Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Tag: Soga

Episode 282 – The Brothers Soga

This week, we cover one of the most famous tales of revenge in Japanese history: that of the two Soga brothers, Goro and Juro. What do we know of the original story, and how did it morph into one of the most famous tales ever told in Japan?

Sources

Curtis, Jasmin M. “Drops of Blood on Fallen Snow: The Evolution of Blood Revenge Practices in Japan.” Masters Thesis, UMass Amherst, 2012.

Mills, D.E. “Kataki-Uchi: The Practice of Blood-Revenge in Pre-Modern Japan.” Modern Asian Studies 10, No 4 (1976), 525-542.

Cogan

A Hiroshige print showing the moment of vengeance.

A Kuniyoshi Soga print. The brothers are on the right, their lovers the left. Kudo is in the center.

The two brothers hone their techniques in this scene by practicing chopping snow smoothly in half.

A print showing Ichikawa Danjuro I as Soga Goro. That role is particularly associated with the Ichikawa Danjuro lineage of kabuki.

A Soga print showing the hunt scene at Mt. Fuji, the climax of the tale.

, Thomas J. The Tale of the Soga Brothers. 

Images

Episode 235 – Unbowed, Unbent, Unbroken

This week: the story of a relatively unimportant man who appears briefly and dies spectacularly, and the long chain of events that led to those moments. Politics, betrayal, war, and a dog — what’s not to love?

Sources

Morris, Ivan. The Nobility of Failure. 

The relevant section of the Nihongi for reference.

Como, Michael I. Shotoku: Ethnicity, Ritual and Violence in the Japanese Buddhist Tradition.

Images

The main entrance of Shitennoji (Temple of the Four Heavenly Kings), founded in 593 on the slopes of Mt. Shigi by Prince Shotoku to commemorate victory over the Mononobe.

In this woodcut scene, anti-Buddhist Mononobe supporters try (and fail) to shatter a Buddhist holy relic.

In this 19th century woodcut, it is Prince Shotoku himself, not a lowly Soga soldier, who slays Mononobe no Moriya and ends the battle between the Soga and Mononobe.

 

Episode 54 – The Great Change

This week, we’ll be talking about Japan’s first great political reform: the Taika, or Great Change. We’ll discuss its causes, effects, its parallels with the Meiji Restoration some 1200 years later, and its legacy — which reaches a lot farther than you might think.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Pyle, Kenneth. Japan Rising.

Sansom, George. A History of Japan to 1334.

Totman, Conrad. A History of Japan.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

The rough extent of Yamato during the Taika reforms.

The rough extent of Yamato during the Taika reforms.

The massive extent of the Tang Dynasty, the rising threat on the continent confronting Japan. Some of the territory held by the Song would not be reclaimed by a Chinese dynasty until the Qing dynasty, some 1000 years later.

The massive extent of the Tang Dynasty, the rising threat on the continent confronting Japan. Some of the territory held by the Song would not be reclaimed by a Chinese dynasty until the Qing dynasty, some 1000 years later.

The Kingdoms of Korea. This image shows the disposition of the kingdoms in the 300s (hence the inclusion of the fourth kingdom, Gaya, which was destroyed by the time of our episode) but it should give you some idea of what things looked like on the peninsula.

The Kingdoms of Korea. This image shows the disposition of the kingdoms in the 300s (hence the inclusion of the fourth kingdom, Gaya, which was destroyed by the time of our episode) but it should give you some idea of what things looked like on the peninsula.

The assassination of Soga no Iruka; Nakatomi no Kamatari is the one threatening the figure on the ground (Iruka) with a sword.

The assassination of Soga no Iruka; Nakatomi no Kamatari is the one threatening the figure on the ground (Iruka) with a sword.

Naka no Oe, or Emperor Tenji, one of the leaders of the Taika Reforms. The text above him is a poem of his included in the poetic compilation known as the Hyakunin Isshu.

Naka no Oe, or Emperor Tenji, one of the leaders of the Taika Reforms. The text above him is a poem of his included in the poetic compilation known as the Hyakunin Isshu.

Nakatomi no Kamatari (Fujiwara no Kamatari) with his two sons. The Fujiwara would eventually become one of the most powerful and influential families in Japanese history.

Nakatomi no Kamatari (Fujiwara no Kamatari) with his two sons. The Fujiwara would eventually become one of the most powerful and influential families in Japanese history.

Konoe Fumimaro. Can anyone see a family resemblance?

Konoe Fumimaro. Can anyone see a family resemblance?

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