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Jessamyn Abel

Jessamyn Abel

Assistant Professor of Asian Studies and History

Department of Asian Studies


Title: From Communication Line to Data Point: The Bullet Train as Information

As the most important highway maintained by the Tokugawa Shogunate, the Tōkaidō connecting the political capital in Edo with the Imperial capital in Kyoto was a central means of information flow for centuries, even providing the foundational route for Japan’s earliest trains and wired networks. The high tech bullet train, which opened in 1964, carried mid-century information from Tokyo to Osaka along this path, but also provided a new data point by which to compare Japan to other countries and re-imagine its cities and people. This project seeks to explain the bullet train’s symbolic importance, by examining how information prompted a rewriting of identity on the level of nation, locality, and individual in a changing Japan.