Japan’s first bullet train played a central role in the reshaping of both the urban geographies and metropolitan identities of Tokyo, Osaka, and the region as a whole. This article considers the 1964 opening of the “New Tōkaidō Line” in terms of the social construction of space in order to highlight the interaction between ideas and physical infrastructure, and to consider the dynamics of power over space. The discourse surrounding the bullet train’s debut—including planning materials, passengers’ impressions, and representations in popular culture—shows the mutual influence among transportation infrastructure, the physical contours of cities, and how people not only lived in them but also envisioned and understood them.
The Power of a Line: How the Bullet Train Transformed Urban Space
Jessamyn R. Abel is assistant professor of modern Japanese history at Pennsylvania State University, with interests in cultural history, technology, infrastructure, and international relations. She is the author of The International Minimum: Creativity and Contradiction in Japan’s Global Engagement, 1933–1964 (2015) and is currently working on a cultural history of the first bullet train.
Jessamyn R. Abel; The Power of a Line: How the Bullet Train Transformed Urban Space. positions 1 August 2019; 27 (3): 531–555. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10679847-7539303
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