Crossing the Finish Line: Our Final Japan and Sport Symposium

Key information

5:00 pm to 7:00 pm
Russell Square: College Buildings
Khalili Lecture Theatre (KLT)

About this event

This is the final event in our JRC Sport Symposia Series, first launched in 2017 to study the build-up to and impact of Japan's hosting of sports mega events, including the Rugby World Cup (2019) and the Tokyo Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games (2020/1).

We cap off this series with an evening of celebrations, including a keynote talk from Dr Robin Kietlinski who will discuss a century of historical and contemporary debates connected to the achievements of Japanese sportswomen.

We also launch our forthcoming publication Handbook of Sport and Japan contracted by MHM Japan Documents Publishing, a text culminating from the support and work over the past six years. This Handbook is an exciting inter-disciplinary collaboration, documenting the historical development of various key sports in Japan, concentrating on themes such as culture, gender, media, mega-events and diplomacy.

We will launch the Handbook and provide an insight into how the contribution showcases Japan’s long history and engagement with sport, from the Meiji period until the present day, reflecting the important historical, cultural and social position of sport in Japan.

Event recording

Speaker biographies

Helen Macnaughtan is Convenor of the JRC Sport Symposia Series and Senior Lecturer in International Business & Management (Japan) at SOAS.  Her research interests focus on a range of topics relating to gender equality, women, work and employment as well as gender and sport in Japan. 

Her sport research and publications have focused on the history of women’s volleyball within the Japanese textile industry and the legacy of their gold medal victory at the Tokyo 1964 Olympics, as well as the history of men’s corporate rugby teams and the role of sport in ‘soft power’ strategy in Japan.

Robin Kietlinski is Professor of History at LaGuardia Community College of the City University of New York, where she teaches courses on Modern Japan, East Asia, and Global History. She received her PhD from the University of Pennsylvania and her BA from the University of Chicago, both in East Asian Languages and Civilizations.

Her research focuses on the intersections of sport and society in modern Japan with a focus on Japan’s involvement in the Olympic movement over the past century. In 2012, her book “Japanese Women and Sport: Beyond Baseball and Sumo” was published by Bloomsbury Academic Press, and since then she has published numerous other articles and book chapters on sport and gender in modern Japan.

Fabio Gygi is Chair of the SOAS Japan Research Centre and Senior Lecturer in Anthropology with Reference to Japan at SOAS. He is interested in the intersection of material culture and medical anthropology, with a focus on how medical and social categories are formed around practices of disposal.

He is the co-editor of ‘The Work of Gender: Service, Performance and Fantasy in Contemporary Japan’ and has written about animism, dolls, robots and Marie Kondō.

Verity Postlethwaite is a JRC Research Associate at SOAS as well as Associate for a small consultancy business Counsel Ltd. Her main interests focus on how sport events and other cultural entities have been used in local, national, and international contexts to influence the governing of society, in particular around notions of inclusivity.

She engages in activities connected to an established international network of governing actors across a variety of organisations, including national sports organisations, local governments and advocacy groups. Her recent research focuses on important aspects of gender, sustainability, and disability.

Emily Barrass Chapman received her PhD in History from SOAS. She is a JRC Research Associate, a full-time parent, a writer and historian who specializes in the family in Japan after 1945. She is particularly interested in the stories we tell ourselves about family that gather in arenas both large and small: from the personal histories of family photo albums, to government policies and the glossy daydreams of adverts.

When she is not wiping surfaces both human and material, she is working on a novel based in 1950s Tokyo.


Time Description
5:00pm Audience arrive
5:10pm Welcome and opening remarks
5:15pm Reflecting on the JRC Sport Symposia Series 2017-2023
5:30pm Launch of publication: “Handbook of Sport and Japan”
5:40pm Guest Lecture and Q&A with Dr Robin Kietlinkski
“A Century of Breakthroughs: Japanese Sportswomen from the 1920s-2020s”
6:30pm Event by the Embassy of Japan in the UK
Remarks and celebration

Sponsored by the Toshiba International Foundation

Toshiba International Foundation

We are extremely grateful to the Toshiba International Foundation for their generous support of both the Symposia Series and the research contributing to the Handbook over the past six years.


SOAS Japan Research Centre