July 30th 2019
TOKYO – Two long-forgotten films offering a rare glimpse of the staging of the 1964 Tokyo Paralympics and conditions faced by the physically disabled in Japan at the time have been shown in Tokyo about one year ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Gathering dust for about five decades, the films capture the atmosphere of Japanese society in 1964, when the aftermath of World War II was still being felt, as well as the active involvement by Japan’s then Crown Prince Akihito and Crown Princess Michiko — now former emperor and former empress — in the country’s disabled sports movement.
The 1964 Paralympics were officially known as the “International Games for the Physically Handicapped,” but the Tokyo event marked the first time that the term “paralympics” came into wide, albeit then unofficial, use. It is now considered by the International Paralympic Committee to have been the second Paralympics after the 1960 Rome Games, which were also called the Paraplegic Olympics.
A few Japanese athletes who competed in the event were former servicemen, and a number of imperial family members visited and watched the competitions, according to the Journal of the Paralympic Research Group by the Nippon Foundation Paralympic Support Center. Many athletes from abroad were also ex-servicemen.
One of the films, whose title translates as “Tokyo Paralympics, festival of love and glory” (Tokyo Paralympic Ai to Eiko no Saiten) had been “buried in the company’s massive archives,” Satoru Nokuo, associate general manager of Kadokawa Corp., its distributor, said at a screening at Sophia University in July.
The other film, “Record of the 1964 Tokyo Paralympic Games” (1964-nen Tokyo Paralympic Taikai Kiroku Eiga), was found in a warehouse of the Japanese Para-Sports Association, according to Tetsuya Takeuchi, senior commentator at the Japan Broadcasting Corp., known as NHK, who took part in the screenings.
Through interviews and other means, the 63-minute and 45-minute films depict how people with disabilities in Japan regained their sense of worth by playing sports and interacting with overseas disabled athletes who had endured similar struggles.
The former film was directed by cinematographer Kimio Watanabe, while the latter was produced by the NHK Public Welfare Organization.
The films also cast light on the differences between Japanese athletes with disabilities, many of whom lived in institutions at the time, and their foreign counterparts, who in many cases were active members in their communities.