Foucauldian theory and the making of the Japanese sporting body

Miller, Aaron L. GND

International sporting competitions, such as the upcoming 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, adhere to a nationalistic and triumphalist paradigm in which strength, victories, and medals are judged more important than anything else. Within this paradigm, what matters most is which sporting body can subdue another. National sporting consciousnesses often reflect this paradigm, and the case of Japan offers no exception. How do international power relations within such paradigms shape sporting bodies, national sports consciousnesses, and our knowledge of them? To answer this question, this paper applies the theory of Michel Foucault to a historical study of Japanese sports. By applying Foucault’s theory of power, especially his ideas of “bio-power” and the “productive” nature of “power relations,” we can better interpret historical shifts in the way Japanese have perceived their sporting bodies over time, especially the view that the Japanese sporting bodies are unique but inferior when compared with non-Japanese sporting bodies. International power relations and perceptions of cultural inferiority weigh heavy on Japanese sporting bodies. They produce certain behaviors, such as the action of toeing the line for one’s team, especially when that team is the nation, and certain discourses, such as the narrative that Japanese sporting bodies must train together to best play together.