1964 Transformations

I am planning to pitch a piece on the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the urban transformation the Games brought about. Besides some of Manuel’s photos, I want to use a slide I bought on ebay the other day (see below). We look up north across the newly-built expressway connecting Haneda airport with the city centre. The monorail track is to the right. More info here. Article abstract after the jump (comments more than welcome!).


The 1964 Tokyo Olympics marked a watershed in post-war Japanese history. Only nineteen years after the end of World War II, the East Asian nation confidently re-emerged on the international stage, this time as a peacefully rising, non-Western power. After arriving at Haneda airport’s new international terminal, visitors zoomed along the new Shuto expressway or rode on the monorail into the center, along newly-reclaimed land in the Tokyo Bay.

Iconic sporting facilities were purpose-built by a new creed of famed Japanese architects. New luxury hotels hosted international guests. The first Shinkansen high-speed rail line was inaugurated just in time, allowing spectators from Osaka to reach the Japanese capital in record time. Halfway into prime minister Ikeda’s “income doubling plan”, the world was able to get a first-hand impression of what the Japanese economic miracle was capable of.

Underneath the surface, however, also lured doubts about unchecked urban growth. Years of heavy industrialization and rapid population growth had left their mark on Tokyo and inspired escapist visions in Japan’s architectural avant-garde. Reality, however, proved more banal: the beautification campaign ahead of the Games appeared like an attempt to sanitize reality by an increasingly conservative government.

This article will take a look at the changes in Tokyo’s urban fabric leading up to the 1964 Olympics and assess them against the recent news of the 2020 Games taking place here again.

Archival material could include:

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