Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

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Episode 231 – The Measure of an Emperor, Part 6

This week, we wrap up the life of Japan’s 124th Emperor. What, in the end, did it all mean?

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Bix, Herbert. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan.

Wetzler, Peter. Hirohito and War: Imperial Tradition and Military Decision Making in World War II Japan.

Large, Stephen. Emperor Hirohito and Showa Japan: A Political Biography.

Images10

Hirohito and Elizabeth Vining together.

As a part of his education, Elizabeth Gray Vining arranged for Akihito to visit Haverford College in Pennsylvania, where this photo was taken.

Akihito and Princess Michiko (center) flanked by Hirohito and Empress Nagako.

Royal Box in National Stadium, Tokyo, Oct. 10, 1964, during the opening ceremony of the 1964 Summer Olympic Games. (AP Photo)

The Emperor enters the House of Mouse.

Hirohito during his 1975 state visit, accompanied by the empress, President Gerald Ford, and the First Lady.

Motoshima Hitoshi, former mayor of Nagasaki. For criticizing Hirohito in the leadup to the emperor’s death, he was shot in the back and nearly expelled from the LDP.

Episode 230 – The Measure of an Emperor, Part 5

How does a man raised to be a military autocrat become a democratic emperor in just a few short years? Or is that even possible?

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Bix, Herbert. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan.

Wetzler, Peter. Hirohito and War: Imperial Tradition and Military Decision Making in World War II Japan.

Large, Stephen. Emperor Hirohito and Showa Japan: A Political Biography.

Miller, Ian Jared. The Nature of the Beasts: Empire and Exhibition at the Tokyo Imperial Zoo. 

The Shirayuki War Bond advertisement, from Time in June, 1945.

Images and Video

All media on the US Occupation must by law have this picture of Hirohito and MacArthur from late 1945, in which the emperor is literally and figuratively overshadowed by the bombastic American.

Hirohito atop Shirayuki. Preventing William Halsey from riding his horse was Hirohito’s one solid win during the Occupation.

Hirohito did not support the new constitution stripping so much of his power, but felt that he had little choice but to publicly endorse it — as he is doing here in 1947 before the Imperial Diet.

Hirohito on tour (location unknown), 1946.

Hirohito tours Yokohama, 1946.

Episode 229 – The Measure of an Emperor, Part 4

This week: Hirohito goes to war. What did he know, how much did he direct things himself, and ultimately, how much responsibility does he bear for the greatest cataclysm in the history of East Asia?

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Bix, Herbert. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan.

Wetzler, Peter. Hirohito and War: Imperial Tradition and Military Decision Making in World War II Japan.

Large, Stephen. Emperor Hirohito and Showa Japan: A Political Biography.

Images

 

The emperor’s monologue on the war, written after the fact to defend him against war crimes charges. Far from a reliable source, it’s still an interesting read.

In 2007, a version of Hirohito’s monologue went up for auction. It sold for just over a quarter million dollars.

Togo Shigenori’s resignation as foreign minister in September, 1942, nearly triggered a political crisis over Guadalcanal that Hirohito helped avert.

Japanese POWs on Guadalcanal. The Guadalcanal campaign was the first major Japanese reversal of the war.

Hirohito’s contributions to the war were occasionally limited to propaganda, such as this image of him reviewing the troops from atop his white horse Shirayuki. The extent to which he was actually involved in planning and execution of the war remains hotly debated.

The January 1, 1945 Imperial Conference. Formal conferences like these ratified government decisions, but they were not hubs for genuine debate. Instead, they ratified previously made decisions.

Episode 228 – The Measure of an Emperor, Part 3

This week, we take a look at Hirohito’s life before World War II. What kind of ruler was Japan’s new emperor when the chips came down?

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Bix, Herbert. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan.

Wetzler, Peter. Hirohito and War: Imperial Tradition and Military Decision Making in World War II Japan.

Large, Stephen. Emperor Hirohito and Showa Japan: A Political Biography.

Images

Prime Minister Tanaka Giichi. Hirohito seized on his failure to catch the assassins of Zhang Zuolin as a chance to assert his own authority. The result was the implosion of Tanaka’s promising political career.

Emperor Hirohito during a military parade in Yoyogi Park, 1933. Hirohito enjoyed a close relationship with the military and tended to leave military leaders to their own as a result.

This is a photo of an Imperial Conference of the emperor’s ministers from 1943. Though it comes from a later time than what this episode focuses on, it gives you an idea of the venue in which government decisions were presented to the emperor.

Kawashima Yoshiyuki, the Army Minister who likely was in on the 2-26 Incident, and who was flabbergasted by Hirohito’s refusal to support a coup.

The Imperial Rescript on the Declaration of War, December 8, 1941.

Episode 227 – The Measure of an Emperor, Part 2

Young Hirohito goes on trips, serves his first turns in politics, and gets married! Join us as we look at the future emperor’s first steps into the life that he never really had a chance to choose for himself.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Bix, Herbert. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan.

Wetzler, Peter. Hirohito and War: Imperial Tradition and Military Decision Making in World War II Japan.

Large, Stephen. Emperor Hirohito and Showa Japan: A Political Biography.

Images

A postcard commemorating Hirohito’s trip to Europe with a map of his route.

Hirohito being met at Victoria Station upon his arrival in London.

Hirohito and King George V in the royal carriage.

Hirohito during his time in England.

Hirohito with the members of the British government. To his left is PM David Lloyd George.

Hirohito and his distant cousin/wife, Crown Princess Nagako.

Hirohito at the time of his enthronement in sokutai (traditional court clothes).

Episode 226 – The Measure of an Emperor, Part 1

Today, we dive into the boyhood of Emperor Hirohito. What’s it like growing up always knowing that your life is a political tool? How do you process your middle school principal killing himself in a show of loyalty to your grandfather?

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Bix, Herbert. Hirohito and the Making of Modern Japan.

Wetzler, Peter. Hirohito and War: Imperial Tradition and Military Decision Making in World War II Japan.

Large, Stephen. Emperor Hirohito and Showa Japan: A Political Biography.

Images

Prince Michi (young Hirohito) as a young boy.

Akasaka Palace’s state guest house. The Palace grounds are quite large, and include the small Aoyama palace where Hirohito was born.

The first of the Emperor’s three younger brothers, Yasuhito, Prince Chichibu. Yasuhito was sent to live with Kawamura Sumiyoshi alongside Hirohito, and attended Gakushuin with him.

The Gakushuin front gate in the imperial period. This photo is from 1933. It was and remains one of Japan’s most elite schools.

General Nogi Maresuke during his tenure as the chancellor of the Gakushuin.

Hirohito in his youth. I can’t find a definitive date for this, but I would guess early 20s.

 

Episode 225 -Breaking the Bank

This week, we cover a famous caper that probably sent an innocent man to jail for nearly 40 years. There’s poisoning, plotting, and conspiracy galore as we discuss the Teigin Incident.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

A Japan Times article on recent developments in the case.

A New York Times obituary for Sadamichi Hirasawa.

A Time Magazine article on the case.

Images

The Teigin case was a media sensation; coverage like this (leading with a headline about the death toll) resulted in pressure inside the police administration to locate the killer as quickly as possible.

The site of the Teikoku Ginkou (Imperial Bank) in Shiinamachi.

Hirasawa Sadamichi at the time of his arrest.

Hirasawa at his first trial, where he would ultimately be convicted and sentenced to death.

Barred Flower, a painting by Hirasawa Sadamichi.

Hirasawa Takehiko with some of his father’s paintings.

Episode 224 – Crime and Punishment, Part 2

This week, we cover the features of modern Japanese policing, from the friendly face of the koban police boxes to the harsh realities of Japan’s rules on interrogation.

Listen to the show here.

Sources

Tipton, Elise. The Japanese Police State.

Craig-Parker, L. The Japanese Police Today.

An English language overview of the Koban system by the National Police Agency of Japan.

A Guardian article on the story of Hakamada Iwao.

Images

Perhaps nothing better indicates the importance of the police in Japan than the location of the National Police Agency HQ in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo. Mere blocks from the Imperial Palace, Kasumigaseki is home to Japan’s most powerful bureaucracies — and the NPA is right there with them.

A big city Koban in downtown Shizuoka city.

A Meiji era Koban (no longer in service) in Tokyo’s Sudo-cho.

The Censorship Bureau of the Special Higher Police.

Hakamada Iwao at the time of his arrest.

Hakamada Iwao at the time of his release.

 

Episode 223 – Crime and Punishment, Part 1

This week: how has Japan been policed? Was there really such a thing as a samurai cop? Was their hair as good as the samurai cop from the iconic 1991 film? And how did policework in Japan change after the Meiji Restoration? We will answer all but one of these questions; I leave it to you to guess which one.

Sources

NPA translation of the Keisatsu Shugan

Deal, William E. Handbook to Life in Medieval and Early Modern Japan.

Hildreth, Richard. Japan as It Is and Was. (Note: this is older than most sources I would recommend, but Hildreth claimed he interviewed some folks who lived through the tail end of the Edo period, and thus it adds some interesting perspective)

Allee, Mark. Law and Local Society in Imperial China.

Images

A jitte (sometimes called jutte) with its case. This weapon, in addition to being highly practical for disarming an opponent, served as a sort of badge for law enforcement.

An illustrated scene from an Edo era novel (The Tale of the Eight Dog Warriors of Satomi). The hero of the scene, Inukai Kempachi, is shown at right fighting his opponents on a rooftop. In addition to looking cool as hell, this image gives us an idea of how law enforcement would have been equipped; you can see specialized polearms designed to trap someone, as well as light forms of chainmail designed to allow for mobility while providing some protection.

Kawaji Toshiyoshi, the man who built the modern Japanese police.

Japanese police c. 1875. You can see the military inspiration to the uniforms (modeled after French gendarmes). Early in their history, Japan’s modern police actually were deployed like military units, most notably against Saigo Takamori’s rebellion.

Episode 222 – The Dog Shogun

This week: was Japan’s 5th Tokugawa shogun really as crazy as everybody says?

Spoilers: no.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan.

Bodart-Bailey, Beatrice. The Dog Shogun: The Personality and Policies of Tokugawa Tsunayoshi. 

A solid Japan Times article on Tsunayoshi’s reign.

Some excerpts from the Greater Learning (Da Xue/Daigaku) for the curious.

Images

Engelbert Kaempfer’s depiction of a daimyo’s retinue in Japan. Kaempfer’s depictions are some of the best non-Japanese sources for the high water mark of Edo life.

Engelbert Kaempfer’s books on Japan — like this one here — were among the first to provide Westerners with firsthand knowledge of the country. Kaempfer met Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, and thought highly of him as a ruler.

Tsunayoshi at the height of his power as the 5th shogun of the Tokugawa.

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