Two weeks ago, this page introduced 読書の秋 (dokusho no aki, the autumn of reading), and this season is also known as 芸術の秋 (geijutsu no aki, the autumn of art) in part because this is when the landscapes turn brilliant shades of red.

However, Japan is now also in the throes of スポーツの秋 (supōtsu no aki, the autumn of sports). Or at least it would be, if the コロナ禍 (korona-ka, coronavirus crisis) hadn’t hit.

Fall’s connection to sports started with the Tokyo Olympics of 1964, which ran from Oct. 10 to 24. Those オリンピック (orinpikku, Olympics) also inspired the tradition of 体育祭 (taiikusai, sports festivals) that take place every fall at schools across the country. Add to that the cooler weather, and it’s no wonder that people might try to work out a little more.

The オリンピック were also a bit of a linguistic achievement, as so many new terms began to take hold in Japanese conversation. That was the year スポーツマンシップ (supōtsumanshippu, sportsmanship) and フェアプレイ (fea purei, fair play) were pushed and promoted, but the gold for the most popular Japanese word at the time likely would have gone to 頑張れ (ganbare, do your best).

Mostly, you would have heard shouts of

“頑張れ” echoing through the stands at the 国立競技場 (kokuritsu kyōgijō, Japan National Stadium). However, 頑張れ, the imperative form of the verb 頑張る (ganbaru, to do one’s best), is by no means recent. It really spread during 1964, though. Japan had recovered greatly from World War II and all the hard work was starting to bear fruit. I can remember my grandfather saying, 「選手のみんなが頑張っているんだからわたしも頑張る」 (“Senshu no minna ga ganbatte-iru-n dakara watashi mo ganbaru,” “All of the athletes are doing their best, so I’m also going to do my best”). For him and many others, the 1964 Olympics remained the gold standard in terms of motivation and giving one’s all.

Much to my grandfather’s chagrin, I was a child who hated being told to “頑張れ.” Over the years, though, I have built up some レジリエンス (rejiriensu, resilience) and, given the kind of year 2020 has been, I’m glad I have. The katakana word “レジリエンス” has been popping up in the news a fair bit this year, 今の時代こそレジリエンスが求められている (ima no jidai koso rejiriensu ga motomerarete-iru, resilience is required in the current era).

Currently, there’s a debate going on as to オリンピックを開催するかどうか (orinpikku o kaisai suru ka dō ka, whether or not to hold the Olympics). But I actually think holding the Olympics may be more necessary than ever. The 1964 Summer Games were a way to show the world that the Japanese are 打たれ強い (utare-zuyoi, people who can take a hit and bounce back), not 打たれ弱い (utare-yowai, wimps). We had the レジリエンス to come back after the war, and I think we can tap that same レジリエンス to emerge from the pandemic as well.

In order to do that, we should all channel our inner 頑張り屋さん (ganbariya-san, a person who always tries to do their best), as well as the other qualities that were a part of the spirit of ’64: 犠牲 (gisei, sacrifice), 献身 (kenshin, devotion/dedication) and 練習 (renshū, training). Think of it, the entire ステイホーム (sutei hōmu, stay home) effort is all about 犠牲 and 献身, while 練習 could refer to the many people who’ve taken to their own forms of jogging, yoga and weightlifting.

The one term that’s missing there is 鍛錬 (tanren, discipline and training). That word is made up of the same kanji that are used in the verbs 鍛える (kitaeru, to forge/drill) and 錬る (neru, to temper steel), but 鍛錬 has more spiritual and meditative connotations. In fact, 鍛錬はアスリートの精神の中核をなすと言われている (tanren wa asurīto no seishinno chūkaku o nasu to iwarete-iru, it’s said that tanren makes up the core of an athlete’s spirit).

鍛錬 and レジリエンス will help us get through the コロナ禍, as will the オリンピック. We need something to look forward to, we need people to cheer for … and I’m ready to hit the gym — 頑張ります (ganbarimasu, I’ll do my best)!

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