Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Category: History of Japan Podcast Page 2 of 26

Episode 291 – What Goes Up, Part 2

This week, we’re going to talk about life in the bubble era by looking at three snapshots of that experience: a movie, a book, and a poem.

Sources

A partial translation of The Japan that Can Say No

Tanikawa’s “A Push of a Button” is available in Modern Japan: A History in Documents, edited by James Huffman

Images

From Tampopo. The junior fellow who shows everyone up is at left; the man at right is kicking him under the table.

From Tampopo. I know this is my foremost concern when I eat spaghetti.

A scene from A Taxing Woman’s Return where the bad guys plot over a literal pile of money.

Sony founder Morita Akio.

Ishihara Shintaro today.

Tanikawa Shuntaro.

Episode 290 – What Goes Up, Part 1

This week, we turn our attention to the 1980s. Japan and the United States find their relationship wracked by increasing tensions over political and economic relations, and turn to the solution of an agreement designed to ease the pressure of Japan’s economic growth. The result? Japan’s infamous Bubble Era!

Sources

Pempel, T.J. Regime Shift

Anchordoguy, Marie. Reprogramming Japan

Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan.

Images

The murder of Vincent Chin in 1982 was symptomatic of the level of tension (both economic and racial) in the US-Japan relationship by the 1980s.

The negotiators of the Plaza Accord. James Baker III (USA) is at center. Takeshita Noboru (Japan) is at right.

Ginza’s Yonchome in 1955.

Ginza Yonchome in the 1980s. You can see the incredible growth in just two decades and change.

Another shot of the Ginza in the 1980s. By the height of the bubble, one square meter of commercial real estate here cost $750,000.24

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.

250px-Map-of-Odawara-Castle

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. 

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