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Japan's 1940 World's Fair


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#1 Marc Williams

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 09:26 AM

http://avery.morrow....rlds-fair-2600/

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#2 Larry L

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 07:04 PM

Wow - I never knew about that! But world war was the priority. Too bad humans don't hold stuff like worlds fairs and space exploration and medical research as a priority over killing other tribes of humans - but then they wouldn't be human would they? They'd be something better. "Peace Through Understanding." Yeah right. They talk a good game but that's about it.

#3 Jim

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 08:21 PM

I had never heard of this proposal before this posting. It is very interesting. I believe Rome had planned for an exposition for 1942 and some construction had already begun. What I don't get is how either Japan or Italy could have seriously considered hosting an exposition at the same time they were pumping tons of money into their military with full knowledge of what they planned to do. Neither nation was on friendly terms with most of the world by 1940. Italy was under sanctions (although they were ineffective) by the League of Nations following their invasion of Ethiopia (where the Italians used poison gas to subdue the Ethiopians) and Japan was viewed with great suspicion following their invasion of Manchuria in 1931. By 1939, World War Two had begun and both nations were seriously preoccupied with conquest.

#4 Bill Cotter

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 09:16 PM

Perhaps it was a subterfuge to try to mask their real intentions.

#5 Jim

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 09:26 PM

Could be. Both nations had pavilions in NYC in 1939-40. I am not sure if they had exhibits in SF in 1940.

#6 Randy Treadway

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Posted 10 February 2012 - 10:15 PM

I had never heard of this proposal before this posting. It is very interesting. I believe Rome had planned for an exposition for 1942 and some construction had already begun. What I don't get is how either Japan or Italy could have seriously considered hosting an exposition at the same time they were pumping tons of money into their military with full knowledge of what they planned to do. Neither nation was on friendly terms with most of the world by 1940. Italy was under sanctions (although they were ineffective) by the League of Nations following their invasion of Ethiopia (where the Italians used poison gas to subdue the Ethiopians) and Japan was viewed with great suspicion following their invasion of Manchuria in 1931. By 1939, World War Two had begun and both nations were seriously preoccupied with conquest.


Morris Low has an interesting explanation in his book Japan on Display: Photography and the Emperor:
The Olympics and Expo were major international events which, if held in 1940, would have served to legitimate the Japanese empire. Almost a quarter of a century later, the Olympics served a different purpose- an opportunity to welcome Japan back to the family of nations and to celebrate its postwar reconstruction and economic growth. Both the prewar and postwar plans to hold the Olympics are evidence of the syncretism of Japanese culture in which a type of code-switching occurs. Representations of Japanese identity can be fluid, and alternate between one rooted in Japanese (and Asian) traditions and one more closely linked with the West. Japan, it was felt, was uniquely placed to take leadership in Asia as it brought together East and West. Indeed, Japan could potentially 'lead the world to a higher level of cultural synthesis that surpassed Western modernism itself'.

Might that also explain why so many Olympics and Expos in the last 25 years have been held in Asia? It's a chance to present the host country on the world stage as not only 'legitimate', but with subtle implications that it might even be 'superior'.

#7 Jim

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Posted 11 February 2012 - 11:18 AM

I believe that a part of the desire to host an Olympic Games has always been to bring some sort of "legitimacy" to the host country. That legitimacy might be nationalistic, economic, political etc. The games have also been a vehicle for host cities to present themselves as world players. I remember watching the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games on ABC as a kid and understood, even then, how important that event was to modern Japan trying to reintroduce itself to the world as the peaceful world partner they have become.

It is interesting to note that both the 1936 winter and summer games had been awarded to Germany prior to the rise of the Nazis. After coming to power, the Nazis did not initially see the value of hosting either event--only the cost. It quickly became apparent that the games held significant propaganda value and the result was the infamous Nazi Olympics in Berlin in August of 1936. In an astounding issue later that year, even National Geographic magazine fell victim to the Nazi propaganda machine as they cast a very positive spotlight on the games, a renewed Germany and the success of Nazi leadership. The Nazis made certain that all anti-semitic signs were removed during the games and they actually allowed some Jewish competitors on Germany's team. The world, or at least most of it, failed to challenge the reality of what was happening in Germany in 1936. Even the winter games in Garmisch-Partenkirchen had a pro-Nazi flavor and were designed to shed a positive light on Germany superiority. There is an excellent website (The Third Reich in Ruins) which has some incredible "then and now" photographs of both 1936 Olympic sites. It is interesting to note that the torch relay from Greece was first used during the two 1936 games. The summer games were the first to utilize the opening and closing ceremonies as we know them today. Even the medal ceremonies, as we know them today, were introduced in 1936. Those Nazis certainly understood the concept of pageantry, image and perception.

The 1972 summer Olympic games in Munich were designed to highlight Germany's renewal as a democratic nation and a positive member of global society (West Germany at the time). We all know of the tragic legacy of those games which were not the fault of the Germans, of course. But those games were ruined by the murder of those innocent Israeli athletes. I wonder what role that legacy played in the IOC's decision to not award the winter games to Munich/Garmisch-Partenkirchen in their most recent voting.

It seems that so many summer games have had negative political overtones. Montreal in 1976: virtually every African nation pulled out just hours before competition began over a protest (not even Olympic related) about an all white South African rugby team. Mexico City in 1968: The first Latin American games were damaged by the massive student riots which left hundreds dead on the eve of the opening ceremony in Mexico City. Even today, the image of African American athletes and their black power salute is a defining political image of those games. Those young men were stipped of their medals. Moscow in 1980: The Soviet Union's effort at highlighting itself was damaged by the boycott of western nations following their invasion of Afghanistan. LA in 1984: These games were marred by the Soviet Bloc boycott in retaliation for what the west had done to their 1980 games. Bejing in 2008 was China's long sought effort to highlight its arrival as a legitimate world power. Chinese leadership viewed the games as a powerful public relations vehicle but even before the games opened there was massive world protest against Chinese human rights violations during the torch relay.

Whatever Japan hoped to do in 1940, their plan was in keeping with how other nations viewed such international events--a vehicle for winning some form of legitimacy.

#8 wf256

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 04:15 AM

Findling and Palle (Encyclopedia of Worl's Fairs and Expositions) entry about Tokyo 1940 doesn't add anything much to what others have already posted, except for this: "Tickets sold for the 1940 exposition were honored at the Osaka 1970 fair"

#9 expoboy

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 10:48 AM

Somewhere I have a Xerox copy of the proposed exhibition grounds. I need to locate, scan and post.

#10 Jim

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Posted 12 February 2012 - 10:52 AM

With all of the tumult and destruction Japan faced during WW2, it really is remarkable that any 1940 tickets survived. Also, I have to wonder how many 1940 tickets were sold and who would buy a ticket to something that did not yet exist--that was only on paper? That seems really strange to me.

Having said this, I do recall (as a history teacher I remember this stuff) that during the Florida Land Boom of 1925, hundreds of speculators purchased lots on a series of islands near St. Augustine. Trouble is the islands had not yet been built. Then, of course, the whole real estate boom collapsed and Florida was creamed by two hurricanes and those speculators along with thousands of others were wiped out. The islands were never built.

So people will pay money for something that does not exist.




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