This paper presents an ethnographic account of the work of bureaucrats at the Bank of Japan, Japan's central bank, as they engaged in the construction of a "real time" payments system. The paper aims to consider certain shared dimensions of the knowledge practices of late modern anthropologists and economic planners and the special challenges these pose to the study of modern knowledge. In particular, the paper focuses on the effects of the attraction of "self-sustaining systems" consisting of "two sides." It concludes that one central challenge of new ethnographic subjects such as global financial markets is to find ways of ethnographically apprehending dimensions of modern knowledge that do not present themselves as steps or elements in the construction or destruction of systems, or as phenomena that can be seen from two sides.

Date of this Version

June 2001