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Remembering the Oriental Witches: Sports, Gender and Shōwa Nostalgia in the NHK Narratives of the Tokyo Olympics


  • Iwona MERKLEJN


The phrase Oriental Witches (Tōyō no Majo) was used in the mass media to describe the Japanese women’s volleyball team that won 22 games in a row during their tour of Europe in 1961; they became even more famous when their impressive career was crowned with a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. In this paper, I investigate media representations of the Oriental Witches in the retrospective programming of the NHK Japanese public broadcaster. I analyze the Oriental Witches success story as a part of ‘Shōwa nostalgia’—a cultural trend idealizing Japan of the 1950s and 1960, especially the years of high economic growth that led up to the Tokyo Olympics. I argue that NHK actively promoted ‘Shōwa nostalgia’ in the first two decades of the new Heisei era, and the Oriental Witches were a prominent feature of this programming. The NHK representations of the Olympic team, although seemingly non-gendered, provide normative notions of gender roles that ‘proper’ Japanese women should conform to in the idealized Shōwa era.

Suggested Citation

  • Iwona MERKLEJN, 2013. "Remembering the Oriental Witches: Sports, Gender and Shōwa Nostalgia in the NHK Narratives of the Tokyo Olympics," Social Science Japan Journal, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(2), pages 235-250.
  • Handle: RePEc:oup:sscijp:v:16:y:2013:i:2:p:235-250.

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