchurian Incident, there were at least three germs of fascistization. First was the creation of the theocratic and socially organic "Idea of Nation," or so-called "state-familism," which was developed to support the peculiar connection between the Emperor System and the state. Second was an aggressive imperialism accompanied by militarism. Third was the gradual completion of the control apparatus required for socio-political ideology.

Japanese physical education and sports responded to these processes. School gymnastics moved to militarization according to the current policy of Fukoku Kyohei ("Wealthy Nation and Strong Soldier"). Though sports achieved their athleticism, they could not extend themselves beyond the elitist educational institutions and the upper middle class. The liberalism of sport was no more diffusive into the lower classes than the Western theory of play. On the other hand, the Dai Nippon Butokukai not only reconstructed diverse kinds of Japanese martial arts but it also engrafted the traditional bushido into the modern military spirit. Finally, organizations for working youths were reorganized as agencies of the preparatory apparatus for national conscription schemes.

The escalation of Japanese aggressive imperialism after the Manchurian Incident of 1931 brought international isolationism, exclusionism, and ethnocentrism as well as a despotic military regime. From 1937 the War with China provided momentum to the development of a theory of state efficiency. The most urgent necessity was the establishment of a manpower policy. Thus the Ministry of Health and Welfare was created by the initiative of the Army Ministry in order to secure human resources for the war effort.

Besides the governmental administration of national fitness, the integration of national consciousness converged at the Emperor. This was carried out by means of totalitarian policies and reorganizations, to include the National Mobilization Law, National School Order, and Youth School Orders, as well as by the formation of the Imperial Rule Assistance Association, the Greater Japan Youth and Child Groups, and similar organizations.

A fascistic regime was almost completed before the outbreak of the Pacific War in December 1941. School gymnastics became synonymous with military training. All amateur sports organizations were reorganized into the Greater Japan Physical Education Association, which was an organ of the Ministries of Education and Health and Welfare. All youth organizations became subservient to the fascist regime.

Contests and games were ritualized to indoctrinate militarism, patriotism, and above all, the ideology of the Emperor System. All kinds of physical activities were colored by bushido ("the Way of the Warrior") and Yamato damashii ("Japanese spirit"). Meanwhile play elements and the liberalism of sports were decolorized.

The Pacific War brought catastrophe to Japan. Afterwards, all fascist laws and orders were abolished under American occupation policies. However, the Emperor System, which was one of the germs of Japanese fascistization, was maintained.

The defeat and occupation of Japan also swept away the fascist system of physical education. Military drill and budo were prohibited in schools and Japanese physical educators actively assimilated American "New Physical Education." Although a certain reaction arose after the signing of the peace treaty and security pact at San Francisco in 1951, post-war physical education and sport is another story. Nevertheless, it is worth remarking that budo, whose nature reminds us of fascistic physical education, has been revived as a school subject.

VIII. Bibliography

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IX. Editor's Notes

EN1. On September 19, 1931, the Japanese launched a successful surprise attack on the Chinese arsenal at Mukden, and by February 1932 the Japanese occupied all of Manchuria. The Chinese responded with a boycott of Japanese goods, and this led to a Japanese attack on Shanghai. After a month-long defense, the Chinese agreed to end the boycott and the Japanese announced the "independence" of a puppet state called Manchukuo.

EN2. Literally "National Learning," the first important National Scholar was the monk Keichu (1640-1701), who conducted studies in Japanese philology. From a historiographic standpoint, however, the most important National Scholar was Motoori Norinaga (1730-1801), who was a famous scholar of the Japanese national legend Kojiki ("Record of Ancient Matters," ca. 712). Basic premises of National Scholars were that the Japanese emperor descended from ancient deities, and that Japanese civilization developed entirely independently of Chinese culture until the third century CE. After the Constitution of 1889, the Meiji government became a supporter of the founding myths described in Kojiki, but also patronized Western rather than Confucian methods of scientific and historical research. As a result Kokugaku gradually became a nativist movement interested in determining what was "uniquely Japanese" and eliminating everything that was foreign. For an introduction, see; for more details, see John S. Brownlee, Japanese Historians and the National Myths, 1600-1945: The Age of the Gods and Emperor Jinmu (Vancouver, British Columbia: University of British Columbia Press, 1997), 61-67.

EN3. In 1914 a Japanese police official named Hiromichi Nishikubo published a series of articles arguing that the Japanese martial arts should be called budo ("martial ways") rather than bujutsu ("martial techniques"), and used primarily to teach schoolchildren to be willing to sacrifice their lives for the Emperor. In 1919, Nishibuko became head of a major martial art college (Bujutsu Senmon Gakko) and immediately ordered its name changed to Budo Senmon Gakko, and subsequently Dai Nippon Butokukai publications began talking about budo, kendo, judo, and kyudo rather than bujutsu, gekken, jujutsu, and kyujutsu. The Ministry of Education followed suit in 1926, and in 1931 the word budo began to refer to compulsory ideological instruction in the Japanese public schools. For more on this topic, see Tamio Nakamura, Kendo jiten: gijutsu to bunka no rekishi (Kendo Gazeteer: A Technical and Cultural History) (Tokyo: Shimatsu Shobo, 1994); my thanks to Professor William Bodiford of UCLA for the citation and translation.

EN4. Soft tennis is a game played on a regulation lawn tennis court using a soft, air-filled rubber ball and a lighter racket, usually by doubles. If kept under-inflated, the smooth rubber ball moves slower than a regulation tennis ball. This in turn makes play somewhat easier for less-athletic players, and as a result the game remains popular in Japanese and Taiwanese physical education programs. My thanks to Earl Hartman and Keith Matsuoka for these details, and people interested in Japanese squash (without knowing what soft tennis was, I thought it might have been a form of squash!) are encouraged to check out Matsuoka's web site at

EN5. See Guy H. Power, "Budo in Japanese and U.S. Policies," unpublished M.A. thesis, San José State University, 1998.

EN6. See Jonathan Kolatch, Sports, Politics, and Ideology in China (New York: Jonathan David Publishers, 1972), 51-72.

EN7. See Wil Deac, "The rise of militaristic nationalism led Japan down the road to Pearl Harbor and World War II,"

EN8. The yen was then worth about US $0.42.

EN9. Although never officially admitted, the proximate cause of the cancellation of the 1940 Olympics was not the War with China, but instead Japan's undeclared war with the Soviet Union in Manchuria. Hostilities started on July 11, 1938, and four days later the Ministry of Health and Welfare publicly announced Japan's withdrawal from the Olympics, blaming it on new difficulties in China. For details, see Hajo Bernett, "Das Scheitern der Olympischen Spiele von 1940," Stadion, 6 (1980), 264-265; Japan Times, July 16, 1938, 1.

EN10. In 1940, the story of Jinmu's accession was taken as literal fact, but today it is generally considered legendary. See Brownlee, 1997, passim.

EN11. The Japanese launched a full-scale invasion of China on July 7, 1937. The first battle was a surprise attack on Chinese troops stationed near the strategic Marco Polo Bridge, near Beijing. Known in Japan as the "China Incident," this attack represents the first military action of what would become World War II.

InYo June 2000