Looking for the Roots of Modern Japanese Science and Technology in Edo-Period Japan 1615–1868


Professor Suzuki Kazuyoshi’s series of three lectures will shed light on the expansion of education, discovery, science and the arts in the Edo period (1615-1868), as well as providing an examination of craft innovation during the period. By the 18th century in Japan, literacy and numeracy were increasingly perceived as ‘essential tools for worldly success’. During the Edo period, regional initiatives encouraged schooling regardless of social rank with educational facilities run by local and religious institutions.

Remarkably although the Tokugawa government’s policy of severe maritime restrictions fostered relative isolation in order to preserve domestic culture from ‘foreign influences’, foreign documents and books, often descriptive of new technologies were translated and widely distributed and studied. One interesting example is the introduction of Western clocks and time-keeping technology. This innovation allowing for the standardisation of units of time replaced the old system of wadokei or Japanese style clocks. Wadokei were originally developed from the late 16th century and organised time into six daytime hours and six nighttime hours whose length varied according to the season and time of year. The standardisation of time with western-style clocks had a profound effect on Japan and its modernisation.

In this series of Toshiba Lectures in Japanese Art and Science, Professor Kazuyoshi will take an in-depth look at the origins of the Japanese ‘making of things’ (monozukuri) from aesthetics to function during the Edo period and will trace their implications for the present day.

20 November | 6.30pm | Third Thursday Lecture
Applied Aesthetics: Nurturing Craft Innovation and Beauty in Edo-period Japan
Norwich Cathedral Hostry, (Weston Room) Norwich NR1 4EH

26 November | 6.30pm
An Eye for Nature: Scientific Developments in Edo-period Japan
Brunei Gallery Lecture Theatre, SOAS, Russell Square, London WC1H 0XG

28 November | 6.30pm
The Spirit of Compassion: Technological Progress in Edo-period Japan
Stevenson Lecture Theatre, The British Museum, Great Russell Street, London WC1B 3DG

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