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 93 – Dr. Rebecca Copeland (Washington University-St. Louis)


In this episode, Dr. Copeland documents several cases of “unruly women” who disrupt Japanese social norms, from mythical goddess Izanami to popular activists and female writers in the Meiji and Taishō Periods like Kishida Toshiko and Miyake Kaho, and finally to contemporary writer Kirino Natsuo. We discuss formalist versus historicist literary analysis, questions of agency and individuality in Meiji women’s cultural production, and the importance of translation in the field of literary studies.

Episode 92 – Dr. Junichi Isomae (Nichibunken)


In this episode, Dr. Isomae charts the changing importance and role of religion in Japanese society following the Meiji Restoration, tracing the emergence of public and private spheres influenced by the introduction of Protestantism. We discuss the dichotomy of belief and practice in the context of popular support for prewar State Shinto and the continuing sacredotal roles of the emperor system, the prevalence of religious rituals and customs in Japanese society, and the popularity of new religions in Japan today.

Episode 91 – Dr. Susan Burns (University of Chicago)


In this episode, Dr. Susan Burns positions the history of leprosy in Japan amidst changing conceptions of disease and medical practice in the Tokugawa and Meiji periods. We discuss premodern understandings of disease as karmic retribution, government responses to infectious disease, the geographical distribution of medical institutions, and geospatial stigmas associated with the afflicted.

Episode 90 – Dr. Gavin Campbell (Dōshisha University)


In this episode, Dr. Campbell reviews the Meiji Restoration from the perspective of American cultural history, situating Japan within American interests in the Pacific. We question narratives of a “Clash” of Japanese and American cultures, and discuss Dr. Campbell’s work on Japanese toilets and the material history of Japanese men’s fashion.

Episode 89 – Janice Nimura


In this episode, Janice Nimura recounts the remarkable story of the women of the Iwakura Mission, three young girls sent to America in 1872 for a decade to learn about Western culture. We discuss the background of the women’s presence on the Mission, the women’s experiences in the US as seen in diaries and personal correspondence, and the lives they led and impact they had in Japan upon their return.

Episode 88 – Dr. Colin Jaundrill (Providence College)


In this episode, Dr. Jaundrill complicates the easy association between Bushidō, samurai, and Japan in the contemporary popular imagination. We discuss military reforms dating to the 1850s and into the Meiji Period, highlight the impact of military conscription on the former samurai and on commoners, challenge the continuity of Bushidō in the prewar military, and question the re-appropriation of Bushidō for the contemporary business world.

Episode 87 – Dr. Deborah Shamoon (NUS)


In this episode, Dr. Deborah Shamoon redraws depictions of the shōjo, or adolescent women, in Japanese cultural production in the Meiji and Taishō period, drawing connections between literature and new understandings of adolescent women’s roles in society. We discuss the emergence of new types of female characters in Meiji literature by Futabatei Shimei, Miyake Kaho, and Mori Ōgai, views of teenage girls as threatening in works by Tayama Katai and Tanizaki Junichirō, and changes in shōjo culture as seen in shōjo manga and the popularity of Misora Hibari in the postwar.

Episode 86 – Dr. Mark Ravina (Emory University)


In this episode, Dr. Ravina reconsiders received narratives of the Meiji Restoration, challenging ideas of the Restoration as a sharp break and reviving the importance of antiquity to early Meiji leaders. We compare the Meiji Restoration to earlier examples of foreign threat and domestic reform in premodern Japan, question concepts of “modernization” and “Westernization” commonly applied to the Meiji Period, and place the Restoration among the global revolutions of the 19th century.

Episode 85 – Dr. Shi Lin Loh (National University of Singapore)


In this episode, Dr. Loh re-examines the history of science in modern Japan and charts Japan’s singular experiences of radiation, from the development of Japanese radiology during the Meiji Period, to the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and finally to the Triple Disaster in Fukushima. We discuss the introduction of X-ray technology, the lives and work of Japanese scientists Nishina Yoshio and Nagai Takashi, and Dr. Loh’s contribution to a documentary film about radiation in Fukushima.

Episode 84 – Dr. David Ambaras (North Carolina State University)


In this episode, Dr. Ambaras retraces the intimate and illicit networks of regional mobility in East Asia to rethink nation-centric narrative of modern Japanese and Chinese history. We discuss how the Meiji Restoration reshaped the East Asian Sinosphere, the lives of traders, women, and children living in Japan’s “imperial underworlds,” and how the upending of the East Asian order once again in 1945 impacted transnational families.

Episode 83 – Dr. Donna Brunero (National University of Singapore)


In this episode, Dr. Brunero places treaty ports in Japan leading up to and after the Meiji Restoration into an East Asian regional perspective, comparing life in treaty ports in Japan and China. We discuss cultural transformations and cultural hybridity in treaty ports, question popular visions of the treaty ports that render non-Westerners invisible, and reread newspaper coverage of the Meiji Restoration in the Chinese treaty port press.

Episode 82 – Dr. Jordan Sand (Georgetown University)


In this episode, Dr. Sand maps the urban change of Tokyo following the Meiji Restoration, highlighting material and spatial changes along with continuities and discontinuities in Tokyo planning from the 1880s to the present. We discuss the Ginza Bricktown, the politics of urban planning in the late 19th century, and disastrous moments of urban disruption in 1923 and 1945 before fast-forwarding to the present to talk about Shitamachi culture in Tokyo, our own favorite Tokyo neighborhoods, and to speculate on how the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will reshape the city once again.

Episode 81 – Dr. Carol Gluck (Columbia University)


In this episode, Dr. Gluck reconsiders recent scholarly treatments of the Meiji Restoration by prominent historians in Japan, challenging narratives of a “simple Meiji”. We question whether or not “Meiji has lost its mojo” in Japan today in light of lackluster commemorations of Meiji 150, discuss the commonalities and connections between the Meiji Restoration and the 19th century world, and talk about the importance of the Restoration in shaping Japanese history.


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New Episodes Every Tuesday and Friday!

Upcoming Guests:

David Wittner (Utica)
Noell Wilson (Mississippi)
Jolyon Thomas (Penn)
Jennifer Prough (Valparaiso)
Lionel Babicz (Sydney)
Hiromi Sasamoto-Collins (Edinburgh)
Danny Orbach (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

More to Come!

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. Website constructed and maintained by Tristan Grunow.