Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Tag: Edo

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?

Sources

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

Kane, Lawrence. Musashi’s Dokkodo. 

Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan

Images

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!

Sources

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)

Images

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
thunder—
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?

Sources

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)

Images

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 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?

Sources

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 Archive.org.

Haberland, Detlef. Engelbert Kaempfer: A Biography

Images

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.

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.

Episode 57 – The 47 Ronin

This week we’re covering one of the great tales of Japanese history: 47 warriors without a master who engaged in a bloody act of vengeance in the name of their former lord. In doing so, they catapulted themselves into the pages of history and legend, and remain some of Japan’s most treasured historical figures to this day.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Allyn, John. The 47 Ronin Story.

Sansom, George B. A History of Japan, Vol 3 1615-1867.

Takeda, Izumo, Shoraku Namishi and Namiki Senryu. Kanadehon Chushingura. Trans. Donald Keene.

A print depicting Asano's attack on Kira, triggering the whole cycle of revenge around which the 47 ronin tale revolves.

A print depicting Asano’s attack on Kira, triggering the whole cycle of revenge around which the 47 ronin tale revolves.

A print of Oishi Yoshio, the samurai who led the 47 Ronin.

A print of Oishi Yoshio, the samurai who led the 47 Ronin.

The final assault on Kira's mansion, by Hokusai Katsushika.

The final assault on Kira’s mansion, by Hokusai Katsushika.

A print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi showing the final assault of the 47 ronin on Kira's mansion.

A print by Utagawa Kuniyoshi showing the final assault of the 47 ronin on Kira’s mansion.

Oishi's ceremonial suicide (seppuku).

Oishi’s ceremonial suicide (seppuku).

The graves of the 47 Ronin at Sengakuji.

The graves of the 47 Ronin at Sengakuji.

A statue of Oishi Yoshio at Sengakuji in Tokyo, where he, his followers, and his lord are all interred.

A statue of Oishi Yoshio at Sengakuji in Tokyo, where he, his followers, and his lord are all interred.

Totman, Conrad. A History of Japan.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation

Episode 26 – The History of Manga

This week, we’re going to talk about the evolution of manga. We’ll discuss the roots of the comic form in Japan, both Eastern and Western, and its rapid explosion in popularity after World War II.
Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Allen, Kate and John Ingulsrud. “Manga Literacy: Popular Culture and the Reading Habits of Japanese College Students.” Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 46, no 8 (May 2003, pp. 674-683.

Kinsella, Sharon. Adult Manga: Culture and Power in Contemporary Japanese Society. Honolulu; University of Hawai’i Press, 2000.

Schodt, Frederik L. Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics. Tokyo: Kodansha, 2013.

Toku, Masami. “Shojo Manga! Girls’ Comics! A Mirror of Girls’ Dreams.” Mechademia 2, Networks of Desire (2007), pp. 18-32.

Images

The Shigisan Engi. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The Shigisan Engi. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

A scene from the Choju Jinbutsu Giga depicting animals wrestling. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

A scene from the Choju Jinbutsu Giga depicting animals wrestling. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

An Edo Period kibyoshi. Courtesy of the National Diet Library of Japan.

An Edo Period kibyoshi. Courtesy of the National Diet Library of Japan.

A Meiji Period political cartoon showing a great deal of Western influence. The cartoon is making fun of a power struggle in the Meiji government between Okuma Shigenobu (the bear) and Okubo Toshimichi (the octopus). Courtesy of Waseda University.

A Meiji Period political cartoon showing a great deal of Western influence. The cartoon is making fun of a power struggle in the Meiji government between Okuma Shigenobu (the bear) and Okubo Toshimichi (the octopus). Courtesy of Waseda University.

The Japanese cover of Vol 8 of Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy) by Tezuka Osamu. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The Japanese cover of Vol 8 of Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy) by Tezuka Osamu. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The birth of a legend; issue one of Mazinger Z, the first ever giant robot manga. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The birth of a legend; issue one of Mazinger Z, the first ever giant robot manga. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The main characters of Ikeda Riyoko's Berusaya no Bara (The Rose of Versailles). On the left is Marie Antoinette, on the right is the protagonist Oscar. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

The main characters of Ikeda Riyoko’s Berusaya no Bara (The Rose of Versailles). On the left is Marie Antoinette, on the right is the protagonist Oscar. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.

A cover of the English translation of Kozure Okami (Lone Wolf and Cub), featuring the protagonist Ogami Itto. Courtesy of Dark Horse Publishing.

A cover of the English translation of Kozure Okami (Lone Wolf and Cub), featuring the protagonist Ogami Itto. Courtesy of Dark Horse Publishing.

Episode 11 – The End of an Era

First and foremost, thank you to everyone who messaged me or commented over the past week. Your input has been incredibly valuable, and I cannot thank you enough.

This week, we’ll be discussing the Bakumatsu, the 15 years prior to the collapse of the Tokugawa and the end of samurai rule in Japan. It’s a very complex, but incredibly fascinating story, and personally I find it to be one of the most compelling in Japanese history. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan

Craig, Albert. Choshu in the Meiji Restoration.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the United States, c. 1858.

Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the United States, c. 1858.

This Japanese woodblock print depicts Perry (center) flanked by two of his officers during their second voyage to Japan (1854).

This Japanese woodblock print depicts Perry (center) flanked by two of his officers during their second voyage to Japan (1854).

The island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay was used by the shogunate to build a gun emplacement with which to defend the harbor.  However, the inferior quality of Tokugawa weaponry compared to that of the West meant that it never could serve its purpose of warding off Western incursion.

The island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay was used by the shogunate to build a gun emplacement with which to defend the harbor. However, the inferior quality of Tokugawa weaponry compared to that of the West meant that it never could serve its purpose of warding off Western incursion.

A statue of Ii Naosuke in his hereditary domain of Hikone.

A statue of Ii Naosuke in his hereditary domain of Hikone.

The Sakuradamon Incident. Note the figure on the left escaping with the severed head of Naosuke.

The Sakuradamon Incident. Note the figure on the left escaping with the severed head of Naosuke.

The 1863 British bombardment of Kagoshima, as depicted by Le Monde. This event was one of the blows which led to the collapse of the original Sonno Joi movement and its eventual revival as a purely Emperor-focused anti-Tokugawa movement.

The 1863 British bombardment of Kagoshima, as depicted by Le Monde. This event was one of the blows which led to the collapse of the original Sonno Joi movement and its eventual revival as a purely Emperor-focused anti-Tokugawa movement.

Though some bakufu troops were modernized over the course of the 1860s, most were not. These soldiers, marching under the flags of the Tokugawa and their home province of Aizu, are an example of the latter.  By comparison, more or less the entirety of the anti-Tokugawa forces were equipped with modern weapons.

Though some bakufu troops were modernized over the course of the 1860s, most were not. These soldiers, marching under the flags of the Tokugawa and their home province of Aizu, are an example of the latter. By comparison, more or less the entirety of the anti-Tokugawa forces were equipped with modern weapons.

French-trained modern Bakufu troops on campaign in 1868.

French-trained modern Bakufu troops on campaign in 1868.

Episode 10 – A Day in the Life of Edo Japan

This week, we’ll be discussing the life of your average city-dweller in Edo Japan. This is a huge topic, and a fun one as well. Among the exciting things we will be discussing today:

  • Schooling in the Edo Period (mostly just for samurai, but since it was based mostly on rote memorization you wouldn’t be missing out on much)
  • The life of merchant families (often boiled down to ‘make money and damn the rest’)
  • Entertainment of the period, from kabuki to the seedy world of prostitution (not that there was much of a distinction between the two)
  • And other forms of flagrant immorality!

I had a lot of fun writing this episode, and I hope you enjoy listening to it!

Direct link to the show is available here.

Sources

Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan

Hanley, Everyday Things in Premodern Japan.

Iwasaki, Mineko. Geisha: A Life. New York: Washington Square Press, 2003.

Takeda, Izumo; Miyoshi, Shoraku, and Senryu, Namiki. Chushingura. Trans. Donald Keene. New York: Columbia University Press, 1971.

Media (Courtesy Wikimedia Foundation unless otherwise specified)

 

This is an Edo-period depiction of Sugura street. It should give you some idea of what the merchant-dominated markets of the Edo period looked like.

This is an Edo-period depiction of Sugura street. It should give you some idea of what the merchant-dominated markets of the Edo period looked like.

This is the same Sugura street today, showing the global headquarters of the Mitsui Group (which was founded in the 1640s).

This is the same Sugura street today, showing the global headquarters of the Mitsui Group (which was founded in the 1640s).

An Edo kabuki performance in the Kabukiza theater. Note the actor moving up the hanamichi on the left side. This should give you an idea of how close kabuki actors got to their audiences.

An Edo kabuki performance in the Kabukiza theater. Note the actor moving up the hanamichi on the left side. This should give you an idea of how close kabuki actors got to their audiences.

This is an example of a puppet used in a bunraku show.

This is an example of a puppet used in a bunraku show.

This is a colorized photo of prostitutes on display to patrons in Edo period Japan. the use of the bamboo cage behind which to display them was eventually banned (though the practice of prostitution would remain legal until after World War II).

This is a colorized photo of prostitutes on display to patrons in Edo period Japan. the use of the bamboo cage behind which to display them was eventually banned (though the practice of prostitution would remain legal until after World War II).

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67-bgSFJiKc&w=420&h=315]
The above video was put together by UNESCO, and contains a description of the history of kabuki as well as recordings of modern performances.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEUQNvn8EJQ&w=420&h=315]
Also from UNESCO, this video should give you an idea of how Bunraku shows are performed. Pay special attention to the way the puppets are manipulated; it’s all very impressive!

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