The times they were a-changing

by Sumiko Oshima

The 1960s and ’70s were not only the decades of heroes. A look back on news and incidents shows us how rapidly society was changing. Here are some examples.

1961: “Sudara-bushi (Sudara Song),” one of the year’s biggest hits, by comedian Hitoshi Ueki, depicted an easygoing salaryman who cannot stop barhopping after work and ends up sleeping on the platform. The song heralded the era of “irresponsible” workers. The year’s popular words included reja (leisure) and puraibashi (privacy).

1962: Ken’ichi Horie reached San Francisco in his yacht Mermaid in August, 93 days after leaving the city of Nishinomiya. The first Japanese erotic movie, “Nikutai-no Shijo (Meat Market),” premiered in March.

1963: The first Japanese TV animation, “Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy),” started broadcasting on Fuji TV. The year’s popular words and phrases included hen-na gaijin (strange foreigner) and kagikko (latchkey child), as increasing numbers of working mothers gave their children a key for coming home after school. San-chan nogyo (three-chan agriculture) depicted the declining agricultural population, which forced farm families to enlist the help of jii-chan (grandfather), baa-chan (grandmother) and kaa-chan (mother).

1964: The shinkansen began operations between Tokyo and Osaka. The XVIII Olympiad, the first in Asia, was held in Tokyo. The Japanese team, “Toyo no majo (Witches of the East),” won the first Olympic women’s volleyball tournament.

1965: The citizens’ group Behei-ren held its first demonstration, protesting the war in Vietnam.

1966: Kenji Kimihara won the 70th Boston Marathon. Pro wrestler Giant Baba became the first Japanese to win a world title.

1967: Ryokichi Minobe, a candidate backed by the Social Democratic Party and the Japanese Communist Party, won the Tokyo gubernatorial election in April. Stand-up noodle shops appeared on street corners.

1968: Shintaro Ishihara and Yukio Aoshima won seats in the Upper House election. A cash-transport vehicle carrying 300 million yen was robbed by a man posing as a motorcycle policeman in the city of Fuchu, western Tokyo. Bon Curry, the first boil-in-a-bag food, went on sale. The year’s popular words and phrases, gebaruto (violence), from the German word Gewalt and nonsecto (nonsectarian), reflected an upsurge of student activity.

1969: Riot police stormed a lecture hall of the University of Tokyo; 631 students were arrested. Popular TV commercials included “Kuriipu o irenai kohi nante (Coffee without Creap is nothing)” and “Ou, moretsu! (Oh, wow!)” by Maruzen Oil Co. which featured model Rosa Ogawa trying to stop her skirt blowing up as a car speeds by. Moretsu was used in many settings, such as moretsu shain (hardworking employees) and “Moretsu Ataro,” an animation featuring a child named Ataro.

1970: A JAL airplane was hijacked by students of Sekigunha, the Red Army Faction, who defected to North Korea. The women’s lifestyle magazine AnAn made its first appearance. Kentucky Fried Chicken opened its first branch at the Osaka Expo. The year’s popular words and phrases included woman ribu (women’s lib).

1971: The number of color televisions registered with NHK reached 10 million. Michiko Imai became the first woman to climb the “great three” peaks of the Eiger, Matterhorn and Grandes Jorasse.

1972: Hawaiian-born sumo wrestler Takamiyama (now Azumazeki Oyakata) became the first foreigner to win a grand sumo tournament.

1973: Popular words and phrases include sekiyu shokku (oil shock) and sho ene (energy-saving). Rumors of market shortages led to a buying frenzy of toilet paper. Reona Esaki was awarded the Nobel Prize for physics.

1975: A TV commercial by House Food Industrial Co. was suspended due to criticism from feminist groups. In the commercial, a wife says “I am a person who cooks,” as she serves curry to her husband, who responds, “I am a person who eats.”

1977: Pampers — the first paper diaper — went on sale. An American lecturer at Osaka University refused to allow a female student wearing jeans to attend his class. Hisako Higuchi became the first Japanese to win the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Championship in the United States.

1978: The first word processor was launched by Toshiba Corp. Tokyo residents started an antismoking group.

1979: Sony Corp. launched the Walkman. The year’s popular words and phrases included usagi-goya (rabbit hutch), a foreign journalist’s description of Japanese living conditions.