Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Month: April 2013

Episode 5 – Dream on a Spring Night

This week we’re going to cover the Genpei War between the Minamoto and Taira families and the collapse of the Heian system. We’ll also be covering the formation of the first samurai-dominated government in history, the Kamakura Bakufu.

Listen to the podcast here.

The translation of the first line of the Tale of the Heike is from Helen Craig McCullough’s translation, with a few alterations made by me for reasons of stylistic preference.

Sources

McCullough, Helen Craig. The Tale of the Heike. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press, 1990.

Totman, A History of Japan. 

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

This is a depiction from the mid-Meiji Period (1880s) of Taira-no-Kiyomori being consumed in hellfire upon his death.

This is a depiction from the mid-Meiji Period (1880s) of Taira-no-Kiyomori being consumed in hellfire upon his death.

This is Minamoto-no-Yoritomo; this particular image is unusual in that it's actually from the period. It was painted in 1179, during his exile to the East.

This is Minamoto-no-Yoritomo; this particular image is unusual in that it’s actually from the period. It was painted in 1179, during his exile to the East.

This is an image of the way a samurai would have been armored in the late Heian/early Kamakura period. Note the prominence of the daikyu (bow) and the armor, which is lamelar.

This is an image of the way a samurai would have been armored in the late Heian/early Kamakura period. Note the prominence of the daikyu (bow) and the armor, which is lamelar.

This is a suit of samurai armor noted from the Kamakura Period, slightly after the end of the Heian Period.

This is a suit of samurai armor noted from the Kamakura Period, slightly after the end of the Heian Period.

The Agehacho, the kamon (family crest) of the Taira family. The image is of a stylized butterfly.

The Agehacho, the kamon (family crest) of the Taira family. The image is of a stylized butterfly.

The Sasarindo, the kamon (family crest) of the Minamoto family (a stylized bamboo flower and leaves).

The Sasarindo, the kamon (family crest) of the Minamoto family (a stylized bamboo flower and leaves).

This is the Battle of Dan-no-ura, the climactic naval confrontation of the Genpei War (1185).

This is the Battle of Dan-no-ura, the climactic naval confrontation of the Genpei War (1185).

Episode 4 – The Golden Age of Heian

This week’s episode covers the Heian Period (794-1185 AD). We will be discussing the political structure of the Heian government, the major changes that occured in the period, and the aristocratic culture of the time.

You can listen to the episode here.

Sources:

Totman, A History of Japan.

Morris, Ivan. The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. New York: Columbia University Press, 1991.

“Ladies in Rivalry,” by John Delacour. http://weblog.delacour.net/archives/2002/03/ladies_in_rivalry.php

Images (courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

Fujiwara no Michinaga was the most powerful power-broker of this era and led the Fujiwara to the height of their power; he dominated Japanese politics during the latter half of the 10th century, and was reputed to be able to enthrone and dethrone emperors at will.

Fujiwara no Michinaga was the most powerful power-broker of this era and led the Fujiwara to the height of their power; he dominated Japanese politics during the latter half of the 10th century, and was reputed to be able to enthrone and dethrone emperors at will.

This is a diorama of Kyoto from the period; right now we're looking north towards the grounds of the Imperial palace.

This is a diorama of Kyoto from the period; right now we’re looking north towards the grounds of the Imperial palace.

This is a map of the central part of Kyoto, constructed during the Heian period. The yellow area is the Imperial palace. The black-and-white striped line is the modern Japan Rail line, and the red area is the modern Kyoto station.

This is a map of the central part of Kyoto, constructed during the Heian period. The yellow area is the Imperial palace. The black-and-white striped line is the modern Japan Rail line, and the red area is the modern Kyoto station.

An image of Sei Shonagon from the Edo Period, approximately 800 years after her death. The writing above her is one of her poems, which is included in the Hyakunin Isshu.

An image of Sei Shonagon from the Edo Period, approximately 800 years after her death. The writing above her is one of her poems, which is included in the Hyakunin Isshu.

According to (a probably untrue) legend, Murasaki Shikibu was inspired to write the Tale of Genji while gazing towards the moon during a visit to a temple. This is an artist's representation of that event from the Edo Period, about 800 years after the fact.

According to (a probably untrue) legend, Murasaki Shikibu was inspired to write the Tale of Genji while gazing towards the moon during a visit to a temple. This is an artist’s representation of that event from the Edo Period, about 800 years after the fact.

We’re live on iTunes!

The podcast is now available on the iTunes store at the following link:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/history-of-japan/id635736811

You should be able to locate it via search within the next few days as well.

Subscribe using iTunes and new updates will be downloaded automatically!  

Episode 3 – The First Capitol

This week, we’re going to be talking about the Asuka and Nara Periods, and the formation of the first centralized and permanent capitol city.

There’s intrigue, backstabbing, coups, and stories about poop!  Should be all kinds of fun.

Click here for a direct link to the show.

Sources:

Totman, A History of Japan.

Images (courtesy of the Wikimedia foundation):

Todaiji Daibutsu

This is the daibutsu (Great Budda) of Todaiji, one of the major temples of Nara. It dates to around 750 AD, around 200 years after the first arrival of Buddhism.

An image from the story in the Kojiki I talked about during the podcast; this is Amaterasu leaving her cave after being tricked by the other gods.

An image from the story in the Kojiki I talked about during the podcast; this is Amaterasu leaving her cave after being tricked by the other gods.

This is an image of Fujiwara no Kamatari from after the Taika Rebellion. With him are two of his children. After the Taika Rebellion, the Fujiwara supplanted the Soga as the favored servants of the imperial family and remained immensely powerful for the next 500 years.

This is an image of Fujiwara no Kamatari from after the Taika Rebellion. With him are two of his children. After the Taika Rebellion, the Fujiwara supplanted the Soga as the favored servants of the imperial family and remained immensely powerful for the next 500 years.

Fujiwara-kyo map

This is a map of what Fujiwara-kyo would have looked like in its height. Note the grid-like layout, a copy of Chinese cities. The central empty area is the Imperial palace; the others surrounding it are mountains.

This is the modern state of Fujiwara-kyo; as you can see, the primarily wooden construction did not leave much behind.

This is the modern state of Fujiwara-kyo; as you can see, the primarily wooden construction did not leave much behind.

Episode 2 – A Kingdom Called Wa

Episode 2 is up and available for download.  This week’s episode covers the period from prehistory to 538 AD.  Don’t forget to check the glossary and timeline if you would like clarification or more information, or drop me a line in the comments.

Have a listen here

Sources

Totman, Conrad. A History of Japan. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2004.

National Geographic: Japanese Royal Tomb Opened to Scholars for First Time:

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/04/080428-ancient-tomb.html

Images (courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

This piece dates from around 10,000 years ago, and is an early example of Jomon pottery.  Note the rope-like markings around the vessel.

This piece dates from around 10,000 years ago, and is an early example of Jomon pottery. Note the rope-like markings around the vessel.

This pottery piece dates from the mid-Jomon period (about 6000 years ago).

This pottery piece dates from the mid-Jomon period (about 6000 years ago).

Seal of Na

The golden seal given by the Han dynasty emperor Gwangwu to the King of Na, a territory in Japan. The first written record we have which mentions Japan describes this event.

This is the Daisen Kofun, the largest kofun in Japan. It is located in the port city of Sakai in modern Osaka prefecture.

This is the Daisen Kofun, the largest kofun in Japan. It is located in the port city of Sakai in modern Osaka prefecture.

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