Episode 138 – The Fall of the Samurai, Part 21

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!

Listen to the episode here.


Beasley, W.G. The Meiji Restoration.

Jansen, Marius. The Making of Modern Japan.

Morris, Ivan. The Nobility of Defeat.


Because I know you didn’t believe me about the shogun coffee thing.
Matsudaira Yoshiko in the 1920s. It would not be until she married into the imperial family in 1928 that the stigma of Aizu ‘treason’ began to die out.
Ishiwara Kanji, who expressed the notion of the West as Japan’s antagonist in his time in the docket at the Tokyo War Crimes Trials. Ishiwara’s view was far from unique among Japan’s wartime leaders; most saw a clash between the US and Japan as the inevitable fulfillment of the Meiji Restoration.
After WWII, local pride movements in Japan began to emphasize unique local heritages. Valorizing people who had fought against the restoration was no longer taboo. This was nowhere more evident than Aizu; these high schoolers from Aizu are performing a local folk dance (complete with a giant “Aizu” flag) as part of an exchange program in Chicago.
To me, one of the most interesting questions of the restoration is the notion of revolution. I keep coming back to notions of political violence in the restoration, like the assassination of Ii Naosuke shown here. In almost any other context this would be pretty easy to label a revolutionary act. I certainly think it was one. What about you?
I forgot I still had this photo from my time in Hokkaido. It shows a bunch of my classmates dressed in the uniforms of the countries that participated in “opening” Japan — though the German flag used there is the post-WWI Weimar/modern German one, not the flag of Imperial Germany. Anyway, I think it’s an interesting example of how “domesticated” the Meiji experience is now by a generation who live with the benefits of openness to the West but who did not experience its worst dislocations.

2 thoughts on “Episode 138 – The Fall of the Samurai, Part 21

  1. Robert NIven

    Hey Isaac! Long time listener, first time commenter!

    I loved the format for this series! I didn’t mind that it was so long and thoroughly enjoyed being able to dive so deep into the subject of the Meiji Restoration. Keep up the good work! I love listening to your show every week!

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