Engineering War and Peace in Modern Japan, 1868-1964

Engineering War and Peace in Modern Japan, 1868-1964

eBook - 2014
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Nishiyama explores the fluctuation of engineering culture in Japan from the Meiji restoration to the post-WWII era, drawing from historical materials in six languages. After an introduction posing questions about what in the Japanese culture and experience led to their particular responses to changing conditions of war and peace, Nishiyama treats overlapping time periods with respect to particular salient issues. From the late 1860s to the beginning of Japan's involvement in World War II, engineering education and its dependence on the expectation of war is reviewed. The importance of navy engineers and the influence of air warfare in the more limited interwar period is also covered. The kamikaze air war of 1943-1945 is discussed, followed by three chapters on the immediate postwar response in the larger culture and specifically among military engineers in the railway industry. Development of the Shinkansen by former military engineers after 1957 is the last topic treated in depth. The conclusion wraps up with an evaluation of the legacy of defeat and emphasis on its complex, syncretic nature. Annotation ©2014 Ringgold, Inc., Portland, OR (

Johns Hopkins University Press

Naval, aeronautic, and mechanical engineers played a powerful part in the military buildup of Japan in the early and mid-twentieth century. They belonged to a militaristic regime and embraced the importance of their role in it. Takashi Nishiyama examines the impact of war and peace on technological transformation during the twentieth century. He is the first to study the paradoxical and transformative power of Japan’s defeat in World War II through the lens of engineering.

Nishiyama asks: How did authorities select and prepare young men to be engineers? How did Japan develop curricula adequate to the task (and from whom did the country borrow)? Under what conditions? What did the engineers think of the planes they built to support Kamikaze suicide missions? But his study ultimately concerns the remarkable transition these trained engineers made after total defeat in 1945. How could the engineers of war machines so quickly turn to peaceful construction projects such as designing the equipment necessary to manufacture consumer products? Most important, they developed new high-speed rail services, including the Shinkansen Bullet Train. What does this change tell us not only about Japan at war and then in peacetime but also about the malleability of engineering cultures?

Nishiyama aims to counterbalance prevalent Eurocentric/Americentric views in the history of technology. Engineering War and Peace in Modern Japan, 1868–1964 sets the historical experience of one country’s technological transformation in a larger international framework by studying sources in six different languages: Chinese, English, French, German, Japanese, and Spanish. The result is a fascinating read for those interested in technology, East Asia, and international studies. Nishiyama's work offers lessons to policymakers interested in how a country can recover successfully after defeat.

Publisher: Baltimore :, The Johns Hopkins University Press,, 2014
ISBN: 9781421412672
Characteristics: 1 online resource


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