Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Category: History of Japan Podcast Page 1 of 25

Episode 289 – The Right Tool for the Job, Part 2

This week, we’re going to talk about the impact that the gun had on Sengoku Era Japan, and the ways that it both reinforced and undermined the political trends of the time.

Sources

Lidin, Olof G. Tanegashima: The Arrival of Europe in Japan.

Conlan, Thomas. Weapons and Fighting Techniques of the Samurai Warrior

Images

The Battle of Osaka at the start of the siege in late 1614. I’m including this so you can get a sense of the castle layout; the blue are the defenders, and they’re arrayed around that third outermost wall designed to defend the main keep from cannon fire.

The “Red Demon Armor” of Ii Naomasa. No wonder he got shot.

Negoroji today. The current temple dates to the Edo period, as the earlier one was burned by Hideyoshi to put a stop to their pernicious gunsmithing.

A bronze swivel mounted cannon manufactured at Nobunaga’s Kunitomo gunworks.

These bronze cannon are emblematic of the type of weapons you’d see at Osaka castle.

Today there’s a firearms museum at Kunitomo, and it’s well worth a look. Here are examples of the kind of arquebuses they have on hand.

Episode 288 – The Right Tool for the Job, Part 1

This week, we discuss the history of one of the most important technologies in Japan: the gun. How did it get to Japan and spread around the country so quickly?

Sources
Lidin, Olof G. Tanegashima: The Arrival of Europe in Japan.

Conlan, Thomas. Weapons and Fighting Techniques of the Samurai Warrior

Images

A Yuan Dynasty (1200s-1300s) era hand cannon. Weapons like these existed in Japan prior to the arrival of Europeans, though European designs were substantially better by the 1500s.

A Japanese matchlock pistol. Weapons like these would spread very rapidly across Japan within a very short time span.

A set of Japanese style arquebuses from the Edo period. Though these are later than the Sengoku era models we are discussing, the general look would be similar.

Re-enactors firing arquebuses. Note that they are carrying the banner of the Toyotomi clan; this will be relevant next week!

A beautiful map for you all laboriously crafted in MS Paint showing the major gunsmithing centers in Sengoku Japan. Red is Negoroji, blue is Sakai, green is Kunitomo, and far in the south (and accidentally still green) is Tanegashima.

Episode 287 – The Drunken Demon

Sumiyoshi Hironao’s Shuten Doji decapitation scene. It’s…quite something.

Toriyama Sekien’s take on Shuten Doji.

A scene from the Oeyama Ekotoba, the original source of the Shuten Doji legend (or at least one version of it).

Utagawa Yoshitsuya’s take on the battle between Shuten Doji and Minamoto no Raiko and friends.

Raiko and friends bring back Shuten Doji’s head.

This week, we’re taking a look at a specific oni tale, and probably the most famous one; the story of the Demon King of Mt. Oe, Shuten Doji. What’s his story? How did he get punked by five of Japan’s most famous warriors? And why are we still talking about him so many years later?

Sources

Reider, Noriko. Japanese Demon Lore

Addis, Stephen. Japanese Ghosts and Demons: Art of the Supernatural

Reider, Noriko. Tales of the Supernatural in Early Modern Japan

Images

Episode 286 – On the Outside Looking In

This week we talk oni, the demons of Japanese folklore and legend. What makes oni different from Western style demons? What are some of the most famous oni stories? And how has the image of the oni changed over time?

Sources

Reider, Noriko. Japanese Demon Lore

Addis, Stephen. Japanese Ghosts and Demons: Art of the Supernatural

Reider, Noriko. Tales of the Supernatural in Early Modern Japan

Images and Media

This is a scene from Komochi Yamauba, the kabuki play by Chikamatsu Monzaemon

An illustration of Uji no Hashihime from Toriyama Sekien, made during the mid-Edo era.

Another Sekien print of Uji no Hashihime. Note the Ox (ushi), associated with oni imagery.

A “generic oni” from the work of Toriyama Sekien.

This is the Amazon cover art for the first volume of Urusei Yatsura and that’s all I plan to say about that.

Episode 285 – Rags to Riches, Part 3

This week: how did the Hojo go from the zenith of their power to utter destruction in a single generation? The answer: a difficult neighborhood, dangerous neighbors, and bad decisions.

Sources

Conlan, Thomas. Arms and Equipment of the Samurai Warrior, 1200-1800.

Berry, Mary Elizabeth. The Culture of Civil War in Kyoto.

Souyri, Pierre. The World Turned Upside Down

Birt, Michael J. “Samurai in Passage: The Transformation of the Sixteenth-Century Kanto.” Journal of Japanese Studies 11, No 2 (Summer, 1985), 369-399.

Images

Tateyama castle, home base of the Satomi clan, which despite being badly outgunned would never fall to the Hojo.

Hideyoshi orders the attack on Odawara, from the late Edo/early Meiji Era, by Utagawa Toyonobu. Where the main narrative of Japanese history mentions the latter Hojo, it tends to emphasize the moment of their destruction as the completion of Hideyoshi’s ambition to reunify Japan. There are, however, plenty of other valid reasons to study them!

A map of the forces arrayed against the Hojo during the 1590 siege. Useful for seeing just how impressive the forces Hideyoshi had arrayed (the blue markers) were.

The graves of the latter Hojo leadership remain popular tourist destinations. This particular one is Ujimasa’s.

Episode 284 – Rags to Riches, Part 2

This week, we will talk about the innovations the Latter Hojo used to secure their dominance, and about their long war against one of the great clans of the Kanto, the Ogigayatsu Uesugi.

Sources

Conlan, Thomas. Arms and Equipment of the Samurai Warrior, 1200-1800.

Berry, Mary Elizabeth. The Culture of Civil War in Kyoto.

Souyri, Pierre. The World Turned Upside Down

Birt, Michael J. “Samurai in Passage: The Transformation of the Sixteenth-Century Kanto.” Journal of Japanese Studies 11, No 2 (Summer, 1985), 369-399.

Images

1568

Hojo territories as of 1568 (a bit later than this episode but the best map I could find). Using my highly advanced photo editing skills I’ve highlighted the Hojo on this map.

1920px-Kawagoe_castle-Honmaru-2006-02-12

The central building of Kawagoe Castle, site of Hojo Ujiyasu’s great victory in 1545. That victory would ultimately break the Ogigayatsu Uesugi and assure Hojo dominance in the central Kanto.

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The head of a Sengoku era spear. This photo is useful for illustrating just how little valuable steel is used in a spear versus a sword; that’s what makes it so cheap, and thus made spears the central weapon of the era.

Ujiyasu_Hojo

Hojo Ujiyasu in the attire of a court aristocrat. The third lord of the Hojo would come to leadership relatively untested, but his victory at Kawagoe would quickly silence the doubters.

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The layout of the Hojo home fortress at Kawagoe. Not all Hojo fortresses looked like this, but they all served similar purposes in terms of establishing the clan’s hold on their territories.

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A map showing the array of forces in the Battle of Kawagoe in 1545. The red armies are the besiegers; the blue are the Hojo counterattack force.

Episode 283 – Rags to Riches, Part 1

This week, we start a series on one of the also-rans of the Sengoku period: the Latter Hojo clan. Who were they, and where did they come from, and why is their first leader sometimes considered the first of a new breed of samurai warlord?

Sources

Conlan, Thomas. Arms and Equipment of the Samurai Warrior, 1200-1800.

Berry, Mary Elizabeth. The Culture of Civil War in Kyoto.

Souyri, Pierre. The World Turned Upside Down

Steenstrup, Carl. “Hojo Soun’s Twenty-One Articles: The Code of Conduct of the Odawara Hojo.” Monumenta Nipponica 29, No 3 (Autumn, 1974), p. 283-303.

Images

Hojo Soun late in life. Like many samurai, in his later years he would take the vows of a Buddhist monk and retire to a monastic complex, though he would exercise defacto control over his family until his death in 1519.

A statue of Hojo Soun outside the Odawara train station commemorating his conquest of Odawara castle. Note the deer, a reference to the “hunting expedition” that let Soun take control of the castle.

The original Odawara Castle was ripped down after the Meiji Restoration; the rebuilt one does give you some sense of the design, though what you see today is based off the design towards the end of the Hojo era, not when the family first took it.

The traditional 60 provinces of Japan. The upper left of this map has a nice detail of the Kanto provinces, though this particular one is from the Edo period and so the road placement is anachronistic to what we’re talking about.

The Hojo clan kamon, or family crest — the Mitsu-uroko, or three triangles. Sometimes it is shown as being inscribed in a circle.
Hojo Soun (or his son Ujitsuna) would decide to adopt the moniker Hojo after seizing the old Hojo clan’s capital city of Kamakura as a way of legitimating themselves.

Episode 282 – The Brothers Soga

This week, we cover one of the most famous tales of revenge in Japanese history: that of the two Soga brothers, Goro and Juro. What do we know of the original story, and how did it morph into one of the most famous tales ever told in Japan?

Sources

Curtis, Jasmin M. “Drops of Blood on Fallen Snow: The Evolution of Blood Revenge Practices in Japan.” Masters Thesis, UMass Amherst, 2012.

Mills, D.E. “Kataki-Uchi: The Practice of Blood-Revenge in Pre-Modern Japan.” Modern Asian Studies 10, No 4 (1976), 525-542.

Cogan

A Hiroshige print showing the moment of vengeance.

A Kuniyoshi Soga print. The brothers are on the right, their lovers the left. Kudo is in the center.

The two brothers hone their techniques in this scene by practicing chopping snow smoothly in half.

A print showing Ichikawa Danjuro I as Soga Goro. That role is particularly associated with the Ichikawa Danjuro lineage of kabuki.

A Soga print showing the hunt scene at Mt. Fuji, the climax of the tale.

, Thomas J. The Tale of the Soga Brothers. 

Images

Episode 281 – The Fool of Owari, Part 2

This week, we cover the remainder of Oda Nobunaga’s rise to power: his wars for control of central Japan in 1570, his cleverness as a ruler, his brutal reign, and his eventual death at the hands of one of his most trusted retainers.

Sources

Berry, Mary Elizabeth. Hideyoshi.

Lamers, Jeroen. Japonius Tyrannus: The Japanese Warlord Oda Nobunaga Reconsidered 

Lamers, Jeroen. The Chronicle of Lord Nobunaga [Shinchou Kouki] of Ota Gyuichi

de Barry, William Theodore, editor. The Cambridge History of Japan: Volumes 3-4

Images

A byobu folding screen of the Battle of Nagashino from a few decades after the fact. The Oda forces on the left defend against the Takeda coming from the right. This gives you some idea of the terrain and the path of Takeda attack.

A Meiji Era woodblock print showing the last stand of Takeda Katsuyori in 1582. Katsuyori is on the right; he would commit suicide to avoid capture, but that would not save him from being disgraced posthumously by Nobunaga.

The original Azuchi Castle was burned by Mitshide in 1582; this reconstruction gives you some idea of its former glory.

The expansion of the Oda clan during Nobunaga’s lifetime. The Oda would never go on to rule Japan, but this territory would form the basis for Hideyoshi’s eventual reunification of Japan.

A Meiji-era print of the attack on Honnoji. Nobunaga, on the right, is stabbed by an Akechi retainer. On the left, Nobunaga’s loyal page Mori Ranmaru attempts to save him.

Episode 280 – The Fool of Owari, Part 1

This week, we turn to the life and legacy of the first of Japan’s three unifiers: the warlord Oda Nobunaga, who expanded his domains from part of a backwater province to 1/3rd of all Japan in just a few decades. Who were the Oda? Where did they come from? And how did Nobunaga go from a nobody to a major force in Japanese politics in just a few years?

Sources

Berry, Mary Elizabeth. Hideyoshi.

Lamers, Jeroen. Japonius Tyrannus: The Japanese Warlord Oda Nobunaga Reconsidered 

Lamers, Jeroen. The Chronicle of Lord Nobunaga [Shinchou Kouki] of Ota Gyuichi

Images

Oda Nobunaga, who would start from nothing and rise to tremendous heights.

Kiyosu Castle, the base of Nobunaga’s branch of the Oda clan.

The location of Owari province.

A detail map of the Oda home region. Mino belonged to the Saito clan; Mikawa to the Matsudaira/Tokugawa; Totomi and Suruga on the right to the Imagawa, and Shinano would eventually become the heart of the Takeda lands.

The site of the former Iwakura Castle, which Nobunaga had destroyed to cement his hold on Owari.

An Utagawa school print of the Battle of Okehazama. Oda troops attack from the right; Imagawa Yoshimoto is on the left, fighting for his life.

Another print of Okehazama; Yoshimoto is the central figure in red (not that his armor is similar to the first).

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