Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Tag: History (Page 2 of 4)

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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 221 – The Monster with 21 Faces

This week, we cover a crime wave that shocked 1980s Japan, and proved that postwar society was perhaps not quite all it was cracked up to be. Also, there’s a lot of poisoned candy.

Listen to the episode here.


Ivy, Marilyn. “Tracking the Mystery Man with the 21 Faces.” Critical Inquiry 23, No 1 (Autumn, 1996)

Some original NYT coverage of the case.

An article by the Japan Times on the occasion of the final expiration of the statutes of limitations as they relate to the case.

Ezaki Katsuhisa, the kidnapped CEO.

The man with the baseball cap who was caught on camera putting poisoned candy on store shelves.

An artist’s sketch of the Fox Eyed Man.

Wanted posters like this one decorated the country in 1984.

Miyazaki Manabu today. In 1985 he was the chief suspect for the Monster with 21 Faces, though an airtight alibi exonerated him. Now, he’s a social critic, and he’s had a crazy life — being arrested for a string of candy-related extortions is actually one of the less intense things that has happened to him.

The logo of the Laughing Man from Ghost in the Shell. Their villainous activities were based on those of the Monster with 21 Faces.

Episode 220 – The All Seeing Eye

This week, we investigate the great Zen master Dogen, who was something of an eccentric in his own time but remains one of the greatest Buddhist thinkers in Japanese history.

Listen to the episode here.


Heine, Stephen. Did Dogen Go to China?

Heine, Stephen. Dogen and Soto Zen


Dogen Views the Moon, a roughly contemporary painting. It is usually dated to around 1250.

Rujing, the Zen master of Tiantong Mountain who would initiate Dogen into the esoteric Caodong lineage. Some doubt the veracity of his encounter with Dogen, or even Rujing’s own existence — though this latter position is rather extreme and unusual within the scholarly community.

An 1811 edition of the Shobogenzo, Dogen’s most famous work on, well, everything.

Eiheiji, the Soto monastery founded by Dogen. It remains one of the chief Soto temples in Japan.

Episode 219 – The Red Dawn, Part 3

Turns out, getting involved in a land war in Asia really is one of the classic blunders.

This week, how did it all pan out?

Listen to the episode here.


Dunscomb, Paul E.  Japan’s Siberian Intervention, 1918-1922

Drea, Edward. Japan’s Imperial Army: Its Rise and Fall, 1854-1945

Debo, Richard K. Survival and Consolidation: The Foreign Policy of Soviet Russia, 1918-1921.

An interesting article on

A Japanese propaganda postcard showing Japanese troops in Siberia. Postcards like this were part of an army effort to build support for the intervention by portraying it as humanitarian.

A photo of the leadership of the Bolshevik forces that took Nikolaevsk. Yakob Triapytsin is in the center, reclining and wearing a white shirt.

Nikolaevsk in the wake of its recapture by the Japanese in May, 1920.

A memorial to the victims of Nikolaevsk in Otaru, Hokkaido.

The territory of the Far Eastern Republic.

The final cabinet of the Far Eastern Republic. A frankenstate maintained solely by the Japanese presence in the region, the FER did not outlive the withdrawal of Japan.

Mikhail Dietrikhs, the crazed monarchist anti-semite Czech who was the force behind the final White bastion in Russia.




Episode 218 – The Red Dawn, Part 2

How did Japan fit into the broader framework of the Allied intervention? What were the Japanese trying to accomplish in Siberia? And who was even in charge of this damned thing? All that and more, this week.

Listen to the episode here.


Dunscomb, Paul E.  Japan’s Siberian Intervention, 1918-1922

Drea, Edward. Japan’s Imperial Army: Its Rise and Fall, 1854-1945

Guins, George C. “The Siberian Intevention, 1918-1919.” The Russian Review 28 No 4 (Oct, 1969).


American troops in Vladivostok. America represented the largest contingent of foreign troops in Siberia other than Japan.

Kolchak reviewing the troops in Omsk in early 1919. He would launch a counterattack against the Bolsheviks later that year which would collapse, beginning the disintegration of his regime.

Anti-Bolshevik forces from Kolchak’s army. The White Russians were a rather motley group, brought together by little more than a shared distaste for Lenin’s ideas.

Japanese marines in a parade of Allied forces in Vladivostok.

The location of Lake Baikal. The lake represented the westernmost extent of Japanese influence during the intervention.

An ethnically Mongol soldier arrayed to fight the Bolsheviks. Grigory Semenov was able to use his heritage as a Buryat Mongol to convince other Mongols to join his cause.

The Alexander Kolchak monument in Irkutsk, where he was executed by the Bolsheviks in January, 1920. Today, Kolchak’s image is somewhat rehabilitated after years of being maligned by the Soviet government. In 1919, the collapse of his government caused the other Allies to begin considering withdrawal.


Episode 217 – The Red Dawn, Part 1

100 Years ago, Japan intervened in Russia to create a buffer state against the new Soviet Union. So how did that work out? We’ll start answering that question this week.

Listen to the episode here.


Dunscomb, Paul E.  Japan’s Siberian Intervention, 1918-1922

Drea, Edward. Japan’s Imperial Army: Its Rise and Fall, 1854-1945

Guins, George C. “The Siberian Intevention, 1918-1919.” The Russian Review 28 No 4 (Oct, 1969).


Lenin addressing Soviet soldiers at the start of the October Revolution.

Prime Minister Terauchi, who led the charge for intervention.

General Staff Chief Uehara Yusaku, a hard-nosed realist and advocate of trying to create a buffer state in the Russian Far East.

Grigory Semenov, the cossack commander allied to Japan.

Alexander Kolchak, whose British-backed White Russian government was nominally allied with Japan against the Bolsheviks.

The Russian Far East is highlighted in red. Siberia proper is just to the west. Lake Baikal is the long, thin body of water to the north of Mongolia.


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