The Yoyogi National Gymnasium has an indefinable shape. From above, in the aerial photos, it looks like a monstrous trilobite that has come to life, but at the foot of the street everything looks playful and wavy, with a hanging ceiling that lovingly falls over the building, as if it is being wrapped. The handball players, who play their games here, will not have time to entertain themselves with all these architectural subtleties, although some may sense that they are treading on a solemn, almost mythical territory; a territory that raises in the Japanese sighs of pride and forgotten dreams of greatness. Yoyogi Park is one of the hearts of Tokyo. People take advantage of Sundays to go for a walk, but also to dance, ride a bike or play sports. Not far away is the Meiji Shrine, dedicated to Emperor Mutsuhito, who in 1868 decided to open the doors of Japan to foreign visitors and end the ancient isolation of the archipelago. The temple is hidden in a majestic forest with 120,000 trees of 365 different species, donated by the citizens. This peaceful territory was desecrated after the Second World War, when, in a city destroyed by bombing and with sinking morale, the American occupation troops set up their barracks in Yoyogi Park. Tokyo had been chosen to host the 1940 Olympics, but by that time Hitler had already invaded Poland and the Japanese were sticking with the Chinese. The hoop flag, with its colorful message of optimism and peace, had been left in a closet. It was recovered and redeployed in 1964. Japanese society, battered, impoverished, and humiliated by the world war, gritted its teeth, forgot its imperial ramblings, and set out to build an ultra-modern society. The Olympic Games sanctioned this aspiration and the Yoyogi National Gymnasium, the work of the architect Kenzo Tange (1913-2005), became the central emblem of the project. The Olympic village was installed in Yoyogi Park itself and the pavilion, which still raises murmurs of astonishment among visitors today, hosted the swimming, jumping and basketball events. Renaissance and tragedy In addition to the architectural mark, still visible in many parts of Tokyo, the Olympic Games of ’64 left two sporting moments of deep symbolic charge, which somehow exemplify the sometimes grandiose and sometimes tragic character of the Japanese people. The athlete in charge of lighting the cauldron in the Olympic stadium was the sprinter Yoshinori Sakai, who had come to the world in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945 while the atomic bomb was falling on his city. Sakai, who died of a stroke in 2014, became not only an emblem of peace, but the ultimate example of the rebirth of the Japanese people. The second moment that has been burned into the memory of the Games was lived during the marathon. At the finish line, the Ethiopian Abebe Bikila arrived in first place – graceful, smiling, winged. In second place was a solo Japanese athlete, Kokichi Tsuburaya, an army lieutenant who was advancing at a good pace, but whose face was drawn with infinite fatigue. Seeing him enter the Olympic stadium, the audience roared with joy. The silver medal seemed guaranteed. Many meters after Tsuburaya, the British Basil Heatley appeared through the tunnel, running disheveled, as if at the end of the 42 kilometers he had found an additional reserve of energy. The images, recorded on video, still make the hair stand on end: before the stunned gaze of the spectators, it is seen how Heatley, with his furious, dictatorial sprint, passes a few meters from the finish line to a Tsuburaya devastated by the effort and for the humiliation. Kokichi Tsuburaya, with the bronze medal, was disgraced and planned to execute his revenge at the next Olympic Games, which were to be held in Mexico. Before he wanted to marry his longtime girlfriend, Eiko, but the military authorities did not allow it. His bosses wanted to avoid distractions that would impair his preparation. Eiko’s parents, angry, did not want to wait four years and married her to another man. Months before the Mexican Games opened, on January 9, 1968, Kokichi committed suicide. He was found dead in his bedroom, on the training ground, with the veins in his wrists open and the bronze medal in his hands. He had left a letter of love and gratitude to his parents, his brothers, his relatives. He ended by saying, “My dear father, my dear mother, Kokichi is too tired to keep running. I hope you forgive me. My dear father, my dear mother, Kokichi would have liked to live by your side ». .