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A History of Japan

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A history of the people of Japan, from the prehistoric Jomon period to the modern era. WARNING: This podcast occasionally touches on subjects of human sexuality, suicide, violence, and torture.

A history of the people of Japan, from the prehistoric Jomon period to the modern era. WARNING: This podcast occasionally touches on subjects of human sexuality, suicide, violence, and torture.


United States


A history of the people of Japan, from the prehistoric Jomon period to the modern era. WARNING: This podcast occasionally touches on subjects of human sexuality, suicide, violence, and torture.






The Rise of the Fujiwara

As Emperors Junna and Nimmyo take the throne respectively, a powerful Kuge clan takes steps to become the most powerful in all the nation. If you'd like to see the crest of the Fujiwara Clan, as well as portraits of Fujiwara Otsugu and the Emperors Junna and Nimmyo, check out the supplemental post! Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/AHistoryOfJapan)


The Taira and Minamoto Clans

In this episode, we will examine the origins and development of the two samurai clans who would come to dominate the later Heian Period and eventually vie with one another for control of the nation. For pictures of the crests of these clans, as well as a map of the Kantō, check out the supplemental post! Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/AHistoryOfJapan)


A Tale of Two Courts

Emperor Heizei takes the throne and things swiftly take a turn for the worse. After he abdicated and his brother Emperor Saga became Tennō, however, he would decide that he may not have been as ready to retire as he believed... For a portrait of Emperor Saga and a map that highlights Yamato Province, check out the supplemental post! Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/AHistoryOfJapan)


The Life and Times of Emperor Kammu

In this episode, we will take a short break from the narrative and examine the reign of Confucian problem-solver Emperor Kammu, arguably the most effective sovereign of the Heian Period. To see a few pictures of reconstructions of Kammu-Tennō's new capital, check out the supplemental post! Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/AHistoryOfJapan)


The First Shōgun

In this episode we'll explore the career of Otomo Otomaro, who is believed to be the first Seiitai-Shōgun, as well as Sakanoue Tamuramaro and their subsequent adventures in Tōhoku. We'll also discuss the Emishi and the strategies the Yamato armies used to incorporate them into the emperor's sphere of influence. If you'd like to see an ink drawing of Sakanoue Tamuramaro as well as the grave site of infamous Emishi leader Aterui, check out the supplemental post! Support the show...


Kūkai's Big Journey

In this episode we turn our attention to another Buddhist Monk who traveled to China and returned with new Sutras, new rituals, and even founded a new sect. Kūkai brought new esoteric practices to Japan, many of which continue to be performed today. If you'd like to see some very large statues of Kūkai, and maybe want to read the Mahavairocana Sutra for yourself, check out the supplemental post! Support the show on Patreon! Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/AHistoryOfJapan)


Saichō's Big Journey

In this episode, we will join Saichō, an important Buddhist reformer in the 800s, as he travels to China, returns to Japan, and proceeds to change the face of Japanese Buddhism forever. For a picture of Saicho, photos of the temple in China where he studied, check out the supplemental post! (You can also find a link to an English translation of the Lotus Sutra if you want to read it for yourself!) Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/AHistoryOfJapan)


Another Fresh Start

In 794, Emperor Kammu succeeded in moving the imperial court to the shiny new capital of Heian-Kyō. In this episode, we will explore the consequences of that decision as well as the decisions the Tennō made in the latter part of his reign. For a video describing some of the traditional construction techniques which would have been employed in the construction of the capital, as well as a recreation of the Rajōmon gate, check out the supplemental post!


Season 5 Announcement



Nara Folk Tales - BONUS

In this episode, we'll explore some of the extant folk tales from the Nara Period which come from the Fudoki accounts.


Selections from the Man'yoshu - BONUS

In this special bonus episode, we'll explore the poetic talents of various individuals from the Nara Period, some of whom we know and some who will be new to us today. Check out the supplemental post for links to more Man'yoshu poems!


Emperor Kammu's Big Moves

Emperor Kammu took the throne as the first sovereign of Japan who descended from Baekje stock. He had big plans for the nation - intensifying the war against the Emishi, building a new capital and, when that one failed, building a new capital in a different place. For a beautiful picture of Emperor Kammu, as well as pics of cool scale models of both Nagaoka-kyo and Heian-kyo, check out the supplemental post!


Tōhoku Troubles

The reign of Emperor Kōnin was off to a rocky start when his Empress was accused of practicing witchcraft to subvert the state. Prince Yamabe, originally passed over for the office of Tennō because of his Baekje ancestry, now comes once more to the foreground of succession debates. Meanwhile, in Tōhoku, an imperial army was about to meet with utter disaster at the hands of the Shiwa Emishi. For a map of the Tōhoku region, check out the supplemental post!


The Reign of Emperor Kōnin

With Empress Shōtoku gone, the court quickly acted to remove Dōkyō and his cronies from power, then turned their eyes toward the critical issue of succession. Their choice for the next Tennō was the elder Prince Shirakabe, whose reign, while more stable than that of Shōtoku-Tennō's, was still fraught with scandal, military catastrophe, and intrigue. For a picture of Emperor Kōnin, check out the supplemental post!


The Reign of Empress Shōtoku

New reign, new name. Empress Kōken returns to the Chrysanthemum Throne as Empress Shōtoku and sets about removing potential rival claimants and showing favor to Dōkyō, the priest who had healed her years before. However, Dōkyō was not just a humble clergyman, but an ambitious noble who passed the favors forward to his family members in the Yuge clan and seems to have set his eyes on an office even higher than Daijo-Daijin... For a picture of a statue of Wake Kiyomaro, as well as a beautiful...


Fujiwara Troubles

The conflict between Fujiwara Nakamaro and retired Empress Kōken comes to a head as both sides make their opening moves in a dangerous game that resulted in open rebellion. Can Fujiwara Nakamaro find a way to maintain his grip on power, or will the retired Empress triumph over this ally-turned-enemy? For a battle diagram of the conflict, check out the supplemental post!


The Short But Eventful Reign of Emperor Junnin

With his chosen sovereign now placed securely on the throne, Fujiwara Nakamaro probably thought he was about to enjoy the height of his political influence. There was only one problem: the former sovereign, Empress Kōken, did not believe that her retirement should prevent her from continuing to govern the nation regardless of the Chancellor's wishes. To see an informative map covering the contemporary An Lushan Rebellion in Tang China, and to see the tomb of Emperor Junnin, check out the...


Tachibana Troubles

Dissatisfied with the new status quo, Tachibana Naramaro decides to take matters into his own hands and overthrow his cousin Fujiwara Nakamaro. Will he succeed in this power grab against the increasingly powerful Nakamaro, or will he meet the same fate of so many others who dared to challenge him? For pictures of Empress Komyo, Empress Koken, and Fujiwara Toyonari, check out the supplemental post!


Emperor Shōmu's Big Moves

Desperate to find a solution to the many troubles which had plagued his realm since he took the throne, Emperor Shōmu commissioned new temples to be constructed across the Kansai region and attempted to move the capital several times. Meanwhile, Empres Kōmyō and Crown Princess Abe increasingly took up the burden of governance with the help of their trusted relative Fujiwara Nakamaro. For pictures of Todaiji, the Daibutsu statue, and other great projects of Emperor Shōmu, check out the...


Kyūshū in Rebellion

The imperial court hoped that Fujiwara Hirotsugu would cool his heels in Kyūshū and stop undermining the Chancellor. Instead, he launched an armed rebellion with the help of the discontented locals of his island, who were still recovering from the lingering effects from the epidemic. For an artistic depiction of Fujiwara Hirotsugu as well as a helpful battle diagram, check out the supplemental post!