Episode 13 – Take Me Out to the Shiai

This week, we have our very first thematic podcast. It’s a great story of victory and defeat, racism and acceptance, international relations, and most importantly of all: baseball!

I hope you’ll enjoy listening to this story as much as I enjoyed writing it. Give it a listen here, and tell me what you think!

Sources

Roden, Donald, “Baseball and the Quest for National Dignity in Meiji Japan.” The American Historical Review 85, No. 3 (June, 1980), 511-534.

Images (courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

Ichiko in the first decade of the 20th century (a few years after the Yokohama-Ichiko games).
Ichiko in the first decade of the 20th century (a few years after the Yokohama-Ichiko games).
The old Ichiko building is now part of the Tokyo University campus.
The old Ichiko building is now part of the Tokyo University campus.
The first pitch at the inaugural Japan High School Baseball Tournament in 1915. Only tangentially relevant, but I do love those outfits.
The first pitch at the inaugural Japan High School Baseball Tournament in 1915. Only tangentially relevant, but I do love those outfits.
The site of the Yokohama Athletic Club is now Yokohama Stadium, home of the Yokohama DeNA BayStars.
The site of the Yokohama Athletic Club is now Yokohama Stadium, home of the Yokohama DeNA BayStars.
The 2007 Japan High School Baseball Championships. Baseball remains incredibly popular in modern Japan.
The 2007 Japan High School Baseball Championships. Baseball remains incredibly popular in modern Japan.
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Travels in Japan, Part 1 – Sakuradamon, Kan’eiji, and Yokohama

So, for those of you who aren’t caught up yet — I’m in Japan doing some summer work for the next few weeks (which is why the supply of new episodes is going to slow down for a bit).  I feel bad leaving y’all in the lurch with no new Japanese history-related fun to fill your days, though, so I figured that I would put together some short posts talking about fun historical places in Tokyo and its surrounding areas that I’ll be visiting while I’m here.

First up, we have Sakuradamon, Kan’eiji, and the city of Yokohama, home to the old Foreign Settlement.

Sakuradamon

Sakuradamon, or the Gate of Cherry Blossom Fields, is the southern gate leading out of the Imperial Palace. Today, it faces towards the Kasumigaseki district, where the various branches of the governmental bureaucracy are headquartered.

This is the spot where, in 1860, the repressive bakufu tairo Ii Naosuke was killed by assassins from Mito. The assassins were angry about Ii’s permissive attitude towards foreigners entering the country (in fact, Ii simply felt that he had no choice in the matter) and about Ii’s treatment of the former daimyo of Mito, a political rival named Tokugawa Nariaki. Nariaki was a distant relative of the shogun who advocated for immediate expulsion of all foreigners regardless of the cost. Ii had him placed under house arrest (where he died). It’s worth noting, as a measure of Ii’s power, that he was able to do this to a member (if a distant one) of the shogun’s own family — the influence and authority the man wielded in his day was astounding.

All the influence in the world couldn’t stop his assassins, though. Sakuradamon tended to be somewhat busy with people coming and going from the palace, which gave the assassins enough  cover to get close. They jumped Ii and killed him as some of their members distracted his bodyguards. Those not killed by said bodyguards later committed suicide.

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It’s worth wondering if Japan would be a different place if Ii had lived — certainly, the bakufu was on an upswing under his rule, but the tactics he used to make that happen were so heavy-handed that in retrospect an assassination attempt seems like an inevitability.  We can’t know how different things might have been had he lived, but it’s certainly fun to speculate on whether the bakufu’s future died with Ii Naosuke.

A view of Sakurada Gate from the west -- behind the gate are the skyscrapers of central Tokyo from whence, after World War II, General Douglas MacArthur ran the American occupation forces.
A view of Sakurada Gate from the west — behind the gate are the skyscrapers of central Tokyo from whence, after World War II, General Douglas MacArthur ran the American occupation forces.

By the way, in an ultimate (and ironic) historical tribute to the man who believed that the entry of Western ideas and technology into Japan was inevitable, there’s now a Tokyo metro station about 100 feet from where he died. I imagine he would have had mixed feelings about that.

Kan’eiji

Those of you who have visited Ueno Park in Tokyo might have noticed that the area of the park is littered with Buddhist temples and shrines. In fact, these different shrines and temples were, once upon a time, subsections of one massive temple of which only part remains, called Kan’ei Temple (ji meaning temple in Japanese).

Kan’eiji was one of the largest temples in the city at one point — it was built by order of Tokugawa Ieyasu, and enjoyed a great deal of official patronage. In fact, it’s one of two temples (along with Zōjōji, which is just south of Tokyo Tower) to house the graves of the old shoguns (with the exception of Ieyasu, who gets a whole shrine all to himself up in the city of Nikko called Tōshōgu).

A bronze lantern in one of the remaining areas of Kan'eiji -- note the Tokugawa crest on the top part.
A bronze lantern in one of the remaining areas of Kan’eiji — note the Tokugawa crest on the top part.

But if Kan’eiji was so great, you ask, why is it a park now? The answer lies in the final days of the Tokugawa shogunate.  The city of Edo surrendered to the Emperor’s army specifically to avoid the destruction of the city’s many great monuments and temples, but some of the younger and more hot-headed Tokugawa supporters in the city couldn’t accept the idea. They formed a military organization called the shōgitai, or “league for the preservation of righteousness,” and seized control of Kan’eiji in July 1868, defying the Imperial Army to come kick them out. They chose Kan’eiji for reasons that were partially military (the temple is atop a hill, and the southern approach is covered by a small lake, limiting the directions from which an attack is possible) and partially symbolic (choosing the sight of the Tokugawa burial grounds in order to demonstrate their loyalty).

The shōgitai, however, had more bravery than sense;though they had numbers on their side and were able to stop the initial head-on attacks by the Imperial Army, they lacked modern artillery and had only a small number of rifles. Seeing this, the Imperial Army began shelling the temple, before launching a two-pronged assault that destroyed the remaining shōgitai forces.  In the process, huge swaths of the temple, including its honden, or main hall, were destroyed.

The modern honden of Kan'eiji, built after the battle of Ueno. It is about 2/3rds the size of the original.
The modern honden of Kan’eiji, built after the battle of Ueno. It is about 2/3rds the size of the original.

The shōgitai were and are venerated as an example of devotion to the last measure for one’s  cause — the idea of dying to prove the righteousness of one’s position is an old one in Japanese culture, and thus the shōgitai‘s actions had a lot of resonance with the common folk. Personally, though, I’m not sure that justifies their actions — their rebellion left hundreds dead and hundreds more homeless (their homes being “collateral damage”), all for a cause that, by July of 1868, was clearly dead.

Part of a monument to the Shogitai erected by the surviving members of the group with the permission of the new government.
Part of a monument to the Shogitai erected by the surviving members of the group with the permission of the new government.

Yokohama

The city of Yokohama’s claim to fame is that, from the 1860s up until the 1920s, it was the heart of the expat community in Japan. Yokohama was the site where Commodore Perry came ashore to sign the Treaty of Amity and Friendship with Japan in 1854 (the spot where he signed it eventually became the British consulate in the 1920s, and now houses the Yokohama Historical Archives).

Yokohama was conceded to the foreign nations as a leased territory to be governed under their rule and house their diplomats and businesses (thus avoiding the indignity of having to submit themselves to Japanese law). Embassies, business and individuals all made their home in a part of Yokohama that was strictly off-limits to the people of Yokohama themselves without permission from one of the foreign embassies.

Yokohama's Nihon-Odori (Japan Avenue) once marked the boundary between the city proper and the foreign quarter.
Yokohama’s Nihon-Odori (Japan Avenue) once marked the boundary between the city proper and the foreign quarter.

The foreign quarter was eventually returned to Japan in the 1910s, but its legacy remains to this day — the area is dotted with Victorian buildings which once housed diplomats, Western businesses or other aspects of Western life which had been imported to Japan.  The city’s done a pretty good job of turning what was once seen as an indignity against the entire Japanese nation into a selling point — tourism of the remaining buildings of the foreign quarter has become a popular way for the city to acquire some much-needed revenue.

The Yokohama Historical Archives, erected on the spot where the Treaty of Kanagawa was signed in 1854. The present building is the former British Embassy, and was sold to the city of Yokohama after the closing of the Foreign Quarter.
The Yokohama Historical Archives, erected on the spot where the Treaty of Kanagawa was signed in 1854. The present building is the former British Embassy, and was sold to the city of Yokohama after the closing of the Foreign Quarter.
Yokohama Presbyterian Church, the oldest Protestant (though not the oldest Christian) church in Japan -- it dates back to the 1870s and remains in use, but now with an entirely Japanese group of pastors and a mostly Japanese congregation.
Yokohama Presbyterian Church, the oldest Protestant (though not the oldest Christian) church in Japan — it dates back to the 1870s and remains in use, but now with an entirely Japanese group of pastors and a mostly Japanese congregation.

That’s all for this week, guys. Next week, I’ll have an actual episode for you all — sorry again for the delay!

Episode 12 – Civilization and Enlightenment

This week, we’re going to be discussing the early Meiji Period (1868-1900 or so). There’s a lot of material to cover, ranging from politics to international relations to social issues. This is one of the most interesting moments in modern history (to my mind, at least) and I hope you enjoy hearing about it!

Give the episode a listen here.

Also, just a quick reminder that there will be no episode next week. The next episode will release on June 30.  There may or may not be one on July 7, depending on how much time I have to record once I get home.

Sources

Pyle, Kenneth. The New Generation in Meiji Japan.

Pyle, Kenneth. Japan Rising. 

Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

This photo shows a young Emperor Meiji (c. 1868) with a delegation of foreigners. Meiji is the central figure in the traditional Japanese garb. After the early 1870s, the Emperor stopped wearing traditional Japanese clothing in public, and would generally appear in a military uniform (which is what European royalty of the time tended to wear).
This photo shows a young Emperor Meiji (c. 1868) with a delegation of foreigners. Meiji is the central figure in the traditional Japanese garb. After the early 1870s, the Emperor stopped wearing traditional Japanese clothing in public, and would generally appear in a military uniform (which is what European royalty of the time tended to wear).
Emperor Meiji in the uniform of a Field Marshall of the Army, from the late 1870s.
Emperor Meiji in the uniform of a Field Marshall of the Army, from the late 1870s.
A colorized photo of Ito Hirobumi in his later years. Ito served as the first Prime Minister and drafted the Meiji Constitution.
A colorized photo of Ito Hirobumi in his later years. Ito served as the first Prime Minister and drafted the Meiji Constitution.
Yamagata Aritomo during the early Taisho period (1910s). Yamagata was the chief organizer of the Imperial Army and its most stalwart advocate and defender until his death in 1922.
Yamagata Aritomo during the early Taisho period (1910s). Yamagata was the chief organizer of the Imperial Army and its most stalwart advocate and defender until his death in 1922.

800px-Kenpohapu-chikanobu

Japanese troops fighting in Korea during the First Sino-Japanese War.
Japanese troops fighting in Korea during the First Sino-Japanese War.
Chinese prisoners being watched by Korean troops allied with Japan. A group of Japanese-affiliated Koreans was given control of the government of Korea after the end of the war.
Chinese prisoners being watched by Korean troops allied with Japan. A group of Japanese-affiliated Koreans was given control of the government of Korea after the end of the war.

Episode 11 – The End of an Era

First and foremost, thank you to everyone who messaged me or commented over the past week. Your input has been incredibly valuable, and I cannot thank you enough.

This week, we’ll be discussing the Bakumatsu, the 15 years prior to the collapse of the Tokugawa and the end of samurai rule in Japan. It’s a very complex, but incredibly fascinating story, and personally I find it to be one of the most compelling in Japanese history. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan

Craig, Albert. Choshu in the Meiji Restoration.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the United States, c. 1858.
Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the United States, c. 1858.
This Japanese woodblock print depicts Perry (center) flanked by two of his officers during their second voyage to Japan (1854).
This Japanese woodblock print depicts Perry (center) flanked by two of his officers during their second voyage to Japan (1854).
The island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay was used by the shogunate to build a gun emplacement with which to defend the harbor.  However, the inferior quality of Tokugawa weaponry compared to that of the West meant that it never could serve its purpose of warding off Western incursion.
The island of Odaiba in Tokyo Bay was used by the shogunate to build a gun emplacement with which to defend the harbor. However, the inferior quality of Tokugawa weaponry compared to that of the West meant that it never could serve its purpose of warding off Western incursion.
A statue of Ii Naosuke in his hereditary domain of Hikone.
A statue of Ii Naosuke in his hereditary domain of Hikone.
The Sakuradamon Incident. Note the figure on the left escaping with the severed head of Naosuke.
The Sakuradamon Incident. Note the figure on the left escaping with the severed head of Naosuke.
The 1863 British bombardment of Kagoshima, as depicted by Le Monde. This event was one of the blows which led to the collapse of the original Sonno Joi movement and its eventual revival as a purely Emperor-focused anti-Tokugawa movement.
The 1863 British bombardment of Kagoshima, as depicted by Le Monde. This event was one of the blows which led to the collapse of the original Sonno Joi movement and its eventual revival as a purely Emperor-focused anti-Tokugawa movement.
Though some bakufu troops were modernized over the course of the 1860s, most were not. These soldiers, marching under the flags of the Tokugawa and their home province of Aizu, are an example of the latter.  By comparison, more or less the entirety of the anti-Tokugawa forces were equipped with modern weapons.
Though some bakufu troops were modernized over the course of the 1860s, most were not. These soldiers, marching under the flags of the Tokugawa and their home province of Aizu, are an example of the latter. By comparison, more or less the entirety of the anti-Tokugawa forces were equipped with modern weapons.
French-trained modern Bakufu troops on campaign in 1868.
French-trained modern Bakufu troops on campaign in 1868.

Your Podcast Needs You!

Everyone,
If you’ve listened to the most recent episode, you’ll know I’m contemplating a change in the show’s structure. Originally, I had planned to cover Japanese history in its entirety in a series of 15-20 overview podcasts, which I could then use as a reference point for more in-depth thematic episodes (for example, if I did an episode on kabuki I could point someone to the most recent episode to give them some background before listening).

Lately, however, I’ve been thinking that I don’t like that as much as I thought I would; I’ve been contemplating switching over to thematic episodes now and just giving you background on a per-episode basis as I feel it is appropriate. This is kind of a big shift, as we’re just getting into modern Japan now, and I want to know what you in the audience think. Is this a good idea that would get you more interested in the show? A terrible one that will leave you confused? Let me know!

Drop me a message or comment on facebook, a comment on this post, or email me at ijmeyer@uw.edu with your thoughts. Thank you!

Episode 10 – A Day in the Life of Edo Japan

This week, we’ll be discussing the life of your average city-dweller in Edo Japan. This is a huge topic, and a fun one as well. Among the exciting things we will be discussing today:

  • Schooling in the Edo Period (mostly just for samurai, but since it was based mostly on rote memorization you wouldn’t be missing out on much)
  • The life of merchant families (often boiled down to ‘make money and damn the rest’)
  • Entertainment of the period, from kabuki to the seedy world of prostitution (not that there was much of a distinction between the two)
  • And other forms of flagrant immorality!

I had a lot of fun writing this episode, and I hope you enjoy listening to it!

Direct link to the show is available here.

Sources

Jansen, The Making of Modern Japan

Hanley, Everyday Things in Premodern Japan.

Iwasaki, Mineko. Geisha: A Life. New York: Washington Square Press, 2003.

Takeda, Izumo; Miyoshi, Shoraku, and Senryu, Namiki. Chushingura. Trans. Donald Keene. New York: Columbia University Press, 1971.

Media (Courtesy Wikimedia Foundation unless otherwise specified)

 

This is an Edo-period depiction of Sugura street. It should give you some idea of what the merchant-dominated markets of the Edo period looked like.
This is an Edo-period depiction of Sugura street. It should give you some idea of what the merchant-dominated markets of the Edo period looked like.
This is the same Sugura street today, showing the global headquarters of the Mitsui Group (which was founded in the 1640s).
This is the same Sugura street today, showing the global headquarters of the Mitsui Group (which was founded in the 1640s).
An Edo kabuki performance in the Kabukiza theater. Note the actor moving up the hanamichi on the left side. This should give you an idea of how close kabuki actors got to their audiences.
An Edo kabuki performance in the Kabukiza theater. Note the actor moving up the hanamichi on the left side. This should give you an idea of how close kabuki actors got to their audiences.
This is an example of a puppet used in a bunraku show.
This is an example of a puppet used in a bunraku show.
This is a colorized photo of prostitutes on display to patrons in Edo period Japan. the use of the bamboo cage behind which to display them was eventually banned (though the practice of prostitution would remain legal until after World War II).
This is a colorized photo of prostitutes on display to patrons in Edo period Japan. the use of the bamboo cage behind which to display them was eventually banned (though the practice of prostitution would remain legal until after World War II).


The above video was put together by UNESCO, and contains a description of the history of kabuki as well as recordings of modern performances.


Also from UNESCO, this video should give you an idea of how Bunraku shows are performed. Pay special attention to the way the puppets are manipulated; it’s all very impressive!