Celebrating the legacy of the Tokyo 1964 Olympics

1964 Tokyo Olympics official poster, courtesy of Prince Chichibu Memorial Sports Museum

Tokyo 1964: Designing Tomorrow brings together an array of artefacts from the 1964 Games, as a way of exploring their creative and technological legacy, as well as the event’s impact on ideas around Olympics branding.

Many of these have never been on show in the UK, and offer a chance for visitors to get up close to original posters and uniforms, as well as intricate models of Olympic venues.

The 1964 Games were a landmark event for Japan, showcasing the country’s brand new bullet trains and elevated super highways to the world, and offering a chance to share a new angle on Japanese creativity and innovation.

1964 Tokyo Olympics official poster. Courtesy of Prince Chichibu Memorial Sports Museum1964 Tokyo Games Art Exhibition Poster (Photo Exhibition), designed by Hara HiromuPictograms, photographed byJérémie Souteyrat

An impressive list of Japanese creatives contributed work to the event, including graphic designer Kamekura Yūsaku, who produced the Modernist-style posters that marked the first time photography was used to promote the Games, and architects Tange Kenzō and Ashihara Nobuyoshi, who were responsible for the Yoyogi National Gymnasium and the Komazawa Olympic Gymnasium respectively.

Tokyo 1964 also introduced a pioneering new use of pictograms – on display at the show – which have become a familiar sight at Olympic events ever since. Coming four years before the much-admired Mexico 1968 identity designed by Lance Wyman, the Tokyo event was also hugely influential in shaping the idea of Olympic branding.

Suitcase model of National Indoor Gymnasium Main Venue and Annex Facilities (Edo-Tokyo Museum, 2014)1964 Tokyo Olympics official poster. Courtesy of Prince Chichibu Memorial Sports MuseumFurisode kimono with obi for use at medal awards ceremony. Courtesy of Prince Chichibu Memorial Sports Museum

As Japan house London’s director of programming Simon Wright explains it, the event “was revolutionary in creating a unified language by which to communicate the Games. It became the blueprint for subsequent major international sporting events.

“It illustrates Japan’s powerful emergence on the world stage after the dark years of the Second World War and how this Japanese design vision has influenced, and still influences, so much of what is now.”

1964 Tokyo Olympics official poster. Courtesy of Prince Chichibu Memorial Sports Museum

Tokyo 1964: Designing Tomorrow is on display at Japan House London until 7 November; japanhouselondon.uk


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