Asia’s First Female Olympian – Kinue Hitomi

Posted in: Archive Spotlight

Kinue Hitomi (JAP) and winner Karolina Radke (GER) in the 800m race at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympic Games.

By Ian Buchanan (GBR)

The Meiji Revolution of 1868 brought sweeping changes to the fabric of Japanese life, but it was not until some fifty years later that these changes embraced the development of women’s sport.

The first Japanese sportswomen of international repute were the golfer, Sunado Komako, and the tennis player, Isoko Asabuki. Komako, an actress, was better known as the ‘Japanese Gloria Swanson’ and she was the first woman to play female roles on the stage and screen when such roles had, for centuries been restricted to boy actors. From this inhibiting environment emerged a new Japanese female sporting superstar in the person of the versatile and superbly talented Kinue Hitomi.

Hitomi was the second daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Isaku Hitomi and was born in Fukuhama-mura, Mitsu-gun, Okayama Prefecture, on 1 January 1907. Her parents were wealthy rice farmers and had the means to send their daughter to the school of their choice and they opted for Okayama Prefecture G. High School. After graduating in 1924, Hitomi spent one year at the Okayama Prefecture Girls’ Gym School in Tokyo, before becoming a physical education instructor at the First Kyoto Girls’ High School. She spent one month at the Japanese Women’s Athletic College before joining the sports section of the Mainichi newspaper as journalist in May 1926 and she later wrote two books on track and field.


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