Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Tag: Tokyo

Episode 272 – I am the Law!

This week we cover the life and career of the legendary judge Oka Tadasuke, who rose from minor samurai to the rank of daimyo and a major position in the bakufu — only to become a legendary figure. Who is he? How did he rise so high? And what can he tell us about the role of judges and bureaucrats in Japanese society more generally?


Dening, Walter. Japan in Days of Yore. 

Mansfield, Stephen. Tokyo: A Biography.

Nice, Richard W. Treasury of Law. 

Angles, Jeffrey, trans. “The Execution of Ten’ichibo.” Critical Asian Studies 37, no 2 (2005), 305-321.


Ooka Tadasuke, from a woodcut illustrated version of the Ooka Seidan.

Ooka Tadasuke’s grave in Kanagawa.

A monument to the former site of the Minami Machibugyosho (the place of business for the Minami Machi bugyo). It’s located outside Yurakucho Station in Tokyo.

Tokugawa Yoshimune, Ooka Tadasuke’s patron.

Toyohara Kunisada print from the illustrated Ooka Seidan. This particular case is the story of a murder solved by Ooka.

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 247 – Edokko

This week, we’re very lucky to have a chance to speak with Mr. Isaac Shapiro. Mr. Shapiro grew up in wartime Japan, and shares his experiences here with us today. You can check out his book, Edokko: Growing Up a Foreigner in Wartime Japan on Amazon!


The Shapiro family in Japan. Standing, left to right are the Shapiro siblings: Isaac, Jacob, Ariel, and Joseph. Sitting, left to right, are: Lydia (his mother), Michael, Constantine (his father), and Ms. Vaisman, their caretaker.

Isaac Shapiro in 1950. By this point, he had already emigrated to the United States.

Isaac Shapiro today.

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