Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Urasenke 4th East Asian Tea Culture Symposium

This past weekend I attended the 4th East Asian Tea Culture Symposium at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

From the Center for Japanese Studies website:

Organized and sponsored by Dr. Genshitsu Sen, these two events are the fourth in a series of annual gatherings (Tianjin, China in 2004, Seoul, Korea in 2005, Tokyo, Japan in 2006) that bring together scholars, artists and influential leaders in civil society from China, Japan, and Korea (and for the first time this year, Western scholars, as well) to discuss traditional East Asian culture and the role it might play in fostering peace and understanding in Asia and the Pacific. This year, the symposium and panel are being held at Manoa to commemorate the University of Hawai‘i’s centennial. Though most of the speakers will give presentations in their native language, all sessions will include English interpretation.

The following pictures were taken with my cellphone (Day one) and with my camera (Day two).

Day One

Dr. Sen Genshitsu, Chado Urasenke 15th generation tea master.

Dr. Robert Huey and Dr. Paul Varley

Dr. Wayne Farris, "One Man's Approach to the Study of Tea and the Japanese Tea Ceremony"

Dr. Herbert Plutchow, "A Ritual Approach to Chanoyu"

Other speakers on the first day included Dr. Miyagi Tokumasa ("Okinawan Pottery"), Consul General Kunikata Toshio, Dr. Xiao Li ("Court Tea Ceremony During the Tang and Song Dynasties"), Dr. Jeon-Yull Park ("Lecturing on 'Japan's Tea Culture' in the Tearoom: Lessons to be Taught and Learned"), Dr. Kurasawa Yukihiro ("Reflections on the philosophy of Wabicha"). All in all a very interesting symposium, although quite long at 8 hours, but the free food helped make it worth it. I'll post Day 2 information soon.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Japan and Her People Now Available

Japan and Her People by Anna C. Hartshorne is now available at

This is a reprint of the original 1902 edition, published by Jetlag press, and features a new introduction by Lian Hearn. The book is a combination of travelogue, cultural examination, and history of Japan. The following is an excerpt:

“This big, dreary city of innumerable little houses.”—La Farge, “Letters of an Artist.”

SMALL blame to the four weeks’ tourist if he loves not Tokyo. Its stock sights are only half a dozen or so—the Asakusa and Shiba temples, the moat, Uyeno Park, the tombs of the Forty-seven Ronin, a feast and the geisha’s “butterfly dance” at the Maple Club, Danjuro at the big theatre, or the wrestlers over in Mukojima—this last amusement distinctly not for ladies—cherry blossoms, iris, lotus or chrysanthemums “in season,” as the caterers say of game. These attractions are scattered over the length and breadth of a city measuring five or six miles radius every way from Nihonbashi Bridge, every part of which, to unaccustomed eyes, looks exactly like all the restólow roofed, gray, interminable.
The foreign resident, too, finds plenty to growl about—heat and cold, dust and rain, and, worst of all, the weary jinrikisha rides over those endless distances. Yet, granting all shortcomings, the great city exercises a fascination of its own—a charm made up of quaint lanes and mysterious turnings, of tide-water canals busy with odd craft, of hills and green hedges and tall trees rising like islands out of the gray sea of roofs, a glamor of flooding sunlight that is never glare, of hazy twilights and the firefly dance of lanterns in the dark; everywhere, and most of all, the picturesque come and go of its streets, the spell of its vivid, throbbing life.
There is a tale of a traveler who rode over Tokyo for three days, and then went away in despair, saying he could not find any city; he saw only suburbs. The fact is, it is not a city really, but rather a bunch of villages clustering round the moat and the castle, which have grown together and melted into each other till nobody can say where one stops and the other begins. Each part has still its own temples, its local guilds, local festivals, local industries, sometimes even special customs of its own—all, of course, coming under the general management of the central city government.
Perhaps this persistent individuality is less strange when one stops to realize what a comparatively recent place it is, after all—that before Tokugawa Ieyasu’s time, only a matter of two or three hundred years ago, there was nothing here but a small castle and an insignificant fishing village. Beside Kyoto’s record of ten centuries Tokyo is an upstart, a mere parvenue, like the Tokugawa themselves who created it. Then, too, the broken hill-and-dale quality of the ground may have helped to keep the villages distinct, as well as the innumerable creeks and intersecting canals which cut its lower portions.
It must be remembered, however, that though the Tokugawa made Yedo what it was, they did not actually discover the place for themselves; the real founder was one Ota Dokwan, a vassal of the powerful Uyesugi family, whose provinces lay further to the north. This Ota perceived the strategic possibilities of the situation, and built a small castle on the central hill. Later this changed hands once or twice, but was never a place of much importance till it was given over to Tokugawa Ieyasu about a hundred years after. Ieyasu took possession in 1590, and his first care was to strengthen Ota’s site by digging the moats deeper and raising the great walls; his next to level part of the neighboring hills and fill the swampy places round about. Under his firm rule Yedo grew rapidly, and was a prosperous city even before Iemitsu’s “compulsory residence” law compelled all Daimyo to maintain their permanent households in his capital.
“Easier to take than to defend,” Some one wrote lately of Yedo Castle. He was thinking doubtless of modern warfare; for, as compared with the other strongholds of its period—such as Osaka and Nagoya, or Odawara, which was the seat of the Hojo Regents—Yedo was quite as well fortified, and had far the best situation of them all. Had, not has; for as a castle it no longer exists. In 1873 a fire, which started by accident, burned the great keep and all the more important buildings, and only the walls and gates remain around the Imperial palace which has been built on the same site. Six times before this the castle was burned, the first time being in 1601. Ieyasu was then in possession, but did not receive the title of Shogun till a couple of years later. On that occasion, not only the castle, but nearly the whole town was burned, and, according to tradition, tiled roofs were introduced soon after; but for a long time they were only used on the houses of nobles. Shingles, however, were substituted for thatch as being a little easier to keep from catching fire.
Whether strong or not, Yedo Castle never experienced an actual siege. Built at the beginning of the “great peace,” no enemy ever came against it till 1869, when General Saigo led one wing of the Imperial army over the Hakone Pass to chastise the rebellious Tokugawa. Saigo encamped on the edge of the city, at Shinagawa, where his master, the Prince of Satsuma, had a yashiki, and demanded possession in the Emperor’s name. Prince Tokugawa was in a very uncomfortable position. He had already declared that he would not disobey the Emperor, but his retainers and allies—among them the fierce Aidzu Samurai—refused to accept his order to lay down their arms, declaring the Emperor was coerced by the hated Satsuma. The city hummed with conspiracy, spies were in every household and no one knew whom he dared trust. The man who saved the situation was a Hatamoto, or retainer of the Shogun, named Katsu—one of the most remarkable men Japan has ever produced. Educated by Dutch teachers at the naval school in Nagasaki, Katsu had already been to San Francisco as captain of the first Japanese ship which ever crossed the Pacific—a gunboat of two hundred and fifty tons and one hundred horse power. On his return, his pro-foreign utterances brought on him the wrath of the Bakufu, and he was degraded and afterward confined to his own house; but his brains and courage were too valuable to be spared long. Saigo was his personal friend, and he had many other friends, and even followers, in the Satsuma Clan, besides holding the respect and confidence of his own side.
So, one morning, Count Katsu mounted his horse and rode alone to Saigo’s camp at Shinagawa, and the two talked together as man to man. “I believe my old friend is at his wits’ end by this time,” Saigo is reported to have said, and” Only by placing yourself in my position can you understand where I am,” replied Katsu, whereupon the general “bursts into a peal of laughter.” A few days later Katsu took Saigo up Atago Hill, a mile or two nearer the castle, and together they looked over the vast expanse of the city spread at their feet. “If we cross swords, these innocent people will have to suffer,” said Saigo, and he was silent for a little. Shortly after he went back to his chief, Prince Arisugawa, and arranged terms of peace along the lines Katsu had proposed. The city was to be spared, and in return the castle and the fleet were to be given up, and the ex-Shogun to retire to Mito, another head being appointed for the Tokugawa family. The castle was accordingly handed over, but the fleet—a handful of vessels—was carried off by the officer in charge and held for some time longer; and there was fighting at Uyeno Park, and afterward at Utsunomiya and in Aidzu, before the clans finally gave up the struggle.

Japan and Her People by Anna C. Hartshorne, Edited by C. West and B. Massey, with introduction by Lian Hearn

  • Publisher: Jetlag Press (May 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 097903972X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979039720
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 0.6 inches

Thursday, June 07, 2007

S-A Journal of Japanese History - now accepting submissions

The website for the Samurai Archives Journal of Japanese History is now online and we are currently accepting submissions. Please see the website for details.

Here is the decription from the home page:

The Samurai Archives Journal of Japanese History is a new and independently published journal devoted to the critical examination of the events and personalities of pre-20th century Japan.

The goals of the journal are to:

  • Encourage new and established scholars to share their research, as well as to give independent scholars a forum for their work
  • Introduce readers to the wealth of material available in Japanese and English
  • Encourage interest and informed discussion on the topic of Japanese history

    The journal is tentatively scheduled for publication in early 2008, and is currently accepting submissions.

    Although the general focus of the journal is on military history and biography, articles dealing with all periods and subjects of Japanese history are welcomed; we demand only solid scholarship, clear writing and original ideas. Writers may approach their subjects from whichever field or discipline they wish.

    For several years the Samurai Archives has been the most comprehensive and widely recognized source of Japanese history in English on the internet. This print journal will draw on the resources of the website and the talents of its members as well as the scholarship of other contributors to present an authoritative and entertaining quarterly on this fascinating subject.

  • Sunday, May 27, 2007

    The Death of Takeda Shingen, Part 2

    Two more sources on Takeda Shingen have details on his death - "Takeda Shingen" by Isogai Masayoshi, and "Takeda Gunki" by Kobayashi Keiichiro. They indicate that he collapsed soon after the Mikatagahara campaign, probably late in the 12th month of 1572, indicating a long-standing illness. The siege of Noda castle took place early in 1573. The castle fell in the middle of the 2nd month. Apparently the only "record" of Shingen being "shot by a sniper" come from Tokugawa documents, which could have been changed to give the Tokugawa the credit for killing Shingen. As it stands, Shingen did not die until the 12th day of the 4th month, fully 2 months after the fall of Noda castle. It is unlikely there is a connection. These two sources also state that Shingen had been ill for a long time, and his closest advisers were aware of his illness - aware enough to in fact be worried about him. It also goes on to say that it was an "internal illness" (肺肝 - as opposed to an injury). Another interesting fact is that although Shingen had given up meat completely in a show of religious abstinence around 1563, by the 2nd month of 1573 (around the fall of Noda castle) he began eating fish and poultry for his health. He obviously was in poor health for a while before Noda castle, and the "sniper" theory just doesn't fit. As for stomach cancer due to alcoholism - Shingen wasn't exactly known for alcoholism, but I can't rule it out (yet).

    Thursday, May 17, 2007

    The Death of Takeda Shingen

    Looking through the Koyo Gunkan, I found the section on the death of Takeda Shingen:
    "On the 11th day of the 4th month around 1pm, Lord Shingen's condition took a turn for the worst. His pulse became extremely rapid. On the night of the 12th, approximately 9pm, he developed an abscess/rash in his mouth, and 5 or 6 of his teeth fell out. He gradually weakened."

    There is no mention of him getting shot by a sniper, a somewhat popular theory, probably due to the movie "Kagemusha". It appears that he died late in the night of the 12th of the 4th month of 1573 (5/13 by the Western calendar). According to the Koyo Gunkan, in addition to giving his last will and testament, he requested that his death be hidden for three years, which he felt would discourage anyone from attacking Kai. He also advised Katsuyori to make peace with Uesugi Kenshin, believing Kenshin to be an honorable man who would not refuse.

    There is mention of a previous sickness that afflicted Shingen prior to his death. I intend to look at that next.

    Friday, May 11, 2007

    The S-A journal of Japanese History

    I am currently developing a Japanese history journal tentatively scheduled for 2008. The rationale behind this is relatively straightforward. Academic journals tend to only publish academics, and so I'd like to circumvent that - and they tend to shy away from military history, and biography. The S-A Journal will be open to all submissions, from amateur historians to academics to published historians. The submissions will be evaluated separately from the credentials of the writer, allowing anyone with the theories, ideas, and ability to make for a well written, academically sound, and interesting research to be published. The intention is to hold the articles to a very high standard - similar standards that an academic journal would hold, and within the next few weeks I'll be unveiling the Journal website that will have information on submission requirements and standards. Additionally, I will have a staff of editors and evaluators to assist in the evaluation of submitted articles.

    As for "how does this stand apart from the other academic journals"? - my aim is to focus more on the military history, and the personalities of Japanese history, rather than social issues, "intellectual history", and how (for example) Daimyo administered thier lands, and all of the other stuff that is the vogue of the academic journals - and as previously mentioned, to allow anyone with valid theories and solid scholarship to be published.

    The intention is to publish the stuff that people want to read, not the stuff that you are forced to write if you want to get into an academic journal. So stay tuned for more information.

    (Listen to the post in MP3 Format)

    Tuesday, May 08, 2007

    Winners of the 2007 Samurai Fiction Contest

    I'll be moving the stories onto the samurai archives page, but for now I have them on a seperate server. This year was tough for the judges, as the overall quality for all stories was pretty high. Two writers paid double the fee and submitted two stories, which was fine under the contest rules. The following list is formatted with the story title, the author, the Author's "Samurai Archives Citadel" ID, the genre, and the link. Here are the winners and participants of the third annual Samurai Fiction contest:

    Winner - First Place and Best Ending:
    Intruder: (N. Ledbetter - LTDomer)
    Historical Fiction

    Winner - Second Place and Most Original:
    magni nominus umbra: (J. Workman - last year's winner)
    Horror/Ghost Story

    Winner - Third Place and Best Writing:
    The Matsudaira Plot: (Nina Boal - Wave Tossed - First Year's winner)
    Pulp Fiction

    Honorable Mention - Best Dialog:
    The Snow Light Warrior: (Jason Kemp - Yukiakari)
    Horror/Ghost Story

    Other Entries:

    Like Any Other Day? (J. Workman - Last Year's winner):
    Science Fiction

    Shadows Dance at Dawn: (E. Richard IV - Shishiogundam)
    Historical Fiction

    It's a Girl (Phil Gomez - Phillipmichael1):
    Historical Fiction
    (I need to re-add the section-break images)

    Running: (N. Ledbetter - LTDomer)
    Historical Fiction

    Friday, April 20, 2007

    Third Annual Samurai Fiction Contest Judging

    The judges are currently debating the winner of the 2007 Samurai Fiction contest. The results will be posted here, as well as at the Samurai Archives Citadel and the Yahoo Group.

    Tuesday, February 27, 2007

    Japan and Her People

    I am assisting in the republication of the book "Japan and Her People" by Anna Hartshorne, a travelogue/cultural and historical examination of 1890's Japan. Originally published in 1902, this new publication will include some new features, along with the original text. click here for further description and an excerpt:

    Wednesday, January 31, 2007

    Becoming an Approved Editor on the SamuraiWiki

    If you are interested and motivated enough to contribute to the SamuraiWiki, feel free to join the Editor's group for details:

    Friday, January 19, 2007

    SamuraiWiki "Approved Editors"

    The SamuraiWiki is ever evolving, and for the forseeable future it is set to only allow "approved editors" to edit and add content. This will make it easier to keep tabs on the academic veracity, and will prevent random people from signing up just to vandalize, or for people to simply copy and paste information from other websites or wikipedia.

    I haven't developed an "application process" yet, however it won't be terribly difficult for interested and motivated people to become editors. Current "regulars" at the Samurai Archives forum and the Samurai History yahoo group are all immediately eligible, and until I create a yahoo group for "new" editors to apply, contact me with your interests, and I'll consider making you an editor.

    The SamuraiWiki is simply an alternative to Wikipedia with a focus purely on Japanese history. It isn't "in competition" with wikipedia, however the lax standards in scholarship and citing sources on Wikipedia reduce its value in anything other than a casual informational resource. The purpose of the SamuraiWiki is to allow people to get information that is verifiable and useful for academic study and further research, and as such, the focus is currently on both primary sources and Japanese language history books and academic research.

    The Webmasters of the Samurai Archives don't consider it "our" website, we are hosting it as an archive for Japanese history on the internet. This being said, it is not an "open history" source, nor is it considered "public license" - all posts to the SamuraiWiki become copyrighted property of the website, and will not be used for profit or for posting to any other sources without proper citation. As of this post, there are currently 1155 articles available. The current focus is on the Edo period, with particular attention being given to the Shinsengumi, however there are aways additions being made to other categories and topics. Hopefuly this will become a respected and useful resource for people interested in Japanese history.