Meiji at 150 Podcast

In the Meiji at 150 Podcast, host Tristan Grunow (UBC) interviews specialists of Japanese history, literature, art, and culture.  Topics covered will range from the position of the Meiji Restoration and Meiji Period in each scholar’s research, to how they view the significance of the Restoration in Japanese and global history, and finally to how they teach the Meiji Period in their classrooms.  Follow us to hear about the recent research of prominent scholars of Japan along with their pedagogical approaches to one of Japan’s most transformative periods.

Click here to view the Meiji at 150 Podcast Episode Guide

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Episode 120 – Dr. Tristan Grunow (Yale University)


In this concluding episode of the Meiji at 150 Podcast series, Dr. Grunow joins Dr. Hitomi Yoshio (Waseda) to revisit the background and production of the series, to review the state of the field of Japanese studies around the world in 2019 as seen through the podcast, and to rethink the importance of the Restoration today, before discussing the pedagogical and scholarly benefits of podcasting. This episode was recorded live at Waseda University in Tokyo, Japan and made possible by the Top Global University Project.

Episode 119 – Dr. Xiaowei Zheng (University of California-Santa Barbara) & Dr. Robert Tierney (Illinois)


In this episode, Drs. Zheng and Tierney recount the political discourse of China and Japan at the turn of the 20th century, focusing on the influential translations and political writings of Nakae Chōmin. We discuss Nakae’s political writings, his influence on Chinese reformers including Liang Qichao, understandings of “popular rights” and “popular sovereignty” in Japan and China, and their legacy for state-society relations in both countries today.

Episode 118 – Dr. Ryosuke Maeda (Hokkaidō University)


In this episode, Dr. Maeda retraces the process of political centralization during the Meiji period, culminating in the establishment of the Imperial Diet in 1890. We discuss the emergence of national politics, competing political interests at different levels of society, and the impact of Japanese colonialism on national integration along with the idea of a “Long Meiji Restoration” (Transcript here).

Episode 117 – Dr. Paul Kreitman (Columbia University)


In this episode, Dr. Krietman uncovers the history of human waste in Tokyo, from early modern nightsoil collection to postwar sewage systems. We discuss the Edo nightsoil economy, impacts of infrastructural development and World War II, and municipal efforts to clean up the city leading up to the 1964 and 2020 Olympic games.

Episode 116 – Dr. Rachael Hutchinson (University of Delaware)


In this episode, Dr. Hutchinson traces the origins of many themes in contemporary Japanese video games to the Meiji Period. We discuss continuity in themes of Japanese identity and colonialism from Meiji literature to video games today, place video games into the context of cultural production, review representations of history in video games, and consider ways to use video games in the classroom to teach Japanese culture.

Episode 115 – Dr. Ayelet Zohar (Tel Aviv University)


In this episode, Dr. Zohar recounts the history of photography in modern Japan, detailing the contributions of Japanese and foreign photographers. We discuss the introduction of photography, the role of photography in the colonization of Hokkaidō, and Dr. Zohar’s recent work on representations of colonial memory.

Episode 114 – Dr. Aiko Takeuchi-Demirci (Stanford University)


In this episode, Dr. Takeuchi-Demirci resituates Japan’s place in the transnational history of prewar birth control movements through the life and activism of Ishimoto Shizue, known as the Margaret Sanger of Japan. We discuss the relationship between Ishimoto and Sanger, the position of birth control within the prewar feminist movement, Sanger’s controversial visit to Japan, and Ishimoto’s postwar political activities.

Episode 113 – Dr. ann-elise lewallen (University of California-Santa Barbara)


This episode previews a new podcast series called Hokkaidō 150, produced in conjunction with the “Hokkaidō 150: Settler Colonialism and Indigeneity in Modern Japan and Beyond” workshop hosted at UBC. In this episode, Dr. ann-elise lewallen (UCSB) reviews gendered aspects of the colonization of Hokkaidō and recounts Ainu women’s reaction and resistance to settler colonialism. We discuss Dr. lewallen’s book The Fabric of Indigeneity, the roles of women in Ainu society dating back to the 18th century, and Ainu women’s resistance to Japanese settler colonialism in the 19th century. Stay tuned for additional Hokkaidō 150 podcast episodes here:

Episode 112 – Dr. Hitomi Yoshio (Waseda University)


In this episode, Dr. Yoshio reassesses the category of the “woman writer” (joryū sakka) during the Taishō period, tracing the emergence of an interwar transnational women’s literature. We discuss the importance of Seito, the works of Tamura Toshiko, and Virginia Woolf’s reactions to Murasaki Shikibu’s The Tale of Genji, before talking about Dr. Yoshio’s translations of contemporary writer Kawakami Mieko.

Episode 111 – Dr. Oleg Benesch (University of York)


In this episode, Dr. Benesch surveys what happens to Japan’s medieval castles following the Meiji Restoration, highlighting how they stand for both continuity and change in modern Japan. We discuss the destruction of castles in the 1870s as relics of the feudal past before their re-appropriation by the military in the 1890s, connections between castles and reconstructions of Bushido in the prewar, and finally the rebuilding and repurposing of castles in the postwar for tourism.

Episode 110 – Dr. Tatiana Linkhoeva (NYU)


In this episode, Dr. Linkhoeva reinserts Russia into the Meiji Period and modern Japanese history more broadly, calling into question narratives of constant tension and conflict between Russia and Japan. We discuss the popularity of Russian literature and political thought in the Meiji period, revisit Meiji fears of Russian expansion, trace friendly relations in the interwar and postwar periods, and locate the origins of these false narratives in Cold War-era historiography.

Episode 109 – Dr. Paul Barclay (Lafayette College)


In this episode, Dr. Barclay reorients modern Japanese history to the perspective of the periphery, focusing on Japan’s first colony of Taiwan. We discuss Indigenous Taiwanese resistance to Japanese colonialism, the role of capitalism in Japanese imperial expansion, notions of “savagery” and “civilization” in Japanese colonial rule, and how changing perspectives to the periphery reshapes Japanese history.

Episode 108 – Dr. Susanna Fessler (University at Albany)


In this episode, Dr. Fessler chronicles the travel writings of Japanese who went overseas to North America and Europe during the Meiji period, noting how writers revived traditional forms of travel literature (kikō bungaku) to convey their new experiences. We discuss travelers’ reactions to unfamiliar cultures, the disappearance of travel literature over the course of the Meiji period, and continuities between the Tokugawa domestic leisure travel industry and Meiji overseas travel before discussing Dr. Fessler’s recent research on US Minister Resident to Japan Robert H. Pruyn.

Episode 107 – Dr. Ian Miller (Harvard University)


In this episode, Dr. Miller maps the contours of environmental history in Japan and charts how attention to the human interrelationship with the world around us reshapes our understanding of modern Japanese history. We rethink definitions of modernity in the Japanese context, discuss the environmental impacts of coal consumption in Meiji industrialization, and illuminate the history of electricity in Tokyo. (Transcript here).

Episode 106 – Dr. Patricia Sippel (Tōyō Eiwa University)


In this episode, Dr. Patricia Sippel surveys the field of environmental studies in Japan before sketching the environmental history of the Tokugawa period. We discuss Tokugawa flood control projects in the context of questions about early modern sustainability, unpack essentialized ideas of a unique Japanese connection to nature, and interrogate the environmentalist movement in Japan today.

Episode 105 – Dr. Miriam Wattles (University of California-Santa Barbara)


In this episode, Dr. Wattles sketches the political potential of artists and artistic production, from early manga artists in the Tokugawa period to activist artists today. We discuss early Meiji portraiture and changing women’s employments, editorial cartoons and manga critical of the government and society, and jail cartoons from an immigrant detention center outside Tokyo today.

Episode 104 – Dr. M. William Steele (International Christian University)


In this episode, Dr. Steele questions narratives of the Meiji success story by reviewing modern Japanese history from the bottom-up. We discuss how common people experienced and reacted to the events of the Restoration, locate lingering Edokko antipathy for the Meiji government along with sympathy for the Tokugawa, evaluate commoner agency in the Restoration, and finally review examples of resistance to Westernization. (Transcript here).

Episode 103 – Dr. Catherine Phipps (University of Memphis)


In this episode, Dr. Phipps revisualizes the Meiji era through a global lens, complicating narratives of Meiji Japan “following” or “catching up” to the West and reinserting Japanese developments into global processes. We discuss recent commemorations of the Meiji Restoration sesquicentennial around the world, rediscover commercial ties between Japanese special trading ports and the Asian mainland, and question when Japan officially “opened.”

Episode 102 – Dr. Dan Orbach (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)


In this episode, Dr. Orbach revisits prewar Japanese military disobedience starting on the eve of the Meiji Restoration. We discuss the shishi of the Bakumatsu years, the Taiwan Expedition and samurai rebellions in the 1870s, the assassinations of Queen Min in 1895 and Zhang Zuolin in 1928, and finally the wave of domestic terror and military coups in the 1930s. (Transcript here).

Episode 101 – Dr. Kirsten Ziomek (Adelphi University)


In this episode, Dr. Kirsten Ziomek highlights the diversity of the prewar Japanese empire by surveying native reactions to Japanese colonialism in four locations: Hokkaidō, Taiwan, Micronesia, and Okinawa. We discuss Japanese administrative adaptations to local conditions, the scholarly advantages of using non-traditional sources including oral interviews, pictures, and material objects, the agency of native colonial subjects, and imperial tours to Tokyo.


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The Meiji at 150 Podcast is hosted, produced, and edited by Tristan Grunow, with editorial assistance from Joshua Linkous. All music is arranged and performed by Tristan Grunow. Transcripts by Kelly Chan. Website constructed and maintained by Tristan Grunow.