Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Month: February 2014

Episode 42 – Awakening Asia

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 Mohandas Gandhi, the Japanese victory resonated around the world, and helped shape the 20th century as we know it.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Mishra, Panjak. From The Ruins of Empire: The Revolt Against the West and the Remaking of Asia.

Pyle, Kenneth B. Japan Rising.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

British foot soldiers storming Chinese positions during the First Opium War, (1839-1842), which would demonstrate the weakness of the once mighty Chinese Empire.

British foot soldiers storming Chinese positions during the First Opium War, (1839-1842), which would demonstrate the weakness of the once mighty Chinese Empire.

The officers of the Satsuma cruiser Haruhi, taken in 1869. Togo Heihachiro is in the upper right corner wearing white.

The officers of the Satsuma cruiser Haruhi, taken in 1869. Togo Heihachiro is in the upper right corner wearing white.

Togo Heihachiro on his flagship the IJN Mikasa, giving the order to engage the Russians.

Togo Heihachiro on his flagship the IJN Mikasa, giving the order to engage the Russians.

The Japanese Combined Fleet, shot from the flagship Mikasa as it moved to engage the Russians.

The Japanese Combined Fleet, shot from the flagship Mikasa as it moved to engage the Russians.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the father of the Chinese Republic. He spent a great deal of time in Japan and was inspired by Japan's victory at Tsushima.

Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the father of the Chinese Republic. He spent a great deal of time in Japan and was inspired by Japan’s victory at Tsushima.

Mao Zedong's class photo from 1913. Eight years earlier he had been in school when the Japanese victory at Tsushima was announced, inspiring him to look for the origins of Western power. That search would eventually take him to Marx.

Mao Zedong’s class photo from 1913. Eight years earlier he had been in school when the Japanese victory at Tsushima was announced, inspiring him to look for the origins of Western power. That search would eventually take him to Marx.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. This picture is from 1909.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. This picture is from 1909.

Sultan Abdul Hamid II of the Ottoman Empire. Abdul Hamid was a devout admirer of the Japanese, though he did not embrace the idea of constitutional political reform on the Japanese model.

Sultan Abdul Hamid II of the Ottoman Empire. Abdul Hamid was a devout admirer of the Japanese, though he did not embrace the idea of constitutional political reform on the Japanese model.

The Young Turks, a pro-reform group who used the victory at Tsushima to force the Sultan Abdul Hamid II to accede to their demands for reform.

The Young Turks, a pro-reform group who used the victory at Tsushima to force the Sultan Abdul Hamid II to accede to their demands for reform.

The IJN Mikasa, Togo's flagship. It is today preserved at Yokosuka south of Tokyo as a museum, thanks in part to the efforts of Admiral Chester Nimitz of the United States Navy, a great admirer of Togo's.

The IJN Mikasa, Togo’s flagship. It is today preserved at Yokosuka south of Tokyo as a museum, thanks in part to the efforts of Admiral Chester Nimitz of the United States Navy, a great admirer of Togo’s.

Episode 41 – Striking from the Shadows

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 warriors we know and love today.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Sansom, George. A History of Japan, Vol II: 1334-1615

Turnbull, Stephen.Ninja: The True Story of Japan’s Secret Warriors.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

Yamato Takeru, the imperial prince who dressed as a woman to assassinate his enemies.

Yamato Takeru, the imperial prince who dressed as a woman to assassinate his enemies.

The location of Iga province.

The location of Iga province.

A Sengoku-period travel garment with secret armor worn beneath it. This kind of gear would be utilized by Iga or Koga ninja.

A Sengoku-period travel garment with secret armor worn beneath it. This kind of gear would be utilized by Iga or Koga ninja.

Hattori Hanzo, the samurai who brought the Iga ninja into Tokugawa service.

Hattori Hanzo, the samurai who brought the Iga ninja into Tokugawa service.

The ninja archetype as we understand it dates to the mass culture of the Edo Period. This image is from the Hokusai Manga, and dates from the early 1800s.

The ninja archetype as we understand it dates to the mass culture of the Edo Period. This image is from the Hokusai Manga, and dates from the early 1800s.

A villain from a kabuki drama utilizing ninja talents to escape. The mythologization of the ninja dates back to the Edo Period low-brow entertainments of ukiyo-e and kabuki.

A villain from a kabuki drama utilizing ninja talents to escape. The mythologization of the ninja dates back to the Edo Period low-brow entertainments of ukiyo-e and kabuki.

Episode 40 – Japan’s Christian Century, Part 3

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 it relates to our conception of history.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Boxer, C.R. The Christian Century in Japan.

Sansom, George. A History of Japan, Vol II (1334-1614)/ Vol III (1614-1867)

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

The Liefde, the ship William Adams sailed to Japan.

The Liefde, the ship William Adams sailed to Japan.

Letter from King James I to Tokugawa Ieyasu, dated 1616 (received by Tokugawa Hidetada).

Letter from King James I to Tokugawa Ieyasu, dated 1616 (received by Tokugawa Hidetada).

A trading pass written in Japanese authorizing trade by Dutch ships, dating from 1609.

A trading pass written in Japanese authorizing trade by Dutch ships, dating from 1609.

A Japanese trading ship (referred to as a Red Seal Ship -- note the red seal on the trading pass above).

A Japanese trading ship (referred to as a Red Seal Ship — note the red seal on the trading pass above).

The Dutch East India Company trade post in Hirado, near Nagasaki.

The Dutch East India Company trade post in Hirado, near Nagasaki.

The grave of William Adams.

The grave of William Adams.

Takayama Ukon, the daimyo who gave up his land and prosperity to avoid giving up his faith.

Takayama Ukon, the daimyo who gave up his land and prosperity to avoid giving up his faith.

The siege of Hara castle during the Shimabara Rebellion. Dutch ships are visible in the south.

The siege of Hara castle during the Shimabara Rebellion. Dutch ships are visible in the south.

Statues of the Buddhist bodhhisatva Jizo from the ruins of Hara Castle. The heads of each statue were removed by rebelling Christians during the Shimabara Rebellion.

Statues of the Buddhist bodhhisatva Jizo from the ruins of Hara Castle. The heads of each statue were removed by rebelling Christians during the Shimabara Rebellion.

The ruins of Hara Castle, site of the Shimabara Rebellion.

The ruins of Hara Castle, site of the Shimabara Rebellion.

Amakusa Tokisada, the leader of the Shimabara Rebellion.

Amakusa Tokisada, the leader of the Shimabara Rebellion.

Episode 39 – Japan’s Christian Century, Part 2

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 islands, but within half a century the progress of the missionary movement will have halted and Japan’s Christians and the powers that support them will be facing serious threats to their power and position.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Boxer, CR. The Christian Century in Japan.

Sansom, George. A History of Japan, Vol II: 1334-1615.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

St. Francis Xavier, the man who would open the floodgates for Japanese Christianity.

St. Francis Xavier, the man who would open the floodgates for Japanese Christianity.

Otomo Sorin, the daimyo who received Xavier and decided to tolerate open Christian preaching. This decision would make the Otomo one of the most powerful clans in Japan.

Otomo Sorin, the daimyo who received Xavier and decided to tolerate open Christian preaching. This decision would make the Otomo one of the most powerful clans in Japan.

A period woodblock showing celebration of a Christian mass by Japanese converts.

A period woodblock showing celebration of a Christian mass by Japanese converts.

The so-called Tensho Embassy, a group of Otomo-clan samurai sent to Europe in the 1580s. Here they are shown meeting Pope Gregory XIII.

The so-called Tensho Embassy, a group of Otomo-clan samurai sent to Europe in the 1580s. Here they are shown meeting Pope Gregory XIII.

A Japanese church bell cast in the 1570s in Nagasaki. The inscription (IHS) imposed on the cross is a common shorthand for the name of Jesus.

A Japanese church bell cast in the 1570s in Nagasaki. The inscription (IHS) imposed on the cross is a common shorthand for the name of Jesus.

A map of Nagasaki, which grew into Japan's pre-eminent trade hub as a result of the Portuguese/Spanish trade. Note the foreign ships sailing into the harbor.

A map of Nagasaki, which grew into Japan’s pre-eminent trade hub as a result of the Portuguese/Spanish trade. Note the foreign ships sailing into the harbor.

The graves of several Christians martyred by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1597.

The grave of a member of the Society of Jesus martyred by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1597.

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