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Turin 1936: The Rising Sun peeps out in Italia PDF Stampa E-mail



The Japanese and Italian track teams faced each other in Turin, Mussolini Stadium, on August 29th and 30th. It was an event of remarkable cultural as well as technical meaning. Marco Martini brings us into focus the former. Few days ago we post the Italian version of this same story.



«As far as I know, there is only one country in the whole world where we have the distinction between upbringing and learning, where they still teach their traditional ethics, kept alive with the same unchanged strength, while the learning is continually updated to the most modern needs: Japan» (Pierre Lecomte du Noüy, L’avenir de l’esprit, Gallimard, Paris 1941).

The year 1867 marks, in Japan, the end of the military regimen and the return of the government leadership to the emperor (Meiji Restoration). This shifting in the form of government led the country out of feudalism: Nippon began to travel along the road to modernization. Doors to western teachers and traders opened, a few young pioneers went to study abroad; thus, in addition to traditional sports such as sumo, ju-jitsu, archery, people started to enjoy also western amusements. Some of them did not make a good impression, but others, such as track and field athletics, had a good impact on the citizens, and within a few years became part of school and university programmes (track events officially began with the initial establishment of a sport organization in Tokyo imperial university in 1886,but track meets had already been held at the imperial naval college (1874), at the agricultural college of Sapporo (1878), and at the above mentioned imperial university of Tokyo in 1883). The Japan Amateur Athletic Association was born in 1911, and 1912 was the year of the first partecipation to the Olympic Games. Essential factor of this new deal and its success was, in opposition to Buddhism, the ancient religion named Shintoism, that was raised to the role of a State institution. «In Japan, the national and imperial aims are in perfect harmony with shintoist beliefs. Furthermore, they draw from Shintoism motivations, enthusiasm, incentives above which Japan built its present  achievements, glory and power; a success that looks like a symbol of the restoration of the ancient religion that is in the making» (Raffaele Pettazzoni, La mitologia giapponese, Zanichelli, Bologna 1929, p. 20).   

Italy entered into friendly relations with this eastern powerful State only after the anti-comunist  (Anti-Comintern) pact signed in 1937, an agreement Nippon had already reached with Germany in december 1936 (the Rome-Berlin axis came into being in october 1936, and the tripartite coalition in 1940). In 1937 in our country, the Institute for Middle-East Studies (ISMEO) favoured the coming into life of a cultural association named Society of the Friends of Japan. The date of birth of all these enterprises follows the track dual match, held by the end of august 1936 in Turin thanks to the presence in Europe of the athletes of the Land of the Rising Sun for the Olympic Games of Berlin, but Italy already felt attracted by this eastern country, fascinated by its growing success, based upon nationalism and in opposition to  «americanism», an ideology condemned by Fascism. The cultural evidence of this liking can be inferred from the series Letture orientali, inaugurated by the publishing house Sansoni in 1934, and the publication by ISMEO, in 1936, of the book L’evoluzione del Giappone, written by YMtarM Sugimura, both carried into effect thanks to the italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile, founder and president of ISMEO. Now, the question is: what did italians really know about japanese philosophy of life and its implications in sport practice? And the special stress they laid on the human mental control involved in sport activities? A careful look at the reports of the newspapers of those days shows a cultural thirst almost non-existent, a clear sign that we could not even conceive a different reality from what we thought about sport in our leisure-oriented society. We shared nationalism, but we knew nothing about their approach to competition.

 You can read the complete work clicking here....