History of Japan

By Isaac Meyer

On Going since Mar 2013 • Updated weekly

A weekly podcast on Japanese history, covering everything from prehistory to the modern era.

All Episodes

  Direct Link   Download 33 Minutes 22 Dec 2018

This week, we cover the little-known "Chichibu Incident," an uprising against the Meiji government in 1884 that saw several thousand people take up arms against the state. Where did it come from? How did the rebellion fare? And what is its connection to the broader trends of Japanese history?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 33 Minutes 15 Dec 2018

Today, we cover one of the most unusual stories of WWII: the policy of saving and protecting Jews pursued by some among Japan's military leadership. How did anti-semitic ideas about a global conspiracy convince some in Japan that the Jews could be their allies? How many were saved? And what does it all mean?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 33 Minutes 08 Dec 2018

This week, we cover poet and political activist Yosano Akiko in her drift from icon of the political left to polemicist for the ultranationalist right. What kind of life trajectory drives a person that way? Why did she follow that path? And why did she write so many poems about breasts?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 34 Minutes 01 Dec 2018

This week, we take a look at the bizarre history of a single text -- Senkyou Ibun, or Strange Tidings from Another World -- and the two people responsible for creating it: the famous scholar Hirata Atsutane, and a boy named Torakichi who claimed to have lived in Japan's spirit world.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 38 Minutes 17 Nov 2018

This week, we cover the life of real estate mogul and international gambling sensation Kashiwagi Akio. Who was he? How did he become an internationally famous gambler? Why was he mysteriously murdered? And how the hell does none other than Donald Trump fit into this?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 31 Minutes 10 Nov 2018

This week, we cover the story and legacy of the great warrior Kusunoki Masashige. Why does he have the unique distinction of a statue on the grounds of the emperor's palace in Tokyo? What do we actually know about him?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 42 Minutes 09 Nov 2018

As a surprise bonus, here's an episode of my new show Criminal Records on one of Japan's most fascinating criminal cases. Fair warning: this episode includes some graphic content!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 03 Nov 2018

This week; Oomoto's zenith and fall from grace. Plus, what have we learned from all this?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 27 Oct 2018

This week, we tackled the origin of one of Japan's new religious movements: Oomoto, or The Great Origin. Where did it come from, and how did the unique combination of two very different people with the right set of circumstances lead it to prominence?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 20 Oct 2018

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.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 13 Oct 2018

This week: the Great Kanto Earthquake, the firebombing campaign, and Tokyo during the Occupation.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 06 Oct 2018

This week, from Edo to Tokyo: how the shogun's city became the emperor's!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 29 Sep 2018

This week, we start a look at the history of the city of Tokyo. How did the frontier fishing village of Edo go from backwater nowhere to the heart of the nation in only a few short generations?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 22 Sep 2018

This week, we cover the life and legacy of one of the great bridges between Japan and China -- the Christian bookseller of Shanghai, Uchiyama Kanzo.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 15 Sep 2018

This week, we take a look at the history of pro wrestling in Japan, and its unlikely progenitor: a Korean-born sumo wrestler named Rikidozan.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 08 Sep 2018

This week, we close out our time with Taiwan with a look at its return to the Republic of China, and at the modern day relationship between the "renegade province" and Japan.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 01 Sep 2018

This week, Japan's attempt to assimilate Taiwan finds some success, and one big stumbling block: the Musha Incident, the last and largest rebellion against Japanese rule on the island. Plus, the beginnings of Taiwan's mobilization for war.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 33 Minutes 25 Aug 2018

This week: now that Japan has conquered Taiwan, what are they actually going to do with it?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 33 Minutes 19 Aug 2018

This week, we start a history of the Japanese occupation of Taiwan. How did Japan come to conquer the island, and what did its conquest entail for the Japanese and for the inhabitants?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 35 Minutes 11 Aug 2018

This week, we take a look at the history of gay and lesbian relationships in Japan. How has the social position of homosexuality changed over time in Japanese history? What evidence can we use to "read out" the history of a non-mainstream culture?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 31 Minutes 28 Jul 2018

This week, we take on the legend of Miyamoto Musashi. How is it that a person we know very little about came to be a legend? Could it be, perhaps, that the very fact that we know so little about him for sure is part of the allure of his legend?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 32 Minutes 21 Jul 2018

This week, we delve into the life, legacy, and style of Matsuo Basho, Japan's most famous poet. Who was he? How did he develop his unique style? How did Japan's most famous haiku poet end up writing before the invention of the word "haiku"? All that and more!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 14 Jul 2018

This week we take on the history of the von Siebold family -- father Philip Franz, son Alexander, and daughter Kusumoto Ine. How does the story of this unusual family fit in to the story of 19th century Japan?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 07 Jul 2018

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!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 35 Minutes 30 Jun 2018

This week, we cover the story of Engelbert Kaempfer, who wrote one of the most thorough and best known accounts of Japan for Western consumption before the Meiji era. How did this random German dude end up in Japan? What did he write about it? What did he think of it? And why do we care?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 23 Jun 2018

This week, we cover the Miike coal mine strike of 1960. As labor and management do battle over the future of the mines, how will the future of the country be shaped by their clash?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 16 Jun 2018

This week, we look at the contentious summer of 1960, in which the disputes of postwar Japan boiled over into some of the most intense protests in the country's history. How do these conflicts shape modern Japanese society?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 09 Jun 2018

This week, the origins and history of Sumo.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 02 Jun 2018

This week, the story of Nakahama Manjiro, the castaway turned American whaler turned gold miner turned samurai turned English professor.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 26 May 2018

This week, we conclude our up close look at the Shimazu family and Satsuma domain with a consideration of how the domain fit into Edo society, and its position in modern Japan.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 19 May 2018

This week, we cover the sengolu era history of the Shimazu clan, and their meteoric ascent from minor lords to major ones in the span of a few decades. Plus, the Tokugawa and the Shimazu, the role of sugar in the Shimazu clan's fortunes, and the invasion of the Ryukyu islands. It's a packed episode!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 12 May 2018

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?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 05 May 2018

This week, we tackle the evils of Unit 731 -- its history, its experiments, and its ultimate escape from any real justice.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 31 Minutes 28 Apr 2018

This week, we take on the scintillating story of the Manchurian princess Kawashima Yoshiko, who grew up in Japan before becoming an agent for Japanese intelligence.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 35 Minutes 21 Apr 2018

This week, we discuss the career of Japan's most legendary director, Kurosawa Akira. From humble, middle class beginnings, our story will take us through some of his most notable films, and include detours into the lives of Mifune Toshiro, George Lucas, and even Francis Ford Coppola!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 14 Apr 2018

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?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 31 Minutes 07 Apr 2018

Note: Since this week we're talking about the sex trade, I've taken the precaution of giving this episode an explicit tag. However, it does not include any more language than usual; it's just a precaution because iTunes can get pretty finicky about this stuff. So with that in mind, let's get down and dirty into the world of prostitution!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 24 Mar 2018

This week, we tackle the history of the Burakumin. Where did this outcast group come from? Why does discrimination against them remain an issue? What steps has the government taken to protect them, and what steps have they taken to get organized and push back? AMA link here.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 17 Mar 2018

This week, we spend an entire history podcast talking about someone who may not even have actually existed -- the legendary thief Ishikawa Goemon. The live link for the AMA is: https://whatpods.com/ama/history-of-japan/.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 0 Minutes 17 Mar 2018

This week, we spend an entire history podcast talking about someone who may not even have actually existed -- the legendary thief Ishikawa Goemon. The live link for the AMA is: https://whatpods.com/ama/history-of-japan/.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 32 Minutes 10 Mar 2018

This week, we wrap up the life of Japan's 124th Emperor. What, in the end, did it all mean?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 03 Mar 2018

How does a man raised to be a military autocrat become a democratic emperor in just a few short years? Or is that even possible?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 24 Feb 2018

This week: Hirohito goes to war. What did he know, how much did he direct things himself, and ultimately, how much responsibility does he bear for the greatest cataclysm in the history of East Asia?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 10 Feb 2018

This week, we take a look at Hirohito's life before World War II. What kind of ruler was Japan's new emperor when the chips came down?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 03 Feb 2018

Young Hirohito goes on trips, serves his first turns in politics, and gets married! Join us as we look at the future emperor's first steps into the life that he never really had a chance to choose for himself.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 33 Minutes 27 Jan 2018

Today, we dive into the boyhood of Emperor Hirohito. What's it like growing up always knowing that your life is a political tool? How do you process your middle school principal killing himself in a show of loyalty to your grandfather?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 20 Jan 2018

This week, we cover a famous caper that probably sent an innocent man to jail for nearly 40 years. There's poisoning, plotting, and conspiracy galore as we discuss the Teigin Incident.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 31 Minutes 13 Jan 2018

This week, we cover the features of modern Japanese policing, from the friendly face of the koban police boxes to the harsh realities of Japan's rules on interrogation.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 06 Jan 2018

This week: how has Japan been policed? Was there really such a thing as a samurai cop? Was their hair as good as the samurai cop from the iconic 1991 film? And how did policework in Japan change after the Meiji Restoration? We will answer all but one of these questions; I leave it to you to guess which one.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 16 Dec 2017

This week: was Japan's 5th Tokugawa shogun really as crazy as everybody says? Spoilers: no.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 09 Dec 2017

This week, we cover a crime wave that shocked 1980s Japan, and proved that postwar society was perhaps not quite all it was cracked up to be. Also, there's a lot of poisoned candy.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 02 Dec 2017

This week, we investigate the great Zen master Dogen, who was something of an eccentric in his own time but remains one of the greatest Buddhist thinkers in Japanese history.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 25 Nov 2017

Turns out, getting involved in a land war in Asia really is one of the classic blunders. This week, how did it all pan out?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 18 Nov 2017

How did Japan fit into the broader framework of the Allied intervention? What were the Japanese trying to accomplish in Siberia? And who was even in charge of this damned thing? All that and more, this week.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 11 Nov 2017

100 Years ago, Japan intervened in Russia to create a buffer state against the new Soviet Union. So how did that work out? We'll start answering that question this week.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 04 Nov 2017

This week: why is a military failure worth 7 episodes of our time? The legacy of the Mongol invasions of Japan, explained.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 28 Oct 2017

The 1281 invasion is at the gates (or the seawall, I suppose). How will round 2 play out?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 21 Oct 2017

This week, we prepare for round two. How are the Japanese getting ready for another invasion, and how does that new invasion begin?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 14 Oct 2017

This week, we cover exciting topics like meteorology and internal Mongol family politics! But wait, there's also a bit of Zen theology dashed in to spice things up! It's an eclectic week on the podcast for sure!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 07 Oct 2017

This week I promise we'll actually get to the 1274 invasion. But first, how were the samurai who defended Japan organized, and what weapons did they use?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 30 Sep 2017

This week: why did Kublai go to Japan? A quick overview of the tensions that led to the first invasion, and a look at the armies of Mongols and Chinese that would fight it.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 23 Sep 2017

This week: where did the Mongol Empire come from, and who was in charge when they decided to come after Japan? Also, why is the Kamakura shogunate the most convoluted form of government in a history of convoluted governments?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 09 Sep 2017

Today, we wrap our look at immigrants from Japan with a brief discussion of Nikkei communities in the Philippines and China, and with a look at Japan's own attempts to have Nikkei return "home.". . .

  Direct Link   Download 36 Minutes 02 Sep 2017

This week: why did the American government think it was necessary to round up Nikkei on the West Coast? And what did that policy mean for the people who actually lived it?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 32 Minutes 26 Aug 2017

This week, we're headed south to take a look at Nikkei communities in Brazil and Peru.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 19 Aug 2017

This week, we take a closer look at early communities of Nikkeijin -- people of Japanese descent -- in the United States and Hawaii.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 12 Aug 2017

This week, we begin a new series on the Japanese diaspora!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 31 Minutes 05 Aug 2017

This week we tackle the question of Japanese fascism by looking at one of Japan's foremost fascists, the authoritarian scholar Kita Ikki.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 32 Minutes 29 Jul 2017

This week: one of Japan's most famous Buddhist masters, Kukai, takes center stage!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 22 Jul 2017

Today we discuss Japan's greatest artistic genius, Katsushika Hokusai!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 31 Minutes 15 Jul 2017

This week: Japan's a pretty verdant place, but how did it stay that way when so many other places were ravaged by human development?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 37 Minutes 08 Jul 2017

All you could ever want to know about podcast recording, UW's graduate program, and why the Japanese definitely are not part of the 10 lost tribes of Israel! That and more! Thank you all for 200 great episodes!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 31 Minutes 24 Jun 2017

In which we bring things to a close by considering the fall of the Butokukai, the spread of budo beyond Japan, the role of martial arts in the African-American community, the question of Olympic sport status, and the challenge of the UFC. It's gonna be a busy week.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 31 Minutes 17 Jun 2017

This week: can a martial art be a philosophy of life? Can it rise to the level of a religion?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 10 Jun 2017

This week: karate comes to mainland Japan (and gets a rebrand in the process), and the Butokukai's attempts to militarize the martial arts backfire when the Americans come to town.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 03 Jun 2017

This week: the rise of judo and of the modern budo, and karate strikes back!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 27 May 2017

This week: who wants to swing a sword when you can just shoot a gun?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 20 May 2017

This week: where do Japan's traditional martial arts come from?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 13 May 2017

This week: what are three educated women to do in a society that doesn't value their education?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 06 May 2017

This week: the beginning of a two parter on Japan's first ever female exchange students.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 29 Apr 2017

This week: what, in the end, did the Occupation mean -- for both the occupied and the occupier?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 22 Apr 2017

This week: what was it like to live through the Occupation? How did people get by? And why is Kurosawa Akira objectively the greatest director ever?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 15 Apr 2017

This week: the social reforms of the Occupation. Economic policy, education policy: it's like our very own C-SPAN screening!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 32 Minutes 08 Apr 2017

This week, we talk about what it took to make a peace on paper a peace in fact. With millions of Japanese civilians and soldiers scattered across Asia, what would it take to get them all home again?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 01 Apr 2017

This week, we discuss the course of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials and their legacy in Japan. How did they go from a vision of international optimism to despised by people on both sides of the political spectrum?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 25 Mar 2017

This week, we'll begin a discussion of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, better known as the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. Who is being tried, what for, and why?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 18 Mar 2017

This week: where did Japan's constitution come from, and how the hell did it get done in only six days?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 11 Mar 2017

The Occupation begins! This week, we'll set the stage with a focus on the relationship between Supreme Commander Douglass MacArthur and Emperor Hirohito.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 04 Mar 2017

This week, we turn our attention to the US Occupation of Japan. When did Americans first start thinking seriously about taking Japan over and remaking its whole society?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 18 Feb 2017

This week, we're doing a biography of the little known Buddhist socialist Seno'o Giro. How do you reconcile Buddhism and Marx? Find out this week!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 11 Feb 2017

This week, we round out our look at the hard left in Japan. Militant communist uprisings (if less than 100 people counts as an uprising), electoral maneuvering, recycling policy -- this episode has it all.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 04 Feb 2017

This week: the Japanese left is relegated to permanent opposition status in the postwar period. How did the revolutionary moment come to this?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 28 Jan 2017

This week, the floodgates are open! The system has fallen, and the left is poised to seize power...or not!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 21 Jan 2017

Today, a specter is haunting Japan. But that specter is not communism; it's the ghost of the communist party, dead before it truly lived. This week on the podcast: how to kill a communist party in a few easy steps.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 14 Jan 2017

The revolution comes to Japan...but not really. Today we explore the birth and very rapid death of Japan's first socialist party, and the rise of its communist movement.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 23 Minutes 07 Jan 2017

Today, we'll turn our attention to a set of ideas that will ultimately fall flat on their face in Japan (and most other places): Marxism. How did the hard left come to Japan? And before that, what even is Marxism?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 10 Dec 2016

This week, it's time for Japan's first party politician: Hara Takashi. Was he a populist hero or a wannabe elite? And in the end, does that even really matter?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 31 Minutes 03 Dec 2016

This week, we explore the history of one of Japan's most popular art forms: kabuki theater. Major themes include prostitution, Tokugawa era morality laws, stagecraft, prostitution, and the superiority of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine over The Next Generation.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 19 Nov 2016

Today, we'll wrap up our look at the Russo-Japanese War with some thoughts on its long term consequences. How much of an impact can a war that lasted for a year and a half really have?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 24 Minutes 15 Nov 2016

Apologies for the technical delay! Today, we'll watch Russia descend into chaos, and take a look at the peace negotiations that result as both sides realize they can't keep this war up.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 10 Nov 2016

It's time for the Imperial Japanese Navy to bail out the Imperial Japanese Army. But first, let's enjoy the Russian Baltic Fleet's Party Cruise to the Pacific!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 29 Oct 2016

In the last major land battle of the Russo-Japanese War, two great powers enter and...two great powers leave? Wait, I'm confused. How are the Japanese winning every battle and still not winning the war?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 22 Oct 2016

The Russians retreat, the Japanese advance, the losses pile up. Things are starting to get a bit worrisome for the Japanese army; could they potentially win every battle and still lose the war?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 15 Oct 2016

This week: the Port Arthur campaign, from start to finish. Wasn't this supposed to be a cakewalk?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 22 Minutes 07 Oct 2016

The war rages on as the Japanese land in Port Arthur and press the attack, and Oyama Iwao advances north. The Russians will attempt to make a stand as divisions open up in their leadership.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 30 Sep 2016

Today, we're starting a war! The battle for Manchuria begins as Japan and Russia confront each other on land and at sea for the first time. But will the daring Japanese plan to win the war quickly pay off? Well....kind of.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 24 Sep 2016

This week -- negotiations between the two sides begin in St. Petersburg, but neither Japan nor Russia is really committed to peacefully working things out. In Imperial Japanese Army HQ, the first steps towards an actual plan for war are formulated: but how to neutralize the many advantages Russia holds?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 10 Sep 2016

This week, we're going to cover the incompatible goals that led Japan and Russia towards war. Why did each side see the other as a threat? Why was war even on the table in the first place? Can't we all just get along?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 03 Sep 2016

This week, we're turning our attention to the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. In our first episode, we'll introduce our stage -- Manchuria -- and our players -- Russia and Japan.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 27 Aug 2016

This week, we close out this series with a look at the relationship between South Korea and Japan. Also included; Isaac's patented speed run of South Korean history. Enjoy!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 32 Minutes 20 Aug 2016

This week, we discuss Japan's relationship with the modern day Hermit Kingdom, and to explain North Korean policy and how those policies effect Japan. It's gonna be a long ride into the web of madness that is the world's only communist monarchy, so grab your Kim Il-sung pins and strap in!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 13 Aug 2016

This week, it's time to join the resistance. We'll trace the birth of the Korean resistance from protests in 1919 to its bifurcation into two rival movements. The first, the Provisional Government of the Republic of Korea, will be based in Shanghai and dominated by the charismatic American-educated Syngman Rhee. The second will be an armed anti-Japanese insurrection in Manchuria led by a man whose life is more myth than fact: Kim Il-sung.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 06 Aug 2016

This week -- what was colonial Korea like? We'll do a quick overview of 35 years of colonial economic, political, and social policy to give you a feel for what Japan's goals in Korea were and how those goals effected the lives of ordinary Koreans.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 32 Minutes 23 Jul 2016

This week, the Korean Kingdom's final years see the desperate bid of King Gojong to salvage Korea's independence. Ultimately, however, Korea's royal family will be unable to save itself, and in 1910 Korea's independence will be snuffed out completely for the first time since the era of Kublai Khan.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 17 Jul 2016

This week, a three way competition for control of Korea between Japan, China, and Russia heats up! Factional fighting in the Korean court will drag Japan and China into conflict; in the end, the Koreans themselves are sidelined when it comes to controlling their own fate.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 09 Jul 2016

This week, Korea encounters the West. We'll introduce the early Western forays into Korea, explain how Japan came to sign the first unequal treaty with its neighbor, and look into the factionalization of the Korean royal court.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 32 Minutes 02 Jul 2016

This week: we get up to speed on Korean history, so that we can begin exploring the turbulent Korean-Japanese relationship. Pirates, coups, Mongols, poetry battles -- we've got it all!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 25 Jun 2016

This week: what happens when Buddhists go to war? We'll explore the relationship between the Japanese Empire and the Zen Buddhist establishment.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 11 Jun 2016

This week, we conclude our series on the rise of the samurai with murder, intrigue, political reform, and gratuitous Game of Thrones references.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 04 Jun 2016

The Genpei War comes to a close in this action packed episode! Kyoto will fall! The Taira will burn! Oxen will be deployed as tactical weapons!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 28 May 2016

This week, we let slip the dogs of war as Japan plunges into a new phase of conflict. Though Prince Mochihito will not make it out of 1180, the rebellion he starts will catch on in eastern Japan. Young Minamoto no Yoritomo, with some prodding from his new father-in-law/captor, will rise up to assume his birthright as leader of the Minamoto (but not without some controversy).. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 24 May 2016

We're live, folks! Sorry for the delay. It's time for the career of Taira no Kiyomori, the man whose talent and ambition was matched only by his temper and his ego.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 14 May 2016

This week: patricide, rebellions, and royal incest. Oh, also the increasing destabilization of the Heian government as ever more power falls into the hands of Taira no Kiyomori.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 07 May 2016

This week: the Taira family continue their rise to prominence, the Minamoto get stuck spinning their wheels for a few decades, and warrior violence makes its way to Kyoto. All that, plus the hottest court gossip of the 1120s, this week.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 01 May 2016

This week, Minamoto no Yoshiie establishes the power of the Seiwa Minamoto family, upsetting a careful balance of power. Also, he drops the hottest rhymes of. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 23 Apr 2016

This week, we'll be starting a short series about the advent of the samurai class. First, what came before the samurai, and why did Japan's emperors decide to devolve more and more power to provincial warriors?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 33 Minutes 16 Apr 2016

What does organized crime look like in modern Japan, and why does anybody put up with it? Also, how many rocket launchers can you buy with 50 pounds of amphetamines? All that and more, this week.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 31 Minutes 09 Apr 2016

Someday, and that day may never come, I'll call upon you to do a service for me. But until that day, accept this episode as a gift on my podcast's release day. Pull off your shirt to reveal your gang tattoos, it's time for the yakuza!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 33 Minutes 02 Apr 2016

This week, we talk about how views of Nanjing have shifted since WWII, and where the modern right-wing revisionists came from. Why are we still talking about a massacre from 80 years ago?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 33 Minutes 26 Mar 2016

This week, we look at the events of the Nanjing Massacre. Just what happened in China's capital city in December, 1937?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 32 Minutes 19 Mar 2016

Today we're going to talk about Japan's relationship with nuclear power and the catastrophic events of March, 2011. Why did Japan become so reliant on nuclear energy? Why did all the safeguards in place fail so badly in 2011? And where on earth do we go from here?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 12 Mar 2016

This week, we'll talk about the birth of the Japanese space program. From its origins as the brainchild of a former weapons designer and a borderline pyromaniac, the programs now incorporated into JAXA (the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) have accomplished some of the most amazing technical feats of the 20th and 21st century. How did they do it, and why? And what's changing now with the rise of China?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 05 Mar 2016

This week: conscription in Japan. What's it like to be conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army? How are conscripts treated, and what are the goals of the conscription system?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 31 Minutes 27 Feb 2016

Aaand we're done. This week, some final thoughts on the period and its key players before we put the Meiji Restoration to bed for good! Be sure to get in touch and tell me what you thought of the series.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 20 Feb 2016

This week, we turn to the final drama of our series -- the samurai rebellions that will break out in final defense of 1000 years of samurai tradition. As the group of leaders who had overthrown the Tokugawa becomes ever smaller, the final course of Japan will be set. From this point on, what the new Japan will look like will be clear.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 32 Minutes 13 Feb 2016

This week, Saigo Takamori is going to sidetrack the whole government by pulling the idea of invading Korea off the shelf, sparking a political crisis. Once the dust from this debate has settled, the political landscape will have changed once again, and the battle lines for a final showdown over the fate of Japan will be drawn.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 31 Minutes 06 Feb 2016

This week, we cover the major issues of the new government. Who's in charge? What do they want to do? And what could possibly go wrong if we just take half the leadership off for a two year trip?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 30 Jan 2016

This week, we take a look at the new balance of power now that the Tokugawa are gone. Who's calling the shots? What do they want? And most importantly of all, now that the war is over, will we all be resolving our differences with calm discussion like a bunch of grownups? Spoilers: no.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 31 Minutes 23 Jan 2016

This week: the "short-lived" part of "the short-lived Ezo Republic" comes to fruition, and what is now Meiji Japan begins dealing with a new issue. Now that the Tokugawa are finally gone, what comes next?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 16 Jan 2016

This week, we'll cover the military campaigns of 1868. Edo will (surprisingly anticlimactically) fall, the north will rebel, and Matsudaira Katamori's domain of Aizu will be overrun after a brutal two month siege. In the end, only the small splinter territory of the Ezo Republic will be left standing.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 31 Minutes 09 Jan 2016

In early 1868, the armies of the loyalists and the Tokugawa bakufu will clash outside Kyoto. We'll discuss the factors that led to the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, and why what was supposed to be a walk in the park for the Tokugawa turned into a complete disaster.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 02 Jan 2016

This week, we cover 1867: the final year of the Tokugawa shogunate (sort of). Caught between a loyalist rock and an imperial hard place, Tokugawa Yoshinobu will consider the unthinkable: resignation, and an end to 260 years of bakufu tradition.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 19 Dec 2015

Choshu vs the Tokugawa, round 2! Only two years after being defeated by the Tokugawa, Choshu is back at war with Japan's leading family. This time, they've got far more cards to play, though. Can Choshu defeat the Tokugawa and put them into a slow death spiral from which they will never recover? Hint: yes!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 12 Dec 2015

Not even a dead motherboard can stop me; 1865 is just too important for us to talk about! This week: Civil Wars, gunrunning, and important financial tips (hint: become an arms dealer) as we continue the march to the fall of the Tokugawa!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 05 Dec 2015

1864 is probably the most important year in the Meiji Restoration that nobody really has heard of; the Tokugawa will come as close to winning their fight for control of Japan as they ever will, and the shishi movement will end up on the ropes. So, how did the Tokugawa stage such an effective comeback, and why did Tokugawa victories end up laying the groundwork for Tokugawa defeats down the line? All that and more, this week!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 28 Nov 2015

This week, we'll move into the tumultuous events of 1863. Challenges foreign and domestic are going to upset the balance of power that has existed since the death of Ii Naosuke, and drive Japan ever closer to civil war.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 31 Minutes 21 Nov 2015

This week, we'll move into the messy early/mid 1860s and look at the doomed attempt to bridge the gap between the Tokugawa and the Imperial Court. We'll also look at the situation in Kyoto, which was growing more violent by the day.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 31 Minutes 13 Nov 2015

This week, the turbulent politics following the death of Ii Naosuke will result in the rise of one of the most famous symbols of the late Tokugawa era: the shishi, or men of spirit. These shishi groups, radicalized by the political trials of recent years, will introduce a degree of violence to Japanese politics not seen in generations, and pave the way for a fundamental change in Japanese politics.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 07 Nov 2015

This week, Ii Naosuke will try to right the ship of state by any means necessary. However, his reassertion of Tokugawa authority will run into serious problems as the violence surrounding politics begins to ramp up.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 31 Oct 2015

This week, we explore the beginnings of opposition against the bakufu. The Harris Treaty will prove deeply divisive, and before long two factions of daimyo will develop opposing and supporting it. Locked in a stalemate, the two sides turn to a place that had been isolated from politics for nearly 1000 years: the imperial court and its young emperor Komei in Kyoto.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 10 Oct 2015

This week, we're going to stop the forward progress of the narrative and focus on two men who are going to have a large impact on the massive political realignment that's coming down the tubes, though they themselves will not live to see it: Sakuma Shozan and Yoshida Shoin. We'll use them to try to answer the question of just how radical the most radical elements in 1850s Japan really were.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 30 Minutes 03 Oct 2015

This week, we'll explore Japanese reactions to Perry and his successor, the new US Consul in Japan Townsend Harris. As the foreign powers begin to muscle their way more and more into Japan, battle lines between two opposing camps with different visions of Japan's future will be drawn. Things haven't come apart yet, but we're now officially on the road to Tokugawa collapse.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 32 Minutes 26 Sep 2015

So why did President Millard Filmore decide to send an expedition to Japan? Who exactly was Commodore Perry? And why did he have such a thing for giving people model trains? All that and more, this week.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 35 Minutes 19 Sep 2015

In this ecclectic episode, we'll finish up our quick review of the Tokugawa period with a look at three things: the various issues which plagued the samurai class by the 19th century, three of the regions that will play a key role in the fall of the shogunate, and finally the foreign crisis.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 32 Minutes 05 Sep 2015

This week, we're starting our new longest ever series on the collapse of the Tokugawa shogunate and the birth of modern Japan. This week, we're taking a look at the political situation in the Tokugawa period -- how was the country carved up by Tokugawa Ieyasu? Who ruled what, and what kind of implications did that have in terms of establishing a secure and stable nation?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 33 Minutes 01 Sep 2015

Yoshida Shigeru was the postwar Prime Minister who helped salvage Japan's economy after WWII and set the country on the course to recovery. Today we'll discuss his background, time in office, and his influence on the course of Japan's political history.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 33 Minutes 24 Aug 2015

This week, we cover the first Japanese expeditions to Europe. How was it decided that a group of samurai should be dispatched to Rome? Were there really samurai who were also technically knights? How scandalized were the European upper classes by the idea of chopsticks? All that and more, this week!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 15 Aug 2015

This week, we cover the rise to global fame of one of Japan's greatest cultural ambassadors: Godzilla. How did a monster designed as a metaphor about the bomb become emblematic of postwar Japan? Find out this week!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 08 Aug 2015

In the final episode of our series on the atomic bomb, we'll talk a bit about some other theories related to the bomb before closing with some general thoughts about the bomb and what it says about how we approach and write history.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 05 Aug 2015

This week, we look at the Revisionist critiques of the atomic bomb. Why did America use it, and was it really necessary to end the Pacific War?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 33 Minutes 25 Jul 2015

This week, we'll be covering the Orthodox position on the atomic bomb: the defense of the bomb as necessary in the face of Japanese unwillingness to surrender. We'll look at the original impetus for putting forth a systemic defense of the bomb as well as the basic arguments often used to defend its use.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 42 Minutes 18 Jul 2015

This week; what exactly happened during the final, fateful weeks of World War II? What sequence of events finally led to Japan's surrender?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 36 Minutes 11 Jul 2015

For our longest (non-Q&A) episode ever, we'll discuss the development of the Manhattan Project as the odd couple of Leslie Groves and Robert Oppenheimer work to complete the greatest feat of scientific engineering in history.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 04 Jul 2015

In our first of six episodes on the atomic bombs, we start to answer an important question; where did the idea for the bomb come from? Where did people get the idea that a sufficiently large bomb would enable them to win wars from the air?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 27 Jun 2015

How does a nation ruled by warriors descend into over 100 years of civil war? Find out this week as we discuss the causes of the Onin War and the collapse of the authority of the Ashikaga shoguns.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 23 Minutes 20 Jun 2015

Kato Shizue was one of Japan's earliest feminist icons. This week we'll trace her unusual rise from daughter of wealth and privilege to firebrand politician fighting for the rights of Japanese women and women everywhere.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 13 Jun 2015

This week, we cover Japan's doomed attempt to build an undefeatable battleship in a time when battleships were no longer really the key to naval victory. That's right, it's time for the IJN Yamato!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 06 Jun 2015

This week: did the postwar period destroy the soul of Japanese culture? Mishima Yukio certainly thought so. We'll explore his life, his career, and the unusual manner of his untimely death this week!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 30 May 2015

What do you get when you cross radical Confucianism with armed samurai? Japan's first samurai rebellion since the 1630s, and a recipe for one fascinating episode. Cannons, torture, and philosophy: this episode has it all!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 33 Minutes 23 May 2015

This week: your questions! What places are fun to visit Japanese? How do you learn Japanese outside of school? And does the Emperor obey traffic laws when he drives himself? All that and more today!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 35 Minutes 16 May 2015

This week, we've got our first ever interview with author and Shikoku pilgrimage survivor Paul Barach. You can find his book, Fighting Monks and Burning Mountains, on Amazon.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 09 May 2015

Toyotomi Hideyoshi rose from the lower ranks of society in just a bit over 30 years; how did he rise so far so fast, and why did the regime he built crumble almost immediately after this death? All that and more this week.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 24 Minutes 02 May 2015

This week: what does it take to be part of Japan's most infamous warlord duo? We explore the lives of Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin, their relationship with each other, and the ways in which their rivalry has been romanticized over the course of Japanese history.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 25 Apr 2015

This week, we're going to discuss one of the most reprehensible aspects of a war littered with horrible acts; the system of mass sexual slavery of women euphemistically dubbed "comfort women". We'll talk about the origins and nature of the system, and the reason why it has come back to haunt Japanese politics today.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 18 Apr 2015

This week, we turn to Japan's "native outsiders" -- the Ainu, the aboriginal people of Hokkaido. We'll trace their relationship with the Japanese and talk about their position in modern Japan.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 11 Apr 2015

This week, we're turn to the modern Sino-Japanese relationship. After 1978, the communist party assumed a different form under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping. How did those changes affect diplomacy between China and Japan? And what on earth happened to lead to the modern fraught relationship between East Asia's two most powerful states?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 04 Apr 2015

This week we explore the rise of the man who would come to symbolize, for good or ill, modern China: Mao Zedong. Who was he, how did he come out on top, and what was his relationship with his neighbors to the east?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 28 Mar 2015

This week we look at the Second Sino-Japanese War from the opposite angle: not those who fought, but those who collaborated. We'll discuss the titular leader of Manchukuo and the head of the "reformed" Chinese regime with an eye towards shedding some light on who collaborated and why.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 14 Mar 2015

This week we introduce the man who led China's war against Japan: Chiang Kai-shek. The reluctant military leader wanted no part of a war against the nation where he had trained, but the trends of the time forced him into a conflict that would eventually destroy not only Japan, but his own regime as well.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 07 Mar 2015

This week, we turn to the life of the father of modern China: Dr. Sun Yat-sen. How did he help turn China from an empire into a modern nation-state, and how did his paths cross with Japanese allies and enemies along the way?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 22 Minutes 28 Feb 2015

This week, we're going to start our exploration of the Sino-Japanese relationship with a quick recap of the history of China's last imperial dynasty. How did China find itself in such desperate straits by the turn of the twentieth century that they were being surpassed by a chain of islands that had been irrelevant for centuries? Tune in to find out!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 24 Minutes 21 Feb 2015

In the late 17th century, the popular writer Ihara Saikaku produced literature for mass entertainment and consumption. He became immensely popular, and remains widely read even centuries after his heyday. We'll explore his life, career, and legacy as we ask, "just how did a man making entertainment to pay his bills become one of Japan's most celebrated authors?". . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 14 Feb 2015

This week we'll be going through the basics of daily life for children, women, and men during the Meiji Period. How did the tremendous changes of the Meiji Era change the way people lived and worked? This week, we'll try to sketch an outline of an answer for that question, as we cover themes as varied as compulsory educations and fistfights over the rights of prostitutes!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 20 Minutes 07 Feb 2015

This week; a mad emperor on a quest to live forever, and the sorcerer who led an expedition to make it happen and may just have founded Japanese civilization in the process (but probably not). It's the likely untrue but still fun and interesting story of Xu Fu!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 21 Minutes 31 Jan 2015

For our final episode on Shinto and the Japanese state, we'll focus on the postwar controversies of Shinto: what was the role of the emperor going to be? How would Shinto fit in the new political order? And what on earth are we going to do with Yasukuni? The answers to these questions are what give shape to much of the controversy surrounding Shinto in modern Japan.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 24 Jan 2015

This week we move into Japan's imperial period; what was the relationship between Shinto and a government which claimed its legitimacy in part from an emperor descended from one of the kami? What was the reality of "State Shinto", and who really led the charge to integrate church and state in Japan? All that and more, this week!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 23 Minutes 17 Jan 2015

This podcast, assembled by a former PhD student in History at the University of Washington, covers the entire span of Japanese history. Each week we'll tackle a new topic, ranging from prehistoric Japan to the modern day.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 22 Minutes 10 Jan 2015

This week, we go back to address a glaring flaw from episode 10: my total lack of discussion of the countryside. Rural life in the Edo Period involved a lot more than simply farming from dawn to sunset, and this week we'll get into exactly what it meant to be a peasant in the golden age of the samurai.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 27 Dec 2014

Koizumi Junichiro was quite possibly the most successful Prime Minister Japan has had for decades (and certainly the best dressed). This week, we'll trace the rise of his career, his goals while in power, and the impact of his reforms on a Japanese state sometimes thought to be irreformable.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 23 Minutes 20 Dec 2014

After the fall of Tanaka Kakuei, one man has become known as the heir to his tradition. One man has attempted to manipulate the flow of politics in order to either serve as a populist champion for Japan or embody the worst of the Japanese political process (depending on who you ask). His name is Ozawa Ichiro, and he is our topic for this week.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 13 Dec 2014

In 1910, an anarchist plot to assassinate the Meiji Emperor was uncovered. Seizing the opportunity, conservatives in the government pounced in to arrest 26 anarchists. The background of this confrontation between the government and the radical left, the trials themselves, and their modern legacy are our topics this week.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 37 Minutes 06 Dec 2014

This week -- and if you're getting this on release day, 72 years and 364 days later -- we're going to discuss the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor as well as its architect, the iconoclastic Japanese admiral Yamamoto Isoroku. Who was this man who came up with a bold plan to disable the entire US Navy in one shot? What was he thinking when he put this plan together? And why, in the end, did he have no prospect of victory?. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 29 Nov 2014

Our topic this week is the life and legacy of one of Japan's greatest political leaders: Ito Hirobumi, author of Japan's first modern constitution. Born into a low-rank samurai family in Choshu, Ito would wear many hats in his life: radical, terrorist, student, diplomat, leader, and finally -- and fatally -- as the face of Japanese dominance in Korea. His life and his legacy are central to the story of modern Japan.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 22 Nov 2014

Our topic this week is the Meiji intellectual Fukuzawa Yukichi. From the second son of a poor samurai family he rose to be one of Japan's most prominent intellectuals, and helped define what it meant for Japan to be a modern country. His influence was tremendous, but it also had a darker side; in his works lie the kernel of what would later become Japanese imperialism and ultra-nationalism.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 22 Minutes 15 Nov 2014

Our topic this week is Hagakure, one of the best known works on bushido ever written. Where did it come from? What is its purpose? What is its legacy? All that and more, this week!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 22 Minutes 08 Nov 2014

We're turning our attention this week to Japan's first classic of poetry: the Man'yoshu, or the Collection of Ten-Thousand Leaves. We'll trace the origins of the work as well as its cultural impact through the ages, and talk about why it is we should care about a bunch of poems some of which date back to times contemporary with the Roman Empire.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 21 Minutes 01 Nov 2014

This week, we're going to take a look at the collection of supernatural stories published by American author and journalist Lafcadio Hearn, called Kwaidan. We'll look at Hearn's life and how he came to Japan, and also discuss the nature of one of the creatures he describes: the yuki onna, or snow woman. We'll close with a reading of Hearn's story on the yuki onna.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 20 Minutes 25 Oct 2014

We'll be taking things back to the Heian Period this week for the story of the great rebel Taira no Masakado. His rebellion, however, is only half the story -- after he dies, things get very interesting indeed.... . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 18 Oct 2014

After his defeat at the hands of Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu will lie low for a decade or so, biding his time. However, when the opportunity presents itself with Hideyoshi's death and the succession of his young heir, Ieyasu will strike at last, and gamble everything for one more shot at power.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 11 Oct 2014

This week, join us for part one of the life of Tokugawa Ieyasu. A brilliant and ambitious man, Ieyasu began his life as a hostage for the good behavior of his middling-rank family. By 1584, however, he would be in position to make his first bid for power.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 20 Minutes 04 Oct 2014

This week, we're going to to talk about the life of Yamaguchi Yoshiko, the Chinese-born actress turned politician who went from propaganda actress to one of the most moving voices for Sino-Japanese reconciliation.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 27 Sep 2014

As a supplemental to this week's episode, here's an entire episode of Zero Hour, courtesy of the Internet Archive. This episode is from September 14, 1944. If you're looking to hear some genuine old fashioned World War II propaganda, now's your chance!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 22 Minutes 27 Sep 2014

Note: This is a revised version to fix a technical issue with the original release This week, we're going to talk about the life of Iva Toguri, the woman most associated with the infamous (and legendary) role of the Tokyo Rose. Labelled as a traitor for her actions during the war, Toguri fought hard for her citizenship and her reputation, and was rewarded for her tenacity decades after the fact.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 21 Minutes 20 Sep 2014

In our final episode on the US-Japan relationship, we'll bring things up to the modern day and discuss the revival of the US-Japan alliance in the 2000s. After decades of tension, today the US-Japan relationship seems closer and more natural than it has ever been. Still, where will things go from here? Only time will tell.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 13 Sep 2014

This week, we're jumping ahead to cover the 1950s through the 1980s; Japan and the United States, former foes, are now allies in the Cold War. The relationship, however, is not as smooth as it seems on the surface.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 29 Minutes 06 Sep 2014

This week, we take the final plunge to Pearl Harbor. Backed into a corner by foolish decision-making and serious misreadings of their situation, the leaders of Japan will scramble at the last minute to avoid war, but refuse to make any serious concessions to do so. In the end, war will happen not because anyone really wants it but because no one wants to avoid it badly enough.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 29 Aug 2014

This week, we'll discuss the Second Konoe Cabinet, which was torn by indecision and plagued by bad leadership. The Japanese leadership will alienate the US by signing the Tripartite Pact, and their attempts to bridge the gap with the US will be plagued by bad management and failure.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 23 Minutes 23 Aug 2014

This week, we'll delve into the origins of Japan's war with China and the strain that conflict placed on Japan's relationship with the US. In the course of the 9 years from the invasion of Manchuria to the second appointment of Konoe Fumimaro as Prime Minister, Japan will become bogged down in an unwinnable war and find itself facing a far more assertive United States.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 16 Aug 2014

This week, we'll discuss America and Japan's new roles as Great Powers in the 20th century. We'll discuss the reasons Japan and America came together to support the Allies in World War I, the rationale behind Japanese support for an American-dominated world order after 1918, and the early arms control and peace initiatives supported by Japan and the US.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 24 Minutes 09 Aug 2014

This week, we're beginning a multiparter on the modern relationship between America and Japan. We'll cover the background of both countries and their relationship leading up to the 1905 Russo-Japanese War.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 32 Minutes 26 Jul 2014

This week, Sam Timinsky will be joining us for another guest podcast, covering changes in masculine identity in the wake of Japan's economic bubble and bust in the 1980s and 1990s. As a reminder, there will be no new episode next week; the week after that we will resume normal service.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 21 Minutes 19 Jul 2014

This week, a special guest reader will be coming on to read a script on Akutagawa Ryunosuke, one of modern Japan's foremost authors. As the script is still mine, any errors are my own; join us for a distinctly non-expert look at one of the great minds of Japanese literature!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 22 Minutes 12 Jul 2014

For our first ever guest episode, an old colleague and dear friend of mine named Sam Timinsky will be coming in to discuss the history of women's activist movements in Japan. Sam does an excellent job with a very difficult topic, and this episode gives you a chance to get a different perspective from my own on modern history! Sam is a PhD student (like myself) at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 22 Minutes 05 Jul 2014

This week, we're covering two women whose work in the Occupation helped reshape Japan into a modern state. Beate Sirota was the Austrian-born Jewish-American woman who pushed for Japan's equal rights clauses in its Constitution, and Eleanor Hadley was a Seattle native who fought to disestablish Japan's powerful zaibatsu. We'll discuss the lives and contributions of these two incredible women.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 20 Minutes 28 Jun 2014

This week, we'll be discussing the most important premodern Japanese philosopher that no one has ever heard of: Motoori Norinaga, the leading light of Kokugaku (National Studies) in Edo-period Japan. We'll be covering his life, a barebones overview of his philosophy, and his impact on Japan.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 21 Jun 2014

This week, we're discussing one of Japan's most famous tales: 47 warriors without a master who, during the height of Japanese feudalism, took it upon themselves to avenge their former lord's death. In doing so, they catapulted what was a fairly obscure feud into the pages of history and legend, and remain figures of incredible popularity in Japan (and to a certain degree, the West) to this day.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 21 Minutes 14 Jun 2014

This week, we're going to be talking about Japan's legendary tea master Sen no Rikyu. We'll discuss his cultural background, the reasons for his rise, his sudden fall, and his massive impact on Japanese culture.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 31 May 2014

This week, we'll be discussing the history and possible future of Article 9, the peace clause of Japan's constitution. Where did it come from? How has it been interpreted? What does its future look like? All that, this week!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 24 May 2014

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.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 17 May 2014

This week, we're going to take a look at the first figure in recorded Japanese history: Himiko, queen of Yamatai. Despite the fact that the records on her are extremely brief, she's assumed a position of tremendous importance in our thinking about the early history of Japan. We'll look at our records of her life, and her legacy in Japanese history and self-identity.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 24 Minutes 10 May 2014

This week, we're going to be talking about one of Japan's most famous religious movements: Nichiren Buddhism, devoted to the veneration of the text know as the Lotus Sutra. We'll discuss the life and education of Nichiren, as well as the legacy his teachings have for Japan and the world.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 03 May 2014

This week, we're taking a look at the darkest incarnation of Japan's new religions: the cult known as Aum Shinrikyo. We'll discuss their background, philosophy, and the chain of events which led them to commit the deadliest terror attack in Japan's history.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 32 Minutes 26 Apr 2014

For the one year anniversary of the show, join us for an extra-long Q&A show; I'll be taking questions submitted by the audience. Thank you all for a great year, and here's to many more!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 23 Minutes 19 Apr 2014

This week, join us for a very special podcast where we talk about the rise and not-quite-fall of Japan's video game industry. We'll cover the histories of the major Japanese gaming companies, and even discuss my own very tangential involvement in Japan's video game sector.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 12 Apr 2014

In this final segment on the rise of the imperial military to power, we'll discuss the process by which the military hijacked Japan's foreign policy and shut down the democratic process. After this was done, the army briefly turned on itself before taking the final plunge into a war with China.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 05 Apr 2014

This week, we'll continue with our story of the rise of Japan's military to power; after the crushing of Russia in 1905, the army and navy will lose power and influence to the civilian government as political parties rise to prominence. However, storm clouds gather on the horizon as World War I convinces some military leaders of the necessity of a military state and antagonism between the armed forces and the civilian leadership grows.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 22 Minutes 30 Mar 2014

Join us this week for a tale of Japan's rise to military greatness, as Yamagata Aritomo situates the army and navy during the 1880s for their rise to power and prominence. Under his leadership, Japan will defeat China, the unchallenged master of Asia for millennia. However, a new threat is looming on the horizon: the colossal Russian Empire.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 24 Minutes 14 Mar 2014

This week, we'll be beginning our first four-part series as we look at the rise to power of the Imperial Japanese Military. We'll be tracing the military from its origins in the fall of the Tokugawa to the start of war with China in 1937. This week, we'll be covering the inception of the Imperial military, its early form, and its early trials abroad and at home as the new Meiji government struggles to solidify its hold over Japan.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 18 Minutes 08 Mar 2014

This week, we'll be going all Tom Cruise for our second media review, and discussing the actual history behind the mishmash of stories used as the background for the 2003 film The Last Samurai.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 01 Mar 2014

This week, we'll be doing our second Shogunal biography. We're going to discuss the life and legacy of the man who destroyed the Hojo family, established the Ashikaga bakufu, and who was until very recently reviled as the worst traitor in Japanese history: Ashikaga Takauji.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 22 Feb 2014

This week, we're going to discuss the Russo-Japanese War from a different angle; we're going to talk about the effect it had in generating nationalist movements around Asia and in breaking the spell of European invincibility. From Sun Yat-sen to Mohandas Gandhi, the Japanese victory resonated around the world, and helped shape the 20th century as we know it.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 23 Minutes 14 Feb 2014

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.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 08 Feb 2014

This week, we'll discuss the arrival of William Adams, the reversal of fortune for Spain and Catholicism in Asia, and the suppression of Christianity by the Tokugawa. We're also going to discuss the legacy of Japan's Christian century, and how it relates to our conception of history.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 22 Minutes 01 Feb 2014

This week, we'll continue our discussion of Japan's Christian century with the high-point of Christian missionizing in Japan, starting with the arrival of St. Francis Xavier. Xavier's mission will mark the start of Christianity's spread through the islands, but within half a century the progress of the missionary movement will have halted and Japan's Christians and the powers that support them will be facing serious threats to their power and position.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 18 Minutes 25 Jan 2014

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.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 23 Minutes 18 Jan 2014

This week, we'll be tackling an oft-requested topic; women warriors in the samurai class. Contrary to what you might think, women were actually very active in the roughly 800 years that make up the dominant time of the samurai class. Today, we'll be discussing just a few of them and learning about their accomplishments during Japan's war-torn past.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 20 Minutes 11 Jan 2014

We're back for the start of 2014, and to kick the year off right we're looking at this year's most significant anniversary: 1914. We'll be talking about the effects of World War I in Japan, and the ways in which it marked a turning point for Japanese policies in Asia.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 15 Minutes 21 Dec 2013

For our last podcast of 2013, I thought it'd be fun to do something light-hearted; so let's talk about traditions surrounding Christmas and New Years in Japan. We'll cover how these holidays came to be celebrated in Japan and talk a bit about the forms they take today.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 20 Minutes 14 Dec 2013

This week we'll finish up our two-parter on Japanese-Okinawan relations with a look at Okinawa during the Imperial Period. We'll be focusing heavily on the bloody Battle of Okinawa, and then wrap things up by looking at the relationship between the islands and the Japanese mainland today. This week's episode is rather more graphic and violent than usual -- I could not in good conscience whitewash the battle, but I do feel I should warn those of you who might be offended by such things to pass on this one.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 19 Minutes 07 Dec 2013

This week, we'll begin a two-part series on the relationship between Japan and what is now her southernmost province: Okinawa. We'll cover the founding of the Kingdom of the Ryukyus, its relationship with Japan, and finally its incorporation into the burgeoning Japanese Empire.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 21 Minutes 23 Nov 2013

This week, we're going to discuss the topic of swordsmanship and kendo in modern Japan. We'll talk about where modern traditions of swordsmanship came from, and why kendo retains such a popular grip on modern Japan.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 24 Minutes 16 Nov 2013

This week, we're going to take a look at the man credited with one of the greatest epochal changes in Japanese history: the shift from imperial to samurai government in the late 12th century. It's time for the life and legacy of Minamoto no Yoritomo!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 20 Minutes 09 Nov 2013

This week we'll be tackling our first media review and discussing by far the most influential piece of historical fiction ever written about Japan: Shogun, by James Clavell. Listen to the episode here, and be sure to give me feedback on this one so I can improve the style for future review episodes!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 20 Minutes 02 Nov 2013

This week we have the second and final part of our series on Saigo Takamori, covering his rebellion against the government, his death, and his legacy. Tune in for one of the most famous stories in Japanese history!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 22 Minutes 26 Oct 2013

This week, we'll begin another two-parter dealing with the life and death of Saigo Takamori, one of the great leaders of the Meiji Restoration. This week, we'll discuss his rise to public prominence and subsequent fall from grace. Next week, we'll turn to the rebellion that would end his life and his legacy in modern Japan.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 19 Minutes 19 Oct 2013

This week, we're discussing Onmyodo, the mystical study of divination based off of the theories of yin and yang (in-yo or on-myo in Japanese). We'll be covering the entire history of the practice, including its most famous practitioner: Abe no Seimei. We'll also be discussing the modern fate of Onmyodo and its practitioners the onmyoji.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 21 Minutes 12 Oct 2013

This week, we're going to talk about the evolution of manga. We'll discuss the roots of the comic form in Japan, both Eastern and Western, and its rapid explosion in popularity after World War II.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 28 Minutes 06 Oct 2013

This week we will be discussing the great political wheeler and dealer of modern Japanese politics: Tanaka Kakuei. We will trace the rise of this man of the people, the heights of his power, and his eventual fall from grace, as well as discussing his political legacy. Also, there will be bizarre assassination plots involving yakuza and revenge-minded porno actors. Should be a good time.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 22 Sep 2013

We'll be wrapping up our discussion of the Ikko Ikki this week, as the unstoppable force of the militant wing of Jodo Shinshu meets the immovable objects of Tokugawa Ieyasu and Oda Nobunaga. What follows is a tale of treachery, war, and revenge worthy of an HBO miniseries.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 15 Sep 2013

For our first two-part episode, we're going to discuss the Ikko Ikki, a militant insurrection of believers in the faith of Jodo Shinshu, or True Pure Land Buddhism. We'll discuss the rise of the movement to political and military prominence during the Sengoku Era in this week's episode; next week, we'll discuss its decline and fall.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 22 Minutes 08 Sep 2013

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.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 23 Minutes 01 Sep 2013

For our final outline episode, we'll be tackling the origins and effects of the real-estate bubble which devastated the Japanese economy in 1991, and which so brutally halted the story of Japanese growth. In particular, we'll be focusing on the ways in which the various problems outlined last week were brought to the fore by the economic chaos of the 1990s.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 25 Minutes 26 Aug 2013

This week, we'll be talking about the height of postwar Japan during the 1970s and 1980s. On the surface, it's a time of great accomplishment when the dream of catching up to the West had finally been realizing. Looking deeper, however, we find the roots of many of the problems which would bubble to the surface during the economic troubles of the 1990s.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 21 Minutes 17 Aug 2013

This week, we're going to discuss the postwar strategy that enabled Japan to revive itself after World War II. In 1952, most observers believed Japan would become a mid-rank regional power on the same order as Sweden; by 1970 it was clear that would not be the case. We're going to discuss how Japan was able to rebound from defeat so quickly, and what forces propelled the massive growth of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 11 Aug 2013

This week's episode is an overview of the Allied Occupation of Japan. In just seven years (1945-1952), the Allies undertook a massive effort to overhaul Japan's politics, economy, and society. We'll discuss the ways in which they tried to do so, and briefly attempt to evaluate their success. This was a really interesting episode to write and record -- I learned a lot myself! I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 23 Minutes 03 Aug 2013

This week we're going to be taking another break from the forward march of history to discuss the life of a man named Sugihara Chiune. Sugihara worked as a bureaucrat in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs prior to World War II, and in 1940 he gave up his career in order to save thousands of Jewish refugees from the Nazis. We'l discuss who Sugihara was, what he did, why he did it, and why I think he's worth remembering.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 32 Minutes 28 Jul 2013

We've arrived, finally, at the Pacific War -- this week, we'll be charting the course Japan took to war, briefly summarizing the cours of said war, and then discussing how the war ended.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 21 Minutes 21 Jul 2013

This week, we'll be discussing domestic developments in Japan, and the path by which a reasonably (if not totally) liberal democracy in the 1910s and 1920s morphed into a military dictatorship in the 1930s. We'll talk about the various means by which the military grew its influence, and how it was able to use violence to cow the civilian government.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 14 Jul 2013

Our podcast this week will turn to the subject of Japanese foreign policy from the end of the Sino-Japanese War in 1895 to the middle of the war against Nationalist China in 1940. We will cover the Russo-Japanese War, the steady split of the military away from the rest of the government, and the radicalization of Japanese policy towards China, culminating in the decision to launch a foolish and counterproductive war in 1937.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 20 Minutes 30 Jun 2013

This week, it's time for a story of triumph and tragedy, racism and acceptance, international relations, and most importantly: baseball!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 26 Minutes 16 Jun 2013

This week, we're going to cover the early Meiji Period (1868-1900 or so). We'll be covering a wide range of topics, ranging from international relations to politics to social developments. This is one of the most interesting and tumultuous periods in Japanese history, and I hope you find it as engaging as I do!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 09 Jun 2013

This week, we'll be talking about the period called the Bakumatsu, or the end of the Bakufu. We'll be tracing a complex, but very interesting narrative describing how the Tokugawa went from masters of all they surveyed to defeat and destruction in a mere 15 years. Man, that sounds really gloomy. I promise there are fun bits too!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 02 Jun 2013

This week, I'll be talking about the life of the average city-dweller in the Edo Period. This is a very wide-ranging episode, covering everything from the schools in which young samurai were trained to the kabuki-based prostitution which those same young samurai were absolutely forbidden to patronize (not that it stopped them). I have to say, of all the episodes I've finished up to this point, I've enjoyed writing this one the most. I hope you guys like it too!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 22 Minutes 26 May 2013

This week we will be covering the social and political structure of Edo Japan. There's a lot of interesting material to go through, ranging from the social system (hint: it's good to be a samurai [but not as good as you might think]) to the foreign relations of the bakufu (which mainly involved making Dutch people do hilarious things for their amusement). Enjoy!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 27 Minutes 17 May 2013

This week, we will be discussing the reunification of Sengoku Japan under the three Sengoku Unifiers -- Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu. We will be discussing the trajectory of their careers and the nature of their characters. Since (spoilers) they were pretty bad people, it should make for some pretty good listening!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 19 Minutes 11 May 2013

This week, we're going to cover the fall of the Ashikaga and the early Sengoku period (rougly 1400-1550 AD). I'll also be briefly discussing the arrival of Westerners and the rise of the militant Ikko Ikki movement. Enjoy!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 23 Minutes 04 May 2013

This week we will cover the structure of the Kamakura bakufu, the Hojo triumph over the Mongols, the fall of the Hojo, and their replacement by the Ashikaga family. We'll also cover some cultural developments in the fields of Buddhism and Noh theater. Intrigue! Backstabbing! Performance Art! All the makings of an exciting show!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 19 Minutes 27 Apr 2013

This week, we will be covering the fall of the Heian system, the massive Genpei War between the Minamoto and Taira families, and the rise of the first shogunal government (called a bakufu) under the auspices of the brutal Minamoto no Yoritomo.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 17 Minutes 20 Apr 2013

This week's episode will discuss the Heian Period (794-1185), one of the golden ages of Japanese history. We'll talk about the politics and culture of the period, covering the structure of government, literary styles, and why it is that I think the Tale of Genji is kind of creepy.. . .

  Direct Link   Download 17 Minutes 13 Apr 2013

Today we will be discussing the Asuka and Nara periods, and the formation of a centralized, Chinese-style government based in a permanent capitol city. There's intrigue, backstabbing, and stories about poop; should be fun!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 12 Minutes 06 Apr 2013

In this second episode, we discuss the earliest periods of Japanese history (the Jomon, Yayoi and Tumulus/Kofun periods), covering the years from prehistory to 538 AD. It's a long haul to cover!. . .

  Direct Link   Download 5 Minutes 31 Mar 2013

Welcome to our introductory episode! Today we will be covering the basic ideas behind this podcast, including: Who I am What I'm planning to do here Why you should care about history Why Japanese history is important What I need from you, my lovely and charming audience I'll be updating with new episodes every weekend (preferably Saturday, sometimes Sunday), so check back next week for more. Thanks for listening!. . .

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