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Sapporo’s evolution through 1972 Olympics still visible

The Yomiuri Shimbun

Fantastic nighttime scenery and illuminations at Odori Park can be seen from the Sapporo TV Tower in Chuo Ward, Sapporo. Okurayama Jump Stadium is in the upper-left corner.

By Hiroshi Nishida / Yomiuri Shimbun Senior WriterPoet and medical scientist Bunichiro Kawamura (1917-2004), who lived in Sapporo, was asked by NHK to write the lyrics to a song for the 1972 Sapporo Winter Olympics.

NHK reportedly asked Kawamura to write a song that “is not ceremonial, but can be sung while playing the guitar.” It also needed to be sung in chorus by a large number of people, and be something that would be sung for many years afterward.

According to his wife, Nobuko, now 74: “Kawamura was a poet, but he wasn’t used to writing lyrics, so he apparently had a hard time. The NHK producer was strict, and my husband said he rewrote the lyrics many times.”

In contrast, the music for the song was created without much difficulty. At the broadcaster’s request, popular composer Kunihiko Murai, now 72, visited the Sapporo branch of NHK. At the studio, Murai was provided with a piano and the lyrics.

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    A family takes a photo at Okurayama Jump Stadium.

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“A melody soon came to me; I felt like the song’s hook led me on: ‘We call you, with overflowing dreams.’ I began writing around noon, and finished before dinner,” Murai recalled. He was busy, so he returned to Tokyo without meeting Kawamura. Murai regrets not seeing Kawamura before he died.

The song was sung by Japanese folk duo Toi et Moi, and aired on NHK’s Minna no Uta (Songs for everyone) program from February to March 1971. The record was a big hit, and the song continues to be loved by many people.

Toi et Moi member Sumio Akutagawa, 69, said: “The song uses edgy words, such as ‘Shadows fly away, like a knife,’ which are different from the lyrics I’d known before. I really felt the lyrics were the work of a poet.”

Toi et Moi went to Sapporo many times to promote the Sapporo Olympics from 1971 to 1972, with the song a feature of their visits. They waved their hands from an advertising van while traversing the city as the song played from a speaker.

The pair were surprised by the city’s changing scenery every time they visited. New buildings and roads were constructed, and new subway lines and underground shopping malls opened. Akutagawa felt the “city is being constructed,” as written in the song.

Amazing progress

The steep approach slope looks as if it descends into a bottomless pit. Over the slope, one can see the Sapporo cityscape. I felt weak in the knees as I stood on the observation deck, from where I could see Okurayama Jump Stadium. Ski jumpers probably felt like they were leaping out toward the city.

From the observation deck, visitors can also see Miyanomori Jump Stadium, where Japanese jumpers swept the podium in the 70-meter ski jumping event, with Yukio Kasaya taking the gold.

The Sapporo Olympic Museum at Okurayama Jump Stadium re-creates the atmosphere of the Sapporo Olympics and overviews the history of the Olympic Games. The museum also exhibits sports equipment used by Olympic athletes and other items. Families can virtually experience various winter sports at one exhibit, which includes a device where users can simulate a ski jump on a large screen.

“We can’t display everything at once because we have a huge amount of material related to the Sapporo Olympics, including a podium used at the event, attire worn by athletes and other related goods. We want to display them through special exhibitions and other events,” a museum official said.

Many facilities were constructed in central Sapporo in tandem with the Olympics, such as subway lines and underground roads. The Olympic flame cauldron, which served as the relaying point for the Olympic flame taken from Athens, is in front of Sapporo city office.

From the 90-meter-tall Sapporo TV Tower observation deck at Odori Park, visitors can view the city’s urban sprawl with streets neatly laid out in a grid. The Olympics played a major role in the development of Sapporo.

Today the city is moving toward a bid for the 2026 Olympics. As this would be Sapporo’s second Olympics, it plans on refurbishing urban infrastructure developed around the time of the 1972 Games and making the city barrier-free. I wonder how the city will change if it hosts the Games again.

■Access

A flight from Haneda Airport to New Chitose Airport takes 90 to 100 minutes. From there, take the Rapid Airport train for 40 minutes to Sapporo Station.

Information: Sapporo’s Tourism and MICE Promotion Department: (011) 211-2376.Speech

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