Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Day 48: A touch of serendipity becalms the day

Day 48 (22 Jan) Up and at it early, awoken by retreating possums, to light rain again and a regular work day ahead. Working at a university can be run of the mill ordinary work and sometimes, just sometimes, the magic breaks out. Today ended up as one of those magic days. 

Little did I know that at 6.12am when I was making lunch, a variation of a Japanese soba dish, that the day would end up tying up otherwise disparate strands of my current research project. 

Making lunch, at 6.12am
An early conversation at work this morning centred on my research project, the Meiji political scene and implications for present-day Japan. Most people I speak to think it draws a long bow and similarly, convincing research granting bodies is equally challenging. That was part of the conversation day, that my research is unlikely to convince of that link. 

Sometimes, nonetheless, those conversations give one a bit of encouragement, and little impetus to keep at it. During lunch, as I glanced I my twitter timeline, a link to a newspaper article had me shaking my head. Reference was made to a Japanese finance minister of the early 20th century and parallels made with the present economic and political situation in Japan. A journalist had talked up a bit of a scenario that, based on my work, was a little unrealistic. In fact, it seemed to be an extraordinary extrapolation of an observation made by a Japanese political commentator on Japanese television a few weeks ago. The observation had been made that the current Finance Minister (and Deputy PM) Aso had also been prime minister previously and he shared this fact with two other politicians in Japan, Miyazawa Kiichiro and, going back further, Takahashi Korekiyo, the subject of the article. 

With the radio news backgrounding most of the day with Obama's inauguration and speech, the excitement in Washington DC was punctuated by news of a huge economic stimulus package in Japan. 
A touch of history

...stay with me...there's a story here...

A second commentator made the Abe/Takahashi connection. I went to my bookshelves to get more info on Takahashi, saw one book, but put it aside. Went back to search electronically for some more information; a reference online was the exact book I had on my shelf...a text I had to use in my undergraduate studies in Japan, nearly 30 years ago. Takahashi was a leader of the same political party for which my two 19th century protagonists stood, and were elected, on their return to Tokyo from Queensland.

The record of Japanese parliament,
newsmaker of the day, Takahashi,
comes to light on my computer at 6.12pm today. 
By 6.12pm then, I was still in the office tracking down more references, not just to Takahashi but also Satoh and Watanabe...the interesting connections of a century ago I had been examining over the last little while were beginning to come together in an exciting way. One part of my project is to track through the Japanese equivalent of Hansard, c. 1910s to see if these politicians drew on their Australian experiences in shaping the new Japanese nation. I've started working my way through that resource, and it is the stuff of my work that sometimes makes it hard to drag myself away. 

Some days at work have their little magic was the entree to tying together politicians and nations through the century. 

The serendipitous moments that make the rest worthwhile. 

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