1964 – Tokyo Olympic Architecture

Created in Collaboration with Pen Magazine International

Photographs and words by Cody Ellingham

1964 will forever be incomplete.

Amongst the modern forms of the 1964 Tokyo Olympics featured here there is one unforgivable omission, one structure that defined New Japan for a generation who watched torch bearer Yoshinori Sakai bring the flame of Olympia to Tokyo. That structure was the National Stadium.

Built in 1958, and designed by Mitsuo Katayama, it was the location for both the opening and closing ceremony to the Games. It was demolished in 2015 and passed into the ether of time.

Of those that remain, Yoyogi National Gymnasium (Kenzo Tange), Komazawa Olympic Park (Yoshinobu Ashihara, Murata Masachika Architects), and Nippon Budokan (Mamoru Yamada), their concrete appears to be permanent, but they too are as transient as the sand and water which forms them.

The structures of 1964 emerge from the silence of a blue twilit sky, simultaneously the brilliant light of first dawn and the profound glory of the setting sun. I followed in the footsteps of filmmaker Kon Ichikawa whose 1965 documentary Tokyo Olympiad inspired me to see these structures as they were, photographing them as they are: arcs and lines of modernity in the final summer of the Heisei era.

The 1964 Tokyo Olympics was only a moment in time, but that bright flash of summer will be forever remembered by those who were there. For the rest of us, only weary concrete remains.









Cody Ellingham