Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

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Episode 207 – Across the Sea, Part 3

This week, we’re headed south to take a look at Nikkei communities in Brazil and Peru.

Listen to the episode here.


Masterson, Daniel et al. The Japanese in Latin America.

Dresner, Jonathan. Japanese Diasporas: Unsung Pasts, Conflicting Presents, and Uncertain Futures.

An article from NACLA on Nikkeijin and the legacy of Alberto Fujimori.

A Reuters article on Brazilian Nikkeijin.



Children waving Japanese and Brazilian flags at a 2008 celebration of 100 years of Japanese immigration to Brazil.


A Japanese-Brazilian family outside of Sao Paolo.


Japanese immigration companies used posters like this one (which reads “Let’s move to South America with our families”) to encourage people to sign up for immigration companies.


A Japanese-Brazilian run business in Sao Paolo.


Japanese-Brazilian laborers on a coffee plantation. Though not as arduous as sugar harvesting, coffee is not an easy plant to work with.


Japanese-Peruvians were in some cases forcibly interned in the United States during World War II. This baseball team from Crystal Lake is entirely Japanese-Peruvian, excepting one man in the bottom row second from left.


Alberto Fujimori, the first Nikkei president of Peru. Initially quite popular, his corruption and lack of regard for the law led to his impeachment in 2000. He now resides in a Peruvian prison.


Alberto Fujimori’s daughter Keiko, a Peruvian Senator and head of the Popular Force right-wing party.

Episode 206 – Across the Sea, Part 2

This week, we take a closer look at early communities of Nikkeijin — people of Japanese descent — in the United States and Hawaii.

Listen to the episode here.


Asakawa, Gil. Being Japanese-American.

Spicard, Paul. Japanese Americans: The Formation and Transformation of an Ethnic Group

Odo, Franklin. No Sword to Bury.


4thStBusinesses_ca1950s 3x4

San Francisco’s Japantown in the 1930s.


Frenzied and racist attacks on Japanese labor led to the Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907. Papers like the Seattle Star were instrumental in drumming up pressure for both the 1907 agreement and the 1924 immigration act.


The bill itself may not have specified the Japanese, but at the time nobody was under any illusions as to who the 1924 Immigration Act targeted.


Japanese workers on a sugarcane plantation, c. 1915. Courtesy of the University of Hawaii.


A Honganji (Jodo Shinshu) temple in Oahu. Note the Japanese-inspired detailing on the roof; that kind of thing was far less common on the continent.


Shashin hanayome (picture bridges) arriving on Angel Island in Los Angeles, 1910. Courtesy of

Episode 205 – Across the Sea, Part 5

This week, we begin a new series on the history of the Japanese diaspora!

Listen to the episode here.


Masterson, Daniel et al. The Japanese in Latin America.

The excellent resources of the Japanese American National Museum.

Dresner, Jonathan. Japanese Diasporas: Unsung Pasts, Conflicting Presents, and Uncertain Futures.



The grave of Otokichi in Singapore; he was never allowed to return to Japan after being blown away in a storm.


Nakahama Manjiro, the castaway who became a samurai — and one of very few to leave Japan during the Edo Period.


Seattle’s Japantown c.1909, in what is now the International District.


Seattle Japanese-American fishermen participating in a public parade.


Japanese immigrants arriving in Victoria, British Columbia.


Japanese laborers on a pineapple plantation in Hawaii, c.1900.

Episode 204 – No Peace Without War

This week we tackle the question of Japanese fascism by looking at one of Japan’s foremost fascists, the authoritarian scholar Kita Ikki.

Listen to the episode here.


Maruyama, Masao. Thought and Behavior in Japanese Politics (if you’re interested in the topic this is the one must-read book)

Tansman, Alan. The Culture of Japanese Fascism.

Kita, Ikki. Outline Plan for the Reorganization of Japan.



Kita Ikki as a young man.


Yoshino Sakuzo was the target of a failed political smear campaign by Kita Ikki and the Yuzonsha — a failure indicative of the wider political fortunes of the Yuzonsha organization.


Officers sympathetic to Kita, shown here occupying the Imperial Hotel, were a big part of the 2-26 incident — and as a result of the coup attempt, Kita was arrested and shot.


Episode 203 – The Old Man and the Sea

This week: one of Japan’s most famous Buddhist masters, Kukai, takes center stage!

Listen to the episode here.


Winfield, Pamela. Icons and Iconoclasm in Japanese Buddhism

Bowring, Richard. The Religious Teachings of Japan, 500-1600.

Totman, Conrad. A History of Japan.



A painting of Kukai from the medieval period.


The Mandala of the Two Realms, used as a visual pattern for Mt. Koya and central to Kukai’s Shingon Buddhism.


A letter from Kukai to Saicho.


The main hall of the Mt. Koya complex.


Monks bringing food and clothes to Kukai’s body.

Episode 202 – The Old Man Mad About Art

Today we discuss Japan’s greatest artistic genius, Katsushika Hokusai!

Listen to the episode here.
Katsushika Hokusai – The complete works

Some Hokusai content from the Met Museum

Strange, Edward F. Hokusai: The Old Man Mad About Painting



Fireworks over Ryogoku Bridge, one of Hokusai’s earliest landscapes.


Hokusai painting the great Daruma in Nagoya. Though the original is lost, promotional materials survive that give us a sense of the scale involved.


The Great Wave off Kanagawa


An earlier attempt at a wave drawing from 1804. You can see substantial technical improvements in the Great Wave.


The Hokusai Manga.


Another image from the Hokusai Manga.


Hokusai’s self portrait as an old man.


Ducks in a Stream, completed by Hokusai at the age of 87.

Episode 201 – The Green Archipelago

This week: Japan’s a pretty verdant place, but how did it stay that way when so many other places were ravaged by human development?

Listen to the episode here.


Totman, Conrad. The Green Archipelago.

Totman, Conrad. A History of Japan.

Basically everything Conrad Totman ever did.


Adding to the strain on Japan’s environment was the need to rebuild major monuments after a set time — particularly Shinto shrines, since Shinto’s fierce taboos surrounding decay require sites to be continuously restored. Ise Shrine, shown here, is rebuilt every 20 years on alternating sites, and has been since the 600s.


The Todaiji Buddha, which required 160,000 cubic feet of charcoal to produce.


Stands of Japanese cypress, or hinoki, were among the most valuable timber sources in Japan — and the most heavily harvested.


Zojoji, one of two burial temples of the Tokugawa shoguns in Edo.


Nikko Toshogu, a shrine to the deified spirit of Tokugawa Ieyasu. Ieyasu’s building boom was the largest one in Japanese history before the Meiji Era.


Episode 200 – The 200th Episode

All you could ever want to know about podcast recording, UW’s graduate program, and why the Japanese definitely are not part of the 10 lost tribes of Israel! That and more!

Thank you all for 200 great episodes!

Listen to the episode here.

Check out Accessible Japan at its fantastic website here!


An NIH article on kampo.

Shillony, Ben-Ami. Jews & The Japanese: The Successful Outsidesr.

Goodman, David G. and Masanori Miyazawa. Jews in the Japanese Mind: The History and Uses of a Cultural Stereotype. 

Morikawa, Jun. Whaling in Japan.

A collection of articles and information on Japan’s territorial disputes assembled by the New York Times.



My “research assistants” and banes of my audio recording career, playing innocent after spending 20 minutes trying to get me to stop recording and play with them.

Japanese Tefilin

Proponents of the theory that the Japanese are part of the tribes of Israel point to Shinto customs like this one, which involves ritual headwrappings that superficially resemble the tefilin worn by Orthodox Jews during prayer, because there is nothing intrinsically important about the human head that might draw someone to place some kind of symbolic significance on it.


Under the pretense of research whaling, Japanese vessels continue to hunt whales for consumption. However, whale meat was never very popular before the 1950s.


A Korean street protest against Japan’s claim on the Liancourt Rocks. The issue is far more of a hot button in Korea than in Japan, where it is generally ignored by the public at large and used by the LDP as a cheap electoral strategy.

Episode 199 – Fist of Legend, Part 6

In which we bring things to a close by considering the fall of the Butokukai, the spread of budo beyond Japan, the role of martial arts in the African-American community, the question of Olympic sport status, and the challenge of the UFC. It’s gonna be a busy week.

Listen to the episode here.


This excellent article on martial arts and black power.

NYT piece on kendo and the olympic sport question.



As part of an attempt to shed its militaristic image, some kendo practitioners adopted the European-style fencing jacket as a practice outfit after the US Occupation.


Steve Sanders (Muhammed) on right, with Jim Kelly of Enter the Dragon fame on the left. The Black Karate Federation logo is visible behind them.


Sanders on the cover of a Karate Illustrated magazine. From the excellent article provided by Kung Fu Tea.

Olympic Judo London 2012 (74 of 98)

Judo at the 2012 London Olympics. The precise role of competition in budo remains fiercely debated, and there are some among other budo communities who point to a perceived decline in the aesthetic qualities of judo as a warning about the dangers of a focus on competition.

Episode 198 – Fist of Legend, Part 5

This week: can a martial art be a philosophy of life? Can it rise to the level of a religion?

Listen to the episode here.


Stalker, Nancy K. Prophet Motive: Deguchi Onisaburo, Omotokyo, and the Rise of New Religions. 

So, Doshin. This is Shorinji Kempo. (note: there’s basically nothing academic on Shorinji Kempo out there, which makes many of the claims in this book and others difficult to verify).

Ueshiba, Kisshomaru. Aikido. 



Ueshiba Morihei in his middle age, around the time he went to Tokyo.


Takeda Sokaku, Ueshiba’s first teacher.


Takeda demonstrating Daito-ryu at the Asahi Shimbun offices in 1936.


Ueshiba later in life.


So Doshin as a younger man.


So Doshin instructs one of his most famous pupils, the martial arts film star Sonny Chiba.

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