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?
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
This week: the start of a two-part series on women in Heian Japan. What makes the social position of women in the Heian Era so distinct from later points of Japanese history, and from the East Asian cultural sphere more generally? How do we know what we know about the lives of women? And what can we learn from the story of one particularly badass woman: the poet and “femme fatale” Izumi Shikibu?
This week, we cover the true story of North Korea’s abduction of Japanese civilians. Who was taken, and why? What do we know about their lives in the north? And how does their disappearance still affect the relationship between Japan and North Korea today?
A Committee for Human Rights in North Korea report on the abduction issue.
Cummings, Bruce. North Korea: Another Country.
Hasuike Kaoru and Hasuike Yukiko on their return to Japan. Note the pins on their lapels; that pin is a marker of membership in the Korean Worker’s Party.
Yokota Sachie and Yokota Shigeru at a press conference with pictures of their daughter. From the Japan Times.
Yokota Megumi before her abduction and at some point in her life in North Korea. From the Japan Times.
Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and US President Donald Trump with the families of abductees, 2017. From the Nikkei Asian Review.
Kim Hyon-hui, one of many North Korean operatives trained in Japanese by the abductees.
This week, the effects of the collapsing asset bubble spread as the extent of the damage caused is revealed; Japan’s financial and political leaders scramble to respond, while refusing to admit the scale of the crisis. Plus, the legacies of the bubble era for Japan today.
This chapter by Dr. Ohno Kenichi of Japan’s National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies on the bubble and its effects
A New York Times article on nostalgia for the bubble era.
Tett, Gillian. Saving the Sun
The old Long Term Credit Bank of Japan; nationalizing the LTCB was the moment the Japanese government finally found a systemic response to its crisis of confidence.
Japan’s unemployment rate has spiked since the bubble; it still remains low compared to other industrialized countries, but the effects on Japanese society have been substantially disruptive.
Prime Minister Abe is now Japan’s third longest serving prime minister ever. Yet his policies of Abenomics have failed to substantially revive the economy.
A graph from Nakaso Hiroshi’s paper showing the fall in Japan’s economic growth rate after the bubble.
Initiatives like “Premium Friday” are attempts to revive the Japanese economy, but they don’t address the lack of confidence consumers have in their economic futures — which is what holds them back from spending money.
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?”
Kingston, Jeff. Japan in Transformation, 1945-2010.
Dubro, Alec and David Kaplan. Yakuza: Japan’s Criminal Underworld.
Ezoe Hiromasa, the head of Recruit Corporation, whose illicit money laundering via the stock market touched off the first major 1980s scandal.
Sumita Satoshi, BOJ governor 1984-89. He is often blamed for the bubble, though responsibility is not solely his.
Kanemaru Shin giving an apologetic press conference as the scale of the Sagawa Kyubin scandal becomes clear. Kanemaru would die just a few years later, but the damage to public confidence would linger.
Recruit HQ via Google maps. The company still exists today, and surprisingly has not rebranded.
Land like this is prime target for yakuza jiageya, who would try to convince the home owners to sell so that the home could be bought up and developed.