Factbook

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    Two influential books from the 1700s helped shape Japan as a Robot Nation[UPDATED: 8-21-2020]

    Japan is sometimes referred to as the Robot Kingdom due to its large number of robots and its openness to new technologies including robotics.

    Japan has more industrial robots than most countries; and more Artificial Intelligence (AI) patents than any other, according to some OECD measures. The government even has a written strategy that articulates the steps the nation will take towards becoming Japan as a Robotics Superpower.

    Two books published in 1730 and 1796 played a very important role in Japan’s development into the so-called Robot Nation it is today. 

    Both books were about mechanical Japanese toys known as Karakiri NingyoThese two Karakuri books helped increase the popularity of these intricately designed mechanical Japanese automata, and position robots as fun and unthreatening devices in most Japanese people’s minds.

    The 1796 book by Hosokawa Honzo Yorinao (1741-1796), Karakuri zui, sometimes described as Japan’s first mechanical engineering textbook, has been particularly influential.

    It provided detailed diagrams and descriptions of how to make Karakiri Ningyo, which are still used today by hobbyists and craftsmen to repair and reproduce this early form of home-entertainment robots.

    Even though Japan’s Karakuri roots go back much further with some believing as far as AD 697, the influence of these books, like the automata themselves, has had long-term and significant impact on Japan, its industry; and even the wider world. Japanese engineers at firms such as Toyota have referred to them and copied some of their design concepts in their products.

    And The British Museum has a woodblock print of Hosokawa’s book, titled Compendium of Clever Machines, in its famous collection.

    These two books and Japan’s rich and creative history of robot books in general, which includes both fiction and non-fiction, continues to influence and inspire robot engineers and researchers, as well as writers in Japan.

    Some of Japan’s most renowned contemporary storytellers such as Kazufumi Shiraishi and Soji Shimada have, for example, joined many other talented writers penning robot and cyborg tales.

    Works such as their respective Stand-in Companion and One Love Chigusa, generating a virtuous circle of creativity that seems to be providing perpetual momentum to this trend and the evolution of robot books, robot technology and its literature in Japan, and perhaps even robots themselves.

    Two influential books from the 1700s helped shape Japan as a Robot Nation Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Since 1947 the Japanese government has approved and paid for all Japanese school level student textbooks[UPDATED: 3-2-2018]

    The Japanese government pays for all student textbooks for the millions of students participating in its compulsory education system. It sets guidelines for certified publishers and approves textbooks before publication. Schools, teachers and local educational boards, depending on the type of school, are free to select which publishers’ textbook they want to adopt and use in their classes. 

    The current system for textbook approval, which is open and transparent, was created after the Second World War in 1947, when Japan was occupied by US forces and run by Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (SCAP). 

    Under this system, like other countries, the government sets curriculum guidelines and certified publishers in the private sector submit their books for approval. Mexico, for example, has a very similar system, which like Japan also requires all books to be printed locally. It is known locally as CONALITEG. Revisions are sometimes requested, but in Japan most books are generally approved. 

    Japan has one of the world’s highest school participation rates of 99.8% and nine years of compulsory education, generally from age 6 to 15. With more than 6 million students attending elementary schools and more than 3 million lower secondary, this means that the Japanese government is one of the largest book buyers in Japan. 

    Despite the system being very similar to that in other countries, it is not uncontroversial, as textbooks that do not cover history in the manner that some of Japan’s neighbours would like or think appropriate, have been approved in the past. And some criticise these particular books for ignoring Japan’s actions in Asia during the Second World War. 

    The textbook market is competitive and there is considerable choice of textbooks to choose from. Commonly used textbooks do mention and reference the Nanking Massacre for instance; and schools often do not select the more controversial history textbooks generally published by nationalist groups seeking attention and controversy, which the media often focus on. The issue has become so sensitive that Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs now publishes information on its website in English, Korean and Chinese on how textbooks are approved and distributed in Japan to help clarify the situation.
    Since 1947 the Japanese government has approved and paid for all Japanese school level student textbooks Posted by Richard Nathan
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    Japan’s first medical textbook, written in 984, is considered Asia’s first book on medical ethics[UPDATED: 2-14-2018]

    Japan’s first medical textbook was written in 984 by Yasunori Tamba (912- 995), who is sometimes referred to as the Hypocrates of Japan, during Japan’s Heian Period (794-1185). 

    The book, known as Ishimpo or Ishinpo was written in kanbun, the Chinese writing system used during this period in Japan, and presented to the Emperor of Japan. 

    The text consisting of 30-volumes is a systemised compilation of medical knowledge, theory, techniques and practice. It is partly based on and cites ancient Chinese texts, which no longer exist. 

    It covers sexual disease and practice, dental and oral problems – such as bad breath, cleft palate, toothache, and tooth decay – as well as pharmacology, surgery, obstetrics and gynecology, moxibustion and acupuncture. 

    The Cambridge World History of Medical Ethics lists the Ishimpo as the first Asian text in its 77-page Chronology of Medical Ethics, which starts from 4,000 BCE. 

    The first three individuals the chronology cites are: Moses (circa 1,200 BCE) Kong Qiu or Confucius (551-479 BCE) and Buddha (563-482 BCE). The first text included is the Hippocratic Corpus including its famous oath written in 400 BCE. 

    The type of traditional medical practice, including acupuncture and moxibustion, described in the Ishimpo now falls within the Japanese definition of Kampo (Chinese Medicine), which was originally used to distinguish this form of medical practice from Rampo (Dutch Medicine), the Western medical practices and techniques that Dutch traders and sailors brought with them to Japan in the 16th Century. 

    The oldest and most complete copy of the Ishimpo, which is illustrated in parts, is preserved at the Tokyo National Museum and is designated as a National Treasure of Japan.
    Japan’s first medical textbook, written in 984, is considered Asia’s first book on medical ethics Posted by Richard Nathan