Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Page 3 of 23

Episode 255 – The Beautiful Island, Part 4

This week, we close out our time with Taiwan with a look at its return to the Republic of China, and at the modern day relationship between the “renegade province” and Japan.


This fascinating Wall Street Journal article on the legacy of Japanese colonialism, as well as the early days of Republican rule.

Roy, Denny. Taiwan: A Political History.

Morris, Paul, et al. Imaginging Japan in Post-War East Asia

Rubinstein, Murray. Taiwan: A New History.


A commemorative photo of the events of Retrocession Day, as the October 25, 1945 surrender ceremony is sometimes called.

Taiwanese greet troops from the mainland, 1945.

Rioters attack the Monopoly Bureau of the Taiwanese government during the 2-28 Incident.

Today, Taipei’s largest park is known as 2-28 Park, and has a memorial to the events of 1947 inside.

A 2016 documentary, Wansei Back Home, talks about the lives of Wansei (Taiwan-born Japanese) after their repatriation to Japan.

Prime Minister Abe Shinzo and President Tsai Ing-wen, 2016. The mutual threat of the PRC has drawn Japan and Taiwan closer together in recent years.


Episode 254 – The Beautiful Island, Part 3

This week, Japan’s attempt to assimilate Taiwan finds some success, and one big stumbling block: the Musha Incident, the last and largest rebellion against Japanese rule on the island. Plus, the beginnings of Taiwan’s mobilization for war.


Roy, Denny. Taiwan: A Political History.

Ching, Leo. T.S. Becoming “Japanese”: Colonial Taiwan and the Politics of Identity Formation. 

Rubinstein, Murray A. Taiwan: A New History.

Barclay, Paul D. Outcasts of Empire: Japan’s Rule on Taiwan’s “Savage Border,” 1874-1945.


The flag of Chiang Wei-shui’s Taiwanese People’s Party. The similarities to the flag of the mainland’s Guomindang — the blue and red background, the white sun — were intentional, and likely were a factor in Japanese reluctance to cave into demands from a party that wanted to align itself with Chinese nationalism.

Taiwanese intellectuals in Tokyo petition for the right for a democratically elected assembly in 1924.

Musha village, Ren’ai Township, Taiwan — the location of the Musha Incident.

Musha Primary School, where Seediq warriors attacked Japanese colonists.

A Japanese soldier captures an image of the aftermath of the attack on the Musha Primary School.

It wasn’t just Japanese soldiers who fought the Seediqs during the Musha incident. The Japanese mobilized other aboriginals with grudges against the Seediq, like these men, to help put the insurrection down.

Taiwan Grand Shrine in Taibei, the largest Shinto shrine set up by the Japanese. This image was taken prior to the shrine’s destruction in WWII.

Taiwanese volunteers (though many were pressured to join) in the Imperial Army during the Pacific War.

Episode 253 – The Beautiful Island, Part 2

This week: now that Japan has conquered Taiwan, what are they actually going to do with it?


Sharpe, M.E. Maritime Taiwan: Historical Encounters with East and West.

Rubinstein, Murray A. Taiwan: A New History.

Barclay, Paul D. Outcasts of Empire: Japan’s Rule on Taiwan’s “Savage Border,” 1874-1945.

Tsurumi, E. Patricia. “Education and Assimilation in Taiwan under Japanese Rule, 1895-1945.” Modern Asian Studies 13, No. 4

Ts’ai, Hui-yu Caroline. “The Hoko System in Taiwan, 1895-1945: Structure and Functions.” The Journal of the College of Liberal Arts of National Chung-Hsing University, Vol. 23.


Kodama Gentaro, the military bureaucrat who was the first governor general with a tenure longer than a year or so.

Sakuma Samata, like his predecessor Kodama, was a military man. Under his rule, uprisings against the government grew stronger in character — he was eventually recalled after suffering a wound during one of those uprisings.

Lo Fu-hsing, the Hakka-Han-Dutch rebel who was executed by the Japanese in 1913, was honored by the Republic of China on Taiwan with a postage stamp.

A memorial for the Tapani Incident in modern Tainan.

Captured rebels in the wake of the Tapani Incident.

Den Kenjiro, the first civilian governor-general of Taiwan, took office in 1919.

A girl’s school in Taiwan. From their origins as relatively marginal parts of colonial policy, schools like this one would become increasingly central to the assimilation-oriented policies of the government-general.

An aboriginal school under Japanese rule.

Episode 252 – The Beautiful Island, Part 1

This week, we start a history of the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. How did Japan come to conquer the island, and what did its conquest entail for the Japanese and for the inhabitants?


Alsford, Nikki. Transitions to Modernity in Taiwan

Cheung, Sui-Wai, editor. Colonial Administration and Land Reform in East Asia.

Teng, Emma. Taiwan’s Imagined Geography. 

Morris, Andrew D. Japanese Taiwan: Colonial Rule and its Contested Legacy.


A map of Taiwan for reference. I will do my best to give some geographical references when talking about specific places as well, to help you stay oriented!

Today’s fort Anping is built on the original site of the Dutch Fort Zeelandia settlement.

A sketch of Fort Zeelandia during the Dutch occupation.

Recently restored by Sebastian Airton, this 1849 print by Kuniyoshi depicts the half-Japanese, half-Chinese warlord ruler of Taiwan Koxinga as he fights off a giant tiger.

Even after subduing the island, the Qing faced rebellions in Taiwan. This print is of a force sent in the late 1700s to suppress one such rebellion.

Liu Mingchuan, Taiwan’s first governor-general.

French soldiers in Keelung during the Sino-French War (1884-87). The French advance would never make it beyond Keelung itself.

A Japanese print of a Japanese officer being ambushed by a native. Prints like these served a propaganda purpose of depicting the Taiwanese resistance as equipped with antiquated weapons and reliant on dishonorable ambush tactics — which, to be fair, was often the case.

Another propaganda print from the occupation campaign.

Episode 251 – Homosexuality in Japan

This week, we take a look at the history of gay and lesbian relationships in Japan. How has the social position of homosexuality changed over time in Japanese history? What evidence can we use to “read out” the history of a non-mainstream culture?


Pflugfelder, Gregory M. Cartographies of Desire: Male-male Sexuality in Japanese Discourse, 1600-1950

Leupp, Gary P. “The Floading World Is Wide…: Some Suggested Approaches to Researching Female Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan (1603-1868)”. Thamyris 5, No. 1 (1998)

Leupp, Gary P. Male Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan.

An excellent article on on homosexuality

Pew polling data source 


Note: I did not include much from the SUBSTANTIAL quantity of Tokugawa era depictions of homosexuality because most of it is erotic in nature, and that’s not really what I’m going for with this episode. It’s easy to find with a Google search if you want to see it.

“Male and Youth”, by Miyagawa Issho, 1750

Shunkoin, a temple in Kyoto, started offering itself as a same-sex wedding venue in 2014, despite the fact that same-sex marriage is yet to be legalized by the Kyoto city government. Image from Japan Today.

Masaki Sumitani, aka. Hard Gay, during his wrestling career.

A female-female couple depicted by Isoda Koryusai, c. 1700s.

Ren and Yae, a same sex couple (who hid their last names to avoid discrimination) get married in Setagaya Ward during Pride Week, 2015. Photo from NPR.

Episode 250 – Today is the Victory

This week, we take on the legend of Miyamoto Musashi. How is it that a person we know very little about came to be a legend? Could it be, perhaps, that the very fact that we know so little about him for sure is part of the allure of his legend?


Tokitsu, Kenji. Miyamoto Musashi: His Life and Writings.

Kane, Lawrence. Musashi’s Dokkodo. 

Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan


Musashi wielding two weapons, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

A self-portrait attributed to Musashi.

A monument to the Musashi-Sasaki Kojiro duel on Ganryujima.

The entrance to Reigando, the cave Musashi retired to at the end of his life.

Musashi’s grave in Kumamoto.

Musashi fighting the whale, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

Mifune Toshiro as Miyamoto Musashi in the samurai trilogy. Note the two swords.

Ichioji, Kyoto. This temple, supposedly where the final battle between Musashi and the Yoshioka school took place, now has a monument to the fight.

Episode 249 – Every Day is a Journey

This week, we delve into the life, legacy, and style of Matsuo Basho, Japan’s most famous poet. Who was he? How did he develop his unique style? How did Japan’s most famous haiku poet end up writing before the invention of the word “haiku”? All that and more!


Ueda, Makoto. Basho and His Interpreters.

Carter, Steven D. Haiku Before Haiku: From the Renga Masters to Basho.

Carter, Steven D. “On a Bare Branch: Basho and the Haikai Profession.” Journal of the American Oriental Society 117, No 1 (Jan-March, 1997)


Matsuo Basho, as depicted by Hokusai.

Bronze equestrian Basho statue in Nasu, Tochigi.

Basho meeting with two farmers celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival. From Yoshitoshi’s 100 Aspects of the Moon series, early Meiji.

A painting of Basho on horseback by one of Basho’s students (Sugiyama Sanpu).

An example of Basho’s propensity for mixing images with poetry. The Hokku/Haiku here reads:
Yellow rose petals
a waterfall

Basho in the garden of his hut. His banana tree (the original Basho) is to the right.

A bronze statue of Basho in Otsu city, Shiga Prefecture.

Episode 248 – Family Matters

This week we take on the history of the von Siebold family — father Philip Franz, son Alexander, and daughter Kusumoto Ine. How does the story of this unusual family fit in to the story of 19th century Japan?


Nakamura, Ellen. “Working the Siebold Network: Kusumoto Ine and Western Learning in Nineteenth-Century Japan.” Japanese Studies 28, No. 2

Ravina, Mark. To Stand with the Nations of the World.

Walthall, Anne. The Female as Subject: Women and Writing in Early Modern Japan.

Nakamura, Ellen. “Ogino Ginko’s Vision: “The Past and Future of Women Doctors in Japan” U.S.-Japan Women’s Journal, no. 34 (2008)


Philip Franz von Siebold during his time in Nagasaki. The painting was done by Kawahara Keiga, a Japanese painter who was friends with von Siebold.

A landscape by Kawahara Keiga showing Dutchmen observing Nagasaki’s harbor. The woman and child shown here are Taki and Ine.

Philip Franz and Alexander von Siebold around the time of Philip’s second trip to Japan in 1859.

Mise Shuzo and Kusumoto Takako.

Kusumoto Ine posing at the height of her career. She became a very well respected practitioner of Western medicine.

Alexander von Siebold did well out of his work in Japan, netting a minor Barony in Austria-Hungary as well as a steady and respectable job.

Kusumoto Ine and her daughter Takako late in Ine’s life.

The Siebold Memorial in Nagasaki, c. early 20th c. Siebold is still remembered fondly in Japan (especially in Nagasaki) as an early booster of Japan around the world.

Episode 247 – Edokko

This week, we’re very lucky to have a chance to speak with Mr. Isaac Shapiro. Mr. Shapiro grew up in wartime Japan, and shares his experiences here with us today. You can check out his book, Edokko: Growing Up a Foreigner in Wartime Japan on Amazon!


The Shapiro family in Japan. Standing, left to right are the Shapiro siblings: Isaac, Jacob, Ariel, and Joseph. Sitting, left to right, are: Lydia (his mother), Michael, Constantine (his father), and Ms. Vaisman, their caretaker.

Isaac Shapiro in 1950. By this point, he had already emigrated to the United States.

Isaac Shapiro today.

Episode 246 – There and Back Again

This week, we cover the story of Engelbert Kaempfer, who wrote one of the most thorough and best known accounts of Japan for Western consumption before the Meiji era. How did this random German dude end up in Japan? What did he write about it? What did he think of it? And why do we care?


Roberts, J.A.G. “Not the Least Deserving:The Philosophes and the Religions of Japan.” Monumenta Nipponica 44, No. 2 (Summer, 1989), 151-169.

Michel, Wolfgang. “His Story of Japan: Engelbert Kaempfer’s Manuscript in a New Translation.” Monumenta Nipponica 55, No 1 (2000), 109-120.

A fascinating academic piece on prostitution and the Dutch in Nagasaki.

A complete version of the Kaempfer text from

Haberland, Detlef. Engelbert Kaempfer: A Biography


Kaempfer included several diagrams and images in his notes, including this one where he broke down the components of the Japanese phoenetic alphabet. In addition to being a helpful historical tool, it’s impressive because it means that unlike many Europeans of his day, he cared enough to try to learn the basics of the language.

Kaempfer got his start as a documentarian in Persia; this sketch is his work on the ruins of the old Achaemenid Persian capital at Persepolis.

Kaempfer’s sketch of a sankin kotai retinue — a lord and his followers on their way to attend to the shogun in Edo.

A part of Kaempfer’s original manuscript from the British museum.

Kaempfer’s sketch of an audience with the shogun. Note the careful attention to the detail of the clothes, rather than simply drawing all the outfits the same or in a more European fashion.

Kaempfer’s map of Japan, using the original 60 provinces of Japan as its basis. A century and a half later, another German, Franz Philip von Siebold, would be kicked out of the country for having something like this, but Kaempfer was able to just acquire it no questions asked.

Page 3 of 23

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén