History of Japan

History of Japan

historyofjapan.libsyn.com
A weekly podcast on Japanese history, covering everything from prehistory to the modern era. Additional information available at the podcast blog, at www.historyofjapan.wordpress.com


293 - What Goes Up, Part 4
Jun 14 • 31 min
This week, it all starts to come crumbling down. Japan is plagued by scandals that destroy public confidence at the system right as some begin to look around and say, “hey, does this all seem a bit unsustainable or is it just me?” It’s not just…
292 - What Goes Up, Part 3
Jun 8 • 32 min
The Plaza Accord was supposed to fix the US-Japan relationship. How did that work out?
291 - What Goes Up, Part 2
May 31 • 33 min
This week, we’re going to talk about life in the bubble era by looking at three snapshots of that experience: a movie, a book, and a poem.
290 - What Goes Up, Part 1
May 24 • 32 min
This week, we turn our attention to the 1980s. Japan and the United States find their relationship wracked by increasing tensions over political and economic relations, and turn to the solution of an agreement designed to ease the pressure of Japan’s…
289 - The Right Tool for the Job, Part 2
May 17 • 34 min
This week, we’re going to talk about the impact that the gun had on Sengoku Era Japan, and the ways that it both reinforced and undermined the political trends of the time.
288 - The Right Tool for the Job, Part 1
May 10 • 31 min
This week, we discuss the history of one of the most important technologies in Japan: the gun. How did it get to Japan and spread around the country so quickly?
287 - The Drunken Demon
May 3 • 32 min
This week, we’re taking a look at a specific oni tale, and probably the most famous one; the story of the Demon King of Mt. Oe, Shuten Doji. What’s his story? How did he get punked by five of Japan’s most famous warriors? And why are we still talking…
286 - On the Outside Looking In
Apr 26 • 35 min
This week we talk oni, the demons of Japanese folklore and legend. What makes oni different from Western style demons? What are some of the most famous oni stories? And how has the image of the oni changed over time?
285 - Rags to Riches, Part 3
Apr 20 • 34 min
This week: how did the Hojo go from the zenith of their power to utter destruction in a single generation? The answer: a difficult neighborhood, dangerous neighbors, and bad decisions.
Bonus Episode - Narutaki Mansuke
Apr 18 • 45 min
It’s time for a b-b-b-b-bonus, from my other show at criminalrecordspodcast.com. I think you all will enjoy it; if you do, check the show out!
284 - Rags to Riches, Part 2
Apr 13 • 32 min
This week, we will talk about the innovations the Latter Hojo used to secure their dominance, and about their long war against one of the great clans of the Kanto, the Ogigayatsu Uesugi.
283 - Rags to Riches, Part 1
Apr 6 • 33 min
This week, we start a series on one of the also-rans of the Sengoku period: the Latter Hojo clan. Who were they, and where did they come from, and why is their first leader sometimes considered the first of a new breed of samurai warlord?
282 - The Brothers Soga
Mar 30 • 30 min
This week, we cover one of the most famous tales of revenge in Japanese history: that of the two Soga brothers, Goro and Juro. What do we know of the original story, and how did it morph into one of the most famous tales ever told in Japan?
281 - The Fool of Owari, Part 2
Mar 23 • 44 min
This week, we cover the remainder of Oda Nobunaga’s rise to power: his wars for control of central Japan in 1570, his cleverness as a ruler, his brutal reign, and his eventual death at the hands of one of his most trusted retainers.
280 - The Fool of Owari, Part 1
Mar 17 • 34 min
Apologies for the delayed publication, all! Slight technical hiccup on my end. This week, we turn to the life and legacy of the first of Japan’s three unifiers: the warlord Oda Nobunaga, who expanded his domains from part of a backwater province to…
279 - The Prince of Thieves
Mar 9 • 31 min
This week, we consider a figure who appears in two stories from the ancient collection of tales known as the Konjaku Monogatari: the bandit chief Hakamadare. What do we know about him? What do the stories say about him? And what can we learn from…
278 - The Men Who Stayed Behind
Mar 2 • 35 min
This week we investigate the role of Japan in laying the groundwork for Vietnam’s wars against France and the United States. How did Japan’s occupation of Indochina create the groundwork for the Viet Minh? And why did some Japanese soldiers, given the…
277 - The House of Cards, Part 5
Feb 23 • 34 min
This week, we arrive at the end of the Ashikaga. What were the final 100 years of Ashikaga “rule” like, and what can we take away from exploring their time as rulers of Japan?
276 - The House of Cards, Part 4
Feb 16 • 35 min
This week, we do a deep dive on the life of Ashikaga Yoshimasa and the lead up to the Onin War, the conflict that traditionally marks the end of Ashikaga rule over Japan. But how fair is it to point to Onin as a break with the past?
275 - The House of Cards, Part 3
Feb 9 • 34 min
This week we turn away from politics to discuss religion, art, and the economy during the age of the Ashikaga. Why is this era such a moment of societal flourishing despite the constant warfare and instability of Ashikaga rule?
274 - The House of Cards, Part 2
Feb 2 • 34 min
This week: war in the Ashikaga age. Plus; the reign of Ashikaga Yoshimitsu is generally considered the zenith of Ashikaga prestige, but why was his power built on such shaky foundations? Once the Ashikaga had seized control of Japan, how did they go…
273 - The House of Cards, Part 1
Jan 26 • 35 min
This week we start a multipart series on the Muromachi period and the reign of the Ashikaga family. How did they come to power? Why is their government generally described as so weak? And how, despite that weak government, did they win a 60 year war…
272 - I am the Law!
Jan 19 • 31 min
This week we cover the life and career of the legendary judge Oka Tadasuke, who rose from minor samurai to the rank of daimyo and a major position in the bakufu — only to become a legendary figure. Who is he? How did he rise so high? And what can he…
271 - You’re Going on the List
Jan 12 • 34 min
This week, we cover the fascinating tale of Sei Shonagon and the Makura no Soushi, or Pillow Book. Why is a collection of anecdotes considered to be one of Japan’s greatest literary classics? What mkes the Pillow Book so famous? And why does Isaac…
270 - A Brief and Fleeting Dream
Jan 5 • 34 min
This week, we cover the life and work of one of Japan’s most famous authors: the 11th century courtier Murasaki Shikibu. Why do we know so little about who she was? What inspired her to write Genji? Why do I dislike her work so viscerally? And how did…
269 - The Revolution Will Not Be Live
Dec 22, 2018 • 33 min
This week, we cover the little-known “Chichibu Incident,” an uprising against the Meiji government in 1884 that saw several thousand people take up arms against the state. Where did it come from? How did the rebellion fare? And what is its connection…
268 - The Right Thing for the Wrong Reasons
Dec 15, 2018 • 33 min
Today, we cover one of the most unusual stories of WWII: the policy of saving and protecting Jews pursued by some among Japan’s military leadership. How did anti-semitic ideas about a global conspiracy convince some in Japan that the Jews could be…
267 - Do Not Give Up Your Life
Dec 8, 2018 • 33 min
This week, we cover poet and political activist Yosano Akiko in her drift from icon of the political left to polemicist for the ultranationalist right. What kind of life trajectory drives a person that way? Why did she follow that path? And why did…
266 - In the Realm of the Gods
Dec 1, 2018 • 34 min
This week, we take a look at the bizarre history of a single text — Senkyou Ibun, or Strange Tidings from Another World — and the two people responsible for creating it: the famous scholar Hirata Atsutane, and a boy named Torakichi who claimed to…
265 - The House Always Wins
Nov 17, 2018 • 38 min
This week, we cover the life of real estate mogul and international gambling sensation Kashiwagi Akio. Who was he? How did he become an internationally famous gambler? Why was he mysteriously murdered? And how the hell does none other than Donald…
264 - The Man of Legend
Nov 10, 2018 • 31 min
This week, we cover the story and legacy of the great warrior Kusunoki Masashige. Why does he have the unique distinction of a statue on the grounds of the emperor’s palace in Tokyo? What do we actually know about him?
Special Bonus - Criminal Records: Sada Abe
Nov 9, 2018 • 42 min
As a surprise bonus, here’s an episode of my new show Criminal Records on one of Japan’s most fascinating criminal cases. Fair warning: this episode includes some graphic content!
263 - Their Eyes Were Watching the Gods, Part 2
Nov 3, 2018 • 30 min
This week; Oomoto’s zenith and fall from grace. Plus, what have we learned from all this?
262 - Their Eyes Were Watching the Gods, Part 1
Oct 27, 2018 • 29 min
This week, we tackled the origin of one of Japan’s new religious movements: Oomoto, or The Great Origin. Where did it come from, and how did the unique combination of two very different people with the right set of circumstances lead it to prominence?
261 - The City that Never Sleeps, Part 4
Oct 20, 2018 • 30 min
This week, we cover postwar Tokyo as it recovers from the devastation of war in remarkable time, and take some time to think about what we’ve learned from the history of Japan’s most central city.
260 - The City that Never Sleeps, Part 3
Oct 13, 2018 • 30 min
This week: the Great Kanto Earthquake, the firebombing campaign, and Tokyo during the Occupation.
259 - The City that Never Sleeps, Part 2
Oct 6, 2018 • 29 min
This week, from Edo to Tokyo: how the shogun’s city became the emperor’s!
258 - The City that Never Sleeps, Part 1
Sep 29, 2018 • 29 min
This week, we start a look at the history of the city of Tokyo. How did the frontier fishing village of Edo go from backwater nowhere to the heart of the nation in only a few short generations?
257 - The Bookseller
Sep 22, 2018 • 30 min
This week, we cover the life and legacy of one of the great bridges between Japan and China — the Christian bookseller of Shanghai, Uchiyama Kanzo.
256 - The Wrestler
Sep 15, 2018 • 27 min
This week, we take a look at the history of pro wrestling in Japan, and its unlikely progenitor: a Korean-born sumo wrestler named Rikidozan.
255 - The Beautiful Island, Part 4
Sep 8, 2018 • 29 min
This week, we close out our time with Taiwan with a look at its return to the Republic of China, and at the modern day relationship between the “renegade province” and Japan.
254 - The Beautiful Island, Part 3
Sep 1, 2018 • 29 min
This week, Japan’s attempt to assimilate Taiwan finds some success, and one big stumbling block: the Musha Incident, the last and largest rebellion against Japanese rule on the island. Plus, the beginnings of Taiwan’s mobilization for war.
253 - The Beautiful Island, Part 2
Aug 25, 2018 • 33 min
This week: now that Japan has conquered Taiwan, what are they actually going to do with it?
252 - The beautiful Island, Part 1
Aug 19, 2018 • 33 min
This week, we start a history of the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. How did Japan come to conquer the island, and what did its conquest entail for the Japanese and for the inhabitants?
251 - Homosexuality in Japan
Aug 11, 2018 • 35 min
This week, we take a look at the history of gay and lesbian relationships in Japan. How has the social position of homosexuality changed over time in Japanese history? What evidence can we use to “read out” the history of a non-mainstream culture?
250 - Today is the Victory
Jul 28, 2018 • 31 min
This week, we take on the legend of Miyamoto Musashi. How is it that a person we know very little about came to be a legend? Could it be, perhaps, that the very fact that we know so little about him for sure is part of the allure of his legend?
249 - Every Day is a Journey
Jul 21, 2018 • 32 min
This week, we delve into the life, legacy, and style of Matsuo Basho, Japan’s most famous poet. Who was he? How did he develop his unique style? How did Japan’s most famous haiku poet end up writing before the invention of the word “haiku”? All that…
248 - Family Matters
Jul 14, 2018 • 30 min
This week we take on the history of the von Siebold family — father Philip Franz, son Alexander, and daughter Kusumoto Ine. How does the story of this unusual family fit in to the story of 19th century Japan?
247 - Edokko
Jul 7, 2018 • 29 min
This week, we’re very lucky to have a chance to speak with Mr. Isaac Shapiro. Mr. Shapiro grew up in wartime Japan, and shares his experiences here with us today. You can check out his book, Edokko: Growing Up a Foreigner in Wartime Japan on…
246 - There and Back Again
Jun 30, 2018 • 35 min
This week, we cover the story of Engelbert Kaempfer, who wrote one of the most thorough and best known accounts of Japan for Western consumption before the Meiji era. How did this random German dude end up in Japan? What did he write about it? What…
245 - The Summer of Rage, Part 2
Jun 23, 2018 • 26 min
This week, we cover the Miike coal mine strike of 1960. As labor and management do battle over the future of the mines, how will the future of the country be shaped by their clash?
244 - The Summer of Rage, Part 1
Jun 16, 2018 • 29 min
This week, we look at the contentious summer of 1960, in which the disputes of postwar Japan boiled over into some of the most intense protests in the country’s history. How do these conflicts shape modern Japanese society?
243 - Heavyweights
Jun 9, 2018 • 30 min
This week, the origins and history of Sumo.
242 - Castaway
Jun 2, 2018 • 27 min
This week, the story of Nakahama Manjiro, the castaway turned American whaler turned gold miner turned samurai turned English professor.
241 - All in the Family, Part 3
May 26, 2018 • 26 min
This week, we conclude our up close look at the Shimazu family and Satsuma domain with a consideration of how the domain fit into Edo society, and its position in modern Japan.
240 - All in the Family, Part 2
May 19, 2018 • 30 min
This week, we cover the sengolu era history of the Shimazu clan, and their meteoric ascent from minor lords to major ones in the span of a few decades. Plus, the Tokugawa and the Shimazu, the role of sugar in the Shimazu clan’s fortunes, and the…
239 - All in the Family, Part 1
May 12, 2018 • 26 min
This week, we start a short series on the history of one of the most influential fiefdoms in Japanese history (Satsuma) and the family who ruled it (the Shimazu). How did this little chunk of land on the edge of Japan grow to national importance?
238 - Hell is Empty
May 5, 2018 • 29 min
This week, we tackle the evils of Unit 731 — its history, its experiments, and its ultimate escape from any real justice.
237 - Princess, Lover, Soldier, Spy
Apr 28, 2018 • 31 min
This week, we take on the scintillating story of the Manchurian princess Kawashima Yoshiko, who grew up in Japan before becoming an agent for Japanese intelligence.
236 - Never Look Away
Apr 21, 2018 • 35 min
This week, we discuss the career of Japan’s most legendary director, Kurosawa Akira. From humble, middle class beginnings, our story will take us through some of his most notable films, and include detours into the lives of Mifune Toshiro, George…
235 - Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken
Apr 14, 2018 • 28 min
This week: the story of a relatively unimportant man who appears briefly and dies spectacularly, and the long chain of events that led to those moments. Politics, betrayal, war, and a dog — what’s not to love?
234 - The Oldest Profession
Apr 7, 2018 • 31 min
Note: Since this week we’re talking about the sex trade, I’ve taken the precaution of giving this episode an explicit tag. However, it does not include any more language than usual; it’s just a precaution because iTunes can get pretty finicky about…
233 - A People Apart
Mar 24, 2018 • 28 min
This week, we tackle the history of the Burakumin. Where did this outcast group come from? Why does discrimination against them remain an issue? What steps has the government taken to protect them, and what steps have they taken to get organized and…
232 - A Thief in the Night
Mar 17, 2018 • 26 min
This week, we spend an entire history podcast talking about someone who may not even have actually existed — the legendary thief Ishikawa Goemon. The live link for the AMA is: https://whatpods.com/ama/history-of-japan/.
231 - The Measure of an Emperor, Part 6
Mar 10, 2018 • 32 min
This week, we wrap up the life of Japan’s 124th Emperor. What, in the end, did it all mean?
230 - The Measure of an Emperor, Part 5
Mar 3, 2018 • 29 min
How does a man raised to be a military autocrat become a democratic emperor in just a few short years? Or is that even possible?
229 - The Measure of an Emperor, Part 4
Feb 24, 2018 • 30 min
This week: Hirohito goes to war. What did he know, how much did he direct things himself, and ultimately, how much responsibility does he bear for the greatest cataclysm in the history of East Asia?
228 - The Measure of an Emperor, Part 3
Feb 10, 2018 • 28 min
This week, we take a look at Hirohito’s life before World War II. What kind of ruler was Japan’s new emperor when the chips came down?
227 The Measure of an Emperor, Part 2
Feb 3, 2018 • 29 min
Young Hirohito goes on trips, serves his first turns in politics, and gets married! Join us as we look at the future emperor’s first steps into the life that he never really had a chance to choose for himself.
226 - The Measure of an Emperor, Part 1
Jan 27, 2018 • 33 min
Today, we dive into the boyhood of Emperor Hirohito. What’s it like growing up always knowing that your life is a political tool? How do you process your middle school principal killing himself in a show of loyalty to your grandfather?
225 - Breaking the Bank
Jan 20, 2018 • 28 min
This week, we cover a famous caper that probably sent an innocent man to jail for nearly 40 years. There’s poisoning, plotting, and conspiracy galore as we discuss the Teigin Incident.
224 - Crime and Punishment, Part 2
Jan 13, 2018 • 31 min
This week, we cover the features of modern Japanese policing, from the friendly face of the koban police boxes to the harsh realities of Japan’s rules on interrogation.
223 - Crime and Punishment, Part 1
Jan 6, 2018 • 26 min
This week: how has Japan been policed? Was there really such a thing as a samurai cop? Was their hair as good as the samurai cop from the iconic 1991 film? And how did policework in Japan change after the Meiji Restoration? We will answer all but one…
222 - The Dog Shogun
Dec 16, 2017 • 27 min
This week: was Japan’s 5th Tokugawa shogun really as crazy as everybody says? Spoilers: no.
221 - The Monster with 21 Faces
Dec 9, 2017 • 29 min
This week, we cover a crime wave that shocked 1980s Japan, and proved that postwar society was perhaps not quite all it was cracked up to be. Also, there’s a lot of poisoned candy.
220 - The All Seeing Eye
Dec 2, 2017 • 30 min
This week, we investigate the great Zen master Dogen, who was something of an eccentric in his own time but remains one of the greatest Buddhist thinkers in Japanese history.
219 - The Red Dawn, Part 3
Nov 25, 2017 • 28 min
Turns out, getting involved in a land war in Asia really is one of the classic blunders. This week, how did it all pan out?
218 - The Red Dawn, Part 2
Nov 18, 2017 • 28 min
How did Japan fit into the broader framework of the Allied intervention? What were the Japanese trying to accomplish in Siberia? And who was even in charge of this damned thing? All that and more, this week.
217 - The Red Dawn, Part 1
Nov 11, 2017 • 26 min
100 Years ago, Japan intervened in Russia to create a buffer state against the new Soviet Union. So how did that work out? We’ll start answering that question this week.
216 - The Scourge of the Gods, Part 7
Nov 4, 2017 • 25 min
This week: why is a military failure worth 7 episodes of our time? The legacy of the Mongol invasions of Japan, explained.
215 - The Scourge of the Gods, Part 6
Oct 28, 2017 • 28 min
The 1281 invasion is at the gates (or the seawall, I suppose). How will round 2 play out?
214 - Scourge of the Gods, Part 5
Oct 21, 2017 • 28 min
This week, we prepare for round two. How are the Japanese getting ready for another invasion, and how does that new invasion begin?
213 - The Scourge of the Gods, Part 4
Oct 14, 2017 • 28 min
This week, we cover exciting topics like meteorology and internal Mongol family politics! But wait, there’s also a bit of Zen theology dashed in to spice things up! It’s an eclectic week on the podcast for sure!
212 - The Scourge of the Gods, Part 3
Oct 7, 2017 • 26 min
This week I promise we’ll actually get to the 1274 invasion. But first, how were the samurai who defended Japan organized, and what weapons did they use?
211 - The Scourge of the Gods, Part 2
Sep 30, 2017 • 30 min
This week: why did Kublai go to Japan? A quick overview of the tensions that led to the first invasion, and a look at the armies of Mongols and Chinese that would fight it.
210 - The Scourge of the Gods, Part 1
Sep 23, 2017 • 27 min
This week: where did the Mongol Empire come from, and who was in charge when they decided to come after Japan? Also, why is the Kamakura shogunate the most convoluted form of government in a history of convoluted governments?
209 - Across the Sea, Part 5
Sep 9, 2017 • 27 min
Today, we wrap our look at immigrants from Japan with a brief discussion of Nikkei communities in the Philippines and China, and with a look at Japan’s own attempts to have Nikkei return “home.”
208 - Across the Sea, Part 4
Sep 2, 2017 • 36 min
This week: why did the American government think it was necessary to round up Nikkei on the West Coast? And what did that policy mean for the people who actually lived it?
207 - Across the Sea, Part 3
Aug 26, 2017 • 32 min
This week, we’re headed south to take a look at Nikkei communities in Brazil and Peru.
206 - Across the Sea, Part 2
Aug 19, 2017 • 30 min
This week, we take a closer look at early communities of Nikkeijin — people of Japanese descent — in the United States and Hawaii.
205 - Across the Sea, Part 1
Aug 12, 2017 • 29 min
This week, we begin a new series on the Japanese diaspora!
204 - No Peace Without War
Aug 5, 2017 • 31 min
This week we tackle the question of Japanese fascism by looking at one of Japan’s foremost fascists, the authoritarian scholar Kita Ikki.
203 - The Old Man and the Sea
Jul 29, 2017 • 32 min
This week: one of Japan’s most famous Buddhist masters, Kukai, takes center stage!
202 - The Old Man Mad About Art
Jul 22, 2017 • 29 min
Today we discuss Japan’s greatest artistic genius, Katsushika Hokusai!
201 - The Green Archipelago
Jul 15, 2017 • 31 min
This week: Japan’s a pretty verdant place, but how did it stay that way when so many other places were ravaged by human development?
200 - The 200th Episode!
Jul 8, 2017 • 37 min
All you could ever want to know about podcast recording, UW’s graduate program, and why the Japanese definitely are not part of the 10 lost tribes of Israel! That and more! Thank you all for 200 great episodes!
199 - Fist of Legend, Part 6
Jun 24, 2017 • 31 min
In which we bring things to a close by considering the fall of the Butokukai, the spread of budo beyond Japan, the role of martial arts in the African-American community, the question of Olympic sport status, and the challenge of the UFC. It’s gonna…
198 - Fist of Legend, Part 5
Jun 17, 2017 • 31 min
This week: can a martial art be a philosophy of life? Can it rise to the level of a religion?
197 - Fist of Legend, Part 4
Jun 10, 2017 • 29 min
This week: karate comes to mainland Japan (and gets a rebrand in the process), and the Butokukai’s attempts to militarize the martial arts backfire when the Americans come to town.
196 - Fist of Legend, Part 3
Jun 3, 2017 • 27 min
This week: the rise of judo and of the modern budo, and karate strikes back!
195 - Fist of Legend, Part 2
May 27, 2017 • 29 min
This week: who wants to swing a sword when you can just shoot a gun?
194 - Fist of Legend, Part 1
May 20, 2017 • 26 min
This week: where do Japan’s traditional martial arts come from?
193 - No Country for Young Women, Part 2
May 13, 2017 • 30 min
This week: what are three educated women to do in a society that doesn’t value their education?
192 - No Country for Young Women, Part 1
May 6, 2017 • 28 min
This week: the beginning of a two parter on Japan’s first ever female exchange students.
191 - Lifting the Lost, Part 9
Apr 29, 2017 • 30 min
This week: what, in the end, did the Occupation mean — for both the occupied and the occupier?
190 - Lifting the Lost, Part 8
Apr 22, 2017 • 27 min
This week: what was it like to live through the Occupation? How did people get by? And why is Kurosawa Akira objectively the greatest director ever?
189 - Lifting the Lost, Part 7
Apr 15, 2017 • 29 min
This week: the social reforms of the Occupation. Economic policy, education policy: it’s like our very own C-SPAN screening!
188 - Lifting the Lost, Part 6
Apr 8, 2017 • 32 min
This week, we talk about what it took to make a peace on paper a peace in fact. With millions of Japanese civilians and soldiers scattered across Asia, what would it take to get them all home again?
187 - Lifting the Lost, Part 5
Apr 1, 2017 • 30 min
This week, we discuss the course of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials and their legacy in Japan. How did they go from a vision of international optimism to despised by people on both sides of the political spectrum?
186 - Lifting the Lost, Part 4
Mar 25, 2017 • 28 min
This week, we’ll begin a discussion of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, better known as the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. Who is being tried, what for, and why?
185 - Lifting the Lost, Part 3
Mar 18, 2017 • 30 min
This week: where did Japan’s constitution come from, and how the hell did it get done in only six days?
184 - Lifting the Lost, Part 2
Mar 11, 2017 • 27 min
The Occupation begins! This week, we’ll set the stage with a focus on the relationship between Supreme Commander Douglass MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito.
183 - Lifting the Lost, Part 1
Mar 4, 2017 • 27 min
This week, we turn our attention to the US Occupation of Japan. When did Americans first start thinking seriously about taking Japan over and remaking its whole society?
182 - Building Better Worlds
Feb 18, 2017 • 28 min
This week, we’re doing a biography of the little known Buddhist socialist Seno’o Giro. How do you reconcile Buddhism and Marx? Find out this week!
181 - Red Star Over Tokyo, Part 6
Feb 11, 2017 • 29 min
This week, we round out our look at the hard left in Japan. Militant communist uprisings (if less than 100 people counts as an uprising), electoral maneuvering, recycling policy — this episode has it all.
180 - Red Star Over Tokyo, Part 5
Feb 4, 2017 • 30 min
This week: the Japanese left is relegated to permanent opposition status in the postwar period. How did the revolutionary moment come to this?
179 - Red Star Over Tokyo, Part 4
Jan 28, 2017 • 25 min
This week, the floodgates are open! The system has fallen, and the left is poised to seize power…or not!
178 - Red Star Over Tokyo, Part 3
Jan 21, 2017 • 27 min
Today, a specter is haunting Japan. But that specter is not communism; it’s the ghost of the communist party, dead before it truly lived. This week on the podcast: how to kill a communist party in a few easy steps.
177 - Red Star Over Tokyo, Part 2
Jan 14, 2017 • 27 min
The revolution comes to Japan…but not really. Today we explore the birth and very rapid death of Japan’s first socialist party, and the rise of its communist movement.
176 - Red Star Over Tokyo, Episode 1
Jan 7, 2017 • 23 min
Today, we’ll turn our attention to a set of ideas that will ultimately fall flat on their face in Japan (and most other places): Marxism. How did the hard left come to Japan? And before that, what even is Marxism?
175 - The Great Commoner
Dec 10, 2016 • 30 min
This week, it’s time for Japan’s first party politician: Hara Takashi. Was he a populist hero or a wannabe elite? And in the end, does that even really matter?
174 - All The World’s A Stage
Dec 3, 2016 • 31 min
This week, we explore the history of one of Japan’s most popular art forms: kabuki theater. Major themes include prostitution, Tokugawa era morality laws, stagecraft, prostitution, and the superiority of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine over The Next…
173 - The Maelstrom, Part 11
Nov 19, 2016 • 29 min
Today, we’ll wrap up our look at the Russo-Japanese War with some thoughts on its long term consequences. How much of an impact can a war that lasted for a year and a half really have?
172 - The Maelstrom, Part 10
Nov 15, 2016 • 24 min
Apologies for the technical delay! Today, we’ll watch Russia descend into chaos, and take a look at the peace negotiations that result as both sides realize they can’t keep this war up.
171 - The Maelstrom, Part 9
Nov 10, 2016 • 28 min
It’s time for the Imperial Japanese Navy to bail out the Imperial Japanese Army. But first, let’s enjoy the Russian Baltic Fleet’s Party Cruise to the Pacific!
170 - The Maelstrom, Part 8
Oct 29, 2016 • 27 min
In the last major land battle of the Russo-Japanese War, two great powers enter and…two great powers leave? Wait, I’m confused. How are the Japanese winning every battle and still not winning the war?
169 - The Maelstrom, Part 7
Oct 22, 2016 • 27 min
The Russians retreat, the Japanese advance, the losses pile up. Things are starting to get a bit worrisome for the Japanese army; could they potentially win every battle and still lose the war?
168 - The Maelstrom, Part 6
Oct 15, 2016 • 29 min
This week: the Port Arthur campaign, from start to finish. Wasn’t this supposed to be a cakewalk?
167 - The Maelstrom, Part 5
Oct 7, 2016 • 22 min
The war rages on as the Japanese land in Port Arthur and press the attack, and Oyama Iwao advances north. The Russians will attempt to make a stand as divisions open up in their leadership.
166 - The Maelstrom, Part 4
Sep 30, 2016 • 29 min
Today, we’re starting a war! The battle for Manchuria begins as Japan and Russia confront each other on land and at sea for the first time. But will the daring Japanese plan to win the war quickly pay off? Well….kind of.
165 - The Maelstrom, Part 3
Sep 24, 2016 • 27 min
This week — negotiations between the two sides begin in St. Petersburg, but neither Japan nor Russia is really committed to peacefully working things out. In Imperial Japanese Army HQ, the first steps towards an actual plan for war are formulated:…
164 - The Maelstrom, Part 2
Sep 10, 2016 • 29 min
This week, we’re going to cover the incompatible goals that led Japan and Russia towards war. Why did each side see the other as a threat? Why was war even on the table in the first place? Can’t we all just get along?
163 - The Maelstrom, Part 1
Sep 3, 2016 • 27 min
This week, we’re turning our attention to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. In our first episode, we’ll introduce our stage — Manchuria — and our players — Russia and Japan.
162 - Best of Frenemies, Part 8
Aug 27, 2016 • 28 min
This week, we close out this series with a look at the relationship between South Korea and Japan. Also included; Isaac’s patented speed run of South Korean history. Enjoy!
161 - Best of Frenemies, Part 7
Aug 20, 2016 • 32 min
This week, we discuss Japan’s relationship with the modern day Hermit Kingdom, and to explain North Korean policy and how those policies effect Japan. It’s gonna be a long ride into the web of madness that is the world’s only communist monarchy, so…
160 - Best of Frenemies, Part 6
Aug 13, 2016 • 29 min
This week, it’s time to join the resistance. We’ll trace the birth of the Korean resistance from protests in 1919 to its bifurcation into two rival movements. The first, the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, will be based in Shanghai…
159 - Best of Frenemies, Part 5
Aug 6, 2016 • 30 min
This week — what was colonial Korea like? We’ll do a quick overview of 35 years of colonial economic, political, and social policy to give you a feel for what Japan’s goals in Korea were and how those goals effected the lives of ordinary Koreans.
158 - Best of Frenemies, Part 4
Jul 23, 2016 • 32 min
This week, the Korean Kingdom’s final years see the desperate bid of King Gojong to salvage Korea’s independence. Ultimately, however, Korea’s royal family will be unable to save itself, and in 1910 Korea’s independence will be snuffed out completely…
157 - Best of Frenemies, Part 3
Jul 17, 2016 • 30 min
This week, a three way competition for control of Korea between Japan, China, and Russia heats up! Factional fighting in the Korean court will drag Japan and China into conflict; in the end, the Koreans themselves are sidelined when it comes to…
156 - Best of Frenemies, Part 2
Jul 9, 2016 • 28 min
This week, Korea encounters the West. We’ll introduce the early Western forays into Korea, explain how Japan came to sign the first unequal treaty with its neighbor, and look into the factionalization of the Korean royal court.
155 - Best of Frenemies, Part 1
Jul 2, 2016 • 32 min
This week: we get up to speed on Korean history, so that we can begin exploring the turbulent Korean-Japanese relationship. Pirates, coups, Mongols, poetry battles — we’ve got it all!
154 - Zen at War
Jun 25, 2016 • 30 min
This week: what happens when Buddhists go to war? We’ll explore the relationship between the Japanese Empire and the Zen Buddhist establishment.
153 - The Birth of the Samurai, Part 8
Jun 11, 2016 • 29 min
This week, we conclude our series on the rise of the samurai with murder, intrigue, political reform, and gratuitous Game of Thrones references.
152 - The Birth of the Samurai, Part 7
Jun 4, 2016 • 28 min
The Genpei War comes to a close in this action packed episode! Kyoto will fall! The Taira will burn! Oxen will be deployed as tactical weapons!
151 - The Birth of the Samurai, Part 6
May 28, 2016 • 28 min
This week, we let slip the dogs of war as Japan plunges into a new phase of conflict. Though Prince Mochihito will not make it out of 1180, the rebellion he starts will catch on in eastern Japan. Young Minamoto no Yoritomo, with some prodding from his…
150 - The Birth of the Samurai, Part 5
May 24, 2016 • 27 min
We’re live, folks! Sorry for the delay. It’s time for the career of Taira no Kiyomori, the man whose talent and ambition was matched only by his temper and his ego.
149 - The Birth of the Samurai, Part 4
May 14, 2016 • 25 min
This week: patricide, rebellions, and royal incest. Oh, also the increasing destabilization of the Heian government as ever more power falls into the hands of Taira no Kiyomori.
148 - The Birth of the Samurai, Part 3
May 7, 2016 • 29 min
This week: the Taira family continue their rise to prominence, the Minamoto get stuck spinning their wheels for a few decades, and warrior violence makes its way to Kyoto. All that, plus the hottest court gossip of the 1120s, this week.
147 - The Birth of the Samurai, Part 2
May 1, 2016 • 25 min
This week, Minamoto no Yoshiie establishes the power of the Seiwa Minamoto family, upsetting a careful balance of power. Also, he drops the hottest rhymes of
146 - The Birth of the Samurai, Part 1
Apr 23, 2016 • 27 min
This week, we’ll be starting a short series about the advent of the samurai class. First, what came before the samurai, and why did Japan’s emperors decide to devolve more and more power to provincial warriors?
145 - An Offer You Can’t Refuse, Part 2
Apr 16, 2016 • 33 min
What does organized crime look like in modern Japan, and why does anybody put up with it? Also, how many rocket launchers can you buy with 50 pounds of amphetamines? All that and more, this week.
144 - An Offer You Can’t Refuse, Part 1
Apr 8, 2016 • 31 min
Someday, and that day may never come, I’ll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this episode as a gift on my podcast’s release day. Pull off your shirt to reveal your gang tattoos, it’s time for the yakuza!
143 - Nanjing, Part 2
Apr 2, 2016 • 33 min
This week, we talk about how views of Nanjing have shifted since WWII, and where the modern right-wing revisionists came from. Why are we still talking about a massacre from 80 years ago?
142 - Nanjing, Part 1
Mar 26, 2016 • 33 min
This week, we look at the events of the Nanjing Massacre. Just what happened in China’s capital city in December, 1937?
141 - Fukushima
Mar 19, 2016 • 32 min
Today we’re going to talk about Japan’s relationship with nuclear power and the catastrophic events of March, 2011. Why did Japan become so reliant on nuclear energy? Why did all the safeguards in place fail so badly in 2011? And where on earth do we…
140 - The Stars Our Destination
Mar 12, 2016 • 29 min
This week, we’ll talk about the birth of the Japanese space program. From its origins as the brainchild of a former weapons designer and a borderline pyromaniac, the programs now incorporated into JAXA (the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) have…
139 - The Soldiers of the Sun
Mar 5, 2016 • 29 min
This week: conscription in Japan. What’s it like to be conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army? How are conscripts treated, and what are the goals of the conscription system?
138 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 21
Feb 27, 2016 • 31 min
Aaand we’re done. This week, some final thoughts on the period and its key players before we put the Meiji Restoration to bed for good! Be sure to get in touch and tell me what you thought of the series.
137 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 20
Feb 20, 2016 • 30 min
This week, we turn to the final drama of our series — the samurai rebellions that will break out in final defense of 1000 years of samurai tradition. As the group of leaders who had overthrown the Tokugawa becomes ever smaller, the final course of…
136 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 19
Feb 13, 2016 • 32 min
This week, Saigo Takamori is going to sidetrack the whole government by pulling the idea of invading Korea off the shelf, sparking a political crisis. Once the dust from this debate has settled, the political landscape will have changed once again,…
135 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 18
Feb 6, 2016 • 31 min
This week, we cover the major issues of the new government. Who’s in charge? What do they want to do? And what could possibly go wrong if we just take half the leadership off for a two year trip?
134 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 17
Jan 30, 2016 • 30 min
This week, we take a look at the new balance of power now that the Tokugawa are gone. Who’s calling the shots? What do they want? And most importantly of all, now that the war is over, will we all be resolving our differences with calm discussion like…
133 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 16
Jan 23, 2016 • 31 min
This week: the “short-lived” part of “the short-lived Ezo Republic” comes to fruition, and what is now Meiji Japan begins dealing with a new issue. Now that the Tokugawa are finally gone, what comes next?
132 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 15
Jan 16, 2016 • 30 min
This week, we’ll cover the military campaigns of 1868. Edo will (surprisingly anticlimactically) fall, the north will rebel, and Matsudaira Katamori’s domain of Aizu will be overrun after a brutal two month siege. In the end, only the small splinter…
131 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 14
Jan 9, 2016 • 31 min
In early 1868, the armies of the loyalists and the Tokugawa bakufu will clash outside Kyoto. We’ll discuss the factors that led to the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, and why what was supposed to be a walk in the park for the Tokugawa turned into a complete…
130 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 13
Jan 2, 2016 • 30 min
This week, we cover 1867: the final year of the Tokugawa shogunate (sort of). Caught between a loyalist rock and an imperial hard place, Tokugawa Yoshinobu will consider the unthinkable: resignation, and an end to 260 years of bakufu tradition.
129 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 12
Dec 19, 2015 • 29 min
Choshu vs the Tokugawa, round 2! Only two years after being defeated by the Tokugawa, Choshu is back at war with Japan’s leading family. This time, they’ve got far more cards to play, though. Can Choshu defeat the Tokugawa and put them into a slow…
128 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 11
Dec 12, 2015 • 28 min
Not even a dead motherboard can stop me; 1865 is just too important for us to talk about! This week: Civil Wars, gunrunning, and important financial tips (hint: become an arms dealer) as we continue the march to the fall of the Tokugawa!
127 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 10
Dec 5, 2015 • 28 min
1864 is probably the most important year in the Meiji Restoration that nobody really has heard of; the Tokugawa will come as close to winning their fight for control of Japan as they ever will, and the shishi movement will end up on the ropes. So, how…
126 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 9
Nov 27, 2015 • 25 min
This week, we’ll move into the tumultuous events of 1863. Challenges foreign and domestic are going to upset the balance of power that has existed since the death of Ii Naosuke, and drive Japan ever closer to civil war.
125 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 9
Nov 21, 2015 • 31 min
This week, we’ll move into the messy early/mid 1860s and look at the doomed attempt to bridge the gap between the Tokugawa and the Imperial Court. We’ll also look at the situation in Kyoto, which was growing more violent by the day.
124 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 8
Nov 13, 2015 • 31 min
This week, the turbulent politics following the death of Ii Naosuke will result in the rise of one of the most famous symbols of the late Tokugawa era: the shishi, or men of spirit. These shishi groups, radicalized by the political trials of recent…
123 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 7
Nov 7, 2015 • 28 min
This week, Ii Naosuke will try to right the ship of state by any means necessary. However, his reassertion of Tokugawa authority will run into serious problems as the violence surrounding politics begins to ramp up.
122 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 6
Oct 31, 2015 • 30 min
This week, we explore the beginnings of opposition against the bakufu. The Harris Treaty will prove deeply divisive, and before long two factions of daimyo will develop opposing and supporting it. Locked in a stalemate, the two sides turn to a place…
121 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 5
Oct 10, 2015 • 28 min
This week, we’re going to stop the forward progress of the narrative and focus on two men who are going to have a large impact on the massive political realignment that’s coming down the tubes, though they themselves will not live to see it: Sakuma…
120 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 4
Oct 3, 2015 • 30 min
This week, we’ll explore Japanese reactions to Perry and his successor, the new US Consul in Japan Townsend Harris. As the foreign powers begin to muscle their way more and more into Japan, battle lines between two opposing camps with different…
119 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 3
Sep 26, 2015 • 32 min
So why did President Millard Filmore decide to send an expedition to Japan? Who exactly was Commodore Perry? And why did he have such a thing for giving people model trains? All that and more, this week.
118 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 2
Sep 19, 2015 • 35 min
In this ecclectic episode, we’ll finish up our quick review of the Tokugawa period with a look at three things: the various issues which plagued the samurai class by the 19th century, three of the regions that will play a key role in the fall of the…
117 - The Fall of the Samurai, Part 1
Sep 5, 2015 • 32 min
This week, we’re starting our new longest ever series on the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate and the birth of modern Japan. This week, we’re taking a look at the political situation in the Tokugawa period — how was the country carved up by…
116 - One Man Yoshida
Aug 31, 2015 • 33 min
Yoshida Shigeru was the postwar Prime Minister who helped salvage Japan’s economy after WWII and set the country on the course to recovery. Today we’ll discuss his background, time in office, and his influence on the course of Japan’s political history.
115 - The Far Side of the World
Aug 24, 2015 • 33 min
This week, we cover the first Japanese expeditions to Europe. How was it decided that a group of samurai should be dispatched to Rome? Were there really samurai who were also technically knights? How scandalized were the European upper classes by the…
114 - The King of the Monsters
Aug 15, 2015 • 25 min
This week, we cover the rise to global fame of one of Japan’s greatest cultural ambassadors: Godzilla. How did a monster designed as a metaphor about the bomb become emblematic of postwar Japan? Find out this week!
113 - Rain of Ruin, Part 6
Aug 8, 2015 • 29 min
In the final episode of our series on the atomic bomb, we’ll talk a bit about some other theories related to the bomb before closing with some general thoughts about the bomb and what it says about how we approach and write history.
112 - Rain of Ruin, Part 5
Aug 5, 2015 • 29 min
This week, we look at the Revisionist critiques of the atomic bomb. Why did America use it, and was it really necessary to end the Pacific War?
111 - Rain of Ruin, Part 4
Jul 25, 2015 • 33 min
This week, we’ll be covering the Orthodox position on the atomic bomb: the defense of the bomb as necessary in the face of Japanese unwillingness to surrender. We’ll look at the original impetus for putting forth a systemic defense of the bomb as well…
110 - Rain of Ruin, Part 3
Jul 18, 2015 • 42 min
This week; what exactly happened during the final, fateful weeks of World War II? What sequence of events finally led to Japan’s surrender?
109 - Rain of Ruin, Part 2
Jul 11, 2015 • 36 min
For our longest (non-Q&A) episode ever, we’ll discuss the development of the Manhattan Project as the odd couple of Leslie Groves and Robert Oppenheimer work to complete the greatest feat of scientific engineering in history.
108 - Rain of Ruin, Part 1
Jul 4, 2015 • 27 min
In our first of six episodes on the atomic bombs, we start to answer an important question; where did the idea for the bomb come from? Where did people get the idea that a sufficiently large bomb would enable them to win wars from the air?
107 - The Lair of the Wolves
Jun 27, 2015 • 28 min
How does a nation ruled by warriors descend into over 100 years of civil war? Find out this week as we discuss the causes of the Onin War and the collapse of the authority of the Ashikaga shoguns.
106 - Facing Both Ways
Jun 20, 2015 • 23 min
Kato Shizue was one of Japan’s earliest feminist icons. This week we’ll trace her unusual rise from daughter of wealth and privilege to firebrand politician fighting for the rights of Japanese women and women everywhere.
105 - A Relic of Another Age
Jun 13, 2015 • 25 min
This week, we cover Japan’s doomed attempt to build an undefeatable battleship in a time when battleships were no longer really the key to naval victory. That’s right, it’s time for the IJN Yamato!
104 - The Patriot
Jun 5, 2015 • 25 min
This week: did the postwar period destroy the soul of Japanese culture? Mishima Yukio certainly thought so. We’ll explore his life, his career, and the unusual manner of his untimely death this week!
103 - The Path of the Righteous Man
May 30, 2015 • 25 min
What do you get when you cross radical Confucianism with armed samurai? Japan’s first samurai rebellion since the 1630s, and a recipe for one fascinating episode. Cannons, torture, and philosophy: this episode has it all!
102 - The Episode Formerly Known as the 100th Episode
May 23, 2015 • 33 min
This week: your questions! What places are fun to visit Japanese? How do you learn Japanese outside of school? And does the Emperor obey traffic laws when he drives himself? All that and more today!
101 - Fighting Monks and Burning Mountains
May 16, 2015 • 35 min
This week, we’ve got our first ever interview with author and Shikoku pilgrimage survivor Paul Barach. You can find his book, Fighting Monks and Burning Mountains, on Amazon.
100 - Taiko
May 9, 2015 • 27 min
Toyotomi Hideyoshi rose from the lower ranks of society in just a bit over 30 years; how did he rise so far so fast, and why did the regime he built crumble almost immediately after this death? All that and more this week.
99 - The Tiger and the Dragon
May 2, 2015 • 24 min
This week: what does it take to be part of Japan’s most infamous warlord duo? We explore the lives of Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin, their relationship with each other, and the ways in which their rivalry has been romanticized over the course of…
98 - The Comfort Women
Apr 25, 2015 • 26 min
This week, we’re going to discuss one of the most reprehensible aspects of a war littered with horrible acts; the system of mass sexual slavery of women euphemistically dubbed “comfort women”. We’ll talk about the origins and nature of the system, and…
97 - The North Remembers
Apr 18, 2015 • 25 min
This week, we turn to Japan’s “native outsiders” — the Ainu, the aboriginal people of Hokkaido. We’ll trace their relationship with the Japanese and talk about their position in modern Japan.
96 - The Dragon and the Rising Sun, Part 6
Apr 11, 2015 • 27 min
This week, we’re turn to the modern Sino-Japanese relationship. After 1978, the communist party assumed a different form under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping. How did those changes affect diplomacy between China and Japan? And what on earth happened…
95 - The Dragon and the Rising Sun, Part 5
Apr 4, 2015 • 26 min
This week we explore the rise of the man who would come to symbolize, for good or ill, modern China: Mao Zedong. Who was he, how did he come out on top, and what was his relationship with his neighbors to the east?
94 - The Dragon and the Rising Sun, Part 4
Mar 28, 2015 • 27 min
This week we look at the Second Sino-Japanese War from the opposite angle: not those who fought, but those who collaborated. We’ll discuss the titular leader of Manchukuo and the head of the “reformed” Chinese regime with an eye towards shedding some…
93 - The Dragon and the Rising Sun, Part 3
Mar 14, 2015 • 27 min
This week we introduce the man who led China’s war against Japan: Chiang Kai-shek. The reluctant military leader wanted no part of a war against the nation where he had trained, but the trends of the time forced him into a conflict that would…
92 - The Dragon and the Rising Sun, Part 2
Mar 7, 2015 • 29 min
This week, we turn to the life of the father of modern China: Dr. Sun Yat-sen. How did he help turn China from an empire into a modern nation-state, and how did his paths cross with Japanese allies and enemies along the way?
91 - The Dragon and the Rising Sun, Part 1
Feb 28, 2015 • 22 min
This week, we’re going to start our exploration of the Sino-Japanese relationship with a quick recap of the history of China’s last imperial dynasty. How did China find itself in such desperate straits by the turn of the twentieth century that they…
90 - Fifty Shades of Wordplay
Feb 21, 2015 • 24 min
In the late 17th century, the popular writer Ihara Saikaku produced literature for mass entertainment and consumption. He became immensely popular, and remains widely read even centuries after his heyday. We’ll explore his life, career, and legacy as…
89 - A Day in the Life of Meiji Japan
Feb 14, 2015 • 29 min
This week we’ll be going through the basics of daily life for children, women, and men during the Meiji Period. How did the tremendous changes of the Meiji Era change the way people lived and worked? This week, we’ll try to sketch an outline of an…
88 - The Quest for Immortality
Feb 7, 2015 • 20 min
This week; a mad emperor on a quest to live forever, and the sorcerer who led an expedition to make it happen and may just have founded Japanese civilization in the process (but probably not). It’s the likely untrue but still fun and interesting story…
87 - The Way of the Gods, Part 3
Jan 31, 2015 • 21 min
For our final episode on Shinto and the Japanese state, we’ll focus on the postwar controversies of Shinto: what was the role of the emperor going to be? How would Shinto fit in the new political order? And what on earth are we going to do with…
86 - The Way of the Gods, Part 2
Jan 24, 2015 • 26 min
This week we move into Japan’s imperial period; what was the relationship between Shinto and a government which claimed its legitimacy in part from an emperor descended from one of the kami? What was the reality of “State Shinto”, and who really led…
85 - The Way of the Gods, Part 1
Jan 17, 2015 • 23 min
84 - A Day in the Life of Rural Edo Japan
Jan 10, 2015 • 22 min
This week, we go back to address a glaring flaw from episode 10: my total lack of discussion of the countryside. Rural life in the Edo Period involved a lot more than simply farming from dawn to sunset, and this week we’ll get into exactly what it…
83 - Reform Without Sanctuary
Dec 27, 2014 • 28 min
Koizumi Junichiro was quite possibly the most successful Prime Minister Japan has had for decades (and certainly the best dressed). This week, we’ll trace the rise of his career, his goals while in power, and the impact of his reforms on a Japanese…
82 - The Shadow Shogun, Redux
Dec 20, 2014 • 23 min
After the fall of Tanaka Kakuei, one man has become known as the heir to his tradition. One man has attempted to manipulate the flow of politics in order to either serve as a populist champion for Japan or embody the worst of the Japanese political…
81 - The Great Treason Incident
Dec 13, 2014 • 25 min
In 1910, an anarchist plot to assassinate the Meiji Emperor was uncovered. Seizing the opportunity, conservatives in the government pounced in to arrest 26 anarchists. The background of this confrontation between the government and the radical left,…
80 - The Great Gamble
Dec 6, 2014 • 37 min
This week — and if you’re getting this on release day, 72 years and 364 days later — we’re going to discuss the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as well as its architect, the iconoclastic Japanese admiral Yamamoto Isoroku. Who was this man who came…
79 - The Bismarck of the East
Nov 29, 2014 • 29 min
Our topic this week is the life and legacy of one of Japan’s greatest political leaders: Ito Hirobumi, author of Japan’s first modern constitution. Born into a low-rank samurai family in Choshu, Ito would wear many hats in his life: radical,…
78 - The Sage of Mita
Nov 22, 2014 • 27 min
Our topic this week is the Meiji intellectual Fukuzawa Yukichi. From the second son of a poor samurai family he rose to be one of Japan’s most prominent intellectuals, and helped define what it meant for Japan to be a modern country. His influence was…
77 - Hidden by the Leaves
Nov 15, 2014 • 22 min
Our topic this week is Hagakure, one of the best known works on bushido ever written. Where did it come from? What is its purpose? What is its legacy? All that and more, this week!
76 - The Ten-Thousand Leaves
Nov 8, 2014 • 22 min
We’re turning our attention this week to Japan’s first classic of poetry: the Man’yoshu, or the Collection of Ten-Thousand Leaves. We’ll trace the origins of the work as well as its cultural impact through the ages, and talk about why it is…
75 - Kwaidan
Nov 1, 2014 • 21 min
This week, we’re going to take a look at the collection of supernatural stories published by American author and journalist Lafcadio Hearn, called Kwaidan. We’ll look at Hearn’s life and how he came to Japan, and also discuss the nature of one of…
74 - Taira no Masakado
Oct 25, 2014 • 20 min
We’ll be taking things back to the Heian Period this week for the story of the great rebel Taira no Masakado. His rebellion, however, is only half the story — after he dies, things get very interesting indeed…
73 - The Slow and Steady Step, Part 2
Oct 18, 2014 • 28 min
After his defeat at the hands of Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu will lie low for a decade or so, biding his time. However, when the opportunity presents itself with Hideyoshi’s death and the succession of his young heir, Ieyasu will strike at last, and…
72 - The Slow and Steady Step, Part 1
Oct 11, 2014 • 26 min
This week, join us for part one of the life of Tokugawa Ieyasu. A brilliant and ambitious man, Ieyasu began his life as a hostage for the good behavior of his middling-rank family. By 1584, however, he would be in position to make his first bid for power.
71 - Playing the Part
Oct 4, 2014 • 20 min
This week, we’re going to to talk about the life of Yamaguchi Yoshiko, the Chinese-born actress turned politician who went from propaganda actress to one of the most moving voices for Sino-Japanese reconciliation.
Supplemental - Zero Hour, September 14, 1944
Sep 27, 2014 • 27 min
As a supplemental to this week’s episode, here’s an entire episode of Zero Hour, courtesy of the Internet Archive. This episode is from September 14, 1944. If you’re looking to hear some genuine old fashioned World War II propaganda, now’s your chance!
70 - The Tokyo Rose
Sep 27, 2014 • 22 min
Note: This is a revised version to fix a technical issue with the original release This week, we’re going to talk about the life of Iva Toguri, the woman most associated with the infamous (and legendary) role of the Tokyo Rose. Labelled as a traitor…
69 - An Unnatural Intimacy, Part 7
Sep 20, 2014 • 21 min
In our final episode on the US-Japan relationship, we’ll bring things up to the modern day and discuss the revival of the US-Japan alliance in the 2000s. After decades of tension, today the US-Japan relationship seems closer and more natural than it…
68 - An Unnatural Intimacy, Part 6
Sep 13, 2014 • 26 min
This week, we’re jumping ahead to cover the 1950s through the 1980s; Japan and the United States, former foes, are now allies in the Cold War. The relationship, however, is not as smooth as it seems on the surface.
67 - An Unnatural Intimacy, Part 5
Sep 6, 2014 • 29 min
This week, we take the final plunge to Pearl Harbor. Backed into a corner by foolish decision-making and serious misreadings of their situation, the leaders of Japan will scramble at the last minute to avoid war, but refuse to make any serious…
66 - An Unnatural Intimacy, Part 4
Aug 29, 2014 • 26 min
This week, we’ll discuss the Second Konoe Cabinet, which was torn by indecision and plagued by bad leadership. The Japanese leadership will alienate the US by signing the Tripartite Pact, and their attempts to bridge the gap with the US will be…
65 - An Unnatural Intimacy, Part 3
Aug 23, 2014 • 23 min
This week, we’ll delve into the origins of Japan’s war with China and the strain that conflict placed on Japan’s relationship with the US. In the course of the 9 years from the invasion of Manchuria to the second appointment of Konoe Fumimaro as Prime…
64 - An Unnatural Intimacy, Part 2
Aug 16, 2014 • 25 min
This week, we’ll discuss America and Japan’s new roles as Great Powers in the 20th century. We’ll discuss the reasons Japan and America came together to support the Allies in World War I, the rationale behind Japanese support for an…
63 - An Unnatural Intimacy, Part 1
Aug 9, 2014 • 24 min
This week, we’re beginning a multiparter on the modern relationship between America and Japan. We’ll cover the background of both countries and their relationship leading up to the 1905 Russo-Japanese War.
62 - New Masculine Identities and Pop Culture in 1980s Japan
Jul 26, 2014 • 32 min
This week, Sam Timinsky will be joining us for another guest podcast, covering changes in masculine identity in the wake of Japan’s economic bubble and bust in the 1980s and 1990s. As a reminder, there will be no new episode next week; the…
61 - Akutagawa Ryunosuke
Jul 19, 2014 • 21 min
This week, a special guest reader will be coming on to read a script on Akutagawa Ryunosuke, one of modern Japan’s foremost authors. As the script is still mine, any errors are my own; join us for a distinctly non-expert look at one of the great minds…
60 - Women’s Activism in Japan
Jul 12, 2014 • 22 min
For our first ever guest episode, an old colleague and dear friend of mine named Sam Timinsky will be coming in to discuss the history of women’s activist movements in Japan. Sam does an excellent job with a very difficult topic, and this episode…
59 - The Only Women in the Room
Jul 4, 2014 • 22 min
This week, we’re covering two women whose work in the Occupation helped reshape Japan into a modern state. Beate Sirota was the Austrian-born Jewish-American woman who pushed for Japan’s equal rights clauses in its Constitution, and Eleanor Hadley was…
58 - Motoori Norinaga
Jun 27, 2014 • 20 min
This week, we’ll be discussing the most important premodern Japanese philosopher that no one has ever heard of: Motoori Norinaga, the leading light of Kokugaku (National Studies) in Edo-period Japan. We’ll be covering his life, a barebones overview of…
57 - The 47 Ronin
Jun 20, 2014 • 25 min
This week, we’re discussing one of Japan’s most famous tales: 47 warriors without a master who, during the height of Japanese feudalism, took it upon themselves to avenge their former lord’s death. In doing so, they catapulted what was a fairly…
56 - The Tea Master
Jun 14, 2014 • 21 min
This week, we’re going to be talking about Japan’s legendary tea master Sen no Rikyu. We’ll discuss his cultural background, the reasons for his rise, his sudden fall, and his massive impact on Japanese culture.
55 - Peace in Our Time
May 31, 2014 • 28 min
This week, we’ll be discussing the history and possible future of Article 9, the peace clause of Japan’s constitution. Where did it come from? How has it been interpreted? What does its future look like? All that, this week!
54 - The Great Change
May 24, 2014 • 28 min
This week, we’ll be talking about Japan’s first great political reform: the Taika, or Great Change. We’ll discuss its causes, effects, its parallels with the Meiji Restoration some 1200 years later, and its legacy — which reaches a lot farther than…
53 - The Sun Queen
May 17, 2014 • 25 min
This week, we’re going to take a look at the first figure in recorded Japanese history: Himiko, queen of Yamatai. Despite the fact that the records on her are extremely brief, she’s assumed a position of tremendous importance in our thinking about the…
52 - Nichiren
May 10, 2014 • 24 min
This week, we’re going to be talking about one of Japan’s most famous religious movements: Nichiren Buddhism, devoted to the veneration of the text know as the Lotus Sutra. We’ll discuss the life and education of Nichiren, as well as the legacy his…
51 - Aum Shinrikyo
May 3, 2014 • 25 min
This week, we’re taking a look at the darkest incarnation of Japan’s new religions: the cult known as Aum Shinrikyo. We’ll discuss their background, philosophy, and the chain of events which led them to commit the deadliest terror attack in Japan’s…
50 - The Q&A Show
Apr 26, 2014 • 32 min
For the one year anniversary of the show, join us for an extra-long Q&A show; I’ll be taking questions submitted by the audience. Thank you all for a great year, and here’s to many more!
49 - The History of Video Games
Apr 19, 2014 • 23 min
This week, join us for a very special podcast where we talk about the rise and not-quite-fall of Japan’s video game industry. We’ll cover the histories of the major Japanese gaming companies, and even discuss my own very tangential involvement in…
48 - The Emperor’s Own, Part 4
Apr 12, 2014 • 25 min
In this final segment on the rise of the imperial military to power, we’ll discuss the process by which the military hijacked Japan’s foreign policy and shut down the democratic process. After this was done, the army briefly turned on itself before…
47 - The Emperor’s Own, Part 3
Apr 5, 2014 • 25 min
This week, we’ll continue with our story of the rise of Japan’s military to power; after the crushing of Russia in 1905, the army and navy will lose power and influence to the civilian government as political parties rise to prominence. However, storm…
46 - The Emperor’s Own, Part 2
Mar 30, 2014 • 22 min
Join us this week for a tale of Japan’s rise to military greatness, as Yamagata Aritomo situates the army and navy during the 1880s for their rise to power and prominence. Under his leadership, Japan will defeat China, the unchallenged master of Asia…
45 - The Emperor’s Own, Part 1
Mar 14, 2014 • 24 min
This week, we’ll be beginning our first four-part series as we look at the rise to power of the Imperial Japanese Military. We’ll be tracing the military from its origins in the fall of the Tokugawa to the start of war with China in 1937. This week,…
44 - A Review of The Last Samurai
Mar 8, 2014 • 18 min
This week, we’ll be going all Tom Cruise for our second media review, and discussing the actual history behind the mishmash of stories used as the background for the 2003 film The Last Samurai.
43 - The Great Traitor
Mar 1, 2014 • 26 min
This week, we’ll be doing our second Shogunal biography. We’re going to discuss the life and legacy of the man who destroyed the Hojo family, established the Ashikaga bakufu, and who was until very recently reviled as the worst traitor in Japanese…
42 - Awakening Asia
Feb 22, 2014 • 25 min
This week, we’re going to discuss the Russo-Japanese War from a different angle; we’re going to talk about the effect it had in generating nationalist movements around Asia and in breaking the spell of European invincibility. From Sun Yat-sen to…
41 - Striking from the Shadows
Feb 14, 2014 • 23 min
This week, we’re going to discuss the ninja, or at least what we can discern about them from the limited information that’s out there. We’ll discuss their origins, historic exploits, and the mythologization that turned them into the pop culture…
40 - Japan’s Christian Century, Part 3
Feb 8, 2014 • 27 min
This week, we’ll discuss the arrival of William Adams, the reversal of fortune for Spain and Catholicism in Asia, and the suppression of Christianity by the Tokugawa. We’re also going to discuss the legacy of Japan’s Christian century, and how…
39 - Japan’s Christian Century, Part 2
Feb 1, 2014 • 22 min
This week, we’ll continue our discussion of Japan’s Christian century with the high-point of Christian missionizing in Japan, starting with the arrival of St. Francis Xavier. Xavier’s mission will mark the start of Christianity’s spread through the…
38 - Japan’s Christian Century, Part 1
Jan 25, 2014 • 18 min
This is part one of an eventual three part series on the rise and fall of Christianity in medieval Japan. This week, we’ll cover the background of events in Europe and Japan, as well as the arrival of the first Portuguese traders in the country.
37 - Women Warriors
Jan 18, 2014 • 23 min
This week, we’ll be tackling an oft-requested topic; women warriors in the samurai class. Contrary to what you might think, women were actually very active in the roughly 800 years that make up the dominant time of the samurai class. Today, we’ll be…
36 - The Great War
Jan 11, 2014 • 20 min
We’re back for the start of 2014, and to kick the year off right we’re looking at this year’s most significant anniversary: 1914. We’ll be talking about the effects of World War I in Japan, and the ways in which it marked a turning point for Japanese…
35 - Christmas and New Years
Dec 21, 2013 • 15 min
For our last podcast of 2013, I thought it’d be fun to do something light-hearted; so let’s talk about traditions surrounding Christmas and New Years in Japan. We’ll cover how these holidays came to be celebrated in Japan and talk a bit about the…
34 - Japan and Okinawa, Part II
Dec 14, 2013 • 20 min
This week we’ll finish up our two-parter on Japanese-Okinawan relations with a look at Okinawa during the Imperial Period. We’ll be focusing heavily on the bloody Battle of Okinawa, and then wrap things up by looking at the relationship between the…
33 - Japan and Okinawa, Part 1
Dec 7, 2013 • 19 min
This week, we’ll begin a two-part series on the relationship between Japan and what is now her southernmost province: Okinawa. We’ll cover the founding of the Kingdom of the Ryukyus, its relationship with Japan, and finally its incorporation into the…
32 - The Way of the Sword in the Age of the Gun
Nov 23, 2013 • 21 min
This week, we’re going to discuss the topic of swordsmanship and kendo in modern Japan. We’ll talk about where modern traditions of swordsmanship came from, and why kendo retains such a popular grip on modern Japan.
31 - The First Shogun
Nov 16, 2013 • 24 min
This week, we’re going to take a look at the man credited with one of the greatest epochal changes in Japanese history: the shift from imperial to samurai government in the late 12th century. It’s time for the life and legacy of Minamoto no Yoritomo!
30 - A Review of Shogun
Nov 9, 2013 • 20 min
This week we’ll be tackling our first media review and discussing by far the most influential piece of historical fiction ever written about Japan: Shogun, by James Clavell. Listen to the episode here, and be sure to give me feedback on this one so I…
29 - The Great Saigo, Part 2
Nov 2, 2013 • 20 min
This week we have the second and final part of our series on Saigo Takamori, covering his rebellion against the government, his death, and his legacy. Tune in for one of the most famous stories in Japanese history!
28 - The Great Saigo, Part 1
Oct 26, 2013 • 22 min
This week, we’ll begin another two-parter dealing with the life and death of Saigo Takamori, one of the great leaders of the Meiji Restoration. This week, we’ll discuss his rise to public prominence and subsequent fall from grace. Next week, we’ll…
27 - The Way of Yin and Yang
Oct 19, 2013 • 19 min
This week, we’re discussing Onmyodo, the mystical study of divination based off of the theories of yin and yang (in-yo or on-myo in Japanese). We’ll be covering the entire history of the practice, including its most famous practitioner: Abe no Seimei….
26 - The History of Manga
Oct 12, 2013 • 21 min
This week, we’re going to talk about the evolution of manga. We’ll discuss the roots of the comic form in Japan, both Eastern and Western, and its rapid explosion in popularity after World War II.
25 - The Shadow Shogun
Oct 6, 2013 • 28 min
This week we will be discussing the great political wheeler and dealer of modern Japanese politics: Tanaka Kakuei. We will trace the rise of this man of the people, the heights of his power, and his eventual fall from grace, as well as discussing his…
24 - In Buddha’s Name: The Rise and Fall of the Ikko Ikki, Part 2
Sep 22, 2013 • 25 min
We’ll be wrapping up our discussion of the Ikko Ikki this week, as the unstoppable force of the militant wing of Jodo Shinshu meets the immovable objects of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga. What follows is a tale of treachery, war, and revenge worthy…
23 - In Buddha’s Name: The Rise and Fall of the Ikko Ikki, Part 1
Sep 15, 2013 • 26 min
For our first two-part episode, we’re going to discuss the Ikko Ikki, a militant insurrection of believers in the faith of Jodo Shinshu, or True Pure Land Buddhism. We’ll discuss the rise of the movement to political and military prominence during the…
22 - The Way of the Warrior
Sep 8, 2013 • 22 min
For our first listener-submitted topic, we’re tackling Bushido: the warrior code of the samurai class. We’ll discuss the evolution of the bushido ideology, the role it played during the ages of warfare in Japan as well as during the Tokugawa, and its…
21 - The Crash
Sep 1, 2013 • 23 min
For our final outline episode, we’ll be tackling the origins and effects of the real-estate bubble which devastated the Japanese economy in 1991, and which so brutally halted the story of Japanese growth. In particular, we’ll be focusing on the ways…
20 - Japan as Number One
Aug 25, 2013 • 25 min
This week, we’ll be talking about the height of postwar Japan during the 1970s and 1980s. On the surface, it’s a time of great accomplishment when the dream of catching up to the West had finally been realizing. Looking deeper, however, we find the…
19 - Rising from the Ashes
Aug 17, 2013 • 21 min
This week, we’re going to discuss the postwar strategy that enabled Japan to revive itself after World War II. In 1952, most observers believed Japan would become a mid-rank regional power on the same order as Sweden; by 1970 it was clear that would…
18 - Enduring the Unendurable
Aug 11, 2013 • 27 min
This week’s episode is an overview of the Allied Occupation of Japan. In just seven years (1945-1952), the Allies undertook a massive effort to overhaul Japan’s politics, economy, and society. We’ll discuss the ways in which they tried to do so, and…
17 - He Who Saves One Life, Saves an Entire World
Aug 3, 2013 • 23 min
This week we’re going to be taking another break from the forward march of history to discuss the life of a man named Sugihara Chiune. Sugihara worked as a bureaucrat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prior to World War II, and in 1940 he gave up his…
16 - And Then the War Came
Jul 28, 2013 • 32 min
We’ve arrived, finally, at the Pacific War — this week, we’ll be charting the course Japan took to war, briefly summarizing the cours of said war, and then discussing how the war ended.
15 - The Homefront
Jul 21, 2013 • 21 min
This week, we’ll be discussing domestic developments in Japan, and the path by which a reasonably (if not totally) liberal democracy in the 1910s and 1920s morphed into a military dictatorship in the 1930s. We’ll talk about the various means by which…
14 - The Course of Empire
Jul 14, 2013 • 26 min
Our podcast this week will turn to the subject of Japanese foreign policy from the end of the Sino-Japanese War in 1895 to the middle of the war against Nationalist China in 1940. We will cover the Russo-Japanese War, the steady split of the military…
13 - Take Me Out to the Shiai
Jun 30, 2013 • 20 min
This week, it’s time for a story of triumph and tragedy, racism and acceptance, international relations, and most importantly: baseball!
12 - Civilization and Enlightenment
Jun 16, 2013 • 26 min
This week, we’re going to cover the early Meiji Period (1868-1900 or so). We’ll be covering a wide range of topics, ranging from international relations to politics to social developments. This is one of the most interesting and tumultuous periods in…
11 - The End of an Era
Jun 9, 2013 • 27 min
This week, we’ll be talking about the period called the Bakumatsu, or the end of the Bakufu. We’ll be tracing a complex, but very interesting narrative describing how the Tokugawa went from masters of all they surveyed to defeat and destruction in a…
10 - A Day in the Life of Edo Japan
Jun 2, 2013 • 27 min
This week, I’ll be talking about the life of the average city-dweller in the Edo Period. This is a very wide-ranging episode, covering everything from the schools in which young samurai were trained to the kabuki-based prostitution which those same…
9 - Pax Tokugawa
May 26, 2013 • 22 min
This week we will be covering the social and political structure of Edo Japan. There’s a lot of interesting material to go through, ranging from the social system (hint: it’s good to be a samurai [but not as good as you might think]) to the foreign…
8 - The Three Unifiers
May 17, 2013 • 27 min
This week, we will be discussing the reunification of Sengoku Japan under the three Sengoku Unifiers — Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu. We will be discussing the trajectory of their careers and the nature of their characters….
7 - Descent into Chaos
May 11, 2013 • 19 min
This week, we’re going to cover the fall of the Ashikaga and the early Sengoku period (rougly 1400-1550 AD). I’ll also be briefly discussing the arrival of Westerners and the rise of the militant Ikko Ikki movement. Enjoy!
6 - A New Order
May 4, 2013 • 23 min
This week we will cover the structure of the Kamakura bakufu, the Hojo triumph over the Mongols, the fall of the Hojo, and their replacement by the Ashikaga family. We’ll also cover some cultural developments in the fields of Buddhism and Noh…
5 - Dream on a Spring Night
Apr 27, 2013 • 19 min
This week, we will be covering the fall of the Heian system, the massive Genpei War between the Minamoto and Taira families, and the rise of the first shogunal government (called a bakufu) under the auspices of the brutal Minamoto no Yoritomo.
4 - The Golden Age of Heian
Apr 20, 2013 • 17 min
This week’s episode will discuss the Heian Period (794-1185), one of the golden ages of Japanese history. We’ll talk about the politics and culture of the period, covering the structure of government, literary styles, and why it is that I think the…
3 - The First Capitol
Apr 13, 2013 • 17 min
Today we will be discussing the Asuka and Nara periods, and the formation of a centralized, Chinese-style government based in a permanent capitol city. There’s intrigue, backstabbing, and stories about poop; should be fun!
2 - A Kingdom Called Wa
Apr 6, 2013 • 12 min
In this second episode, we discuss the earliest periods of Japanese history (the Jomon, Yayoi and Tumulus/Kofun periods), covering the years from prehistory to 538 AD. It’s a long haul to cover!
1 - Introduction
Mar 31, 2013 • 5 min
Welcome to our introductory episode! Today we will be covering the basic ideas behind this podcast, including: Who I am What I’m planning to do here Why you should care about history Why Japanese history is important What I need from you, my…