Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Samurai Archives Introduction to Japanese History Podcast Series

For the past 3 months on the Samurai Archives Podcast, your hosts have been presenting an introduction to Japanese history, from paleolithic Japan to the end of the Sengoku period.  It took a lot of work, and at times felt like quite a chore, but at last we have finished our mini-opus.  We'd like to thank our dedicated listeners for the feedback and questions, and present here a compilation of the entire Introduction to Japanese History series.  Now that the intro series is complete, we'll be bringing you more detailed episodes covering various aspects of Japanese history - and as always, if you have any questions or interests you'd like to see covered in future podcasts, please don't be shy about letting us know.  Feel free to respond to this blog post, or send questions our way on Twitter @samuraiarchives.

If you haven't been following our Introduction to Japanese History series, it goes without saying that you're in for a treat.  At first we expected that it would run about 6 episodes, but in the end it turned out to last 15 episodes, and although quite detailed, we still consider it a relatively brief overview.  Feel free to pick and choose which episodes to listen to - people interested in Samurai battles may choose to skip our treatment of neolithic Japan, or vice versa - so fill up the iPod, and enjoy!

Intro to Japanese History P1 - Prehistory

For part one of our Introduction to Japanese History series, we'll be starting at the beginning of the earliest history of the Japanese archipelago and the changes that took place in culture and technology from the Paleolithic period to the Jomon period, which takes us from prehistory to approximately 300BC.

Intro to Japanese History P2 - Yayoi and Kofun Periods

For part two of our Introduction to Japanese History series, we'll be covering the Yayoi period which was a sharp change from the culture of the Jomon period, where there was a massive influx of NE Asians into the Japanese archipelago. This was followed by the Kofun period, where Japan began to slowly consolidate and unify into a confederacy. The name of the Kofun period comes from the huge keyhole shaped burial mounds known as "Kofun".

Intro to Japanese History P3 - Asuka-Nara Part 1

Continuing our Introduction to Japanese History podcast series, we will examine the Asuka-Nara period over two episodes. The Asuka-Nara period (538AD-794AD) is known for it's classic art and architecture, the introduction of Buddhism, and the Taika reforms and Ritsuryo system. Japan adopted many Chinese style institutions, began to form a national government, and started to assert itself internationally in East Asia.

Intro to Japanese History P4 - Asuka-Nara Part 2

Continuing our Introduction to Japanese History series is part 2 of our Asuka-Nara podcast.
The Asuka-Nara period (538AD-794AD) is known for it's classic art and architecture, the introduction of Buddhism, and the Taika reforms and Ritsuryo system. Japan adopted many Chinese style institutions, began to form a national government, and started to assert itself internationally in East Asia.

Intro to Japanese History P5 - The Heian Period

Part five of our Introduction to Japanese History series covers the Heian period.
The Heian period (794AD-1185AD) is named after Heian-kyo (present day Kyoto). The Heian period is known for it's art, literature, and poetry, as well as the spread of Tendai and Shingon Buddhism.

Intro to Japanese History P6 - The Rise of the Warrior

In this episode of our Introduction to Japanese history series, we examine the rise of the warrior class during the Heian period. As the Heian period began, there was not a distinct warrior class, but armies were raised on an ad hoc basis when needed by the court to put down rebellions, bandits, and pirates. As the Heian period went on, provincial lords began to maintain professional warrior bands to protect their lands and legitimacy, and to go to war on behalf of the court. The court would continue to give these provincial lords legitimacy through bestowing titles and lands. But, as the Heian period went on, court control of these provincial lords and their armies began to weaken.

Intro to Japanese History P7 - The Minamoto and Taira

An important development in the history of Japan and the Heian period, was the rise of the warrior class, which would eventually bring about a true feudal system run by warriors. As more and more military responsibility was delegated to provincial warlords who were out of the sphere of influence of the capital, these warrior houses grew in power. The transition from a central government run by the Heian court to the rise of the warrior class as the controlling group began with the Taira clan, led by Taira Kiyomori, who usurped the power of the Fujiwara clan. Eventually, the only alternative for people who were at odds with the Taira clan, was to throw in their lot with the Minamoto clan of Eastern warriors, which would eventually lead to civil war.

Intro to Japanese History P8 - The Kamakura Period

In part 8 of our Introduction to Japanese History podcast, we examine the early Kamakura period. Once Minamoto Yoritomo became Shogun, he began using the authority given to him by the emperor to solidify his power. Over the course of the next 20 years the Minamoto would usurp much of the power of the imperial court, only to be replaced completely by a line of puppet shoguns controlled by the Hojo Regents.

Intro to Japanese History P9 - The Mongol Invasions in Brief

Part nine of our Introduction to Japanese History series gives a brief overview of the two attempted Mongol Invasions of Japan during the 13th century, and the effect it had on the country in general, and the Hojo regents and Bakufu specifically.

Intro to Japanese History P10 - The Early Muromachi Period

For the 10th episode in our Intro to Japanese History podcast series, we examine the events that lead to the fall of the Kamakura Shogunate. Emperor Go-Daigo, deciding he wants a return to imperial rule without a Shogunate, enlists various warrior families to support him in overthrowing the Kamakura Bakufu and the Hojo regents - however not all goes as planned as Ashikaga Takauji, his ally turned enemy, ends his dream of imperial rule and establishes the Ashikaga Shogunate. Unfortunately for the Ashikaga clan, it's not all rainbows and lollipops for the first 60 years of the Ashikaga Shogunate, as Go-Daigo's supporters set up an alternate imperial line and engage in decades of guerrilla and outright war on behalf of the emperor.

Intro to Japanese History P11 - Prelude to the Sengoku

In this episode of our Introduction to Japanese History series, we look at the 15th century and the build up to the Onin war, and what would ultimately lead to the age of the country at war - the Sengoku period.

Intro to Japanese History P12 - The Early Sengoku Period

After the Onin war in the mid-late 15th century, the centralized power of the Ashikaga Shogunate collapsed, leaving the field open to anyone ambitious and powerful enough to make a grab for power. During the first half of the Sengoku period (approximately 1477-1560) there was massive consolidation as daimyo across Japan solidified their power bases and battled for land and resources. The lack of central government left individual clans to fend for themselves, and in the ensuing chaos many would rise and fall in epic battles that anyone familiar with the pop-culture representations of the Samurai in Movies and Anime would recognize.

Intro to Japanese History P13 - Sengoku Daimyo Who's Who

For the 13th episode of our Introduction to Japanese History series, we present a "Who's Who" of Daimyo of the later Sengoku period. We cover the big names of the Sengoku, the Daimyo that anyone who has an interest in the Samurai would have heard of, and is a primer for those who are new to the Samurai. Introduced in this podcast are Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Takeda Shingen, Uesugi Kenshin, and others.

Intro to Japanese History P14 - The Wars of Oda Nobunaga

From the 1550's until his death in 1582, Oda Nobunaga was involved in constant warfare. One by one, the major Daimyo of his era - the Imagawa, the Takeda, the Asai and Asakura and others - fell before his armies. This episode, we give a concise history of Nobunaga's ambition to unify the country under his rule, from the pivotal battle of Okehazama that first put him on the national stage, to his betrayal at the hands of Akechi Mitsuhide.

Intro to Japanese History P15 - Tokugawa & Toyotomi Unification

For our final Introduction to Japanese History series podcast, we cover the last part of the Sengoku period. We start with the assassination of Oda Nobunaga by Akechi Mitsuhide in Kyoto while all of his other generals are scattered about the country. Toyotomi (Hashiba) Hideyoshi gets back to Kyoto first and avenges Nobunaga's death, and the unification of Japan continues under him, and then ultimately under Tokugawa Ieyasu. We cover the events and battles of this period, as well as answer some listener Q&A about the Sengoku period.

Bibliography and recommended reading:

Aikens, C. Prehistory of Japan (Studies in Archaeology)
Academic Pr, September 1982

Arnesen, Peter. The Medieval Japanese Daimyo: The Ouchi Family's Rule of Suo and Nagato
Yale University Press (1979)

Barnes, Gina. The Rise of Civilization in East Asia
Thames & Hudson, July 1, 1999

Batten, Bruce. Gateway to Japan: Hakata in War And Peace, 500-1300
Univ of Hawaii Press, March 2006

Berry, Mary E. Hideyoshi (Harvard East Asian Monographs) Council on East Asian Studies, Harvard University (January 1, 1989)

Brown, Delmer (Editor). The Cambridge History of Japan, Vol. 1: Ancient Japan
Cambridge University Press, July 30, 1993

Brownlee, John. Crisis as Reinforcement of the Imperial Institution. The Case of the Jokyu Incident, 1221
Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 30, No. 2 (Summer, 1975), pp. 193-201

Conlan, Thomas. Friday, Carl. Currents in Medieval Japanese History: Essays in Honor of Jeffrey P. Mass
Figueroa Press (September 1, 2009)

Conlan, Thomas. In Little Need of Divine Intervention: Takezaki Suenaga's Scrolls of the Mongol Invasions of Japan
Cornell Univ East Asia Program (August 2002)

Durston, Diane. Old Kyoto: The Updated Guide to Traditional Shops, Restaurants, and Inns Kodansha USA; 2 edition (April 1, 2005)

Edwards, Walter. Event and Process in the Founding of Japan: The Horserider Theory in Archeological Perspective
Journal of Japanese Studies, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Summer, 1983), pp. 265-295

Farris, William Wayne. Heavenly Warriors: The Evolution of Japan's Military, 500-1300
Harvard University Asia Center, April 15, 1996

Friday, Karl. Hired Swords: The Rise of Private Warrior Power in Early Japan
Stanford University Press, March 1, 1996

Friday, Karl. Samurai, Warfare and the State in Early Medieval Japan (Warfare and History)
Routledge; New edition edition (December 29, 2003)

Friday, Karl. Teeth and Claws. Provincial Warriors and the Heian Court
Monumenta Nipponica Vol. 43, No. 2 (Summer, 1988), pp. 153-185

Grossberg, Kenneth. From Feudal Chieftain to Secular Monarch: The Development of Shogunal Power in Early Muromachi Japan
Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 31, No. 1 (Spring, 1976), pp. 29-49

Grossberg, Kenneth. Japan's Renaissance - The Politics of the Muromachi Bakufu
Cornell University, New York, 2001

Hall, John W. Government and Local Power in Japan 500-1700: A Study Based on Bizen Province
ACLS Humanities E-Book, August 1, 2008

Hudson, Mark. Ruins of Identity: Ethnogenesis in the Japanese Islands
Univ of Hawaii Press, March 2006

Ikegami, Eiko. Bonds of Civility: Aesthetic Networks and the Political Origins of Japanese Culture
Cambridge University Press, February 28, 2005

Imamura, Keiji. Prehistoric Japan: New Perspectives On Insular East Asia 
Routledge, October 24, 1996

Lamers, Jeroen. Japonius Tyrannus: The Japanese Warlord Oda Nobunaga Reconsidered Hotei Publishing (November 2001)

Mass, Jeffrey (Ed). Court and Bakufu in Japan: Essays in Kamakura History
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Mass, Jeffrey. Yoritomo and the Founding of the First Bakufu: The Origins of Dual Government in Japan
Stanford University Press; 1 edition (January 1, 2000)

Mass, Jeffrey. Lordship and Inheritance in Early Medieval Japan: A Study of the Kamakura Soryo System
ACLS Humanities E-Book (August 1, 2008)

Mason, Penelope. History of Japanese Art 
Published jointly by Prentice Hall and Harry N. Abrams, Inc. October 4, 2004

McCullough, Helen. The Tale of the Heike 
Stanford University Press; 1st edition (March 1, 1990)

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Vintage; Trade Paperback Edition edition (October 4, 1994)

Mishima, Yukio. Patriotism
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Souryi, Pierre. The World Turned Upside Down: Medieval Japanese Society (Asia Perspectives: History, Society, and Culture)
Columbia University Press (August 27, 2003)

Toby, Ronald. Review: Rescuing the Nation from History: The State of the State in Early Modern Japan Monumenta Nipponica Vol. 56, No. 2 (Summer, 2001), pp. 197-237

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Yamamura, Kozo. Imatani, Akira. Not for Lack of Will or Wile: Yoshimitsu's Failure to Supplant the Imperial Lineage
Journal of Japanese Studies Vol. 18, No. 1 (Winter, 1992), pp. 45-78

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Zollner, Reinhard. Review: The Sun Also Rises. Go-Daigo in Revolt
Monumenta Nipponica, Vol. 53, No. 4 (Winter, 1998), pp. 517-527


  1. Oh, yeah, that's right, we did think it was going to be about six. Ha. How wrong we were :)

    But I think in the end we did a good coverage of the periods...

    I like this overall summary post. Good idea.

  2. A bit late to comment but I just wanted to say it was a pleasure to listen to these podcasts, even on topics that I wouldn't normally read about (i.e. pre-9th century). Thanks again for all your hard work in putting these together!