Jane Khanizadeh joined the Japan Center at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität in Munich as a PhD student in 2019. She researches discourses of national identity that occur during major sporting events. Based on Michel Billig’s theory of Banal Nationalism (1995), her research aims to identify and explain the dynamics of national identity in Japan. Factors that support the maintenance of established identities and that influence the reform of national identity within the discourse are examined.
During major sporting events, domestic media attention can stimulate debates about self-perceptions and perceptions of national identity, contributing to nation branding, as Japan experienced during the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. More than half a century later, Tokyo would host the Olympic Games again in 2021. The 2019 Rugby World Cup served as a dress rehearsal for nation branding and soft power acquisition. Consciously or not, the Rugby World Cup challenged the longstanding myth of Japan’s ethnic homogeneity. Immigration is on the rise, one in ten Japanese marriages are multi-ethnic, and athletes from different ethnic backgrounds represent Japan in international sports competitions, such as the famous tennis player Naomi Osaka. Yet the myth of homogeneity persists in some parts of society.