Japan's long and distinguished contribution to the Olympic Movement dates back to the appointment of Professor Jigoro Kano as a member of the IOC at the personal invitation of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, President of the IOC at the time. Professor Kano's appointment to the IOC officially took place on the 27th of May, 1909, at a time in his life when he had already recorded a number of stellar achievements in close parallel to the Olympic Movement.
Jigoro Kano is famed for incorporating practical ideas into the traditional martial art of jujitsu, and restructuring that discipline into what is now famous as "Judo."
His goal was to instill in his students an empirical/methodical pragmatism and a sense of justice, fairness and modesty, while inspiring them to use their experiences obtained through the practice of Judo in order to contribute to the society at large. Kano developed and promoted his philosophy for living reflected in the combined notions of "Seiryoku-Zenyo," (the use of energy to maximum efficiency), and "Jita-Kyoei," (an attention to the mutual prosperity for oneself and others).
Kano opened a door to women in 1893 after recognizing the benefits that sport brings in cultivating one's body, mind and skills and a women's division was formally launched at his Kodokan Training Institute in 1926.
Kano believed that positive social change could be achieved by imbuing large numbers of people with the precepts, Seiryoku-Zenyo and Jita-Kyoei, and encouraging them to become socially active. This was also reflected in Courbertin's notion of Olympism.
As the Principal of Tokyo Higher Normal School (present day University of Tsukuba), Jigoro Kano launched the Physical Education Department in 1915. At this first teacher training university, the previous Gymnastics course was extended from three to four years, and physical education became a specialised and established subject within the educational framework. Physical educators were trained with specialist knowledge; extracurricular activities in schools flourished nationwide and inter-school competitions were also promoted.
School-based sports are now open to all pupils and students are offered wider opportunities through sport.
Kano stressed the importance of swimming and long distance running, as he found that they are the sports most suited to all people, regardless of gender, age or dexterity. Both sports became popular across Japan and with the establishment of the Japan Amateur Athletic Association in 1911, various other kinds of sports were also introduced.
Nowadays the sports enjoyed most across all generations are jogging and swimming and public sporting facilities are well maintained and widely available. Along with Judo, swimming and marathon are some of the sports in which Japan is strongest. The very fact that the Japanese people remain so fond of these athletic challenges over the years is ample testimony to the legacy of Kano.
During the 'modernising' era of Japan, Kano was also one of the first Japanese people to accept students from other countries and actively supported an international exchange programme through sport. From 1896 to 1909, for example, he arranged to host a total of around 8,000 students from China, an extremely large number of foreign students for that time. In addition to studying Japanese, the humanities and natural sciences, these international students were also encouraged to participate in judo, long-distance running, tennis, football and many other sports.
During their study in Japan, a football team was formed and inter-school competitions were organised in Tokyo. The Japanese and international students enjoyed the same playing field and supported each other in their development through sport.
"Mutual welfare and benefit" was one of the kano's philosophies that is still strongly reflected in international exchange programmes through sport that are actively organised across municipalities in Japan.
Even after his appointment to the IOC, Jigoro Kano actively promoted physical education and sport for human development and encouraged international exchanges through sport.
To enrich the Olympic Movement, Kano intended to integrate the Japanese martial arts into Olympism, and wished for Japan to host the Olympic Games in 1940.
Kano's firmly believed that, with the East and West integrated, the Olympic Movement could be a universal concept. In an article written before his death, Coubertin also showed his hope that new Olympic ideals would be born from an interaction with Asian culture.
For the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, Olympic education was introduced to the national school curriculum, a leading example for the rest the world. For the 1998 Nagao Winter Games, the "One School One Country" programme was established and pupils from each school learned about and supported each country. This programme has since been adopted during subsequent Games.
Kano's 100 year legacy in education through sport continues to flourish with the newly launched Olympic Reader, an Olympic text book in 2009. Hundreds of schools now share and promote the values of Olympism to young people.
In the 100 years since Jigoro Kano's initiative in promoting the values of sport in Japan and across the world, Japan has been strongly committed to the development of the Olympic Movement. Into the 21st century and beyond, Japanese remain devoted to the promotion of Olympic values and Kano's philosophy will be kept alive with a much enhanced Olympic Education curriculum, Anti-Doping programmes, and national and global sporting outreach activities.
The Jigoro Kano Memorial International Sport Institute is committed to the further development of sport as well as to world peace and societal development through sport.