Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Tag: Sengoku

Episode 239 – All in the Family, Part 1

This week, we start a short series on the history of one of the most influential fiefdoms in Japanese history (Satsuma) and the family who ruled it (the Shimazu). How did this little chunk of land on the edge of Japan grow to national importance?

Sources

A History of Japan to 1334 AND A History of Japan, 1334-1600. 

Turnbull, Stephen. War in Japan, 1467-1615

Images

Toufukuji castle, the first permanent military garrison on Kagoshima. It predates Shimazu clan arrival in the area by about a century.

The site of the meeting between Shimazu Takahisa and Francis Xavier. Working with missionaries was a requirement of obtaining Western style weapons.

Japanese arquebuses. The first islands where the Portuguese arrived (Tanegashima) was within the bounds of Satsuma domain, and Satsuma was one of the first domains to adopt the new weapon.

Shimazu Tadahisa as a monk. At the end of his long tenure as family head and daimyo, the Shimazu were in a far better position than they had been previously.

The old provinces of Japan. Satsuma province is at the very bottom (no. 63). Neighboring Osumi (64) was occasionally under Shimazu control as well prior to the Sengoku period.

Episode 41 – Striking from the Shadows

This week, we’re going to discuss the ninja, or at least what we can discern about them from the limited information that’s out there. We’ll discuss their origins, historic exploits, and the mythologization that turned them into the pop culture warriors we know and love today.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Sansom, George. A History of Japan, Vol II: 1334-1615

Turnbull, Stephen.Ninja: The True Story of Japan’s Secret Warriors.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

Yamato Takeru, the imperial prince who dressed as a woman to assassinate his enemies.

Yamato Takeru, the imperial prince who dressed as a woman to assassinate his enemies.

The location of Iga province.

The location of Iga province.

A Sengoku-period travel garment with secret armor worn beneath it. This kind of gear would be utilized by Iga or Koga ninja.

A Sengoku-period travel garment with secret armor worn beneath it. This kind of gear would be utilized by Iga or Koga ninja.

Hattori Hanzo, the samurai who brought the Iga ninja into Tokugawa service.

Hattori Hanzo, the samurai who brought the Iga ninja into Tokugawa service.

The ninja archetype as we understand it dates to the mass culture of the Edo Period. This image is from the Hokusai Manga, and dates from the early 1800s.

The ninja archetype as we understand it dates to the mass culture of the Edo Period. This image is from the Hokusai Manga, and dates from the early 1800s.

A villain from a kabuki drama utilizing ninja talents to escape. The mythologization of the ninja dates back to the Edo Period low-brow entertainments of ukiyo-e and kabuki.

A villain from a kabuki drama utilizing ninja talents to escape. The mythologization of the ninja dates back to the Edo Period low-brow entertainments of ukiyo-e and kabuki.

Episode 38 – Japan’s Christian Century, Part 1

This is part one of an eventual three part series on the rise and fall of Christianity in medieval Japan. This week, we’ll cover the background of events in Europe and Japan, as well as the arrival of the first Portuguese traders in the country.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Boxer, CR. The Christian Century in Japan.

Sansom, George. A History of Japan, Vol II (1336-1615).

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

 

In 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses for debate to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenburg, Germany. His defiance of the Catholic hierarchy touched off the Protestant Reformation in Europe.

In 1517, Martin Luther nailed 95 theses for debate to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenburg, Germany. His defiance of the Catholic hierarchy touched off the Protestant Reformation in Europe.

The location of Tanegashima island in reference to Kyushu. Tanegashima was the site of the first Portuguese landing in Japan.

The location of Tanegashima island in reference to Kyushu. Tanegashima was the site of the first Portuguese landing in Japan.

An Edo period print by Katsushika Hokusai depicting the arrival of the first foreigners in Japan.

An Edo period print by Katsushika Hokusai depicting the arrival of the first foreigners in Japan.

A Portuguese fleet coming to Japan for trade.

A Portuguese fleet coming to Japan for trade.

Portuguese tradesmen offloading their goods in Japan.

Portuguese tradesmen offloading their goods in Japan.

A "Tanegashima"-pattern arquebus, built off European models.

A “Tanegashima”-pattern arquebus, built off European models.

This statue in Kagoshima depicts Francis Xavier (center) with Anjiro, the Japanese Christian convert who first suggested he come to Japan, on the left. The figure on the right is a second Japanese convert generally known by his baptismal name Bernard.

This statue in Kagoshima depicts Francis Xavier (center) with Anjiro, the Japanese Christian convert who first suggested he come to Japan, on the left. The figure on the right is a second Japanese convert generally known by his baptismal name Bernard.

Episode 22 – The Way of the Warrior

For our first listener-submitted topic, we’re tackling Bushido: the warrior code of the samurai class. We’ll discuss the evolution of the bushido ideology, the role it played during the ages of warfare in Japan as well as during the Tokugawa, and its modern legacy in a post-samurai world.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Ikegami, Eiko. The Taming of the Samurai.

Jansen, Marius. A History of Japan.

Sansom, George. A History of Japan, Vol III: 1615-1867.

The Last Testament of Torii Mototada

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

Kusunoki Masahige, the famous warrior who was loyal to his Emperor to the last. This statue is in the open part of the Tokyo Imperial Palace, as Masahige became something of a popular touchstone for Imperial loyalty after the Meiji Restoration.

Kusunoki Masahige, the famous warrior who was loyal to his Emperor to the last. This statue is in the open part of the Tokyo Imperial Palace, as Masahige became something of a popular touchstone for Imperial loyalty after the Meiji Restoration.

Torii Mototada, whose sacrifice (according to some) enabled Tokugawa Ieyasu to win the Battle of Sekigahara, and thus control of Japan.

Torii Mototada, whose sacrifice (according to some) enabled Tokugawa Ieyasu to win the Battle of Sekigahara, and thus control of Japan.

A bust of Yamaga Soko, the Bushido/Confucian philosopher.

A bust of Yamaga Soko, the Bushido/Confucian philosopher.

The 47 Ronin storm the home of Lord Kira, by Katsushika Hokusai.

The 47 Ronin storm the home of Lord Kira, by Katsushika Hokusai.

The graves of the 47 Ronin at Sengakuji in Tokyo.

The graves of the 47 Ronin at Sengakuji in Tokyo.

The Senjinkun, a military manual for Japanese soldiers in World War II. The text was heavily influenced by bushido ideology.

The Senjinkun, a military manual for Japanese soldiers in World War II. The text was heavily influenced by bushido ideology.

American translator William Scott Wilson led an international group of Hagakure enthusiasts to produce a manga version of the text (sample above). It's a pretty telling example of the hold Hagakure (and bushido more generally) still has on Japanese culture.

American translator William Scott Wilson led an international group of Hagakure enthusiasts to produce a manga version of the text (sample above). It’s a pretty telling example of the hold Hagakure (and bushido more generally) still has on Japanese culture.

Episode 8 – The Three Unifiers

To make up for saying I might not get an episode to you this week, I offer you the new show a day early!

This week’s episode is focused on the reunification of Japan under Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu Tokugawa. I wanted to discuss the nature of these three men who have become so famous, and the unifying thread that ties them all together: namely, that they were not very good people.

It’s a long episode, but a great topic — I hope you enjoy it! Give it a listen here.

Sources

Totman, A History of Japan.

Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

This is a period image of Oda Nobunaga, the first of the three unifiers.

This is a period image of Oda Nobunaga, the first of the three unifiers.

This is a map of Japan under Nobunaga. The blue indicates territory controlled by Nobunaga in 1560, the grey area he controlled upon his death in 1582.

This is a map of Japan under Nobunaga. The blue indicates territory controlled by Nobunaga in 1560, the grey area he controlled upon his death in 1582.

This image of Toyotomi Hideyoshi dates from 1601, three years after his death.

This image of Toyotomi Hideyoshi dates from 1601, three years after his death.

Osaka castle was home to the Toyotomi family until their death in 1615, when it was re appropriated by the Tokugawa. The original castle was destroyed by the United States during a bombing run in World War 2 (it was being used for weapons storage). The construction in this image is a 1/3 scale replica.

Osaka castle was home to the Toyotomi family until their death in 1615, when it was re appropriated by the Tokugawa. The original castle was destroyed by the United States during a bombing run in World War 2 (it was being used for weapons storage). The construction in this image is a 1/3 scale replica.

Tokugawa Ieyasu upon his ascension to the rank of shogun.

Tokugawa Ieyasu upon his ascension to the rank of shogun.

This is the mon (crest) of the Tokugawa family.

This is the mon (crest) of the Tokugawa family.

The Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 (shown here) cemented Tokugawa Ieyasu's control of Japan.

The Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 (shown here) cemented Tokugawa Ieyasu’s control of Japan.

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