Episode 28 – The Great Saigo, Part 1

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.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Ravina, Mark. The Last Samurai: The Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

A map of Japan with Kagoshima prefecture highlighted. Kagoshima prefecture's modern boundaries correspond roughly to those of the old Satsuma domain.
A map of Japan with Kagoshima prefecture highlighted. Kagoshima prefecture’s modern boundaries correspond roughly to those of the old Satsuma domain.
Kagoshima Castle, in the center of the town where Saigo was born.
Kagoshima Castle, in the center of the town where Saigo was born.
Saigo Takamori after his retirement.
Saigo Takamori after his retirement.
A daguerrotype of Shimazu Nariakira, the daimyo of Satsuma and patron of Saigo until the former's death in 1859.
A daguerrotype of Shimazu Nariakira, the daimyo of Satsuma and patron of Saigo until the former’s death in 1859.
A nishikie (woodblock print) depicting the suicide of Gessho, Saigo's companion and possible lover. After Gessho's suicide (Saigo would also attempt suicide and fail) Saigo was exiled to the island of Amami-Oshima.
A nishikie (woodblock print) depicting the suicide of Gessho, Saigo’s companion and possible lover. After Gessho’s suicide (Saigo would also attempt suicide and fail) Saigo was exiled to the island of Amami-Oshima.
Kagoshima prefecture and the islands to its southwest. Amami Oshima, where Saigo was exiled, is circled in red.
Kagoshima prefecture and the islands to its southwest. Amami Oshima, where Saigo was exiled, is circled in red.
Saigo (shown on the center right) directing his troops in the defense of Kyoto during the Battle of Toba-Fushimi at the start of the Meiji Restoration.
Saigo (shown on the center right) directing his troops in the defense of Kyoto during the Battle of Toba-Fushimi at the start of the Meiji Restoration.
Saigo after the Meiji Restoration in a uniform modeled after that of a French military officer.
Saigo after the Meiji Restoration in a uniform modeled after that of a French military officer.
The Seikanron debates, or the 1874 debates on the invasion of Korea. Saigo is shown on the center right, directly to the right of Iwakura Tomomi (who is wearing the traditional robes of a kuge aristocrat).
The Seikanron debates, or the 1874 debates on the invasion of Korea. Saigo is shown on the center right, directly to the right of Iwakura Tomomi (who is wearing the traditional robes of a kuge aristocrat).
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Episode 27 – The Way of Yin and Yang

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.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Hayashi, Makoto. “The Development of Early Modern Onmyodo.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 40, no. 1 (2013).

Hayashi, Makoto. “Editor’s Introduction: Onmyodo in Japanese History.” Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 40, No 1 (2013).

The Kokugakuin Encyclopedia of Shinto: Shinto and Onmyodo

Miller, Laura. “Extreme Makeover for a Heian-Era Wizard.” Mechademia

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

The Five Elements. This diagram also shows the interactions between each element.
The Five Elements. This diagram also shows the interactions between each element.

 

The front gate of the Seimei Shrine, built to commemorate Abe no Seimei.
The front gate of the Seimei Shrine, built to commemorate Abe no Seimei.
A fountain inside the Seimei Shrine. Note the five-pointed star, representing the Five Elements of Chinese traditional thought. This symbol was also the mon (heraldic emblem) used by Abe no Seimei.
A fountain inside the Seimei Shrine. Note the five-pointed star, representing the Five Elements of Chinese traditional thought. This symbol was also the mon (heraldic emblem) used by Abe no Seimei.
An Edo-era print by the artist Yoshitoshi depicting one of the legends of Seimei's life. In this image, Seimei's mother is leaving him, and is revealed to be the fox spirit Kuzunoha. Kuzunoha would, according to legend, later impart Seimei with some of her power.
An Edo-era print by the artist Yoshitoshi depicting one of the legends of Seimei’s life. In this image, Seimei’s mother is leaving him, and is revealed to be the fox spirit Kuzunoha. Kuzunoha would, according to legend, later impart Seimei with some of her power.
A traditional depiction of Abe no Seimei.
A traditional depiction of Abe no Seimei.
A cover of the modern Onmyoji novel series, featuring the modern reinterpretation of Abe no Seimei.
A cover of the modern Onmyoji novel series, featuring the modern reinterpretation of Abe no Seimei.

Episode 26 – The History of Manga

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.
Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Allen, Kate and John Ingulsrud. “Manga Literacy: Popular Culture and the Reading Habits of Japanese College Students.” Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 46, no 8 (May 2003, pp. 674-683.

Kinsella, Sharon. Adult Manga: Culture and Power in Contemporary Japanese Society. Honolulu; University of Hawai’i Press, 2000.

Schodt, Frederik L. Manga! Manga! The World of Japanese Comics. Tokyo: Kodansha, 2013.

Toku, Masami. “Shojo Manga! Girls’ Comics! A Mirror of Girls’ Dreams.” Mechademia 2, Networks of Desire (2007), pp. 18-32.

Images

The Shigisan Engi. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
The Shigisan Engi. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
A scene from the Choju Jinbutsu Giga depicting animals wrestling. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
A scene from the Choju Jinbutsu Giga depicting animals wrestling. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
An Edo Period kibyoshi. Courtesy of the National Diet Library of Japan.
An Edo Period kibyoshi. Courtesy of the National Diet Library of Japan.
A Meiji Period political cartoon showing a great deal of Western influence. The cartoon is making fun of a power struggle in the Meiji government between Okuma Shigenobu (the bear) and Okubo Toshimichi (the octopus). Courtesy of Waseda University.
A Meiji Period political cartoon showing a great deal of Western influence. The cartoon is making fun of a power struggle in the Meiji government between Okuma Shigenobu (the bear) and Okubo Toshimichi (the octopus). Courtesy of Waseda University.
The Japanese cover of Vol 8 of Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy) by Tezuka Osamu. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
The Japanese cover of Vol 8 of Tetsuwan Atomu (Astro Boy) by Tezuka Osamu. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
The birth of a legend; issue one of Mazinger Z, the first ever giant robot manga. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
The birth of a legend; issue one of Mazinger Z, the first ever giant robot manga. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
The main characters of Ikeda Riyoko's Berusaya no Bara (The Rose of Versailles). On the left is Marie Antoinette, on the right is the protagonist Oscar. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
The main characters of Ikeda Riyoko’s Berusaya no Bara (The Rose of Versailles). On the left is Marie Antoinette, on the right is the protagonist Oscar. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
A cover of the English translation of Kozure Okami (Lone Wolf and Cub), featuring the protagonist Ogami Itto. Courtesy of Dark Horse Publishing.
A cover of the English translation of Kozure Okami (Lone Wolf and Cub), featuring the protagonist Ogami Itto. Courtesy of Dark Horse Publishing.

Episode 25 – The Shadow Shogun

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.

Listen to the episode here

Sources

Schlesinger, Jacob. Shadow Shoguns: The Rise and Fall of Postwar Japan’s Political Machine.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

Tanaka Kakuei in the early 1960s.
Tanaka Kakuei in the early 1960s.
Prime Minister Tanaka in 1973 with US President Richard M. Nixon.
Prime Minister Tanaka in 1973 with US President Richard M. Nixon.
Kodama Yoshio (second from right, first row) was a yakuza, a backer of Tanaka, a participant in the Lockheed Scandal, and a former indicted war criminal and member of the Gen'yosha, an ultranationalist society.
Kodama Yoshio (second from right, first row) was a yakuza, a backer of Tanaka, a participant in the Lockheed Scandal, and a former indicted war criminal and member of the Gen’yosha, an ultranationalist society.
Maeno Mitsuyasu, the politically-minded porn star who was so enraged by the Lockheed Scandal that he rammed a plane into the home of Kodama Yoshio.
Maeno Mitsuyasu, the politically-minded porn star who was so enraged by the Lockheed Scandal that he rammed a plane into the home of Kodama Yoshio.
Takeshita Noboru after his time as Prime Minister. Takeshita led the coup that would destroy Tanaka's career.
Takeshita Noboru after his time as Prime Minister. Takeshita led the coup that would destroy Tanaka’s career.
Tanaka, in the center, is flanked on the right by his traitorous disciple Ozawa Ichiro, who remains a wheeler-and-dealer in Tanaka's mold to this day.
Tanaka, in the center, is flanked on the right by his traitorous disciple Ozawa Ichiro, who remains a wheeler-and-dealer in Tanaka’s mold to this day. The other two people in the picture are American Political Scientist Stanford Ovshinsky and a Japanese diplomat named Ito Momoko.
Tanaka Kakuei's daughter, Tanaka Makiko, was part of the cabinet of Koizumi Junichiro and remains politically active. This photo of her is from 2001.
Tanaka Kakuei’s daughter, Tanaka Makiko, was part of the cabinet of Koizumi Junichiro and remains politically active. This photo of her is from 2001.