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Marathon JapanDistance Racing and Civic Culture$
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Thomas R. H. Havens

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780824841010

Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online: November 2016

DOI: 10.21313/hawaii/9780824841010.001.0001

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Distance Running as a Commodity

Distance Running as a Commodity

(p.71) 4 Distance Running as a Commodity
Marathon Japan

Thomas R. H. Havens

University of Hawai'i Press

Both marathon and ekiden racing were greatly commercialized during the 1970s and 1980s, decades of mature affluence in Japan. Full live TV broadcasts of the two-day New Year’s Hakone Ekiden turned this university competition into a media spectacle with viewership rates surpassing 30 percent. The world’s first IAAF-sanctioned marathon for women took place starting in 1979 at Tokyo, followed by equally prestigious women’s races at Osaka in 1982 and Nagoya in 1984. The media conglomerates Asahi, Mainichi, Fuji/Sankei, and Yomiuri competed vigorously to sponsor marathons and ekidens for both genders. Japanese sports officials dropped the distinction between amateur and professional in 1986, a decade after other countries. The Sō twins and Seko Toshihiko were the most celebrated male runners of the 1970s---1980s, while the Japanese citizen Michiko Suwa Gorman became the only woman ever to win both the Boston and New York City marathons twice.

Keywords:   Japan, marathon, Hakone Ekiden, Asahi, Mainichim, Yomiuri, Fuji/Sankei, commercialization, media, women’s racing, Sō twins, Seko Toshihiko, Michiko Suwa Gorman

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