Episode 79 – The Bismarck of the East

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.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Hamada, Kengi. Prince Ito.

Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan.

Takii, Kazuhiro. Ito Hirobumi – Japan’s First Prime Minister and Father of the Meiji Constitution.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation unless otherwise noted)

The Choshu Five, samurai sent to study in the UK in 1862 at University College, London.  From left to right: Inoue Kaoru, Endo Kinsuke, Inoue Maoru, Yozo Yamao, and Ito Hirobumi. Courtesy of University College, London.
The Choshu Five, samurai sent to study in the UK in 1862 at University College, London. From left to right: Inoue Kaoru, Endo Kinsuke, Inoue Maoru, Yozo Yamao, and Ito Hirobumi. Courtesy of University College, London.
Ito Hirobumi during his second tenure as Prime Minister.
Ito Hirobumi during his second tenure as Prime Minister.
Ito Hirobumi and Crown Prince Yi of Korea. Ito believed very strongly that his presence could help remake Korea in the image of Meiji Japan. It was a dream that was unrealistic at best and which died with him.
Ito Hirobumi and Crown Prince Yi of Korea. Ito believed very strongly that his presence could help remake Korea in the image of Meiji Japan. It was a dream that was unrealistic at best and which died with him.
An Jung-geun, the Korean nationalist who believed Ito Hirobumi was poisoning the Meiji Emperor and Japan against Korea. His assassination of Ito would ironically remove the one man in the leadership of Japan who strongly objected to annexation.
An Jung-geun, the Korean nationalist who believed Ito Hirobumi was poisoning the Meiji Emperor and Japan against Korea. His assassination of Ito would ironically remove the one man in the leadership of Japan who strongly objected to annexation.
Ito disembarking at Harbin. This photo was taken seconds before Ito was shot by An Jung-geun (who is outside of the frame of this image). Courtesy of Dr. Kenneth Pyle.
Ito disembarking at Harbin. This photo was taken seconds before Ito was shot by An Jung-geun (who is outside of the frame of this image). Courtesy of Dr. Kenneth Pyle.
An's statue in Seoul. As you can imagine, this didn't go over well.
An’s statue in Seoul. As you can imagine, this didn’t go over well.
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Episode 78 – The Sage of Mita

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.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Craig, Albert. Civilization and Enlightenment: The Early Thought of Fukuzawa Yukichi.

Fukuzawa, Yukichi. The Autobiography of Yukichi Fukuzawa.

Pyle, Kenneth. Japan Rising.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation unless otherwise noted)

Members of the crew of the Kanrin Maru. Fukuzawa is sitting on the far right.
Members of the crew of the Kanrin Maru. Fukuzawa is sitting on the far right.
Fukuzawa and the daughter of the photographer, 1860. Fukuzawa used this photo to brag to his companions about what a charming man he was, and how well he understood Western civilization. Even at the end of his life this was apparently still one of his favorite stories to tell.
Fukuzawa and the daughter of the photographer, 1860. Fukuzawa used this photo to brag to his companions about what a charming man he was, and how well he understood Western civilization. Even at the end of his life this was apparently still one of his favorite stories to tell.
A young Fukuzawa during a trip to Paris in 1862.
A young Fukuzawa during a trip to Paris in 1862.
A first edition of Bunmeiron no Gairyaku, or An Outline of the Theory of Civilization. Published in 1876, this work presented Fukuzawa's ideas on how civilizations worked. Spoiler alert: the answer was "they worked best by Westernizing."
A first edition of Bunmeiron no Gairyaku, or An Outline of the Theory of Civilization. Published in 1876, this work presented Fukuzawa’s ideas on how civilizations worked. Spoiler alert: the answer was “they worked best by Westernizing.”
Fukuzawa at the height of his career in the 1880s. Courtesy of Keio University.
Fukuzawa at the height of his career in the 1880s. Courtesy of Keio University.
The 10,000 yen note bares Fukuzawa's likeness to this day.
The 10,000 yen note bares Fukuzawa’s likeness to this day.
The campus of Keio University 11 years after its founders death. The university remains to this day as one of the most prestigious in Japan and the most visible symbol of Fukuzawa's legacy.
The campus of Keio University 11 years after its founders death. The university remains to this day as one of the most prestigious in Japan and the most visible symbol of Fukuzawa’s legacy.

Episode 77 – Hidden by the Leaves

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!

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Ikegami, Eiko. The Taming of the Samurai.

Friday, Karl. “Bushido or Bull? A Medieval Historian’s Perspective on the Imperial Army and the Japanese Warrior Tradition.”

Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan.

Ross, Kelley L. “Zen and the Art of Divebombing, or The Dark Side of the Tao.”

The complete text of Hagakure.

Images (Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation)

Yamamoto Tsunetomo, the author of Hagakure. I was unable to find the background of this image, and the style makes me think it's an imagining of what he looked like rather than an actual portrait, but it certainly captures my mental image of him very well.
Yamamoto Tsunetomo, the author of Hagakure. I was unable to find the background of this image, and the style makes me think it’s an imagining of what he looked like rather than an actual portrait, but it certainly captures my mental image of him very well.
The Senjinkun, issued in 1940, presented a code of ethics for Japanese soldiers on the battlefield. It was heavily influenced by and has many thematic links with Hagakure; in many ways it represents an adaptation of Yamamoto's thinking to an age when everyone -- not just samurai -- was liable for service unto death.
The Senjinkun, issued in 1940, presented a code of ethics for Japanese soldiers on the battlefield. It was heavily influenced by and has many thematic links with Hagakure; in many ways it represents an adaptation of Yamamoto’s thinking to an age when everyone — not just samurai — was liable for service unto death.
American translator William Scott Wilson led an international group of Hagakure enthusiasts to produce a manga version of the text (sample above). It's a pretty telling example of the hold Hagakure (and bushido more generally) still has on Japanese culture.
American translator William Scott Wilson led an international group of Hagakure enthusiasts to produce a manga version of the text (sample above). It’s a pretty telling example of the hold Hagakure (and bushido more generally) still has on Japanese culture.

Episode 76 – The Ten-Thousand Leaves

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.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

R.R. Honda, The Manyoshu: A New and Complete Translation

Man’yogana – The Language of the Man’yoshu (Courtesy of the Japanese Text Initiative of the Virginia Library Electronic Text Center)

Poem 85

Man’yogana

君之行 /氣長成奴/ 山多都祢/ 迎加将行/ 待尓可将待

Modern Japanese

君が行き日長くなりぬ山尋ね迎へか行かむ待ちにか待たむ

Hiragana (Phoenetic)

きみがゆき,けながくなりぬ,やまたづね,むかへかゆかむ,まちにかまたむ

English

How many days and months have passed/ since you, my Lord, left me to roam!/ Now to the mountains should I go/ or wait and wait for you at home!

Poem 2187

Man’yogana

妹之袖/ 巻来乃山之/ 朝露尓/ 仁寶布黄葉之/ 散巻惜裳

Modern Japanese

妹が袖巻来の山の朝露ににほふ黄葉の散らまく惜しも

Hiragana (Phoenetic)

いもがそで,まききのやまの,あさつゆに,にほふもみちの,ちらまくをしも

English

How fair the maple leaves on Mt. Makiki/ colored by dews of morning!/ I shall grieve to see them fall.

Media

An original section of the Man'yoshu. Courtesy of the Tokyo National Museum.
An original section of the Man’yoshu. Courtesy of the Tokyo National Museum.
An original section of the Man'yoshu (volume 9, specifically). Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
An original section of the Man’yoshu (volume 9, specifically). Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Otomo no Yakamochi, the (likely) compiler of the Man'yoshu.
Otomo no Yakamochi, the (likely) compiler of the Man’yoshu.
This table shows you the man'yogana equivalents of some sounds in phoenetic Japanese. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
This table shows you the man’yogana equivalents of some sounds in phoenetic Japanese. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Man'yogana provided the roots of modern Japanese kana -- here you can see the evolutionary process by which the characters took on their present forms. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Man’yogana provided the roots of modern Japanese kana — here you can see the evolutionary process by which the characters took on their present forms. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
The Manyoshu Botanical Garden at Kasuga Shrine. Courtesy of Japan Guide.org
The Manyoshu Botanical Garden at Kasuga Shrine. Courtesy of Japan Guide.org

Episode 75 – Kwaidan

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.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

Hearn, Lafcadio. Kwaidan.

Images

Lafcadio Hearn. Note that his head is turned to his left and that he avoids looking at the camera. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Lafcadio Hearn. Note that his head is turned to his left and that he avoids looking at the camera. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Lafcadio Hearn and his wife Koizumi Setsu. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
Lafcadio Hearn and his wife Koizumi Setsu. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
A Yuki Onna. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
A Yuki Onna. Courtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
An Edo period print of a Yuki Onna. Both this and the preceding picture are from the 1700s.C ourtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
An Edo period print of a Yuki Onna. Both this and the preceding picture are from the 1700s.C ourtesy of the Wikimedia Foundation.
The Yuki Onna from the 1965 film version of Kwaidan. Courtesy of Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
The Yuki Onna from the 1965 film version of Kwaidan. Courtesy of Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Yuki, who is totally not a Yuki Onna. Courtesy of Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Yuki, who is totally not a Yuki Onna. Courtesy of Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
A wider view of the Yuki Onna in the 1965 film version of Kwaidan. Courtesy of ferdyonfilms.com.
A wider view of the Yuki Onna in the 1965 film version of Kwaidan. Courtesy of ferdyonfilms.com.