Books

I have published books in English and German on history of modern Japan. My latest book,  Not by Love Alone: The Violin in Japan, 1850-2010 is available from Amazon and other major retailers. In addition to Kindle, you can also purchase e-books from Kobo. 日本のAMAZONからもご注文できます。キンドルもどうぞ。

Currently I have four book projects on the go – a little foolhardy perhaps, certainly a novelty for me!

As I was finishing Not by Love Alone, I began to work on another book about music in modern Japan, tentatively titled, Sounds of Modern Times: Japan’s Changing Musical Culture, 1850-1950.

My aim is to explore the changes in the musical culture of Japan after the introduction of Western music from the mid-nineteenth century onwards. By “musical culture” I mean all activities related to music. Within these roughly one hundred years Western music came to dominate musical culture, while Japan’s traditional musics came to occupy relatively marginal spaces. Music is a particularly rewarding field for studying cultural interaction and transnational flows. Yet it seems to me that scholars are only just beginning to pay more attention to music. In my book I also plan to explore and discuss the question what research into musical culture can contribute to our understanding of past cultures in general.

My second project a new edition of History and the State in Nineteenth-Century Japan. The first edition went out of print very quickly. Meanwhile, interest has grown in the many ways history is used (and abused) in popular culture and in politics. I believe History and the State represents an important contribution to scholarship in this field. So last year I finally asked the original publisher (Macmillan) for reversion of the rights to me. I do not intend to re-write the book. Instead, errors will be corrected and a “Preface to the New Edition” added.

Just as I began work on this project I heard that the Japanese translation of History and the State which has been in preparation for several years was finally nearing completion. The timing was great: throughout this year (2016) the translators and I have consulted with each other. We hope that our joint efforts will have improved both the Japanese and the new English edition.

My third project, playfully entitled “The Meiji Miracle”, is currently on the back burner. Years ago, as I worked on Private Academies in Meiji Japan, the lives of Meiji people, whether famous or less so, increasingly fascinated me. How did these people cope with the upheavals their country experienced in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? How did they face the future in a present which seemed to be so different from the past that the past no longer appeared as a useful point of reference? – I started writing short biographies of selected Meiji Japanese from different areas of life with a view of turning them into a book. I had already published a series of short biographical articles covering the entire history of Japan for the German Japan-Magazin, published by the late Dieter Born.

I actually completed a manuscript, but finding a publisher proved a challenge and at some point I lost momentum and turned my full attention to what eventually became Not by Love Alone. However, a few months ago I presented the prospectus to the members of a staff writing group and received some valuable suggestions. I plan to revise the manuscript thoroughly in the near future, hopefully in time for the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration.

Last but not least, I am hoping to edit and publish selected writings of Kate I. Hansen. Kate Ingeborg Hansen (1879-1968), a native of Logan, Kansas, spent most of her life as a missionary and music teacher in Sendai in Northern Japan. In the over 30 years she spent there from 1907 to 1941 and then again from 1947 to 1951 she not only did much for music education in the provincial town. Her letters and other writings reveal her to be an astute observer of musical culture in Sendai as well as a lively writer. I will certainly devote a chapter to her in my new book, Sounds of Modern Times, but her writings deserve a wider audience. This project, however, depends on my locating the copyright holders and receiving their permission, so fingers crossed!

Contact Margaret Mehl.