Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Month: May 2013

Episode 9 – Pax Tokugawa

This week we will be discussing the social and political structure of Edo Japan. I know, that doesn’t sound like a super-exciting topic off the bat, but I promise there’s some fun stuff there. For example, this week we get to learn about how one shogun would force Dutch traders to do wacky things for his amusement!

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan.

Hanley, Susan. Everyday Things in Premodern Japan: The Hidden Legacy of Material Culture. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

This is a view of the old palace of the Tokugawa shoguns in modern Tokyo. After the fall of the shogunate it was taken over by the Imperial family, and is today known as the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

This is a view of the old palace of the Tokugawa shoguns in modern Tokyo. After the fall of the shogunate it was taken over by the Imperial family, and is today known as the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

A group of daimyo going to attend to the shogun as part of their duties under the sankin kotai system.

A group of daimyo going to attend to the shogun as part of their duties under the sankin kotai system.

This is a sketch by Englebert Kaempfer of a daimyo's procession going to Edo. Kaempfer, as head of the Dutch mission in Nagasaki, would have to go to Edo on a semi-regular basis in a similar procession (much like a daimyo would).

This is a sketch by Englebert Kaempfer of a daimyo’s procession going to Edo. Kaempfer, as head of the Dutch mission in Nagasaki, would have to go to Edo on a semi-regular basis in a similar procession (much like a daimyo would).

Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, a.k.a. Mr. "Wouldn't it be funny if we had those Dutch guys make out?"

Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, a.k.a. Mr. “Wouldn’t it be funny if we had those Dutch guys make out?”

Episode 8 – The Three Unifiers

To make up for saying I might not get an episode to you this week, I offer you the new show a day early!

This week’s episode is focused on the reunification of Japan under Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu Tokugawa. I wanted to discuss the nature of these three men who have become so famous, and the unifying thread that ties them all together: namely, that they were not very good people.

It’s a long episode, but a great topic — I hope you enjoy it! Give it a listen here.

Sources

Totman, A History of Japan.

Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

This is a period image of Oda Nobunaga, the first of the three unifiers.

This is a period image of Oda Nobunaga, the first of the three unifiers.

This is a map of Japan under Nobunaga. The blue indicates territory controlled by Nobunaga in 1560, the grey area he controlled upon his death in 1582.

This is a map of Japan under Nobunaga. The blue indicates territory controlled by Nobunaga in 1560, the grey area he controlled upon his death in 1582.

This image of Toyotomi Hideyoshi dates from 1601, three years after his death.

This image of Toyotomi Hideyoshi dates from 1601, three years after his death.

Osaka castle was home to the Toyotomi family until their death in 1615, when it was re appropriated by the Tokugawa. The original castle was destroyed by the United States during a bombing run in World War 2 (it was being used for weapons storage). The construction in this image is a 1/3 scale replica.

Osaka castle was home to the Toyotomi family until their death in 1615, when it was re appropriated by the Tokugawa. The original castle was destroyed by the United States during a bombing run in World War 2 (it was being used for weapons storage). The construction in this image is a 1/3 scale replica.

Tokugawa Ieyasu upon his ascension to the rank of shogun.

Tokugawa Ieyasu upon his ascension to the rank of shogun.

This is the mon (crest) of the Tokugawa family.

This is the mon (crest) of the Tokugawa family.

The Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 (shown here) cemented Tokugawa Ieyasu's control of Japan.

The Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 (shown here) cemented Tokugawa Ieyasu’s control of Japan.

Episode 7 – Descent into Chaos

This week we will be covering the fall of the Ashikaga bakufu and the beginnings of the Sengoku, or W11arring States Period. As a special bonus (not really) you get to hear me desperately try to produce coherent words while suffering from a nasty head cold.

Hopefully my mutterings are at least reasonably intelligible. Enjoy the show!

Direct link here

Sources

Totman, A History of Japan.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

This is a picture of Rennyo, the Jodo Shinshu monk whose teachings formed the basis of Ikko Ikki doctrine. Rennyo was careful to distance himself from the more violent aspects of Ikko thought; as a result, his teachings remained legal even after the Ikko were suppressed.

This is a picture of Rennyo, the Jodo Shinshu monk whose teachings formed the basis of Ikko Ikki doctrine. Rennyo was careful to distance himself from the more violent aspects of Ikko thought; as a result, his teachings remained legal even after the Ikko were suppressed.

This is the modern restoration of Kinkakuji. The original was burned down in 1950 -- the current version is an exact replica (presumably with more fireproofing).

This is the modern restoration of Kinkakuji. The original was burned down in 1950 — the current version is an exact replica (presumably with more fireproofing).

These are called Tanegashima matchlocks, after the island of Tanegashima where the Portuguese landed in 1542. This particular batch dates to the Edo Period -- after the Sengoku ended, new weapon designs were not imported until the 1800s.

These are called Tanegashima matchlocks, after the island of Tanegashima where the Portuguese landed in 1542. This particular batch dates to the Edo Period — after the Sengoku ended, new weapon designs were not imported until the 1800s.

These hand cannons are based on European designs, and operate as a sort of semi-mobile artillery. Unlike a musket they must be fired from the hip, making them extremely difficult to aim. They compensated with a shotgun-like spread effect, making them devastating at close quarters.

These hand cannons are based on European designs, and operate as a sort of semi-mobile artillery. Unlike a musket they must be fired from the hip, making them extremely difficult to aim. They compensated with a shotgun-like spread effect, making them devastating at close quarters.

This is Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the last effective shogun of the Muromachi bakufu. After the outbreak of the Onin War, Yoshimasa retreated into an escapist world of high culture based out of Higashiyama, a suburb of Kyoto removed from the fighting. The historical image of him engaging in revelry while Kyoto burned just a mile away remains one of the defining symbols of the decline of the Ashikaga.

This is Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the last effective shogun of the Muromachi bakufu. After the outbreak of the Onin War, Yoshimasa retreated into an escapist world of high culture based out of Higashiyama, a suburb of Kyoto removed from the fighting. The historical image of him engaging in revelry while Kyoto burned just a mile away remains one of the defining symbols of the decline of the Ashikaga.

Episode 6 – A New Order

This week’s episode is on the structure of the Kamakura bakufu, its war against the Mongol Yuan dynasty of China, and its eventual destruction and replacement. We’re also going to discuss some cultural innovations of the period, in the form of new Buddhist sects (Zen and Pure Land Buddhism) and the creation of Noh theater.

It’s a bit eclectic, but I think the topics are interesting, and I hope you all agree!

Give it a listen here.

Sources

Totman, A History of Japan.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

This is Hojo Tokimune, the shikken who defied Kublai Khan's demand for submission and eventually defeated him.

This is Hojo Tokimune, the shikken who defied Kublai Khan’s demand for submission and eventually defeated him.

This is a portrait of Kublai Khan dating from his lifetime.

This is a portrait of Kublai Khan dating from his lifetime.

This is the original 1266 letter from Kublai Khan to Hojo Tokimune, whom he addresses as "the King of Japan." He demands Tokimune's submission in the letter, a demand which Tokimune ignored.

This is the original 1266 letter from Kublai Khan to Hojo Tokimune, whom he addresses as “the King of Japan.” He demands Tokimune’s submission in the letter, a demand which Tokimune ignored.

This image dates from the second Mongol invasion. On the left are a group of Mongol warriors; on the right is a charging samurai identified as Suenaga.

This image dates from the second Mongol invasion. On the left are a group of Mongol warriors; on the right is a charging samurai identified as Suenaga.

This is a period image of Go-Daigo, the Emperor who led the overthrow of the Kamakura bakufu. Three years later he would be defeated by his own lieutenant, Ashikaga Takauji.

This is a period image of Go-Daigo, the Emperor who led the overthrow of the Kamakura bakufu. Three years later he would be defeated by his own lieutenant, Ashikaga Takauji.

This is Ashikaga Takauji, the Hojo retainer turned Imperial supporter turned shogun, who betrayed his way to the top of the heap in the 1330s.

This is Ashikaga Takauji, the Hojo retainer turned Imperial supporter turned shogun, who betrayed his way to the top of the heap in the 1330s.

This is an image of a Noh actor; behind him is a group of stage musicians.

This is an image of a Noh actor; behind him is a group of stage musicians.

This shot show the 8-man chorus on the right side of the stage.

This shot show the 8-man chorus on the right side of the stage.

This is a "kojo," or old man mask, used in Noh performances.

This is a “kojo,” or old man mask, used in Noh performances.

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