In 1964, the Japanese women’s volleyball team won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo. This victory was the pinnacle of the sensational achievements of the workers' team at the Nichibo Kaizuka textile factory in Osaka. They had stunned the home favourites at the 1962 Women's Volleyball World Championship in Russia, winning the title for Japan for the first time, then went on to triumph two years' later at the Tokyo Olympics, when the final is still one of the highest rated broadcasts in Japanese television history.
The “Witches of the Orient” (Tōyō no Majo) was the nickname given by the mass media to this legendary team of women, the best female volleyball team in the world, with an uninterrupted run to 258 victories up until 1966. They were a source of inspiration not only for fans and players but also for several manga and anime series, thus becoming part of the Japanese popular culture both at home and abroad.
In collaboration with Japan House London, the Japan Society are delighted to invite you to an online discussion on Wednesday 21 July with filmmaker Julien Faraut, director of the most recent documentary on the Japanese women’s team. Combining archival footage, anime clips and newly-shot interviews with the players themselves, Julien’s The Witches of the Orient captures the achievements and significance of this group of women in postwar Japan connecting sports, cinema and history. Julien will be joined in conversation by Dr Helen Macnaughtan (SOAS), expert on the history of the volleyball team and sports in Japan.
The organisers of this event recommend watching the film in advance. Courtesy of Japan House London, the first 25 Japan Society members registering for this event can watch the film for free through a special online screening from 16 July. Other attendees can also watch the film online at a 25% discounted price of £7.49 (usually £9.99). Details will be provided via email before the event and you will be able to use or purchase a 48-hour virtual ticket. The screening room will also be available after the event for a limited time. The film is available for purchase and streaming within the UK and Ireland.Panelists:
Julien Faraut is a documentary filmmaker from France. After studying history, he has worked for the Institut National du Sport in Paris, where he supervises a collection of 16mm films. Using these collections, Faraut makes his own visual essays, combining sport history and documentary art. In 2018 he made In the Realm of the Perfection about American tennis icon John McEnroe. The Witches of the Orient (2021) is his most recent documentary.
Helen Macnaughtan is Chair of the Japan Research Centre and Senior Lecturer in International Business & Management (Japan) at SOAS University of London. Her research interests focus on a range of topics relating to gender, employment and sport in Japan. She has previously published on the history of women’s volleyball in Japan and is currently researching the history of rugby in postwar Japan with a focus on the corporate history of the game.
If you have any questions, please call the Japan Society office on 020 3075 1996 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.