Historical Social Research

Akira Ohira: The Sociological Analysis of Ekiden, Japan’s Long-Distance Relay Road Race. [Abstract]

This paper aims to refer to the long-distance relay road race known as ekiden, which is a Japanese invention in the history of modern sports, from a wider sociological perspective. This unique sport, which has seldom been practiced in countries other than Japan, has been widely enjoyed and supported by a large number of Japanese people regardless of sex as a competitive team sport among high-school, university, and even company teams. By looking back on the developing history of this sport, I would like to shed light on the process of state formation in modern Japan as well as on a close relationship between nationalism and morality, an incentive to form the spirit of the nation, by using Norbert Elias’s figurational theory. As a conclusion, I would also like to refer to the possibility of other nations’ finding an interest in ekiden not only as an international competitive sport but also as a peaceful collective sporting event for the masses in the future. For that purpose, two examples are briefly introduced here; one is the 2018 Adecco Brussels Ekiden and the other the Koko Guam Road Race.

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