Museum to Remember
Out, Kyoto Style
and September Eleventh
Out, Tokyo Style
FROM THE FIELD --
JAPAN : 2001
underway a sense of future promise always seems to open up for travelers
headed off to distant places, even -- perhaps, especially -- when those
destinations are familiar ones.
have been traveling to Japan on an annual basis with the Smithsonian,
conducting travel seminar programs like this one, since 1981 or so. What
I most enjoy about the resulting rhythm revolves around being able to
witness changes taking place from year to year that might escape the notice
of those directly "on the scene" on a daily basis. Returning
to a familiar location only to find some major change has taken place
keeps me aware of the nature of both continuity and change over time,
a nice level of contextual awareness for an historian to be in a position
In 2001 I am anticipating some interesting possiblities as I wing my way
westward. I wonder how the Japanese feel about the events of September
11th, for example. News accounts in the American press have been scanty
at best (we seem to have ignored most international reactions to these
terrorist attacks, excepting those from the former Soviet Union), and
the Internet news from Japan has been little better.
My gut feeling is that our initial reactions (couched in terms of comparisons
to Pearl Harbor and not to Hiroshima and Nagasaki) have distanced the
Japanese somewhat from directly sharing our sense of the moment and its
significance. Like much of the rest of the world, Japan, after all, already
has seen its share of such assaults, the most recent dating to the sarin
gas attacks on the Tokyo subway system in 1997 (the subject of Murakami
Haruki's recently translated account entitled Underground). I wonder
how these different historic and contemporary circumstances have influenced
Japanese public opinion ...
Another arena of inquiry revolves around the now-decade-long Japanese
economic recession. My experience suggests that the visible consequences
of the downturn will still not be apparent. But a recent article in the
New York Times Magazine suggests that the current problems being
faced in the United States might well have been presaged in the Japanese
experience. So I will try to pay more attention to the results of decisions
made there in hopes of seeing some lessons to be learned as we, for example,
drift closer and closer to a zero percent interest rate, something already
present in the Japanese economy.
And, finally, I hope to be able to explore all the latest fads and fancies
that have made their way onto the popular cultural scene since my last
visit. Evidently a new anime (animated film) has taken the country
by storm, even threatening to unseat Titanic as the high grossing
film of all time. And with two grandsons to shop for, I'm looking forward
to examining all the latest toys. Has Sakamoto Ryuichi released any new
CDs? I have heard that my favorite postmodern film director has another
project on view. I plan as well to visit the International Forum building
designed by the Italian architect recently chose to design the newest
addition to the Cleveland Museum of Art.
So there you have it. Lots of interesting things to look forward to on
this trip. And I have my trusty digital camera at the ready to record
them all. More (photo illustrated) "Reports from the Field"
on any of the report titles in the column
the left to continue.