Show Notes

Isaac Meyer’s History of Japan Podcast!!

Japan post-isolation

Tokugawa rule. Can historical economics be interesting? The introduction of tightly-controlled Dutch trade in Japan preceeding the Meiji restoration. Western opposition. Fighting over western presence and figuring out how much Western influence Japan can tolerate while still being Japanese. The return of the Emperor.

Europeans in Japan

Recognizing the relative militrary reputations of Britain, France, Germany, and the US at the time. French military advisors in irl Japan during the Meiji restoration. Jules Brunet as the closest real-life analogue to Tom Cruise’s Algren. Spheres of influence.


War basically between and within the Samurai class. Samurai with side jobs. Disbanding the social class with the swords. Samurai civil war armor and its increasing disutility as firearms improve. The point of the elaborate headpieces.

Samurai with a Katana c. 1860
Samurai with a Katana c. 1860 Felice Beato, public domain

Saigō Takamori

The irl analogue for Ken Watanabe’s character. Trying to fight Korea. Accidentally creating revolutionaries. Takamori’s last stand after his forces ran out of bullets. “The Last Samurai” and the ease of Japanese punning.

Saigo Takamori before 1877
Saigo Takamori before 1877 Edoardo Chiossone, public domain

Foreign samurai

English-born “Samurai” and how/whether a foreigner could actually become a real samurai. The (probably) African-born “samurai” Yasuke, working as personal bodyguard for daimyō Nobunaga.


Creating your warrior narrative after your period of real marshall utility. Analogy with European chivalry. The carrying of Bushido culture from Samurai time into WWII Japan. The circumstances where ritual suicide begins to seem like a reasonable option.


Arqebuses all over the joint before the period of the film. Samurai gun-kata. Wooden cannons, howitzers, and artillery classification.


  • empire, 
  • firearms, 
  • history, 
  • honor codes, 
  • swords, 
  • weapons, 
  • western imperialism