Progress in science and technology

National Museum of Nature and Science

-Human Design and Creativity-

Mining in the Edo period
Call the "Land of Gold" by Marco Polo, Japan was blessed with mineral resources, such as gold and silver, and forest resources that were converted to fuel, and was considered to be one of the world's leading mining countries since before the Edo Period. The Edo government actively promoted the mining industry, establishing mines throughout the country. Copper production was the highest in the world, and products were distributed internationally via Nagasaki.
Development and Popularization of Arithmetic
The Edo Period boasted a long stable period of peace that facilitated the birth of a society in which commoners, too, could learn "reading, writing, and abacus calculation" at terakoya (private elementary schools). The study of Wasan (traditional Japanese mathematics), once confined to scholars and certain members of the warrior class, also spread among commoners due to its practical application in study and business. Mathematics schools emerged in the academic field, and the ensuing intellectual competition led to the development of a high level body of mathematics comparative to Western mathematics.
Astronomy and Surveying
The Japanese characters for "survey" come from a Chinese expression meaning "Gauge the sky, weight the earth." In the Edo Period, surveying techniques spread as practical skill as Western astronomical and surveying knowledge blended with traditional Japanese surveying techniques. The civil engineering, flood control, and miniing projects that proliferated in the Edo Period were only possible because of the widespread diffusion of surveying techniques.
Transition from Herbalism to Natural History
Japan acquired much valuable knowledge about animals, plants, and minerals from China. By the Edo Period, surveys of domestic resources were well underway, and cultivation and selective breeding of a wide variety of plants became common. Consequently, many bools on agriculture and herbolism were published and, with the inclusion of and comparison with Western knowledge, herbalism developed into modern natural history.
Medicine in the Edo Period
From the middle of the Edo Period, Rangaku (Dutch studies in Western medicine), grew increasingly popular. Even some traditional Kanpoh-i (Chinese herbalists) actively enlisted the cooperation of Dutch scholars in studying human anatomy as medical practitioners attempted to integrate empirical Western medicine. Thus, this period saw the creation of a distinctly Japanese medical traditional through the skillful blending of traditional Chinese and Western medical traditions.
Skill of the Masters
Rationality and practicality were esteemed qualities in Edo Period Japan, and so emphasis was placed on fields of study beneficial to society. In contrast, people at this time enjoyed games and unusual things, resulting int the high regard in which Wabi (subtlety), Sabi (elegant simplicity) were held and the emergence of such particularly Japanese aesthetic sensibilities as Iki (stylish) and Inase (dashing). These helped cultivate Japan's unique artisanship culture as craftsmen in a diversity of fields, from artware and craftware to livingware  and toys, evolved exquisite skills.
Standardization of Criteria and Systems
In their mission to encourage new industry, the Meiji government's top priority was the acquisition of advanced knowledge from and the establishment of trade with other countries. To facilitate this, it was necessary to bring Japanese systems in line with Western ones and create various common standards. Priority was given to revision of the most basic systems, such as currency, measurement, calendar, and time.
Cultivating Human Resources for Modernization
In order to train human resources capable of building the country, the Meiji government brought to Japan so-called Oyatoigaikokujin (hired foreigners) from America and Europe and established the world's first full-fledged technical university. This university provided not only theoretical instruction, but also education emphasizing practical application. Most of graduates went on to play a vital role in nation-building through such work as overseeing large-scale civil engineering and power station construction projects.
Spread of Modern Science and Technology
In 1872, the Meiji Government revamped the education system, introducing a new school system. Science and engineering studies were promoted, while a variety of education materials and equipment were gradually implemented. Moreover, exhibitions held around the country introduced Western science and technologies, raising people's awareness of modernization.
Introduction of Machine Tools
Apart from firearms and a few other exceptions, production technology in the Edo Period consisted primarily of wood processing. The end of the period, however, saw the introduction of steamships, artillery, and other items made from iron. After the Meiji Restoration, production moved towards modern industries centering around iron and steel with a great many machines being imported and new processing techniques and production know-how being introduced in government-run factories.
Introduction of Electrical Power Systems
In 1887 - only 5 years after Edison brought electricity to New York - a thermal power plant was built in Minamikayaba-cho in Tokyo, providing electricity to towns in the vicinity, In the late Meiji Period, the development of technology using high pressures to transport electricity to be sent from hydroelectric power plants in the mountains to cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. In turn, this enabled people to use night hours to greatly increase time for work and other daily activities, changing our lifestyles considerably.
Inventions and Creations by Japanese People
Japan's efforts to absorb new science and technology paid off in due course as it caught up with the West in various fields. The Type G Automatic Loom, invented in 1924, was recognized by loom manufacturers internationally for its top performance and used both in Japan and overseas. This fact inspired confidence among Japanese people expansion of inventions and R&D.
Birth of the Car Manufacturing Industry
Cars were first imported to Japan in 1899, and high expectations were held for their utility. Japan's transportation system at this time, however, centered around water and rail transportation and the slow progress in road construction hindered the widespread use of public transportation such as buses and taxies. At the end of the Taisho Period, some people took it upon them-selves to develop cars suited to the road conditions and transportation situation in Japan, gradually opening the way for the popularization of motor transport.
Development of Aviation Technology
The first airplane flight in Japan took place in 1910. At the beginning of the Showa Period, the Aeronautical Research Institute, Tokyo Imperial University (now the University of Tokyo), together with private sector businesses, conducted theoretical and technological research to develop top world standard aircrafts such as the long-range research aircraft Kokenki, Zero fighter planes. After the war, the high-caliber possessors of this know-how and technology went to work in the rail, automotive, educational, and various other field, to which they contributed significantly.
New Technology: Picture Transmission
At the end of the 19th Century, research on image-sending was very popular in the West. At the time mechanical methods were tested, but the decisive factor for the practical application of this technology was the invention of electron tubes such as photoelectric and cathode-ray tubes. The research fervor over this new technology was also strong in Japan, resulting in inventions in the early Showa Period such as the Takayanagi television and NE-type phototelegraphic system  rivaling those of the West.
Mechanical Calculators
In the 19th Century, a variety of mechanical calculators utilizing toothed gears appeared in the West, and the theory upon which they were based lives on in the modern-day computers. In early 20th Century Japan, use of domestically produced hand-wound calculators and slide rule spread widely, particularly in science and technology R&D. Designs for of bridges, trains, and even electrical appliances were all made using these tools.
Computers were born out of the necessity to process tremendous volumes of information. From around 1955, computers were implemented in such fields as production management, stock trading, and railway reservations, supporting Japan's high growth. Computers at that time were huge machines occupying their own special rooms; that individuals could use them was unimaginable.
Space Development in Japan
Beginning in 1955 with the pencil rocket, by 1970 Japan's space development had come as far as launching an artificial satellite, the 4th country to succeed in this after the former Soviet Union, United States, and France. In 1969, development began on a large rocket to launch an operational satellite, and in the 1990's, Japan was able to launch into stationary orbit its own weather satellite using a large rocket produced purely domestically.
Credits: Story

This exhibition is based on Global Gallery 2F : Progress in Science and Technology

Photo : NAKAJIMA Yusuke

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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