Loughborough University

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Railways as Japanese identity: Riding between confidence and inexperience

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 14:23 authored by Taku TamakiTaku Tamaki

Does railway technology represent Japanese national identity? This paper focuses on the narratives indicating railway technology as a form of Japanese national identity representation. Using Japanese government pronouncements and interviews given by people involved in the Japanese railway supply industry appearing in Japanese vernaculars, I show that railway technology constitutes an integral component of the contemporary Japanese identity narrative, which has been built up through a particular technopolitical regime. These narratives consistently refer to the purported safety, reliability, and punctuality of Japanese railways as one manifestation of the high-quality technological skills underpinning Japanese identity construction. However, the narratives also reveal an inherent irony, whereby the confident Japanese Self at once reveals a countervailing, inexperienced Japanese Self, in which the Japanese railway technopolitical regime realizes that its own domestic strength has resulted in a lack of international experience compared to its European, and increasingly Chinese, rivals. I conclude by suggesting that the Japanese railway identity follows a complex construct involving a confident Self in contradistinction to an inexperienced Self both reproduced in opposition to the European and Chinese Other.



  • Social Sciences and Humanities


  • International Relations, Politics and History

Published in

Contemporary Japan


Taylor and Francis


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Publisher statement

This is an Accepted Manuscript version of the following article, accepted for publication in Contemporary Japan. [INCLUDE CITATION]. It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Acceptance date







  • en


Dr Taku Tamaki. Deposit date: 23 May 2023

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