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STS.S28 Godzilla and the Bullet Train: Technology and Culture in Modern Japan

Fall 2005

Shinkansen and cherry trees, with Mt. Fuji in the background.A bullet train speeds past Mt. Fuji across the Japanese landscape. (Image courtesy of Wikipedia.)

Course Highlights

This course features complete reading assignments for all of the lecture topics.

Course Description

This course explores how and why Japan, a late-comer to modernization, emerged as an industrial power and the world's second-richest nation, notwithstanding its recent difficulties. We are particularly concerned with the historical development of technology in Japan especially after 1945, giving particular attention to the interplays between business, ideology, technology, and culture. We will discuss key historical phenomena that symbolize modern Japan as a technological power in the world; specific examples to be discussed in class include kamikaze aircraft, the Shinkansen high-speed bullet train, Godzilla, and anime.



Syllabus

Course Description

This course explores how and why Japan, a late-comer to modernization, emerged as an industrial power and the world's second-richest nation, notwithstanding its recent difficulties. We are particularly concerned with the historical development of technology in Japan especially after 1945, giving particular attention to the interplays between business, ideology, technology, and culture. We will discuss key historical phenomena that symbolize modern Japan as a technological power in the world; specific examples to be discussed in class include, kamikaze aircraft, the Shinkansen high-speed bullet train, Godzilla, and anime.



Course Requirements

Attendance in all class sessions is expected. As this is a seminar course, students are expected to be prepared for and to participate in discussion, either planned or impromptu. Readings for each session should be completed before the discussion on that unit begins, so pace yourself throughout the semester. A list of questions to discuss in class will be provided in advance. By the end of the course, students are expected to develop the ability to think critically about cultural issues of historical interest and importance in the history of technology within a non-Western context. Students are also expected to gain basic factual knowledge of Japanese history, and be able to reach informed conclusions about factual information regarding technology and culture in Japan.

During the semester, all students are required to make two presentations, each of about 15-minutes' duration. The subjects and dates will be determined by the student in consultation with the professor. Further instructions on these presentations, short papers, and weekly readings will be provided later.



Calendar


Lec #TopicsKEY DATES
1Introduction: Understanding Japan
2Reading Maps and Defining TechnologyBrief in-class presentation
3Tokugawa Japan, 1600-1868Paper 1 due
4Meiji Japan, 1868-1911
5Imperialism, Technology, and BusinessPaper 2 due
6Kamikazation of Japan, 1937-1945
7Postwar Japan I, 1945-73
8Symbol of Postwar Japan: Godzilla
9Symbol of Postwar Japan: The Shinkansen Bullet Train
10Postwar Japan II, 1973-Present
11Symbol of Postwar Japan: Anime
12Japan in the "West"
13Review: Technology and Culture in Modern Japan





Grading Policy


ACTIVITIESPERCENTAGES
Short Papers20%
Presentation I25%
Presentation II25%
Attendance30%




Readings

Amazon logo When you click the Amazon logo to the left of any citation and purchase the book (or other media) from Amazon.com, MIT OpenCourseWare will receive up to 10% of this purchase and any other purchases you make during that visit. This will not increase the cost of your purchase. Links provided are to the US Amazon site, but you can also support OCW through Amazon sites in other regions. Learn more.

This page presents the full reading list for this class as well as a calendar of the reading assignments for each lecture.

Required Texts

Bring the State Back in the Global/Genomic World: Racial Difference and the Transforming States of Japan, Taiwan and Singapore (PDF) (Courtesy of Dr. Wen-Hua Kuo. Used with permission.)

Amazon logo Bartholomew, James R. The Formation of Science in Japan: Building a Research Tradition. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1989. ISBN: 9780300042610.

Amazon logo Blackford, Mansel G. The Rise of Modern Business in Great Britain, the United States,and Japan. Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1998. ISBN: 9780807847329.

Amazon logo Cusumano, Michael A. The Japanese Automobile Industry: Technology and Management at Nissan and Toyota. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1989. ISBN: 9780674472563.

Amazon logo Dower, John W. Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II. New York, NY: W.W. Norton, 1999. ISBN: 9780393046861.

Amazon logo Kingston, Jeffrey. Japan in Transformation, 1952-2000. New York, NY: Longman, 2001. ISBN: 9780582418752.

ICH Steering Committee. "The Future of ICH - Revised 2000: A Statement by the ICH Steering Committee on the occasion of the Fifth International Conference on Harmonisation, 9-11 November 2000, San Diego." (PDF)

Koizumi, Kenkichiro. "In Search of Wakon: The Cultural Dynamics of the Rise of Manufacturing Technology in Postwar Japan." Technology and Culture 43, no. 1 (2002): 29-49.

Amazon logo Napier, Susan J. Anime from Akira to Princess Mononoke: Experiencing Contemporary Japanese Animation. New York, NY: Palgrave, 2001. ISBN: 9780312238629.

Nishiyama, Takashi. "Cross-disciplinary Technology Transfer in Trans-World War II Japan: The Japanese High-Speed Bullet Train as a Case Study." Comparative Technology Transfer and Society 1, no. 3 (2003): 305-325.

Nutley, Caroline. "The Value and Benefits of ICH to Industry." 2000. (PDF)

Amazon logo Ohnuki-Tierney, Emiko. Kamikaze, Cherry Blossoms, and Nationalism: The Militarization of Aesthetics in Japanese History. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2002. ISBN: 9780226620916.

Amazon logo Partner, Simon. Assembled in Japan: Electrical Goods and the Making of the Japanese Consumer. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2000. ISBN: 9780520219397.

Amazon logo Samuels, Richard J. "Rich Nation, Strong Army": National Security and the Technological Transformation of Japan. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1994. ISBN: 9780801427053.

Amazon logo Morris-Suzuki, Tessa. The Technological Transformation of Japan: From the Seventeenth to the Twenty-first Century. Cambridge, MA, England, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1994. ISBN: 9780521424929.

Amazon logo Tobin, Joseph, ed. Pikachu's Global Adventure: The Rise and Fall of Pokémon. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2004. ISBN: 9780822332879.

Amazon logo Tsutsui, William M. Godzilla on My Mind: Fifty Years of the King of Monsters. New York, NY: Palgrave, 2004. ISBN: 9781403964748.



Reading Assignments


Lec #TopicsReading Assignments
1Introduction: Understanding JapanTimeline Comparing Japan, U.S. and Other Civilizations (PDF)
2Reading Maps and Defining Technology
3Tokugawa Japan, 1600-1868Bartholomew, chapters 1 and 2, pp. 1-48.

Black Ships and Samurai
4Meiji Japan, 1868-1911Samuels, chapter 3, pp. 33-78.
5Imperialism, Technology, and BusinessBlackford, chapter 5, pp. 103-127.
6Kamikazation of Japan, 1937-1945Ohnuki-Tierney, chapter 5, pp. 157-185.

Kamikaze Images
7Postwar Japan I, 1945-73Dower, chapter 1, pp. 33-64.

Morris-Suzuki. The Technological Transformation of Japan. Chapter 7, pp. 161-208.
8Symbol of Postwar Japan: GodzillaTsutsui, chapter 3, pp. 81-111.
9Symbol of Postwar Japan: The Shinkansen Bullet TrainKoizumi

Nishiyama
10Postwar Japan II, 1973-PresentPartner, conclusion, pp. 225-242.

Cusmano, conclusion, pp. 374-384.
11Symbol of Postwar Japan: AnimeNapier, chapter 5, pp. 85-102.

Toby, conclusion, pp. 257-292.
12Japan in the "West"Blackford, chapter 8, pp. 228-234.

Kingston, chapter 9, pp. 92-103.
13Review: Technology and Culture in Modern Japan




Assignments

This page contains the class assignments and some examples of the students' presentations. Student work is courtesy of the students named and used with permission.


ASSIGNMENTSSTUDENT WORK
Reading Maps and Defining Technology (PDF)
Response Paper 1 (PDF)Anonymous (PDF)
Response Paper 2 (PDF)
Response Paper 3 (PDF)Katherine Han (PDF)



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