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New Books on Japan: "Dream Super-Express: A Cultural History of the World's First Bullet Train"

  • April 11, 2024
  • 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
  • Zoom

Tuesday, April 11, 2024 | 7:00-8:30 PM ET | REGISTER FOR ZOOM

Dream Super-Express: A Cultural History of the World's First Bullet Train (Stanford University Press, 2022)

Author: Jessamyn R. Abel, Associate Professor of Asian Studies, Pennsylvania State University

Discussant: Yuting Dong, Assistant Professor of East Asian History, University of Chicago

The Modern Japan History Association invites the wider community to a conversation with Jessamyn R. Abel (Pennsylvania State University). Professor Abel will be speaking about her book Dream Super-Express: A Cultural History of the World's First Bullet Train (Stanford University Press, 2022), which was recently awarded the inaugural Modern Japan History Association Book Prize. Dream Super-Express sheds fresh light on postwar Japan’s rise to technological and economic superstardom. Integrating the histories of technology, infrastructure, economics, politics, diplomacy, and empire, Abel argues that the Tōkaidō Shinkansen—the first bullet train, dubbed the "dream super-express"—represents the bold aspirations of a nation rebranding itself after military defeat, but also the deep problems caused by the unbridled postwar drive for economic growth. Abel contends that understanding the various, often contradictory, images of the bullet train reveals how infrastructure operates beyond its intended use as a means of transportation to perform cultural and sociological functions. As the train variously enchanted, enthralled, and enraged government officials, media pundits, community activists, novelists, and filmmakers, it prompted a reimagination of identity on the levels of individual, metropolis, and nation in a changing Japan. Yuting Dong (University of Chicago) will serve as discussant.


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