The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus Newsletter
Newsletter No. 48. 2014       

December 1, 2014

New Articles

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In two weeks, Japan is set to start construction of a new "linear" Shinkansen between Tokyo and Osaka, planned to finish by 2045, which would cut the current travel time of 145 minutes to 67. This comes fifty years after the first Shinkansen started running for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. Vaclav Smil takes a look back at the history of network and its significance as a model for later development and for worldwide high speed rail in Europe and Asia. Noting the reduction in greenhouse gases provided by high speed rail, he comments on the lack of high-speed trains that sets North America apart from the rest of the developed world (and China).

The focus on Abenomics has obscured the radical, massive public-sector-centered structural reform aimed at growing the economy through the creation of "smart communities" that Japan is currently undertaking. Led not by the Abe regime but rather by local governments, this initiative, argues Andrew DeWit, represents the most democratically responsive and climate-sensitive agent in our era of dangerously dysfunctional national and international governance.

The Ryukyu Shimbun and former Governor Ota Masahide provide an introduction to and citizens' eye view of the Battle of Okinawa, the last great battle, the only battle fought on Japanese soil, and the costliest in American and Japanese lives of the Asia-Pacific War. This report focuses on the massive loss of civilian lives, nearly one-third of the Okinawan population inluding the compulsory mass suicides imposed by Japanese forces on Okinawan citizens.

Puzzled by the apparent absence of the incorporation of the violin into Japanese indigenous music and vice versa, Margaret Mehl examines the life of the instrument since its introduction in the Meiji period. From the first native composers combining traditional and Western classical music and the 1940 anniversary of the founding of the empire, to the Suzuki Method and the child prodigy Midori, she presents a glimpse of the detailed cultural history collected in her new book, Not by Love Alone: The Violin in Japan, 1850-2010.
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