SOAS University of London

Japan Research Centre

“Marriage? I’m too busy for that…”: Japan's Volleyball Women of 1968 and Overcoming Gender Norms

PD Dr Christian Tagsold (Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf, Germany)

Date: 13 November 2019Time: 5:00 PM

Finishes: 13 November 2019Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: RG01

Type of Event: Seminar


In 1968 the Japanese women’s team won the silver medal in volleyball at the Mexico Olympics. This outcome, however, was largely seen as a disappointment since their forerunners had won the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964. The team of 1968 shared some key characteristics with its forerunners: most of the athletes belonged to the same company team, and most of the players resigned after the tournament, even though none of them was older than 25, because gender norms at that time dictated marriage at this age.

However, times were about to change—not least because of the student movement, which was as fierce in Japan as it was in the West. As a consequence, some of the players pursued different life paths after Mexico, proving that they were able to overcome restrictions more easily than their older sisters of 1964. Furthermore, their coach Yamada Shigeo strongly lobbied against gender stereotypes, since they made it difficult for Japanese women’s volleyball to form powerful teams.

The 1968 team thus might not have won the ultimate title, but their story offers very fertile ground for an appraisal of changing gender regimes in East Asian sport.

Speaker Biography

Christian Tagsold has a Heisenberg Position at the Department of Modern Japanese Studies, Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf. In his phd he analyzed the Tokyo Olympics in 1964 and their role for re-establishing national identity in Japan after World War II. The thesis was awarded a special price at the 2. Academic Contest of the German National Olympic Committee.

Tagsold has also broad experience in organizing sports mega-events. He was a member of the Local Organizing Committee for the FIFA Confed Cup 2005, the FIFA World Cup 2006, the FIFA Women’s World Cup 2011 and other international tournaments as a Team Liaison Officer for Japanese national teams. At the UEFA U17 European Championship 2009 he acted as Team Liaison Officer for the English national team.

Other research interest include the aging society in Japan and Japanese gardens in the West. His latest book Spaces in Translation: Japanese Gardens and the West appeared in 2017 with the University of Pennsylvania Press. The Vernacular Architecture Forum awared it the Abbott Lowell Cummings Prize in 2019.


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