The 6th Nichi-Doku Joint Lecture: The ‘Iron Horses’ that changed the History of Mankind? A History of Tractors in Modern Japan

In the 6th Japan-German Joint Lecture Prof. Tatsushi Fujihara (Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University) held a lecture titled “The ‘Iron Horses’ that Changed the History of Mankind? – A History of Tractors in Modern Japan” at Heidelberg University. In it he looked at historical changes tractors in Post-War Japan underwent, while comparing this development with its history in the USA, the Soviet Union and Germany. He also addressed issues on the influence and acceptance of tractors in modern Japan and its role in the mechanization of agriculture by among others using images of tractors in novels.

Especially interesting were the differences between the perception and usage of tractors in Japan compared to the West. In Japan tractors that have to be pushed (Walking Tractors) were very common right after the war but soon ousted for technically more sophisticated riding-type-tractors. At the same time the male farmers who owned tractor build a relationship to the machine and it became a real friend. This can be seen in songs like “My red tractor” by the famous singer Asahi in which Kobayashi he expressed his burning feelings. The Playback was acknowledged with laughter by the audience.

The comment for the lecture was provided by Daniel Münster (Leader of Junior Research Group C 15 “Agrarian Alternatives”, Cluster of Excellence – Asia and Europe in a Global Context , Heidelberg University). He gave interesting information on the role of tractors in the Indian caste society and moderated the exchange of comments and questions.



Prof. Fujihara and Dr. Münster at the Q&A session Prof. Fujihara talking to students after the lecture


The program and the profiles of the lecturer and commentator can be found here.