Although famous internationally as the founder of judo, Jigoro Kano (1860-1938) was also instrumental in introducing Olympic sport into Japan. And, while much has been written about Japan's abandonment of the 1940 Olympics, little has been written about how Japan was selected in the first place. Therefore, this article describes Kano's involvement in international sport and Japan's bid for the 1940 Olympics. The assistance of Richard Bowen, Kim Sol, and David Waterhouse is gratefully acknowledged.
Jigoro Kano (left) and Shigetaka Sasaki in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1938.
In early 1909, Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the architect of the modern Olympics, asked the French ambassador to Japan why the Japanese hadn't sent any teams to the 1908 Olympics. About the same time, Kristian Hellstrom of the Swedish Olympic Committee wrote to the Japanese government to ask if the Japanese were going to send a team to the 1912 Olympics.
Sport was part of the purview of the Ministry of Education, and because he was one of Japan's premier educators, the Ministry of Education asked Kano to look into this. He did, and in May 1909, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) unanimously elected Kano its first Asian member.
In early correspondence with Baron de Courbertin, Kano wrote:
Of course, Kano was not the only leader of the Japan Amateur Athletic Association; others included Isoo Abe and Hyozo Omori. Abe was a Waseda University professor remembered today as a pioneer of Japanese collegiate baseball, Christian Socialism, and birth control. Educated at Hartford Theological Seminary, Abe wanted to encourage Japanese men to take up energetic outdoor recreation, thereby distracting them from such pastimes as drinking, gambling, and the theater. Abe believed that the way to make Japanese more like the Swiss, whom he admired, was to convert them using Western sports and games, and during the 1920s, the Japanese government showed its support for this thesis by exporting judo and kendo to Korea. Meanwhile, Omori was a graduate of the YMCA's Springfield College, and his accomplishments included introducing basketball and volleyball into Japan in 1908. Omori's wife was also involved in athletics, as she was a leader of the Yurin-en, or Japanese playground movement. The influence on Mrs. Omori, however, was mostly German, as the Germans were pioneers in the Kindergarten movement. Finally, there were expatriate leaders. Notable among these was Franklin H. Brown, the American who headed the YMCA programs in Japan from 1913 to 1930.
During the summer of 1912, Kano, Omori, and two runners (Tokyo Imperial University's Yahiko Mishima and Higher Normal College's Shizo Kanakuri) went to the Fifth Olympiad in Stockholm. Neither Mishima nor Kanakuri won any medals or races, but everyone agreed that it was pleasant to see the world. After the games, Omori and the two runners returned to Japan, while Kano traveled throughout Europe and North America to see how Europeans and Americans taught physical education.
Kano returned to Yokohama on March 6, 1913. His family, friends, and reporters met him at the dock. He told the reporters that after viewing Japan from the outside, "He had found many defects in various systems of his society. What he saw and thought in Europe he would publish some day." [EN5] Accounts of his foreign travels subsequently appeared in a Japanese educational magazine.
Meanwhile, the American Elwood S. Brown had visited Tokyo. Brown was an official of the Philippine Amateur Athletic Association, and his mission was to expand the Manila Carnival Games into an international athletic competition known as the Far Eastern Olympic Games. These games were not meant to "rival or intrude upon the programme of the International Olympic Committee which is to establish world-wide International contests. In this connection it is our object … [that in the near future Asians] may enter the International Olympic Contests and have as much chance of success as the athletes of the other nations of the world." [EN6]
"The opinion of the committee at Manila," said the Japan Times on September 29, 1912:
Another Philippine official named William Southree came to Tokyo in June 1913 to see if Kano was interested in sending Japanese athletes to the Manila Carnival Games of February 1914. He evidently was not, as in the end, only a couple runners and a Keio University baseball squad attended.
The Second Far Eastern Olympic Games took place in Shanghai during late May 1915. Unlike the Manila games, which were organized by the YMCA, and funded by private subscription, the Shanghai games were financed and organized by the Chinese government. Japan and China were not getting along well, so this funding source caused some political problems in Japan. Therefore, J.H. Crocker of the Shanghai YMCA took a last-minute trip to Tokyo to ensure Japanese participation. In Japan, Crocker found that Kano was not especially enthusiastic about Japanese participation in anything but European Olympic games. Therefore, part of the deal to ensure Kano's participation involved the YMCA deleting the word "Olympic" from the title of subsequent Far Eastern Games. Thus, subsequent Pacific Rim games were called Far Eastern Championship Games.
Kano accompanied the Japanese athletes to Shanghai. Despite the rain, the games went well and everyone seemed pleased with the results. After the closing ceremonies, Kano remained behind to attend the meeting that would determine the location of the next Far Eastern Championship Games. Other Japanese officials present at this meeting, which took place on June 10, 1915, included Isoo Abe of Waseda University and Galen Fisher of the Tokyo YMCA. Osaka was proposed as the site of the 1917 games, but the venue was soon changed to Tokyo. Officially, this change was made for the convenience of foreign visitors, but one can't help but wonder if the cash donations made by the Tokyo businessmen Tsunekichi Asabuki and Aisaku Hayashi didn't influence the decision.
In November 1915, the Chinese government awarded Kano a medal. Presumably, this recognized Kano's role in the establishment of the Kobun Gakuin (hongwen xueyuan), which was a preparatory school for Chinese exchange students. Judo was part of the curriculum at the Kobun Gakuin. Kobun Gakuin graduates included the famous essayist Lu Xun (Zhou Shuren), and its teachers included the geographer (and later, social philosopher) Tsunesaburo Makiguchi. About the same time, Kano reorganized the Japan Amateur Athletic Association. This apparently started with a purge of the existing administration, for, as he himself put it, he "added all the competent people [he] could find to the staff." [EN7] The reason probably had to do with the existing administration's failure to begin the logistical preparations for the Third Far Eastern Championship Games, which were to start in May 1917, until March 22, 1917.
Because there were no large Western-style athletic stadiums or playing fields anywhere in Tokyo, the first task was deciding where to build them. After a couple days of discussion, it was decided that some reclaimed land at Shibaura would do. Work soon began, and grandstands, volleyball and basketball courts, soccer fields, a baseball diamond, and a lawn tennis court were all prepared by May 3. (Swimming events took place in a local canal.)
At 1:45 p.m. on May 8, 1917, the Toyama Military Band led the parade of international athletes on the field. During the opening speeches, Count Okuma told the crowd of some 20,000 people that sports built character. Then, Kano stood up to say that he hoped the games would be successful. And well he might hope--that morning, the wind had been blowing so fiercely that boards flew off fences and improperly staked tents blew away.
Fortunately, Japanese fans were used to braving the elements. Even more fortunately, the weather cleared up and the price was right -- a season ticket giving access to most events cost just ¥5, then equivalent to US $2.25. Best of all, the host country emerged from the competition victorious. Consequently, Japanese sport enthusiasts began talking about building a permanent athletic stadium at the Aoyama Military Parade Grounds, and someday holding a real Olympics in Japan.
In his closing speech, Kano chose to ignore the poor officiating that distinguished the baseball games and the brawls that broke out during the soccer matches. Instead, said the Japan Times, he "paid high tribute to the gentlemanly manner displayed by the representative players from the three countries [Japan, China, and the Philippines] and emphasized his gratitude towards the Imperial Family, the press, and all others who gave unstinting support in carrying out the programmes during the five days of the games." [EN8]
In March 1919, Kano issued a statement saying that Japan would not send any athletes to the upcoming Far Eastern Championship Games in Manila. The reason, he said, was that its timing interfered with examinations for Japanese students. The game organizers replied that they could not postpone the games until August because that was the middle of the rainy season in the Philippines. Kano continued to resist sending athletes to Manila. Consequently, Japan was weakly represented in the Fourth Far Eastern Championship Games.
On January 16,1920, Kano retired from his job as principal of Tokyo Higher Normal School. Evidently, the retirement was timed to allow him to devote time to the Japanese team attending the Antwerp Olympics. About 150 athletes and coaches made the final cut, and a farewell dinner was held at the Seiyoken Hotel at 6:00 p.m. on May 11, 1920. Three days later, at 9:16 a.m., the team steamed out of the Ueno railroad station for Kobe, where its members boarded the Toyo Kisen Kaisha (East Asia Steamship Company) liner Korea Maru bound for San Francisco via Honolulu. For his own part, Kano moved apart from the pack. Therefore, after calling on the Belgian ambassador in Tokyo on June 2, 1920, he told reporters that after attending the Olympics, he would travel a bit to see how the World War had affected Europe and the United States.
Kano left Yokohama on Tenyo Maru at noon on June 8, 1920. After stopping in Honolulu, he arrived in San Francisco on June 24. From there, he went to New York, London, and finally Antwerp. In Belgium, Japan won its first Olympic medals, the bronzes won by Ichiya Kumagae and Seiichiro Kashio in men's tennis. Japanese runners also finished sixteenth, twentieth, twenty-first, and twenty-fourth in the marathon.
On May 20, 1921, Kano and Seiichi Kishi, a lawyer active in the Japan Amateur Athletic Association, accompanied a separate Japanese athletic team to Shanghai, where it was to participate in the Fifth Far Eastern Championship Games. Kano sailed to Shanghai aboard Yawata Maru, and arrived in China four days later. During the ensuing speeches, Kishi "complained of the Japanese government's lack of encouragement of physical training for the people generally, and particularly of the Olympiad contestants." [EN9]
In April 1922, Kano resigned as president of the Japan Amateur Athletic Association. The reason was disagreements about the direction Japanese sport should take. Unlike Kishi, Kano was not in favor of Japan spending money to send athletes overseas except for the International Olympics. Nonetheless, it was still Kano rather than Kishi who met with Edward, Prince of Wales, during the British prince's April 1922 visit to Japan.
Kano played little part in organizing the Far Eastern Championship Games held in Osaka in May 1923. Nor did he attend the 1924 Olympics in Paris. The stated reason was that he was ill. However, a more probable reason was that he still disagreed with the policies of the Japan Amateur Athletic Association, which by then had begun asking professional athletes to enter international competition in hope of inflating Japanese medal counts.
In his antipathy toward commercialized Olympics, Kano was hardly alone. For instance, in May 1923, Japanese collegiate athletes threatened to boycott the Far Eastern Championship Games. Their complaint was "that those who are in charge of the Olympic [sic] Games are far more interested in financial gain than in the honor won in competition." [EN10] But Kishi, not Kano, was in charge.
Although the collegiate unrest was resolved sufficiently to allow the Osaka games to take place, it resurfaced the following spring during the Olympic tryouts. Kishi patched things together long enough to get a Japanese team to Paris. However, once the Paris Olympics were over, the Japan Amateur Athletic Association imploded. The reason, explained a former Olympic delegate named Masuda, was that "the staff of the association has used the body for their selfish purposes… This is the same as at the International Olympic Games; politicians, superannuated diplomatic officials and physicians interfering with the function, introducing criticism of experts." [EN11] Nonetheless, because of IOC rules, Japan still required a national association to organize its national and international meets. Consequently, the Japan Amateur Athletic Association was reorganized in January 1925. Leaders of this reorganization included Gentaro Suyehiro of Tokyo Imperial University.
Meanwhile, the Ministries of Education and Home Affairs continued bickering over which agency should pay for sending Japanese athletes to international athletic meets. Admittedly, the sums involved were significant. For instance, the Ministry of Education spent ¥60,000 to send people to the 1928 Olympics. The problem was partly ameliorated in January 1928, when it was decided that Education would pay for domestic competition while Home Affairs would pay for international competition. Kano may have influenced this compromise, as in March 1928, Kishi said:
For the next few years, Kano happily devoted his time to advancing judo. Then, in February 1931, the Tokyo city council decided that it wanted to make a serious bid for the 1940 Olympics. City officials knew that the distance from Europe was a major obstacle to the city getting the Olympics, so they approached the Japanese railroad and steamship companies, asking them if they would reduce rates if necessary to secure the Games. The industrialists said they would. The lack of tourist facilities was another problem. Here, city officials began looking for investors to build international-style hotels. Finally, they started looking for a spokesman. The current mayor of Tokyo, Isoo Abe, was an old friend of Kano's, and so Kano became the city's official Olympic spokesman.
The 1932 Olympics took place in Los Angeles, and Kano arrived in California on July 26, 1932. Shortly after arrival, he met with Seiichi Kishi, the president of the Japanese Amateur Athletic Federation. (The organization had recently reorganized and been renamed.) Kano and Kishi then started on a public speaking tour. In his speeches, Kishi said that while Japanese sports formerly consisted mostly of judo, kendo, and sumo, ever since the YMCA introduced the Far Eastern Championship Games in 1913, the Japanese had taken up western-style sports with enthusiasm. Meanwhile, Kano read a letter written by Tokyo mayor Hidejiro Nagata that said, in part:
He was Mr. Jigoro Kano, Japan member of the International Olympic Committee and founder of the Kodokan school of jiujitsu, the man who took the first Japanese Olympic team to Stockholm 20 years ago…
Upon returning to Japan, Kano took care of some problems involving his third son Riho, who had been arrested for consorting with Communists. When this problem was taken care of, Kano prepared for a trip to Vienna, where he was to attend another International Olympic Committee meeting. The latter trip cost ¥16,500, an expense borne by the Tokyo municipal government.
Kano left for Vienna on May 17, 1933. Accompanying him were two judo 6-dans, Sumiyuki Kotani and Masami Takasaki. Takasaki was Kano's son-in-law, and the winner of the All-Japan Championships of 1930. Meanwhile, Kotani, a future judo 10-dan, had represented Japan in freestyle wrestling during the 1932 Olympics. During this trip, Kano demonstrated judo in Germany and Austria, and attended the International Olympic Committee conference in Vienna, an international parliamentary conference in Madrid, and meetings at the German Sports Ministry in Berlin. While passing through Italy the motor coach on which Kano was riding went off the road, leaving a portion of its length hanging over a precipice. Subsequent reports said that while some of the other passengers became hysterical with fear, Kano sat unperturbed until everyone else had gotten out to safety. [EN15]
During September 1933, Kano learned that the police had again arrested his 21-year old son Riho for "allegedly trying to make connections with other members of the red brotherhood." [EN16] There were two strata of Communist sympathizers in Japan, the intellectuals and the working classes, and the Thought Section of the Tokyo Metropolitan Police and the Kempeitai (literally Military Police, but Secret Police would be a better contextual translation) were working hard to make sure that they did not unite. The charges were probably violations of the Peace Preservation Laws of May 1925 and December 1931, which were designed to support industrialists by limiting the rights of workers and women to organize and protest.
At the time, the Japanese government was routinely sentencing political activists ("Communists") to three years in prison. Moreover, the careers of several distinguished men had been ruined by similar activities by their sons. Therefore, his son's arrest was no trivial matter. Consequently, Kano quickly returned to Japan, and by mid-December 1933, he had done whatever it took to arrange his son's release. However, to avoid future problems, Riho was sent abroad to continue his studies.
Meanwhile, the Italians began making overtures to have the 1940 games held in Rome. Toward preventing this, Kano went to Athens, Greece in April 1934. For the international Olympics, the most important decision of this particular meeting was the approval of a torch relay from Greece to the site of the Olympics. This was an idea first developed by Carl Diem during the 1920s, and subsequently pursued with vigor by the German Olympic committee. For the future of Japanese sport, the German barbells that Kano shipped to Japan after this meeting were very important, as they represented the beginning of Olympic weightlifting in Japan. However, for the promoters of the Tokyo Olympics, the only thing that mattered was that the decision regarding where to hold the 1940 Olympics was again postponed.
Nonetheless, said Kano, "Should Mussolini be approached in the right way, he will be willing to throw his influence in favor of Japan. Mussolini is a very great man and has sympathetic understanding of this country and its interests." [EN17] Whether the Fascist dictator was a great man is debatable, but on February 9, 1935, Kano's prediction that Mussolini would be willing to throw his influence in favor of Japan proved true.
The official reason was that Ambassador Yotaro Sugimura and Count Michimasa Soejima had convinced Mussolini that Tokyo deserved the Games because 1940 marked the official 2600th anniversary of the establishment of the Japanese Empire. [EN18] As with many things associated with the Olympics, the reality was crasser. In February 1935, the Italians were planning their invasion of Ethiopia. Before this could happen, the Italians needed to ensure German political support. Meanwhile, the Germans were renouncing the Versailles Treaty and planning the military reoccupation of the Rhineland. For this, they needed Italian support. To help each other accomplish their mutual goals, the Nazi and Fascist governments entered into the negotiations that led to the establishment of the Berlin-Rome Axis in October 1936. Because this rapprochement frightened the French, Paris began negotiating a military alliance with Moscow. This in turn caused the Nazis to begin wooing the Japanese, in hopes of containing the Soviets.
There was also the issue of arms sales. The Japanese, for example, had begun selling modern artillery to the Ethiopians. The Italians didn't want this. Consequently, a complex series of interlocking deals was arranged that resulted in Japan stating that it would not sell arms to the Ethiopians while the Germans and Italians agreed to support the Japanese bid for the Olympics.
Although Rome fell in a day, the Finns proved much tougher opponents. Therefore, although a decision regarding the location of the 1940 Olympics was supposed to be made in March 1935, the stubborn Finnish defense caused the International Olympic Committee to postpone its final vote until July 1936. This left Japan in the lurch: the Japanese wanted the Games but still had to prove to Europe that they deserved them.
Then, a new and unexpected threat emerged: The British announced that they wanted the 1940 Olympics to take place in London. Crippled by the Depression, the British construction and hotel industries were clamoring for subsidies from their government, and the Olympics were viewed as a way of accomplishing this without being obvious about it. This outraged the Finns and Japanese, who told everyone who would listen that the British were Johnnies-come-lately. Nonetheless, it was a serious threat, and toward countering it, Count Soejima immediately went to Germany while Kano just as quickly went to the United States.
Leaving Yokohama on June 23, 1936, aboard the NYK motor vessel Heian Maru, Kano reached Seattle on July 5. According to the forms he presented US immigration authorities, he was 76 years, 9 months old, spoke and read both English and Japanese, and was employed as a Member of House of Peers. He carried diplomatic passport V-107, issued June 20, 1936, and he claimed his final destination as Rumania. He carried $500 in cash, and he expected to be in the United States for three weeks. He stood 5'3" tall, and was listed as having a dark complexion, black hair, and brown eyes. [EN19]
Kano spoke to Seattle's Japanese American community on July 6. Alluding to old rivalries between two local judo clubs (the Seattle Dojo and Tentoku Kan), he told his audience that the spirit of judo was not a spirit of competition, but a spirit of cooperation. He added that Japan wanted the Olympic Games because nations became more sympathetic toward one another through competing in sport. Said he, "If China understood Japan's intentions, they would try to cooperate in all matters. China is torn by internal wars. They misunderstand Japan's real intention." [EN20]
The following morning, Kano boarded a train and headed to British Columbia. Shigetaka Sasaki, 3-dan, greeted him at the station in Vancouver. After taking Kano to the local judo clubs, Sasaki accompanied Kano across the continent to New York City, and then to Germany. Along the way, Kano presented Japan's case to sportswriters and Olympic officials. In New York, the press conference took place at the Hotel Astor on July 16.
On July 17, 1936, Kano and Sasaki boarded the North German Lloyd liner Bremen. Four days later, they were in Germany. There, Kano, the educator, and Count Soejima, the former ambassador to Germany, talked. As German support was guaranteed but American support was not, it was decided during this meeting that Kano would be the chief spokesman for the Japanese delegation.
The International Olympic Committee kept banker's hours in Berlin. The first meeting, for example, started at 4:00 p.m. on July 29, and closed at 5:30 p.m. The short hours are understandable, however, once you realize that the main business of the day involved listening to speeches from Nazi politicians such as Rudolf Hess. The real work took place over drinks, and in the end, the Americans and Canadians convinced the British to withdraw London from consideration. This left Tokyo and Helsinki as the only candidates for the 1940 Olympics.
On July 30, 1936, the meeting at the Hotel Adlon started at a businesslike 9:00 a.m. Delegates from 48 countries listened to the Finns and Japanese present their cases. Crudely put, the Finns said Helsinki was convenient, while the Japanese replied that Tokyo would globalize the Olympics.
The following afternoon, the delegates attended a luncheon at the home of Reich Sportsführer Hans von Tschammer und Osten, then they returned to the Hotel Adlon for the final vote. During a secret ballot, Japan got 36 votes while Finland got 27. (China abstained.) William Garland of the US Olympic Committee was credited with leading the way to the Japanese victory, apparently because he publicly urged "the value of carrying the Olympic torch around the world." [EN21]
The question then arises why, given their generally anti-Japanese political stance, did the North Americans so strongly support Japan's bid for the 1940 Olympics? One reason was political: The US and Canadian governments wanted to reduce Pacific Rim tensions by giving the Japanese something they wanted. To paraphrase Avery Brundage (he was elected to the International Olympic Committee that session), it was hoped that the Olympic movement would improve international friendship and amity. [EN22]
Money was also a factor. Early Showa Japan was built using lumber from British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California, and a project as big as the Tokyo Olympics would use millions of board feet of Pacific Coast timber. In addition, every railroad, steamship line, and airline stood to make considerable money transporting people from the East Coast to the West and back again. Obviously, there would have been travel to a Helsinki Olympics, too, but most North Americans lived east of the Mississippi and few Europeans would have had to pass through Los Angeles, Chicago, or Halifax to get there. Therefore, the impact on the North American economy would have been less.
Finally, individual inducements may have found their way into Olympic Committee members' pockets. William Garland, for example, visited Japan with his wife in April 1937. The Japanese government subsidized this travel. (In January 1938, the Japanese railways, steamship companies, and airlines publicly announced special 30% discounts for Olympic officials and their families.) About the same time, Avery Brundage began seriously collecting Asian art, apparently with guidance from Japanese friends. Perhaps Brundage was constitutionally incapable of giving or taking graft, as I was assured in private correspondence from the museum of Asian art to which Brundage's collection was bequeathed, but if so, he must have been the only building contractor in Al Capone's Chicago with this ability.
However it happened, the Japanese got the North American support that they needed to get the 1940 Olympics. And, upon learning this, Kano told reporters, "At this moment my heart overflows with joy and I can only declare that I am proud and grateful for the great honor that has been bestowed on Japan. I am sure the ideals of world peace will thus be aided." [EN23]
Afterwards, Kano traveled about Europe giving speeches. Once that was done, he had to decide whether to return home via Suez or North America. Operating on the premise that furthering national goals was more important than getting home quickly, Kano decided to return to Japan via the United States. His standard speeches during this period included "The Olympic Games and Japan" and "Sports and Gymnastics as Viewed in the Light of the Principles of Judo."
In New York City on October 9, Kano told reporters that Japan had no intent of making the Olympics into a national spectacle as the Nazis had done. He subsequently repeated these statements to an audience at Columbia University and then to the listeners of the NBC radio network. Two weeks later in Los Angeles, Kano gave the same speeches to the Californians. Reported the Los Angeles Times on October 22:
Dr. Kano anticipates that the present Meiji Shrine Stadium will be enlarged or that a new stadium will be built. Plans are on foot for an Olympic Village and the Japanese hope to make every effort to assure the comfort of foreign visitors and to assist them to see the real Japan. It is expected that travel costs will be materially reduced by 1940.
Hiranuma's greeting was more than professional courtesy -- he needed to talk. Now that Japan had the Olympics, it had to do something with them, and as always, hosting the Olympics involved sticky political issues. The biggest was that the requisite hotels, stadiums, and public transportation systems didn't exist. The Japanese military, which was fighting an expensive war in China, said that the cost of building these facilities should be born by the city of Tokyo. On the other hand, the mayor of Tokyo insisted that these were national games. Therefore, the government should bear the expense. To this, the education minister replied that he had no money for sports in the classrooms of the country, so why was everyone looking at him to come up with money? A separate issue was where to put the stadiums themselves. Although some reclaimed land at Tsukijira had been purchased in 1933, the most suitable site was the Meiji Shrine and few people wanted to replace its park-like grounds with a sport stadium.
Reporters waited for Kano, too, and they promptly asked him about the embarrassing squabbling that had taken place among the leaders of the Japanese Amateur Athletic Federation in Germany. Kano responded that everyone involved was young, and that responsible people knew that the trifles of youth were all that the squabbling represented. As for the Olympics, he said that they should be "a national task, not alone of the Municipality or the Amateur Athletic Federation." [EN24] Although I haven't seen the Japanese Army's reaction to that statement, probably it is not worth repeating.
Kano spent the next couple of days watching the fifth annual All-Japan judo tournament, and then he returned to the Olympic trenches. After a month of politicking, Prince Iyesato Tokugawa reluctantly agreed to accept the position of president of the Japanese Olympic Committee; his reluctance was due more to the press of his work with the Japanese Red Cross than his opposition to the Olympics. At the same time, Admiral Isamu Takeshita, the Japanese naval officer who had introduced President Theodore Roosevelt to judo in 1904, was approached about becoming the head of the Japanese Amateur Athletic Federation. However, Takeshita declined, greatly preferring his less controversial aikido and yachting. Therefore, a retired cavalry general named Matahiko Ohshima got the job instead.
Qualified men avoided these committees for a reason: Not only was the Japanese military not enthusiastic about the expense of the games, but the best site remained the Meiji Shrine, and as said before, nobody wanted to bulldoze it. However, to announce this publicly meant admitting that Japan was incapable of hosting the Games, and no one wanted to publicly admit that the Finns and British had been right all along.
In June 1937, the International Olympic Committee held a meeting in Warsaw, Poland. A decision made at this meeting was that ski instructors and swimming coaches were professionals, and therefore barred from competition. Deciding the location of the 1940 Winter Games, however, was postponed until the next full meeting in Cairo, Egypt, on March 21-26, 1938.
Meanwhile, politics intruded. First, in July 1937, the Japanese manufactured the "China Incident" near Beijing, thus precipitating the Japanese invasion of China that many non-Japanese historians consider the true start of World War II. The Chinese said that the Olympic Games should not be held in a country that was at war, and the Americans worried that Japan could not afford both a war and a proper Olympics. Meanwhile, the British and Finns said they were ready to host the Games if the Japanese couldn't have them. Then, in September 1937, the Japanese Army withdrew its world-class equestrian teams from Olympic competition, thus sparking public discussion about whether state funding would be the next thing to go. Finally, to top things off, in December 1937, Japanese forces pillaged Nanjing. As many as 300,000 Chinese died, and the international media expressed outrage about the Rape of Nanking.
The Japanese Olympic Organizing Committee put on its best face, and remained determined about getting the 1940 Olympics for Japan. Therefore, it sent Kano and Matsuzo Nagai to Cairo to present the Japanese case to the International Olympic Committee. Neither man was the first choice. That had been the Japanese Olympic Committee chairman Iyesato Tokugawa. However, Tokugawa said that he was too busy with his Red Cross business to leave Japan.
The original plan was for everyone to leave Kobe on February 13, 1938, with arrival at Port Said on March 7. However, Kano had some Kodokan business he had to complete first. Consequently, he left Kobe on February 18. He arrived in Singapore on March 2. The following morning, he caught the KLM flying boat to Alexandria, where he arrived on March 7.
Before leaving Japan, Kano had attended a luncheon held at Tokyo's New Grand Restaurant. During his speech, he told reporters that the Olympics were for athletes, not politicians, and that as long as the Chinese didn't bomb Tokyo, there was no reason that the Games should not be held in Japan. Furthermore, if the Japanese government didn't subsidize the Games, then the Olympic Organizing Committee would simply find alternative funding. The Tokyo Olympics might not be as fancy as the Berlin Olympics, but they would still go on. [EN25]
Upon arrival in Alexandria, Kano gave reporters the same story. "I don't see any reason for anyone to say anything about abandoning the games," he said. "War in China is nothing to do with sports." [EN26]
The Cairo conference took place aboard a Nile houseboat called the Victoria. Many of the European and American members had brought their families, and the conference had a brilliant social climate. The Japanese, however, were not in Egypt to sightsee, but to work. "To the apprehension voiced of slow work toward preparation of facilities," reported the Japan Times, Kano "referred to the reconstruction work of Tokyo after the great earthquake and fire of 1923 and said that there should be no trouble at all in completing the necessary arrangements." [EN27]
Regarding the Chinese objection to Japan holding the Games, Kano said that as long as Chinese warplanes did not bomb Tokyo, there was nothing to stop the Games from taking place in Japan. Furthermore, given the strength of the Japanese Navy and Air Force, the bombing of Tokyo was virtually impossible even to imagine. [EN28]
As for Tokyo's ability to handle foreign visitors, Kano read a letter from the mayor of Tokyo that assured everyone that the city would do everything possible to give visitors an enjoyable experience. For example, hotel rooms would cost less than $1 each, and round-trip fares would be available for as little as $500. Furthermore, ¥5 million (about US $1.45 million) would be budgeted for building an Olympic village made from Pacific Northwest lumber. [EN29]
Finally, Kano told the International Olympic Committee that it "would be committing suicide if it decided to remove the Games from Tokyo. Nobody would trust it in the future if it breaks the promise it has publicly given." [EN30]
These arguments convinced the Americans, Canadians, Italians, and Germans to support the Japanese claim. Between them, they controlled enough votes to carry the day, and on March 16, 1938, the International Olympic Committee confirmed Tokyo as the site of the 1940 Summer Games. At the same time, the committee announced that demonstration sports to be featured in Tokyo during the Summer Games would include judo, kendo, and kyudo (Japanese archery). Note, however, that the inclusion of judo as a demonstration sport does not indicate that Kano had any real interest in turning judo into an Olympic sport. As he told Gunji Koizumi in 1936:
In short, despite what the modern judo federations tell us in their press releases, Kano was not in Cairo to get judo into the Olympics. Instead, he was in Cairo to get the Olympics for Japan.
Anyway, after having gotten what he came for, namely the Olympics for Japan, Kano remained neutral in the Cairo meeting's other major conflict. This involved the Finns, Germans, and Norwegians saying that Tokyo was too hot in August. Therefore, the Summer Games should take place in October rather than August. The British and Americans objected, saying that starting the Summer Games in October would prevent their collegiate athletes from attending. Because eliminating the American and British athletes was exactly what the Europeans wanted (in the Olympics, national medal counts are everything), the motion carried, and the date was changed. The change did not affect the winter games, however, because everyone agreed that Sapporo was usually cold enough in February for skiing.
After the meeting ended, Nagai continued politicking in Berlin, Paris, and New York City. Meanwhile, Kano did the same in Athens and Paris. During his speeches, Kano spoke about the "true nature" (e.g., anti-Communist rather than imperialist) of Japan's mission in China and promoted Japan's ability to organize world-class Olympics. [EN35]
While in Paris, Kano also paid his respects to his old friend Yotaro Sugimura, a judo enthusiast who was then the Japanese ambassador to France. Ambassador Sugimura later told reporters that while Kano looked tired, he seemed in remarkably good shape and spirits for a man his age. [EN36]
After leaving France, Kano returned to Japan via the United States. He was supposed to deliver a 15-minute radio broadcast almost immediately upon arrival in New York on April 14, 1938, but the late arrival of his liner, the Ile de France, caused the network to postpone his speech.
When he did give a press conference, in his rooms at New York's Hotel Plaza, he said, "The struggle in China has no bearing on the situation. Even if there is no change in the situation by 1940 I see no reason for not holding the games. They are independent of politics or other influences." [EN37]
In his rescheduled radio broadcast, Kano added in his careful English that the Tokyo Olympics would not be fancy. "I don't believe that our facilities and equipment would excel Germany's, because our first and last interest lies in the Games themselves." Furthermore, he said, if every country attempted to outdo its predecessor, then "the spirit of the Olympiad would be lost in lavishness." [EN38]
Following a final New York press conference on April 17, Kano caught a United Airlines DC-3 bound for Seattle via Chicago. Although scheduled to arrive at Boeing Field around 11:00 a.m. on April 19, due to bad weather, his plane did not arrive until dusk. The local Japanese waited patiently. Noted the Seattle Post-Intelligencer afterward, "Kano was met at the airport by a big delegation of his countrymen and was formally welcomed to Seattle by A. Nakazawa, consulate of Japan." [EN39]
During the ensuing press conference, Kano repeated his standard speech: "There will be no change in Games plans, and preparations for the Olympics in Tokyo will continue on schedule. Too, I do not believe that present conditions will have any effect on the possible strength of the Japanese Olympic team. There are, of course, a great number of our young men in the Japanese army, but not all of our young men." [EN40] Finally, he concluded, "Japan is going through with plans to hold the Olympic Games in 1940 and the change in dates from August to early autumn was made with the well-being of the athletes in mind." [EN41]
On April 21, Kano was guest of honor at a party given by the Japanese consul Yuki Sato. Other guests included basketball commissioner Bobby Morris, University of Washington basketball coach Hec Edmundson, and Post-Intelligencer sports editor Royal Brougham. On May 7, 1938, Bill Hosokawa wrote in the Japanese-American Courier, "It will be a long time before any of those present will forget the picture of the tiny figure as he sat in a haze of tobacco smoke, gesturing, smiling kindly."
On April 22, Kano went to Vancouver, British Columbia. After meeting with the Japanese consul, local dignitaries, and judoka, Kano boarded the NYK motorship Hikawa Maru, bound for Yokohama. On the morning of May 1, 1938, passengers aboard the ship remarked the absence of Kano from the captain's table. When they asked where he was, the captain replied that despite the clear weather, Kano was unable to keep food down. That night, to the captain's clear discomfiture, Kano attended dinner. Passengers noticed that Kano was pale and his stomach remained queasy. Moreover, despite a fever, he complained that he was cold. The following morning, Kano stayed in bed, where the ship's doctor treated him with poultices. Starting May 3, the ship's steward spent his time sitting in front of Kano's cabin. Nonetheless, Kano died. Time of death was given as 5:33 a.m., May 5, 1938 (Tokyo time). [EN42]
Hikawa Maru's captain radioed the sad news ahead, and when the ship docked at Yokohama, 3,000 mourners were waiting. They found the coffin draped in white, and placed prominently in Hikawa Maru's main lounge. Above it stood a large oil painting of Kano that had been done in Paris by D. Kondo. "Only Mrs. Sumako Kano, the widow, Fumimasa Kano, his son and heir, relatives, and a small group of friends were permitted to board the ship," said the Japan Times on May 8, 1938. Then, following a brief shipboard ceremony, the body was taken by automobile to the Kano residence in Koishikawa, where it remained in state in state awaiting a Shinto funeral held at the Kodokan at 10:00 a.m. on May, 9, 1938.
Mourning was international. European and American political and athletic leaders sent letters of condolence, and judo clubs worldwide held memorial services. Added Royal Brougham, "The doctors had a name for the disease, but a heart heavy and broken from the shattering of his Olympic dreams probably contributed to his sudden death. He bravely tried to maintain a cheerful attitude on his Seattle visit, but not even a bland and smiling countenance could hide the disappointment within." [EN43]
Brougham was frequently right about such things, and this was no exception. As early as September 1937, Japanese militarists had voiced their opposition to the 1940 Olympics, saying that the Games represented a drain on the funds and manpower available for the Japanese war in China. Moreover, when the Japanese and Soviet armies got into an undeclared war in Manchuria on July 11, 1938, the Japanese government panicked. Thus, four days later, the Ministry of Health and Welfare announced that Japan could not host the Olympic games in 1940. "During the Emergency," Yoshiaki Mitani explained in the Japan Times on July 18, 1938, "physical activities should be hiking, etc., that build strong bodies" rather than simply amuse spectators.
Because the Manchurian war was not announced to the Soviet or Japanese publics for decades, official explanations were terse. Avery Brundage of the US Olympic Committee, for example, was told only that the Japanese had requested to "be released of entrusted Olympiad." [EN44] The ungrammatical official telegram to the International Olympic Committee said little more:
A le regret de vous informer que pour faire face à la conduite de l'affaire chinoise, la renonciation à les Jeux Olympiques de Tokio et de Sapporo a été décidée. Continue d'entretenir le désir d'ouvrir les Jeux Olympiques à Tokio en 1944.
Translated, this says that the Japanese regretted that because of the Chinese Incident, they had decided to renounce the summer games in Tokyo and the winter games in Sapporo. At the same time, they expressed hope that the 1944 Olympic Games might be held in Tokyo. [EN45]
Brundage, who liked to think that the Olympics were (or should be) divorced from international politics, expressed shock and dismay. On the other hand, people more in touch with Asian realities were more disappointed than surprised. As the former ambassador and Olympic official Count Soejima put it, "There is nothing to do but to say we can't help it." [EN46] In Germany, the Sport Ministry said only that the Japanese had decided to give up the Twelfth Olympic Games. And in Seattle, the Japanese-American Courier lamented "the opportunities [to compete for Japan in the Olympics] which would have been available to second generation Japanese are closed now till some future date." [EN47]
For their part, the Finns reacted by starting to build facilities for the summer games. Meanwhile, the Germans, Norwegians, and Swiss began arguing about whether the winter games should take place in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Oslo, or Sankt Moritz. In the end, Garmisch got the nod, but of course that became moot after Hitler invaded Poland in September 1939.
Ironically, the Japanese and Soviets soon achieved an uneasy peace in Mongolia. Thus, the cancellation was unnecessary. The money saved was not spent on the war in China, either. Instead, the Japanese spent it (or at least US $1 million of it) constructing a beautiful and romantic Japanese Pavilion for San Francisco's Golden Gate International Exposition. And, influenced by Nazi pedagogues, the Japanese Ministry of Education introduced the sporting and athletic principles of the Nazi "Strength through Joy" movement into the Japanese public schools in 1941. "Day after day they [the teachers and the Army] pounded in the idea of being good soldiers, of dedication for the glory of Japan," Paul Yempuku, a 14-year old Hiroshima schoolboy in December 1941, later recalled. "We even lined up to go from our dormitory to the classrooms… But no one complained. Everyone accepted this as the way life was. We didn't know anything better. We never had a taste of real freedom, so we didn't ask for freedom." [EN48]
Thus, what the Japanese government really meant when it cancelled the 1940 Olympics was that it had no interest in following Kano's path of mutual welfare. Instead, it was solely interested in following the path of Spencerian survival of the fittest. [EN49]
Pearl Harbor was just forty-one months
Newspapers were the primary sources consulted in the preparation of this essay. Books and articles also consulted include the following.
Abe, Ikuo, Kiyohara,Yasuharu, and Nakajima, Ken. (1990) "Sport and Physical Education under Fascistization in Japan," Bulletin of Health & Sport Sciences, University of Tsukuba, 13. Reprinted at Journal of Alternative Perspectives, http://ejmas.com/jalt/jaltart_abe_0600.htm
Anonymous. (1950). "Principal Events in the Life of Mr. Kano," Judo International, edited by Henri Plée (Paris).
Bernett, Hajo. (1980). "Das Scheitern der Olympischen Spiele von 1940" [The Demise of the Olympic Games of 1940], Stadion, 6, pp. 25l- 290.
Bowen, Richard. (1999). "Origins of the British Judo Association, the European Judo Union, and the International Judo Federation," Journal of Asian Martial Arts, 8:3, pp. 42-53.
Conroy, Hilary, Davis, Sandra T.W., and Patterson, Wayne, editors. (1984). Japan in Transition: Thought and Action in the Meiji Era, 1868-1912. Rutherford, New Jersey: Farleigh Dickinson University Press.
Flath, Arnold W. (1980). "Franklin H. Brown – A Lover of Sports with a Desire to Lead," NASSH Proceedings, at http://www.aafla.org/SportsLibrary/NASSH_Proceedings/NP1980/NP1980zv.pdf
Grix, Arthur E. (1937). Japans Sport in Bild und Wort [Japanese Sport in Pictures and Words]. Berlin: Wilhelm Limpert Verlag.
Guttman, Allen. (1992). The Olympics: A History of the Modern Games. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
Hirasawa, K. (1950). "The Death of Professor Jigoro Kano, Shi-Han," Judo International, edited by Henri Plée (Paris), pp. 3-4. Reprinted at the Kano Society, http://www.kanosociety.org/articles.htm
Kano, Jigoro. (1936). "Olympic Games and Japan," Dai Nippon, 197-199. Reprinted at Thomas A. Green and Joseph R. Svinth, editors. (2003). Martial Arts in the Modern World. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood, pp. 167-172.
Kolatch, Jonathan. (1972). Sports, Politics, and Ideology in China. Middle Village, NY: Jonathan David Publishers.
Knaefler, Tomi Kaizawa. (1991). Our House Divided: Seven Japanese American Families in World War II. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press.
Lennartz, Karl. (1997). "The Genesis of Legends," Journal of Olympic History, 1, pp. 8-11, http://www.aafla.org/search/search_frmst.htm
"Olympism in Japan," (1998). Olympic Review, 26:19, p. 58, http://www.aafla.org/search/search_frmst.htm
Sawada, Mitziko. (1996). Tokyo Life, New York Dreams: Urban Japanese Visions of America, 1890-1924. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996.
Schöbel, Heinz. (1968). The Four
Dimensions of Avery Brundage, translated from the German by Joan Becker.
Leipzig: Offizin Andersen Nexö.
EN1. "Olympism in Japan," 1998, 58, http://www.aafla.org/search/search_frmst.htm.
EN2. Abe, Kiyohara, and Nakajima, 1990, 30.
EN3. Although a literal translation of the organizational title would be Imperial Japan Physical Culture Society, this is the way that the Japanese normally translated it into English. See, for example, Japan Times, September 8, 1936, 5, and Seattle Times, November 6, 1911, 13.
EN4. Abe, Kiyohara, and Nakajima, 1990, 30.
EN5. Japan Times, March 11, 1913, 1.
EN6. Kolatch, 1972, 53.
EN7. Kano, 1936, 197.
EN8. Japan Times, May 13, 1917, 1.
EN9. Japan Times, May 25, 1921, 5.
EN10. Japan Times, May 3, 1923, 8.
EN11. Japan Times, September 2, 1924, 5.
EN12. Japan Times, March 10, 1928, 8.
EN13. Los Angeles Times, August 4, 1932, Pt. I, 12.
EN14. Kano, 1936, 198.
EN15. Xerographic copy of research notes prepared for Saburo Matsushita by Trevor Leggett, courtesy of Richard Bowen.
EN16. Japan Times, September 23, 1933, 1, 2. Judo's association with international socialism dates to at least May 1904, when Sen Katayama, a future leader of the Japanese Communist Party then living in Texas, demonstrated judo at an American Socialist Party convention in Chicago.
EN17. Japan Times, November 22, 1933, 2.
EN18. Japan Times, February 12, 1935, 5. Before World War II, most Japanese accepted without question the story that the origins of the Japanese Empire dated to the arrival of the demigod Jinmu in the mid-seventh century BCE. However, since 1945, few professional historians have been willing to give much credit to that story, and today, most Japanese historians date the foundation of the Yamato state to the archaeological evidence of the fifth and sixth centuries CE. For a discussion of the historiography, see John S. Brownlee, Japanese Historians and the National Myths, 1600-1945: The Age of the Gods and Emperor Jinmu (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1997).
EN19. NARA microfilm roll M1383, "Passenger and Crew Lists of Vessels Arriving at Seattle, Washington, 1890-1957," Roll 216 (June 9, 1936, SS PRINCESS CHARLOTTE – July 24, 1936, SS PACIFIC SHIPPER).
EN20. Japanese-American Courier, July 11, 1936, 4.
EN21. Japan Times, August 2, 1936, 1, 5.
EN22. Schöbel, 1968, 28.
EN23. Japan Times, August 2, 1936, 5.
EN24. Japan Times, November 18, 1936, 5.
EN25. Japan Times, February 2, 1938, 3
EN26. Japan Times, March 10, 1938, 3.
EN27. Japan Times, March 11, 1938, 3.
EN28. Japan Times, May 5,1938, 1.
EN29. Murray Morgan, The Mill on the Boot: The Story of the St. Paul & Tacoma Lumber Company (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1982), 218-220, 238-242; North American Times, April 18, 1938, 8. In New York, Kano said that Japan expected to spend ¥45 million (between $11-13 million) building the facilities required for the Olympics. (New York Times, April 17, 1938, Sports, 1). Although more than the $1-2 million spent on the Los Angeles Olympics, it was still cheaper than a new cruiser or battleship. For naval costs, see Japan Times, September 29, 1933, 8; for Los Angeles Olympics costs, see Japan Times, October 16, 1933, 1.
EN30. Japan Times, March 12, 1938, 3.
EN31. Gunji Koizumi, "Judo and the Olympic Games," Budokwai Quarterly Bulletin, April 1947, typewritten copy provided by Richard Bowen.
EN32. Bowen, 1999, 42-53.
EN33. Japan Times, December 19, 1934, 1; Japan Times, December 29, 1934, 6.
EN34. Pacific Citizen, September 22-28, 2000, 1, 8.
EN35. Japan Times, May 6, 1938, 2.
EN36. New York Times, January 30, 1938, 4.
EN37. New York Times, April 17, 1938, Sports, 1.
EN38. Japan Times, April 18, 1938, 1.
EN39. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 20, 1938, 16.
EN40. Great Northern Daily News, April 20, 1938, 8.
EN41. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, April 20, 1938, 16.
EN42. Hirasawa, 1950, 3-4; reprinted at http://www.kanosociety.org/articles.htm.
EN43. Seattle Post-Intelligencer, May 6, 1938; reprinted at http://www.judoinfo.com/kano3.htm. Unlike many Hearst journalists, Brougham had a generally positive attitude toward Japanese (and especially Japanese American) athletes. For example, in an article published in the Japanese-American Courier on January 1, 1933, he wrote that Japanese athletes were the finest sportsmen in the world: "Not only are they good game losers, but they are gracious in victory." This was not a fluke, either. In1942, Brougham insisted on including a Nisei fighter in a Seattle Golden Gloves boxing tournament, and in 1949, after a Japanese American team was barred from participating in an industrial bowling league, Brougham wrote a series of blistering editorials that materially contributed to the end of the color bar in US ten-pin bowling.
EN44. Bernett, 1980, 265.
EN45. Ibid., 266.
EN46. Ibid., 268.
EN47. Japanese-American Courier, July 16, 1938, 4.
EN48. Quoted in Knaefler, 1991, 81-82.
EN49. In 1864, the English evolutionist Herbert Spencer (1820-1903) coined the phrase "survival of the fittest," and within a few years, lesser philosophers began using this biological theory to justify social inequality and imperialism. Spencer's Education, Intellectual, Moral, and Physical (1861) was widely read in Japan, and in a letter written shortly before his death, Spencer himself told Japanese leaders that they should keep Europeans and Americans "at arm's length," "give as little foothold as possible to foreigners," and forbid intermarriage. See, for example, Japan Times, August 18, 1932, 3, and Shigekazu Yamashita, "Herbert Spencer and Meiji Japan," in Conroy, Davis, and Patterson, 1984, 77-95.