Episode 115 – The Far Side of the World

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!

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

This Japan Times article on 400 years of bilateral Japan-Spain relations

Ellis, Robert Richmond. “Japanese and Spaniards in the Christian Century.”

Elisonas, Jurgis. “Christianity and the Daimyo” in The Cambridge History of Japan, Vol 4.

Tucci, Giuseppe. “Japanese Ambassadors as Roman Patricians.” East and West 2, No 2( July 1951).

Images

The members of the Tensho Embassy with Pope Gregory XIII.
The members of the Tensho Embassy with Pope Gregory XIII.
The members of the Tensho embassy as depicted in a German pamphlet from the time.
The members of the Tensho embassy as depicted in a German pamphlet from the time.
The European style portrait given to Hasekura as a gift when he left Europe.
The European style portrait given to Hasekura as a gift when he left Europe.
Hasekura at prayer in European style dress.
Hasekura at prayer in European style dress.
Though the original San Juan Bautista is long gone, you can go see this carefully made replica to get some idea of the scale of the ship.
Though the original San Juan Bautista is long gone, you can go see this carefully made replica to get some idea of the scale of the ship.
The route taken by Hasekura and company to Europe and back.
The route taken by Hasekura and company to Europe and back.
Hasekura Tsunenaga (in white) depicted in a fresco at the Qirinal Palace.
Hasekura Tsunenaga (in white) depicted in a fresco at the Qirinal Palace.
These daggers were purchased by Hasekura in the Philippines during his return journey, and now reside in the Iwate Prefectural Museum.
These daggers were purchased by Hasekura in the Philippines during his return journey, and now reside in the Iwate Prefectural Museum.
Though he was less than popular with the domain government at the time of his death, today Hasekura is celebrated as a pioneer of Japan's relations with the West.
Though he was less than popular with the domain government at the time of his death, today Hasekura is celebrated as a pioneer of Japan’s relations with the West.

Episode 114 – The King of the Monsters

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!

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

NY Times obituary for Honda Ishiro

An NY Times history of the franchise

Another NY Times piece on the original movie, focusing on its low budget

Images

Honda Ishiro (left) on the set of the original Godzilla.
Honda Ishiro (left) on the set of the original Godzilla.
The cheap effects of the original Godzilla didn't hold it back from success; after all, low overhead meant the franchise needed a smaller fanbase to succeed.
The cheap effects of the original Godzilla didn’t hold it back from success; after all, low overhead meant the franchise needed a smaller fanbase to succeed.
Raymond Burr was very carefully inserted into a recut of the original film for the 1956 US release, Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Raymond Burr was very carefully inserted into a recut of the original film for the 1956 US release, Godzilla: King of the Monsters.
Nakajima Haruo, the man in the Godzilla suit in the original movies, still does fan tours and is generally just a great guy.
Nakajima Haruo, the man in the Godzilla suit in the original movies, still does fan tours and is generally just a great guy.
Pulgasari, a masterpiece of socialist filmmaking.
Pulgasari, a masterpiece of socialist filmmaking.

Episode 113 – Rain of Ruin, Part 6

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.

Listen to the episode here.

Sources

See the source list for episode 111.

Images

One of the film posters for The Beginning or the End.
One of the film posters for The Beginning or the End.
Another poster for the movie.
Another poster for the movie.
Harry S. Truman announces the unconditional surrender of Japan, August 15, 1945. His views on the bomb appear somewhat conflicted; while he always defended its use in public in private he expressed some reservations about its power and after August 10, 1945 he called a halt to all further uses of the weapon. According to witnesses, he said he didn't feel comfortable "killing all those kids."
Harry S. Truman announces the unconditional surrender of Japan, August 15, 1945. His views on the bomb appear somewhat conflicted; while he always defended its use in public in private he expressed some reservations about its power and after August 10, 1945 he called a halt to all further uses of the weapon. According to witnesses, he said he didn’t feel comfortable “killing all those kids.”
In this scene from The Beginning or the End, planners determine the nature of the attack on Hiroshima. The movie contained several substantial historical "embellishments".
In this scene from The Beginning or the End, planners determine the nature of the attack on Hiroshima. The movie contained several substantial historical “embellishments”.

Episode 112 – Rain of Ruin, Part 5

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?

Listen to the episode here. Find the sources for this episode in the source list for the previous post.

Images

Seeing images like this one of a woman whose skin has the patterns of her kimono burned onto it, it's not surprising why people began to question the utility of the atomic bomb.
Seeing images like this one of a woman whose skin has the patterns of her kimono burned onto it, it’s not surprising why people began to question the utility of the atomic bomb.
Gar Alperovitz's Atomic Diplomacy (republished in the 1990s as The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb) was for decades the definitive work of revisionism in reference to the atomic bomb. Unfortunately for Alperovitz, archival revelations in the 1990s utterly discredited his work. The man shadily looking at you on the book's cover, by the by, is Secretary of State James Byrnes, who Alperovitz uses as the villain of the piece for cunningly manipulating President Truman into using the bomb to intimidate the Soviets in a game of ruthless power politics.
Gar Alperovitz’s Atomic Diplomacy (republished in the 1990s as The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb) was for decades the definitive work of revisionism in reference to the atomic bomb. Unfortunately for Alperovitz, archival revelations in the 1990s utterly discredited his work. The man shadily looking at you on the book’s cover, by the by, is Secretary of State James Byrnes, who Alperovitz uses as the villain of the piece for cunningly manipulating President Truman into using the bomb to intimidate the Soviets in a game of ruthless power politics.
Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's Racing the Enemy is the most recent and best researched work in the revisionist camp.
Tsuyoshi Hasegawa’s Racing the Enemy is the most recent and best researched work in the revisionist camp.
Tsuyoshi Hasegawa's central thesis in Racing the Enemy is that President Harry Truman and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin were competing (racing, you might say) to see how much of the former Japanese empire each could acquire. In that race, the atomic bomb represented a potential shortcut for the US.
Tsuyoshi Hasegawa’s central thesis in Racing the Enemy is that President Harry Truman and Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin were competing (racing, you might say) to see how much of the former Japanese empire each could acquire. In that race, the atomic bomb represented a potential shortcut for the US.
Akira Iriye is an orthodox historian working at Harvard. He also really does not get along with Tsuyoshi Hasegawa thanks to a series of open letters they exchanged at the time of publication for Racing the Enemy.
Akira Iriye is an orthodox historian working at Harvard. He also really does not get along with Tsuyoshi Hasegawa thanks to a series of open letters they exchanged at the time of publication for Racing the Enemy.