Japanese have been fervid long-distance runners for many centuries. Today, on a per capita basis, at least as many Japanese residents complete marathons each year as do those in the United States or any other country.Marathon Japantraces the development of distance racing beginning with the Stockholm Olympics of 1912, when the Japanese government used athletics as part of its project to win the respect of Western countries and achieve parity with the world powers. The marathon soon became the first Western- derived sports event in which Japanese proved consistently superior to athletes from other countries. During the 1920s and 1930s, Japanese runners regularly produced the fastest times in the world, and in the 1960s and late 1970s-1980s, Japanese men again dominated world marathoning. Japanese women likewise emerged as some of the world's fastest in the 1990s and early 2000s. Meanwhile the general public took up distance running with enthusiasm, starting in the 1960s and continuing unabated today, symbolized most recently by massive open-entry marathons in Tokyo, Osaka, and other Japanese cities comparable in scale and challenge to major world races in Boston, New York, Chicago, London, and Berlin.
In this book, Thomas Havens analyzes the origins, development, and significance of Japan's excellence in marathons and long-distance relays (ekiden), as well as the explosive growth of distance racing among ordinary citizens. He reveals the key role of commercial media companies in promoting sports, especially marathons andekiden, and explains how running became a consumer commodity beginning in the 1970s as Japanese society matured into an age of capitalist affluence. What comes to light as well are the relentlessly nationalistic goals underlying government policies toward sports throughout the modern era. The public craze for distance racing, both watching and running, has created a shared citizenship of civic participation among young and old, male and female, and persons of every social background and level of education.
Marathon Japanwill appeal to Japan specialists of cultural and social history, recreational runners in Japan and abroad, as well as anyone interested in the history of sports.
Subjects: History, Sociology
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