A bounty of medieval symposia

Premodernists, particularly those who focus on history, sometimes feel gloomy about the state of premodern Japanese studies in the U.S., where a number of large graduate programs have shrunk, disappeared, or fundamentally changed in emphasis in the past two decades. Some of us have even been known to eulogize the field, as if the heart […]

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The Soul of Japan

I’m teaching a survey course on premodern Japanese history this semester. It focuses on medieval and early modern Japan, and I wanted the first paper to deal with a big question in the secondary literature and the second paper to deal with a similarly big issue by looking at primary documents (in translation). After perusing […]

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Update on Honnôji

Professor Matthew Stavros of the University of Sydney (seen in the third photo below) wrote in response to my post on the discovery of roof tiles from Honnôji at an excavation site in Kyoto. Matthew, who is a specialist in medieval Kyoto and has participated in archaeological digs in the city, reports that archaeologists have […]

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Reflecting on a semester

We’ve been talking about our syllabi for a while here at the Frogs, but we haven’t done a lot of post-semester commentary. I had two Asia courses this semester: Early Japan and Problems and Issues of Contemporary China. The China course went like gangbusters, and the books worked surprisingly well as a set. The Hessler […]

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Summer Reading Note: Ninja

I’ve finished Stephen Turnbull’s Ninja: the True Story of Japan’s Secret Warrior Cult, and I have good news for current and prospective graduate students: there is still an immense amount of work to be done on ninja and ninjutsu as historical phenomena. The early chapters cover “non-traditional” tactics in samurai warfare, defined here as any […]

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1590s Military Technology Gaps

I recently ran across two separate references to the Hideyoshi invasions of Korea, both of which credited Hideyoshi’s initial success to firearms. That didn’t ring true for a few reasons, the first of which is that I’m a professional Japanese historian and didn’t remember ever seeing that sort of assertion before. My impression was that […]

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