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Media Representations of African American Athletes in Cold War Japan

Yu Sasaki

Media Representations of African American Athletes in Cold War Japan addresses the cross-cultural dialogue between Black America and Japan that was enabled through sports during the Cold War era. This topic has hitherto received little scholarly attention in both American studies and sports studies. After World War II, Cold War tensions pulled African American athletes to the center stage and initiated their international mobility. They served as both athletic Cold Warriors and embodiments of a colorblind American democracy. This book focuses on sports in the Cold War era as a significant battlefield that operated as an ideologically and racially contested terrain. Yu Sasaki argues that one of the most crucial Cold War racial contacts occurred through sports in Asia, and particularly, in Japan. The mobility of African American athletes captured the attention of the Japanese media, which created unique narratives of sports and race in US-occupied Japan after World War II. Adopting an approach that integrates the archival and interpretive, Sasaki analyzes the ways in which sports, highlighted by the media, became a terrain where discourses of race, gender, and even disability were significantly modified. This book draws on both English and non-English language sources, including Japanese print media archives such as newspapers, magazines, posters, pamphlets, diaries, bulletins, and school textbooks.

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Fig. 1.1: Front cover of The Harlem Globetrotters: 25 shunen kinen [The Harlem Globetrotters: A Commemorative Silver Anniversary]. Mainichi Shimbun-sha, 1952.

Fig. 1.2: “Gambareba konnani genki [Such Good Health If You Do Your Best],” Mainichi Shimbun. September 16, 1952, morning edition, 3.

Fig. 1.3: “Saisei shita Trotter no ninkimono [A Reborn Trotters’ Golden Boy],” Mainichi Shimbun, September 15, 1952, evening edition, 3.

Fig. 2.1: “Otonashii tora ima Tokyo ni” [Gentle Tiger Has Come to Tokyo], Asahi Shimbun, October 9, 1964, morning edition, 14.

Fig. 2.2: “Rival,” Asahi Shimbun, October 14, 1964, evening edition, 4.

Fig. 2.3: “Olympic in Color: Bi to chikara wo kisou” [Olympic in Color: Competing in Beauty and Strength], Shukan Asahi, October 23, 1964, 80.

Fig. 2.4: Yomiuri Shimbun Undobu, Sekai no ichiryu sensyu: Tokyo Olympic no midokoro [Top Athletes in the World: Features of the Tokyo Olympics] (Tokyo: Perikan-sha, 1963), 37.

Fig. 3.1: “Yureugoku Estadio Olímpico” [Stormy Estadio Olímpico], Gekkan Rikujo Kyogi, An anniversary issue of the Mexico City Olympics, vol. 2, no. 11 (November, 1968): 104–105.

Fig. 3.2: “Kono yorokobi wo daichi ni” [Thanks for the Earth], Mainichi Shimbun, October 20, 1968, morning edition, 13.

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