History of Japan

This week: the story of two men whose fascinating life trajectories led them into an interrogation room in Japan's Edo period, and the fascinating document that resulted from their time together.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_415__mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're talking about the story of a man whose story we don't really know: the imperial prince Shotoku, who despite being a near-unknown historically is one of the most legendary figures in Japanese history. How is that possible, and what does that say about his unique role and symbolism?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_314_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're looking at the legacy of Chikamatsu Monzaemon, the most famous playwright in Japanese history. During his career, which spanned the zenith of Japan's Edo period, he produced some 130 plays and was enormously influential in terms of his approach to drama. How did he do it, and what is his legacy for Japan today?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_413_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're looking at how the criminal justice system in Japan was remade to serve the interests of the imperial state--a process which laid the groundwork for much of how the justice system operates today.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_412_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're taking a quick detour into Isaac trolling fans of Michel Foucault-er, the Edo period criminal justice system. How did this system operate, and what considerations are responsible for its approach to justice?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_411_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week: Isaac spends 30 minutes unpacking the 400+ page ramblings of a cranky retiree who died about 200 years ago, but whose polemics against his own society have a remarkable amount to teach us about one of the most important moments in Japanese history.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_410_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

How did it all go so very wrong?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_409_-_The_Contenders_Part_4_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00am PST

In just three years, Ozawa Ichiro managed to guide the DPJ from defeat to one of the most smashing victories in Japan's political history. How did he do it? And why, despite the fact that he was the one who set the stage for this victory, did he never end up serving as the prime minister in the aftermath?
Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_408_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, the DPJ's good fortune--in the form of the hilariously politically inept Prime Minister Mori Yoshihiro--turns to disaster, as he is replaced by the charismatic Koizumi Junichiro. Facing a revived LDP, the DPJ will turn to one of the most singular (and divisive) figures in modern Japanese politics: Ozawa Ichiro.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_407_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're beginning a four-part retrospective on the rise and fall of Japan's most successful postwar opposition party: The Democratic Party of Japan, or DPJ. This week: how did two veterans of the tumultuous politics of the early 1990s come together to found this scrappy little party, and what forces led to the DPJ becoming the largest of Japan's opposition parties?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_406_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're talking about one of the last attempts to save the Tokugawa shogunate: the Tenpo Reforms of the 1840s, and their chief architect, the hard-partying Mizuno Tadakuni. What did he see as the most pressing problems Japan faced? How did he try to solve them? And how did this final attempt to salvage Tokugawa rule fail so badly?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_405_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 6:00am PST

This week, we're taking a closer look at the unequal treaty system of the 1800s by exploring one of its crappier (!) consequences: a diplomatic incident over cholera quarantines and extraterritorial laws surrounding a small German freighter called the Hesperia.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_404__mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're discussing Japan's reckoning with its wartime past through the lens of the nation's self-appointed conscience: the historian Ienaga Saburo, who spent 30 years locked in legal battles with the government over what could and could not be included in history textbooks.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_403_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're covering the bizarre history of a hijacking attempt from 1970. What led nine young men to seize control of JAL Flight 351, and why in the hell did they think that, of all places to take the plane, North Korea was the one to pick?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_402_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 6:00am PST

This week, we're tackling the history of kamishibai, a form of street theater that was once big business but has since faded into obscurity. Where did it come from, and why--after it was killed off by TV and movies--is it worth remembering today?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_401_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 6:00am PST

There is no new episode this week as I am on a long overdue family vacation. I'll see you all next week!

 

Category:general -- posted at: 8:13am PST

Thank you all to every single one of you who has ever listened to this podcast.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_400_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week: how did three soldiers who managed to do something rather unexceptional--dying in Japan's battles in China--manage to become the centerpiece of a state-run cult of heroism?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Untitled_Session_3_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 6:00am PST

This week, we're talking about a pair of anchors in a Chinese museum and the tortured path they took to get there. What do the anchors have to do with a "correct" (from the view of the Chinese Communist Party) understanding of history--and how does Japan fit into that story?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_398_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're traveling the breadth of Japanese history to answer a seemingly simple question: why is it that so very many of us have heard of haiku? What is so special about this style of poetry, and how did it come to have such global appeal?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_397_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're covering the transformation of the collapsed LTCB into the revived Shinsei ("New Life") Bank, and the motley cast of American investors and Japanese executives who made this once unthinkable financial future a reality. What led to decades of fiscal tradition being scrapped, and what have the impacts of this choice been?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_396_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week: a combination of political scandals, tabloid journalism, institutional inertia, and of course the goddamn Swiss lead to the long, slow, death of LTCB.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_395_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're returning to the era of the bubble economy and its aftermath with an up close look at the failure of one of Japan's most prominent banks: the Long Term Credit Bank of Japan, or LTCB. First: how did LTCB dig itself so deeply into an economic hole?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_394_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're wrapping up our month on piracy by looking at how the image of "Japanese pirates" became so prevalent in Korea and China, and what we actually know about all the pirating that was going on during this time.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_393_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're talking about how Hideyoshi finally tamed Japan's pirates, and why that makes them so hard to understand from a historical perspective.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_392_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're focusing on the height of piracy during the civil wars in Japan, and in particular the powerful Murakami pirate families. How did these families make their money? What did their raids look like? And what was their relationship to the warlords on land?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_391_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, in the first of a four part series on piracy in Japan, we're covering the background of piracy before the Sengoku civil wars. How did Japan's pirates interact with the complexities of Japan's classical and medieval world?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_390_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week we're going deep into the bizarre theories of Japanese Israelism: the conspiracy theory that modern Japanese people are descended in whole or part from the same ancestors as Jews. I'll take you through the basics of these theories, with plenty of barely hidden scorn for their idiocy to light our shared way.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_389_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

We're trapped in a loop this week as Isaac talks about another Isaac: specifically, Isaac Titsingh, a member of the Dutch trade station at Nagasaki and one of the famous European interpreters of Japanese history and culture to the West.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_388_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00am PST

For our final episode in the series, we're taking a look at the demise of public rail in Japan and the privatization of JNR. What led one of Japan's biggest companies down the track (ha!) of being broken up, and where does that leave Japan's rail network today?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_387_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're talking about the rebirth of Japan's rail network in the form of Japan National Railways. Some things will stay the same (it's all the same guys in charge), some will change (a free press keeps reporting on the mistakes those guys make), and all of this will culminate in one of the most ambitious engineering projects in Japanese history: the Tokaido Shinkansen.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_386_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're talking about the role of rail in imperial Japan, with a particular focus on the infamous South Manchuria Railway Company. How does a rail line become key to Japan's imperial ambitions in China?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_385_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're starting off a look at the history of rail in Japan by exploring how this revolutionary technology was introduced to the country. And once it was, how would a government obsessed with strategic infrastructure like rail manage the complexities of funding and constructing something so jaw-droppingly expensive?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_384_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 12:45pm PST

Today, we're taking a look at a fascinating literary text from 1000 years ago, the Kagero Nikki (most commonly translated as "The Gossamer Diary"). This is the life story of a woman whose name is not known to us, and her tumultuous, borderline abusive relationship with her husband -- and a tale of how, ultimately, she is able to find peace.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_383_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're going to stay in the Sengoku but take a step away from all this samurai action to ask: what's everybody else up to? From farmers in the countryside enjoying the fruits of a more commercialized economy (while fearing being raided by marauding armies) to merchant towns asserting their authority against warlords, it's a fascinating look into a neglected piece of the era's history.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_382_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we cover the rest of the lives of Sugen'in, Joko'in, and Yodo-dono (and some other really fascinating incidental lives, like Hideyoshi's wife Kodai'in), and ask: what can we learn from these often overlooked narratives?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_381_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're revisiting some well-trod ground (the final decades of the 1500s and the careers of Nobunaga and Hideyoshi) but through new eyes -- focusing on the stories of Nobunaga's sister Oichi, and her three daughters Yodo-dono, Joko'in, and Sugen'in.

Direct download: Episode_380_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 7:25pm PST

This week, we're starting off a month of Sengoku-themed content with a look at one of the remoter areas of Japan: Tosa province on Shikoku, now known as Kouchi Prefecture. Specifically, we'll be diving into the history of the one-time lords of the area, the Chosokabe family, who rose from minor status to lords of all of Shikoku in two generations, and were then annihilated in the very next.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_379.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're talking about the birth of the idol industry in Japan. What are idols, how are they made famous, and what does all of this say about the nature of consumer culture in modern Japan?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_378_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're taking a look at one of the greatest scandals in the history of Japanese baseball, when the black mist of yakuza-driven sports gambling wracked Japan's national pastime.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_377_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're exploring the history of Japan's most famous drink: sake, or Japanese rice wine (though it turns out, 'sake' in Japanese doesn't necessarily refer to what we think of, nor is it actually a 'rice wine' in the technical sense). We're covering everything from tax laws to how to make your own sake using nothing but your own spit, so buckle up! It's gonna be a fun one.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_376_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're wrapping up our history of the colonization of Hokkaido with a look at the impact of the American occupation on the island, as well as some final thoughts on the modern history of the Ainu and their political organizing.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_375_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're talking about Hokkaido in the early 20th century, and in particular the stark problems created by the island's rapid colonization: its badly unequal economy and the question of what role the Ainu were now to play in their own homeland.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_374__mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're looking at the early decades of Japan's colonization of Hokkaido, and the means by which the island was radically remade within the span of a single lifetime.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_373_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week: how did the threat of Western imperialism change the relationship between mainland Japan and Hokkaido, and help set the stage for Japan's eventual colonization of the island?

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_372_mixdown.mp3
Category:History -- posted at: 4:00am PST

This week, we're starting a multi-part series on the history of one of Japan's major islands, and its first colonial frontier: Hokkaido. Today, we'll talk about the early centuries of history between the Japanese and the Ainu, the aboriginal people of Hokkaido.

Show notes here.

Direct download: Episode_371_mixdown.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 9:23am PST

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