- There was, coincidentally, a blood donation drive scheduled on the campus of Yamaguchi University the next day. We'd given blood in Japan a time or two before that, I think (the cards are around somewhere: I rarely throw that stuff away). Anyway, I figured we'd go by the mobile station and, if the lines were too bad we'd just give up. No line. We got in, went from station to station (they actually weigh you, if they think you might be borderline) and got stuck and bled with little delay. I know there are Confucian and other traditional issues about blood donations, but given Japan's bad history with imported blood products I really expected a stronger response.
- We also participated in a charity concert a month or so later. My wife is a fine musician, and is capable of coaching even a neophyte like me into producing some passable harmonica and harmony backup. It was an all-day production, with dozens of local acts. Woody did one of her own songs ("Miriam's song" I think, a rousing prayer of praise to the universe), John Denver's "Country Roads" (very popular among our Japanese friends, particularly with our "Almost heaven, Yamaguchi" modifications) and Stuart Stott's "Music in my mother's house" (fantastic nostalgia piece, well worthy of enka-ization). We did a joint piece with a local folksinger as well -- I think it was John Lennon's "Imagine" (I checked with Woody: she also sang Hank Williams' "Jambalaya", and the song we sang with the local guy was Dylan's "Blowin' in the Wind." Before the concert, since she was the featured performer, I coached her on the proper offering of condolences... then I did a translation into English. You had to be there.). Not sure how much we contributed to the effort, but it certainly was a change from the school choruses and music clubs that filled most of the program.
- A few months later, the Jewish group in Iwakuni (mostly Americans associated with the Marine Air Station) raised some money among itself to bring relief goods to the Jewish community in Kobe. We got there on a Friday night in a rented van, and joined in for services and were treated to a fantastic Shabbat dinner by the locals. The Kobe Jewish community is mostly a remnant of WWII refugees, though there is a pretty strong Israeli component, too. The synagogue is Sephardic Orthodox (separate seating for women, the whole bit), and this Ashkenazi Liberal had some trouble keeping up. The building had suffered some structural strains, and a Ten Commandments tablet had been cracked. Otherwise they were doing pretty well. Wandering around Kobe was sobering: well outside the fire zone, there were frequent recently-cleared empty lots in the middle of busy city blocks, raw reminders. Though it could have been worse, of course, but for Japan's strong seismic construction codes.
Tomorrow's Professor just forwarded a list of the top 500 universities in the world. As the introduction says
Attempting to rank universities world-wide is no easy task [which is why very few organizations have tried to do it] and it is easy enough to take exception to the various criteria used. That said, here is a list of the top 500 universities in the world by rank as determined in a study from the Institute of Higher Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, China. A much more detailed description of the criteria used, rankings by geographic area, FAQ's and the questionnaire itself can be found at: http://ed.sjtu.edu.cn/rank/2004/2004Main.htmHere are the Japanese institutions which made the list, and their rankings
- 14, Tokyo Univ
- 21, Kyoto Univ
- 54, Osaka Univ
- 69, Tohoku Univ
- 97, Nagoya Univ
- 101-152, Hokkaido Univ, Kyushu Univ, Tokyo Inst Tech, Tsukuba Univ
- 202-301, Hiroshima Univ, Keio Univ, Kobe Univ, Okayama Univ
- 302-403, Chiba Univ, Gifu Univ, Gunma Univ, Kanazawa Univ, Nagasaki Univ, Nihon Univ, Niigata Univ, Tokyo Med & Dent Univ, Tokyo Metropolitan Univ, Tokyo Univ Agr & Tech, Univ Tokushima, Waseda Univ, Yamaguchi Univ
- 404-502, Ehime Univ, Himeji Inst Tech, Jichi Med Sch, Juntendo Univ, Kagoshima Univ, Kumamoto Univ, Nara Inst Sci & Tech, Osaka City Univ, Shinshu Univ, Univ Osaka Prefecture
Side note: why don't most Japanese universities have official university logo apparel? I know, sweats and T-shirts aren't all that popular in Japan, and the major ones do (I always loved Keio's crossed fountain pen nibs). But we had to take a photocopy of the Yamaguchi university logo to a print-shop so we would have T-shirts to trade with our family and friends. The only way to get logo stuff, it seemed, was to belong to one of the clubs, each of which had its own official seal and signs.
On a per capita basis, this is a very good showing; on a GDP basis, it's just about right, or a bit underperforming (You can see the breakdown by country here). Though not all higher education is created equal, and there are significant pathologies present in Japanese higher-ed, it still bodes well, I think, as a rough measure of the likelihood that Japan will continue to be a strongly productive and innovative economy. The particularly strong showing of technical schools certainly suggests that to me.
One historical note: most of the universities on this list were the product of the US Occupation education reforms, particularly the insistence on public universities in every prefecture. Who would have guessed that in sixty years Japan would fill 1/15th of the world's best list?
David Rumsey and Cartography Associates announced the launch today of Visual Collections www.davidrumsey.com/collections/, a new digital image collection portal that includes more than 300,000 works from museums, universities and private collections throughout the world. Combined, the collected works create an unparalleled online resource in the arts and humanities that is available for free, public access. Fine art, photography, maps, architecture and other collections of culture are represented within Visual Collections, which is made possible through the contributions of dozens of institutions. At its launch, more than 30 collections are represented in Visual Collections, ranging from the fine art of Museums & the Online Archive of California (MOAC) to early maps of Scotland from the University of Edinburgh's Charting the Nation collection.Their Japan collection is wonderful, do give it a whirl. For Mac users accessing the site: I didn't have much success with the Safari browser, but it works fine in Firefox. Speaking of maps and information, Jonathan Dresner has an update over at Cliopatria from AHA. Here is an excerpt with the Japan related info (he may have his own posting here at Frog in a Well at some point in the future):
The Conference on Asian History luncheon speaker was Mary Elizabeth Berry, who gave us a preview of her soon-to-be published book on 17th century Japanese knowledge: production, organization and consumption of public information and public sphere, and the implications of this Early Modernity for thinking about Modernity. She started out with maps, and went on, appprently, to encyclopedia, gazetteers, travel guides and what she refered to as public, verifiable, useful information. There was a baseline of knowledge -- political, economic, geographic, cultural -- which was expected of moderately educated people and which these books organized in interesting and creative ways. This shared cultural heritage (I'm blanking on the term she used, but it was more concise and effective) was formed mostly in the mid/late-1600s, starting with the rise of commercial printing in the 1640s, and by the turn of the century was pretty well fixed. It's the best description of the stagnation of 18th century Japan I've ever heard, in a sense, or of stagnation anywhere: a culture is stagnant if it is not producing new landmarks, new forms of organizing information and activity. Not that nothing was happening -- there's some really great literature from the period, and some interesting intellectual history -- but the basic shape of this culture was rather static. This book is going to reorganize our thinking on 17c Japan, for sure.