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History of Japan
38 minutes | May 20, 2022
Episode 438 - From the Deep, Part 1
This week, we're taking on whaling in Tokugawa Japan. What is 'traditional' whaling in Japan? How and why did people take to the seas to hunt whales? And how is all of this wrapped up in the modern debate around whaling in Japan? Side note: wet weather in Seattle is giving me mad allergies, so apologies if I sound extra sniffly or anything. Show notes here.
34 minutes | May 13, 2022
Episode 437 - The Fist of the Buddhas, Part 2
This week: where does our stock image of the sohei come from, and why does it tell us more about Japan after the age of warrior-monks than anything else? Show notes here.
37 minutes | May 6, 2022
Episode 436 - Fist of the Buddhas, Part 1
This week: what does the historical record have to say about the veracity of the image of the warrior-monk, or sohei, that is so pervasive in pop cultural understandings of medieval Japan? Show notes here.
62 minutes | Apr 29, 2022
Criminal Records Podcast - The Yakuza Rocket Launcher Case
There's no regular History of Japan episode this week. Instead, here's a wonderful episode of my other podcast, Criminal Records, about three things of deep concern to any self-respecting podcast audience: organized crime, the drug trade, and rocket launchers! See you all next week.
39 minutes | Apr 22, 2022
Episode 435 - The Wrong Kind of Hero, Part 3
This week, we're wrapping up our look at Sakamoto Ryoma's life and legacy to see how he was transformed from loyalist ronin to posthumous legend. Plus, some quick thoughts on his legacy and enduring popularity. Programming note: no new episode next week! Show notes here.
36 minutes | Apr 15, 2022
Episode 434 - The Wrong Kind of Hero, Part 2
This week: Sakamoto Ryoma commits fully to the loyalist cause, but ends up on a turbulent journey that will take him from Kyoto to Edo--and transform him into a very different man. Show notes here.
36 minutes | Apr 8, 2022
Episode 433 - The Wrong Kind of Hero, Part 1
This week, we return to the turbulent age of the Bakumatsu--the collapse of the Tokugawa state--with a biography of one of the era's most intriguing figures, Sakamoto Ryoma. Who was Ryoma, where did he come from, and how did he get swept into the complex politics of the time? Show notes here.
37 minutes | Apr 1, 2022
Episode 432 - The Tale of Nakako, Part 2
This week: just what sort of scandal sent Nakanoin Nakako to the far end of Japan, and how did fate intervene to set her on a new course once again? And what can we learn from trying to trace a life like this through a tangle of sources which touch on it largely indirectly? Show notes here.
36 minutes | Mar 25, 2022
Episode 431 - The Tale of Nakako, Part 1
This week on the podcast, we're exploring the life of a woman whose story would normally be confined to the sidelines: an imperial concubine in the early 1600s by the name of Nakanoin Nakako? Who was this young woman and how did she become a part of the emperor's household? Show notes here.
34 minutes | Mar 18, 2022
Episode 430 - If the Wind Blows, Let it Blow
This week on the podcast, we're talking the tale of the iconoclastic monk Ikkyu Sojun. His fame is predicated on an odd combination of Zen austerity and the embrace of the wine shop and the brothel, rather than the temple, as the place to seek enlightenment. Show notes here
37 minutes | Mar 11, 2022
Episode 429 - The Glorious Fool
How can a man who was terrible as a ruler also be one of the most important tastemakers in Japanese history? Today we're unpacking the biography of Ashikaga Yoshimasa, more or less universally reviled as the worst man ever to lead Japan and yet one of the most important figures in developing much of what we think of as classical Japanese art and aesthetics. Show notes here.
36 minutes | Mar 4, 2022
Episode 428 - The Highest Bidder
Today, we're looking at a rather unusual scandal from early 20th century Japan, and what it shows us about the power of the democratic impulse in Japan even before the country could be called a democracy. Plus, political maneuvering and corruption galore! What's not to love? Show notes here.
37 minutes | Feb 25, 2022
Episode 427 - The Ones Who Walked Away
This week, we're taking some material from the cutting room floor of last series to talk about the stories of two Japanese Christians, both of whom became ordained priests--and both of whom apostatized. What led these men to the faith? Why did they leave it? And what do their lives tell us about the course of Japan's Christian century? Show notes here.
37 minutes | Feb 18, 2022
Episode 426 - The City on the Edge of Forever, Part 5
Our final episode of this miniseries will detail the early decades of the Christian persecutions in Nagasaki. Once the religion was banned, how did the Tokugawa authorities go about rooting it out--and how was that attempt resisted by the city's Christians and the priests still hiding in the city? Show notes here.
34 minutes | Feb 11, 2022
Episode 425 - The City on the Edge of Forever, Part 4
This week, Hideyoshi's death seems to suggest an end to the persecution of Nagasaki's Christians. However, the city quickly finds itself under threat from the new lord of Japan, Tokugawa Ieyasu, as competition from other European merchants and growing suspicion of Christianity erodes the protections that had long kept the city safe. Show notes here.
34 minutes | Feb 4, 2022
Episode 424 - The City on the Edge of Forever, Part 3
This week: Hideyoshi's 'friendship' proves less useful than hoped, resulting in a 1587 ban on Christianity and Nagasaki losing its independence. How do the city's Christians and their Jesuit leaders respond to this setback--and to another a few years later, caused by a band of new priests making their way to Japan? Show notes here.
34 minutes | Jan 28, 2022
Episode 423 - The City on the Edge of Forever, Part 2
This week, Christian Nagasaki survives its early trials and tribulations to become a Jesuit fortress-town, and a centerpiece of some cutthroat religious diplomacy. But the same approaches that will make Nagasaki crucial to the regional economy will also make it the target of jealous neighboring warlords--and invite the scrutiny of Japan's most powerful leader. Show notes here.
34 minutes | Jan 21, 2022
Episode 422 - The City on the Edge of Forever, Part 1
This week, we're covering the founding of Japan's most unusual city: Nagasaki, unique among major Japanese cities in being founded under the impetus of the Jesuit order. Why did Jesuit missionaries want a port of their own, and who did they find to give it to them? Show notes here.
34 minutes | Jan 14, 2022
Episode 421 - In the Eye of the Beholder
Today, we're discussing the evolution of a unique form of modern Japanese art: shin hanga, or new woodblocks, which attempted to combine Western painting techniques with woodblock printing. They're not as well remembered as old ukiyo-e prints, but say something very interesting about the tension between modernity and tradition in 20th century Japan! Show notes here.
36 minutes | Jan 7, 2022
Episode 420 - A History of Drugs in Japan
Sometimes you just have to take advantage of a cheap joke about a silly number to take a look at the history of drug policy in Japan. So today, we'll be exploring the rich history of illegal drugs, addiction, and government attempts to regulate or combat drug use in Japan. Show notes here.
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