Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Tag: History (Page 2 of 8)

Episode 265 – The House Always Wins

This week, we cover the life of real estate mogul and international gambling sensation Kashiwagi Akio. Who was he? How did he become an internationally famous gambler? Why was he mysteriously murdered? And how the hell does none other than Donald Trump fit into this?


Los Angeles Times obituary for Kashiwagi, written one month after his death.

The Whale that Nearly Drowned the Donald,” A Politico piece on the Trump-Kashiwagi showdown.

New York Times piece on the murder.


One of very few images of Kashiwagi Akio I have been able to find. I couldn’t find any of his home, either. The man was VERY private.

The Trump Taj Mahal in 1990 with its namesake. Kashiwagi’s two part showdown with Trump in this very hotel made the papers, but the publicity was not enough to save Trump’s operations in Atlantic City.

Police search the interior of “Castle Kashiwagi” for clues. Note the wall section in the background. Also, this is literally the only photo I could find of any part of the house — Kashiwagi took his privacy seriously!

Episode 264- The Man of Legend

This week, we cover the story and legacy of the great warrior Kusunoki Masashige. Why does he have the unique distinction of a statue on the grounds of the emperor’s palace in Tokyo? What do we actually know about him?


McCullough, Hellen Craig (translator). Taiheiki: A Chronicle of Medieval Japan

Sato, Hiroaki. Legends of the Samurai.

Brownlee, John S. Japanese Historians and the National Myths, 1600-1945


The Siege of Chihaya, as depicted in an Edo period print by Ichijusai Yoshikazu. Despite his ultimate defeat, Masashige’s stand here was the start of his legend as a valiant warleader.

The siege of Akasaka Castle.

The battle of Minatogawa, by Utagawa Kuniyoshi.

Another scene from Utagawa’s rendering of the battle of Minatogawa.

The aforementioned statue

Episode 263 – Their Eyes Were Watching the Gods, Part 2

This week; the zenith of Omoto, its fall, and its postwar rebirth. Plus, what have we learned?


Stalker, Nancy. Prophet Motive: Deguchi Onisaburo, Omoto, and the Rise of New Religions in Imperial Japan. 

Garon, Sheldon. Molding Japanese Minds.


A newspaper article on the first Omoto Incident (1921)

Deguchi Onisaburo in Mongolia.

Ruins of the 2nd Omoto Incident. This photo of a former Omoto Shrine was taken in 1950.

A Tokyo Asahi Shinbun feature on Onisaburo’s trial, from 1936.

Onisaburo as an old man.

Omoto’s internationalism remains an important part of the religion, even as the majority of its believers are still in Japan. This photo, from 1975, shows Omoto priests performing a service in the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City.03

Episode 262 – Their Eyes Were Watching the Gods, Part 1

This week, we tackled the origin of one of Japan’s new religious movements: Oomoto, or The Great Origin. Where did it come from, and how did the unique combination of two very different people with the right set of circumstances lead it to prominence?


Stalker, Nancy. Prophet Motive: Deguchi Onisaburo, Omoto, and the Rise of New Religions in Imperial Japan. 

Garon, Sheldon. Molding Japanese Minds

A publication on the life of Onisaburo by the modern day Omoto movement (Aizen’en)


Deguchi Onisaburo in his prime.

Deguchi Nao towards the end of her life. Being a religious visionary was hard on her.

Deguchi Onisaburo’s 1900 wedding to one of Nao’s daughters (Sumiko). From left to right: Sumiko, Nao, Onisaburo.

Like so much else, the Reikai Monogatari has officially been adapted into a Manga. I have not read it personally, but I have to admit I am curious.

One of Deguchi Onisaburo’s attempts at pottery. To be fair, I am not sure I could do better.

Large calligraphy work like this was a great vehicle for the kind of flamboyant performance artistry Onisaburo enjoyed.

Deguchi Onisaburo’s unique blend of nationalism and internationalism made for strange bedfellows. Even as he praised universalist ideas like the establishment of Esperanto, he was photographed with men like Toyama Mitsuru (center) and Uchida Ryohei (right), major figures in the early Japanese ultranationalist movement.

Episode 261 – The City that Never Sleeps, Part 4

This week, we cover postwar Tokyo as it recovers from the devastation of war in remarkable time, and take some time to think about what we’ve learned from the history of Japan’s most central city.


Mansfield, Steven. Tokyo: A Biography.

Seidensticker, Edward. Tokyo from Edo to Showa 1867-1989

Field, Norma. From My Grandmother’s Bedside: Sketches of Postwar Tokyo


A Type 0 Shinkansen, part of the fleet that started serving the Shinkansen line in 1964.

Sakai Yoshinori, 19 years old in 1964, was chosen to carry the Olympic torch as a symbol of Japan’s rebirth. Here he is headed to the Olympic flame in national stadium.

Sakai Yoshinori lighting the Olympic flame.

Team Japan during the opening ceremonies of the 1964 Olympics.

The Shibuya 109 Building, a symbol of Shibuya’s rebirth as a high-falutin’ upscale district.

JR Shinjuku station, the world’s busiest train station on a day to day average.

Perhaps no area better demonstrates both the continuity and change of the Shitamachi than Akihabara — once a vegetable market, and now an electronics one.


Episode 260 – The City that Never Sleeps, Part 3

This week: the Great Kanto Earthquake, the firebombing campaign, and Tokyo during the Occupation.


Mansfield, Steven. Tokyo: A Biography.

Seidensticker, Edward. Tokyo from Edo to Showa 1867-1989

Dower, John. War Without Mercy

A part of Robert Guillain’s account. 12


Asakusa district after the Great Kanto Earthquake. Parts of Sensoji are visible int he background.

The Hibiya police station, not far from the imperial palace, after the great Kanto Earthquake.

A translation of a schematic for Goto Shimpei’s rebuilding of Tokyo. His plan would inform the postwar vision for the city.

Meiji Shrine. The park surrounding it was the most impressive legacy of Goto Shimpei’s rebuild of Tokyo.

A send-off ceremony for college students headed to the front in Meiji Stadium. October 21, 1943.

Downtown Tokyo after the firebombing.

The toll of the March firebombing.

A crowd awaiting a prisoner release from Sugamo Prison.

The Takarazuka Theater was one of many theaters to re-open after the war with a new, more liberated set of acts.

Episode 259 – The City that Never Sleeps, Part 2

This week: the shogun’s city becomes the emperor’s, as Edo transforms into Tokyo.


Mansfield, Steven. Tokyo: A Biography.

McClain, James, ed. Edo and Paris.

Seidensticker, Edward. Tokyo from Edo to Showa 1867-1989


A model of a typical chonin (townsman) neighborhood.

Wikipedia has this handy map to give you an idea of what sections of Tokyo are considered Shitamachi and which are Yamanote. But the two terms don’t really have a precise definition.

The old Kuroda family yashiki in 1870, when it was taken over by Japan’s foreign ministry.

The justice ministry in 1910. A good example of European-style architecture in Kasumigaseki.

Ginza neighborhood, c. 1910. Note that many of the homes are still wooden construction and fairly close together, as had been the case during the Edo period.

The Rokumeikan, or Deer Cry Pavilion.

Episode 258 – The City that Never Sleeps, Part 1

This week, we start a look at the history of the city of Tokyo. How did the frontier fishing village of Edo go from backwater nowhere to the heart of the nation in only a few short generations?


Mansfield, Stephen. Tokyo: A Biography.

Richie, Donald. Tokyo: A View of the City. 

Mansfield, Stephen. Tokyo: A Cultural History


The Imperial Palace of Japan was originally Chiyoda Castle, home of the Tokugawa Shoguns. Its groundwork was laid 140 years before the arrival of the Tokugawa, by Ota Dokan, a retainer of a branch of the Uesugi clan.

Ota Dokan as depicted in a print by the late Edo woodblock artist Toyohara Chikanobu. Note Edo castle in the background.

A map of Chiyoda castle in 1636.

Edo as depicted by Hiroshige. Note the west-facing orientation towards Mt. Fuiji.

The Tsujun Bridge, an acqueduct in Kumamoto, Kyushu. It’s a good example of what the acqueduct construction of Edo would have looked like at its height.

The Tamagawa Acqueduct, depicted by Hiroshige.

A procession of firefighters (machibikeshi). C. early 1700s.

The Meireki Fire was the most devastating fire in Edo’s history — and would retain that title until the fires associated with the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923.

Episode 257 – The Bookseller

This week, we cover the life and legacy of one of the great bridges between Japan and China — the Christian bookseller of Shanghai, Uchiyama Kanzo.


Keavaney, Christopher. Beyond Brushtalk: Sino-Japanese Literary Exchange in the Interwar Period.

Shih, Shu-mei. The Lure of the Modern: Writing Modernism in Semicolonial China, 1917-1937.

Minchello, Sharon, ed. Japan’s Competing Modernities: Issues in Culture and Democracy, 1900-1930.

A podcast by Harvard’s Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies on the Lu Xun-Uchiyama Kanzo friendship.


Uchiyama Kanzo in 1953.

To give you an idea of how big a deal Lu Xun was and is in China, here is a People’s Republic of China Party Congress taking place beneath a banner of him. His works remain mandatory reading for most middle and upper schools in China.

Lu Xun (left) and Uchiyama Kanzo, c. 1933.

The location of the Uchiyama Bookstore on Sichuan Road, c. 2018.

A gathering at the Uchiyama Bookstore in 1936. From left to right: Lu Xun,Huang Xinbo, Cao Bai, Bai Wei, and Chen Yanqiao. Courtesyt of the Harvard Yenching Library collection of Sha Fei’s photos.


Episode 256 – The Wrestler

This week, we take a look at the history of pro wrestling in Japan, and its unlikely progenitor: a Korean-born sumo wrestler named Rikidozan.


Whiting, Robert. Tokyo Underworld

Niehaus, Andreas, and Christian Tasgold. Sport, Memory, and Nationhood in Japan.

Weiner, Michael. Race, Ethnicity, and Migration in Modern Japan.


Rikidozan at the peak of his career.

Rikidozan laying the hurt on one of his heels.

Crowds watching a public NTV broadcast of the Rikidozan/Kimura vs. Sharpe Bros match in 1954.

Baba “Giant” Shohei.

Inoki Kanji vs Muhammad Ali, 1976. If you’re wondering, the match was a draw.

Inoki Kanji (Muhammad Hussein Inoki) in Pyongyang in 2016.

Women’s puroresu (Joshi puroresu) remains a major cultural phenomenon in Japan today. This image is from a match in 2018.

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