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A Companion to the Philosophy of Technology by Vincent F. Hendricks, Stig Andur Pedersen, Jan Kyrre Berg Olsen Friis

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Chapter 6

Japanese Technology

DAVID WITTNER

Much of Japan’s technological history can be described as a dialogue. From the earliest times this dialogue took place between Japan and its East Asian neighbors, in particular China and Korea. Later it was an exchange between Japan and Western visitors. In the mid-nineteenth century and beyond, the government and the private sector fostered increased translation of foreign technical knowledge into Japan. Regardless of the era, there was also an internal discourse in which absorbed and indigenous technologies were transformed to suit local resources, needs and sensibilities.

There is clear evidence of technological interaction with China and Korea since at least the Jmon period (c. 10,000 BCE–300 BCE) with the introduction of wet field agriculture in the fourth century BCE. Japan first received iron and then bronze implements – primarily weapons, agricultural implements and ceremonial objects – from Korea and China throughout the Yayoi period (c. 300 BCE–300 CE). Distinctively Japanese weaponry found at archeological sites indicates that the Japanese began working with iron and bronze based on continental interaction. A variety of ceremonial objects including bronze mirrors and glass beads were also imported and later manufactured in late Yayoi Japan. Perhaps an unfair characterization, much of Japan’s history of technology until the seventh ...

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