Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Author: ijmeyer Page 1 of 26

Episode 306 – The Prisoners of Nanbu, Part 1

This week, we’re taking a look at the foreign policy of Edo Japan by starting a deep dive into a complex case study: the tale of the 10 prisoners of Nanbu domain!

Sources

Hesselink, Reiner. Prisoners from Nambu: Reality and Make-Believe in 17th-Century Japanese Diplomacy.

Matsukata, Fuyuko. The Dutch and English East India Companies: Diplomacy, Trade, adn Violence in Early Modern Asia. 

Images

Anthony van Diemen, the man behind the voyage of the Castricom and Breskens to Japan.

Abel Tasman’s voyage of 1642-43 is in red. His voyage was planned by van Diemen at the same time as the Breskens/Castricom one.

A map of northern Honshu showing Morioka/Nanbu domain in mustard yellow. The red is Hachinohe domain; at the time of our story, it would have been a part of Nanbu, as it was broken off into a separate domain later during a succession dispute.

Nanbu Shigenao, 28th family head of the Nanbu and lord of Morioka domain.

A partial view of Yamada bay.

A map of the voyage of the Castricom, assembled about half a century after the fact. This map shows something that I got wrong; I had speculated that the island the Castricom discovered was Sakhalin, but this makes it clear that the island was Kunashir (which Vries named Staten Island, though that name didn’t take surprisingly). For reference, the Japanese mainland appears on the bottom of this map.

An Italian map later put together from notes taken from the Castricom. Voyages like these were essential to European mapmakers expanding their understanding of the world’s geography. Note that Tartary is still on this map (more or less on the Russian Pacific Coast.)

Episode 305 – The American Interlude, Part 2

This week, we’ll cover the end of USCAR and the legacies of 27 years of foreign rule over Okinawa Prefecture.

Sources

Aldous, Christopher. “Achieving Reversion: Protest and Authority in Okinawa, 1952-70.” Modern Asian Studies 37, no. 2 (2003)

Inoue, Masamichi. Okinawa and the US Military: Identity Making in the Age of Globalization

Kerr, George. Okinawa: The History of an Island People

Higa, Mikio. “The Reversion Theme in Current Okinawan Politics.” Asian Survey 7, No 3 (March, 1967).

Images

The B-yen note. Introduced to try and stabilize the Okinawan economy, it instead helped keep Okinawa economically dependent on the USA.

Yara Chobyo’s career as a politician was defined by his successful opposition to USCAR.

The site of the 1968 Kadena B-52 crash.

Wreckage of the Koza riot. Note the bombed out car.

More Koza riot wreckage.

The 1972 reversion ceremony. Note the familiar faces in the background.

Episode 304 – The American Outpost, Part 1

This week, we start off some coverage of the period of American rule over the Ryukyus, and the entwined histories of USCAR – the US Civil Administration for the Ryukyu Islands — and the GRI, the Government of the Ryukyu Islands. How did this arrangement work? What were the issues between them? And why did so many Okinawans come to despise American rule?

Sources

The CIA Reading Room has a bunch of declassified documents on USCAR and the Ryukyus. Here’s one of them.

Aldous, Christopher. “Achieving Reversion: Protest and Authority in Okinawa, 1952-70.” Modern Asian Studies 37, no. 2 (2003)

Inoue, Masamichi. Okinawa and the US Military: Identity Making in the Age of Globalization

Kerr, George. Okinawa: The History of an Island People

Images

US military stockades on Okinawa after the battle. The need to house a large number of troops for a potential invasion of Japan led to the earliest American base infrastructure; those bases, in turn, were so valuable the Americans decided to keep the area under their control.

The USCAR HQ building in Naha, 1950.

Okinawa island. Land in red is in use today by the US military for bases. This is less than the amount of land used by USCAR; there has been substantial base consolidation since.

Yaejima street in Koza, a town outside the major American base at Kadena, c. 1955.

A meeting of a pro-reversion association in 1954.

The front cover of the special passports needed for Okinawans to travel to Japan under USCAR rule.

 

 

 

Episode 303 – A History of the Geisha

Finally, a long overdue look at one of the most romanticized and exocitized parts of traditional Japanese culture. What are geisha? Where do they come from? Aren’t they basically fancy prostitutes? And haven’t I learned everything I need to know about them from reading Memoirs of a Geisha?

Sources

Dahlby, Liza Crihfield. Geisha

Iwasaki, Mineko. Geisha: A Life

Masuda, Sayo. Autobiography of a Geisha.

Yamamura, Kozo, ed. The Cambridge History of Japan, Vol. 3: Medieval Japan. 

Images

 

An Edo period print of the shirabyoshi Shizuka.

A maiko named Fumino.

Geisha entertaining clients, c. mid-Taisho period.

Miehina, a maiko of Miyagawacho.

The geisha Kimiha from the Miyagawacho hanamachi, dressed in traditional style.

The maiko Katsumi and Mameteru practicing a traditionald ance.

Episode 302 – Stand Up For Your Rights, Part 2

This week, we take a look at the peasant uprisings in Aizu domain in 1868 to continue our exploration of the question: where were all the peasants in the Meiji Restoration?

Sources

Vlastos, Stephen. Peasant Protests and Uprisings in Tokugawa Japan

Pratt, Edward. Japan’s Protoindustrial Elite: The Economic Foundations of the Gounou

Bowen, Rodger. Rebellion and Democracy in Meiji Japan

Magagna, Victor V. Communities of Grain: Rural Rebellion in Comparative Perspective

Images

Wakamatsu Castle, the fortress of the lords of Aizu.

The siege of Wakamatsu castle saw the fall of Aizu domain, but the peasants of Aizu did little to defend their former masters.

Yonaoshi uprisings were not just confined to Aizu. Many, like the one depicted here, began with the destruction of the property of the wealthy and powerful, especially wealthy peasants.

 

 

Episode 301 – Stand Up For Your Rights, Part 1

While the Meiji Restoration was going on, where was everybody else? We’ll start trying to answer that question today with a look at an uprising in 1866 in the region of Shindatsu.

Sources

Vlastos, Stephen. Peasant Protests and Uprisings in Tokugawa Japan

Pratt, Edward. Japan’s Protoindustrial Elite: The Economic Foundations of the Gounou

Vanoverbeke, Dimitri. Community and State in the Japanese Farm Village

Images

Itakura Katsusato later in life. He is supposed to have promised relief to the peasants of Shindatsu, but was overruled.

The former site of the Daikansho (bakufu intendant’s office) in Koori, where the Shindatsu rebels eventually made their way.

Shindatsu, sometimes today called the Fukushima basin. You can see how well irrigated it is; perfect for silk.

A map of the region from Stephen Vlastos’s book (see the notes).

Episode 300 – The 300th Episode!

It’s a shame you can’t embed gifs in the episode descriptions, because otherwise this would just be the Ron Paul It’s Happening! gif.

Thank you all for enjoying the show; it would not be what it is without you.

Sources

Japanese white papers on karoshi, aging population, and declining birthrates (for some reason I couldn’t find the karoshi one more recently than 2017).

A recent Japan Times piece on hikikomori.

Hughes, David W. The Ashgate Research Companion to Japanese Music

Itoh, Keiko. The Japanese Community in Prewar Britain

Relevant Manga Sensei episode

Images

Sado Miwa died in 2013; in 2017 NHK admitted that her death was a result of Karoshi.

Rita and Masataka Taketsuru, whose romance is genuinely and truly adorable.

Kawakami Otojiro, who was in his day a pretty famous comedian.

The emblem of Japan’s Prime Minister.

The Nikka distillery in Yoichi, Hokkaido,.

 

Episode 299 – The Rebellion that Never Was

This week, we cover an obscure bit of samurai history: the Keian Incident, a planned coup against the Tokugawa Shoguns that was foiled by a lucky bit of happenstance. What can we learn from something that, in a certain sense, didn’t actually happen?

Sources

Totman, Conrad. Early Modern Japan

Nishiyama, Matsunosuke. Edo Culture: Daily Life and Diversions in Urban Japan, 1600-1868

Paramore, Kiri. Ideology and Christianity in Japan

Shirane, Haruo and Tomi Suzuki. The Cambridge History of Japanese Literature

Walthall, Anne. Peasant Uprisings in Japan

Images

A marker on the site where Yui Shosetsu’s head was put on display.

Another Keian Taiheiki print. Marubashi is at left, played by Ichikawa Sadanji the first. Shosetsu is in the middle, played by Nakamura Shikan the fourth. These two actors allow us to date this performance to either the late Edo or early Meiji Periods.

A print from Keian Taiheiki. Marubashi Chuya is at left; Yui Shosetsu is in the center.

 

 

 

Episode 298 – The Ghost of Japan Past

This week, we profile one of the great Western interpreters of Japan: Lafcadio Hearn. How did some Anglo-Greek kid end up in Japan by way of New Orleans, and why do we still care about him today?

Sources

Because Hearn was a Japanese national at the time of his death and he died in 1904, everything he ever wrote is public domain and freely searchable online.

Here is the Pulvers article I quote from so much in this episode.

Starr, S. Frederick. Inventing New Orleans: Writings of Lafcadio Hearn.

Hirakawa, Sukehiro, ed. Lafcadio Hearn in International Perspectives.

Images

Lafcadio Hearn and his wife Koizumi Setsu.

Hearn, his wife, and their first child. From the Lafcadio Hearn memorial museum.

Lafcadio Hearn. Note that in every photo of him he is facing to your right. This is to hide his bad eye.

Lafcadio Hearn’s gravestone, where his name is written as Koizumi Yakumo.

A still from the 1965 Kwaidan movie (this one from the Yuki Onna chapter). It’s an enormously stylish film and worth checking out or that reason6

 

 

Episode 297 – As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams, Part 2

This week, we round out our look at the celebrated women of Heian Japan with two very different careers: that of the celebrated poet Akazome Emon and the recluse known either as Takasue’s daughter or Lady Sarashina. Plus some final thoughts on women in the Heian era.

Sources

Morris, Ivan. As I Crossed a Bridge of Dreams

Watanabe, Takeshi. “Akazome Emon: Her Poetic Voice and Persona.” Yale Waka Workshop 2013 conference paper

Sato, Hiroaki. Japanese Women Poets: An Anthology.

Images

A karuta card for Akazome Emon.

Lady Sarashina would have come to the capital in a procession like this one. For a young woman, leaving the provinces would have been a big step in life.

Two pages of a transcription of the Sarashina Diary. Note the hiragana text; remember that hiragana was once known as “women’s hand.”

Akazome Emon gazes at the moon, by Hokusai.

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