Annotated Bibliography|Peer-Reviewed Journal Article

Foster, Michael Dylan. “Haunting Modernity: Tanuki, Trains, and Transformation in Japan.” Asian Ethnology, vol. 71, no. 1, 2012, pp. 3–29.


This source comes as a view on economic progression for a nation with the implementation of railways, but the piece mostly centers around the social effects that railways had within Japanese society. During the first stages of extending railways, Japanese citizens of rural areas were hesitant and some even against modernization of their regions entirely. This phenomenon is explained as Michael Foster illustrates “Citizens who opposed to the modernization of the country feared for the environment and the unfavorable affects that the “unstoppable forces of industrialization” would have upon the land. Legends, such as the tanuki, were constructed to voice the concerns of the communities that lived on the outskirts of urban areas, in-between the natural environment and the “huge, foreign-inspired, monster made of iron.” Tanuki, small, native animals personified to futilely resist infringement of their land, were commonly made into figures of resistance to the trains. Wariness was not limited to legends as it expanded into popular literature of Natsume Sōseki who featured metaphors throughout his work demonstrating his distaste for the modern mode of transportation. Clearly Sōseki did not favor railways when he wrote about dark topics involving trains that eventually led to the deaths, and some cases suicides, of his characters. Due to the different sectors, urban vs rural, in Japan the responses to the modern machine of the train was viewed in contrasting responses. While the already more modernized urban areas of Japan readily accepted railways, the fear of the mechanized trains plagued the rural areas. Due to the negative perception that the rural citizens held regarding trains they were less willing to use the technology.


This source demonstrates how the societal/local perception of trains affected its usage within those specific areas. A couple of questions that arise out of this concern the later acceptance of the technology. Due to the mass employment of trains throughout Japan, there must have been factors that made railway transportation appealing to citizens. What influenced this change of heart after the first impressions instilled fear and distrust of the railways into the citizens?


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