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History of Japan

Author: Isaac Meyer

Subscribed: 15,730Played: 268,020


This podcast, assembled by a former PhD student in History at the University of Washington, covers the entire span of Japanese history. Each week we'll tackle a new topic, ranging from prehistoric Japan to the modern day.
399 Episodes
This week: a combination of political scandals, tabloid journalism, institutional inertia, and of course the goddamn Swiss lead to the long, slow, death of LTCB. Show notes here.
This week, we're returning to the era of the bubble economy and its aftermath with an up close look at the failure of one of Japan's most prominent banks: the Long Term Credit Bank of Japan, or LTCB. First: how did LTCB dig itself so deeply into an economic hole? Show notes here.
This week, we're wrapping up our month on piracy by looking at how the image of "Japanese pirates" became so prevalent in Korea and China, and what we actually know about all the pirating that was going on during this time. Show notes here.
This week, we're talking about how Hideyoshi finally tamed Japan's pirates, and why that makes them so hard to understand from a historical perspective. Show notes here.
This week, we're focusing on the height of piracy during the civil wars in Japan, and in particular the powerful Murakami pirate families. How did these families make their money? What did their raids look like? And what was their relationship to the warlords on land? Show notes here.
This week, in the first of a four part series on piracy in Japan, we're covering the background of piracy before the Sengoku civil wars. How did Japan's pirates interact with the complexities of Japan's classical and medieval world? Show notes here.
This week we're going deep into the bizarre theories of Japanese Israelism: the conspiracy theory that modern Japanese people are descended in whole or part from the same ancestors as Jews. I'll take you through the basics of these theories, with plenty of barely hidden scorn for their idiocy to light our shared way. Show notes here.
We're trapped in a loop this week as Isaac talks about another Isaac: specifically, Isaac Titsingh, a member of the Dutch trade station at Nagasaki and one of the famous European interpreters of Japanese history and culture to the West. Show notes here.
For our final episode in the series, we're taking a look at the demise of public rail in Japan and the privatization of JNR. What led one of Japan's biggest companies down the track (ha!) of being broken up, and where does that leave Japan's rail network today? Show notes here.
This week, we're talking about the rebirth of Japan's rail network in the form of Japan National Railways. Some things will stay the same (it's all the same guys in charge), some will change (a free press keeps reporting on the mistakes those guys make), and all of this will culminate in one of the most ambitious engineering projects in Japanese history: the Tokaido Shinkansen. Show notes here.
This week, we're talking about the role of rail in imperial Japan, with a particular focus on the infamous South Manchuria Railway Company. How does a rail line become key to Japan's imperial ambitions in China? Show notes here.
This week, we're starting off a look at the history of rail in Japan by exploring how this revolutionary technology was introduced to the country. And once it was, how would a government obsessed with strategic infrastructure like rail manage the complexities of funding and constructing something so jaw-droppingly expensive? Show notes here.
Today, we're taking a look at a fascinating literary text from 1000 years ago, the Kagero Nikki (most commonly translated as "The Gossamer Diary"). This is the life story of a woman whose name is not known to us, and her tumultuous, borderline abusive relationship with her husband -- and a tale of how, ultimately, she is able to find peace. Show notes here.
This week, we're going to stay in the Sengoku but take a step away from all this samurai action to ask: what's everybody else up to? From farmers in the countryside enjoying the fruits of a more commercialized economy (while fearing being raided by marauding armies) to merchant towns asserting their authority against warlords, it's a fascinating look into a neglected piece of the era's history. Show notes here.
This week, we cover the rest of the lives of Sugen'in, Joko'in, and Yodo-dono (and some other really fascinating incidental lives, like Hideyoshi's wife Kodai'in), and ask: what can we learn from these often overlooked narratives? Show notes here.
This week, we're revisiting some well-trod ground (the final decades of the 1500s and the careers of Nobunaga and Hideyoshi) but through new eyes -- focusing on the stories of Nobunaga's sister Oichi, and her three daughters Yodo-dono, Joko'in, and Sugen'in.
This week, we're starting off a month of Sengoku-themed content with a look at one of the remoter areas of Japan: Tosa province on Shikoku, now known as Kouchi Prefecture. Specifically, we'll be diving into the history of the one-time lords of the area, the Chosokabe family, who rose from minor status to lords of all of Shikoku in two generations, and were then annihilated in the very next. Show notes here.
This week, we're talking about the birth of the idol industry in Japan. What are idols, how are they made famous, and what does all of this say about the nature of consumer culture in modern Japan? Show notes here.
This week, we're taking a look at one of the greatest scandals in the history of Japanese baseball, when the black mist of yakuza-driven sports gambling wracked Japan's national pastime. Show notes here.
This week, we're exploring the history of Japan's most famous drink: sake, or Japanese rice wine (though it turns out, 'sake' in Japanese doesn't necessarily refer to what we think of, nor is it actually a 'rice wine' in the technical sense). We're covering everything from tax laws to how to make your own sake using nothing but your own spit, so buckle up! It's gonna be a fun one. Show notes here.
Comments (26)

shahab nezamdoost

i like your podcast a lot and you are doing a great job , thanks for making this great podcast , i really want to know about mongols invasion of japan . i really hope there is a way that i can contact you for a project that im working on .

Oct 11th

Peter Chaloner

Lay off the cheek. British Empire rule was the best thing that ever happened to India.

Apr 24th
Reply (3)

Barry Murphy

show notes link leads to 404 error message

Apr 18th

Top Clean

Thanks for a very good episode. (^^,) P.S. All the movies and TV series he talks about here, you can get at

Dec 26th
Reply (3)

Risa Hearts

LOVE this podcast! Really interesting, and has some really funny parts too! Highly recommend :)

Apr 19th

rupesh pandey

This podcast is sooooo amazing!!!!

Apr 13th

Torii W

Thanks for your podcast! I've personally read 3 nonfiction books that have disagreed with my school teachings, eachother, Wikipedia & oddly manga/anime. (Yeah, I know the last one shouldn't be taken seriously but when it's set in the past & is from Nippon, one must assume there's some truth to it) but this seems to correct it all and put everything in place!

Mar 24th

Faith Pierce

On Episode 30 - Listening 5 years late and loving the podcast so far. Apologies if you've already corrected this somewhere in the 230 episodes I haven't yet listened to, but Blackthorne was not single in the books. He was married and had children he left behind, and does feel some guilt and angst over the situation. And while he isn't offered the chance to return home in the book, you are given the sense that he increasingly considers Japan his home and very possibly wouldn't go back even if given the chance. And my theory on why the author would choose to change names is that that way, he can feel more free to take tons of creative license and invent fake love stories and whatnot without feeling like he's lying about real people. The characters are based on them - they aren't actually them.

Dec 21st

Peter Chaloner

An especially good episode, with excellent poetry quotations.

Dec 8th

Peter Chaloner

Idiotic analysis by female podcaster. You would do better without her "help".

Nov 9th

rupesh pandey

Love this podcast

Oct 29th

Peter Chaloner

To know that Basho was halfway through his three-year journey when Billy defeated James at the 1690 Battle of the Boyne is delicious.

Jul 22nd

Peter Chaloner

I wish more Americans would speak English as you do.

Jun 16th

Peter Chaloner

"Second shrift"? No such thing. Shrift is the sacrament of Confession in Catholicism, and Short Shrift is the abbreviated form. You were lunging for the latter, but hit upon the nonexistent Second Shrift. See Hamlet: "Bear them to execution straight, no shriving time allowed."

May 14th

Zach Purtee

This is a really interesting podcast

May 6th

Patrick McIntosh

im here for anime....

May 1st
Reply (2)

Aron Einarsson

good episode

Mar 10th

Stephanie Feldman

I love this podcast so much!

Dec 10th
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