Notes from the library

Tokyo has certainly been keeping me very busy, between visiting sites around Tokyo with our group and spending hours on end researching in the National Diet Library with my advisor for my history project. For the most part over the past few days, I’ve gone to the National Diet Library in the mornings and then met with our group in the evenings for dinner.

I’m finding that research in the Diet Library is at times very rewarding and at other times frustrating. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of the research is working through so much Japanese language material. My goal is to photocopy as much material as I can that might be useful for me, which means that I’m not actually going through and reading everything word for word. Still, it’s very difficult after taking only 3 semesters of Japanese to get a basic sense of the contents of a Japanese book!
Thanks to the tireless assistance and translation of my advisor, I’m getting a good sense of the range of materials available for me to use in my project. My project is one of urban history, so I have photocopied articles and chapters from architecture journals and books. But I’m also finding ways to incorporate more direct interactions with the environment through the sources that I’ve browsed. I’ve found histories of public parks in Sapporo as well as description of engineering on the Toyohira river, which passes through the city — these are spaces where the natural environment is incorporated into the urban system.
I’ve been spared the magnitude of walking that my peers have done, but I’ve missed some of the short trips and lectures attended by my peers. I’m grateful that they are able to convey their main takeaways from these experiences and that they’ve recorded their thoughts in this blog.