Self Intro: Rod Wilson

I am a graduate student in East Asian history at Stanford University and since the fall of 2003 a research student with the Architecture Department at Hosei University in Tokyo. My dissertation research is focused on the environmental and social history of Tokyo’s Sumida River from the 1850s to the 1950s.

On this blog I imagine most of my postings will relate to Tokyo, its history, and its environment as well as to the perennially fascinating and frustrating debates about Japan’s role in the Asia Pacific War. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu!

The China History Group Blog

This is the new China history group blog at I’m in the process of putting together a great group of students/scholars of China’s history for this blog and will make an announcement on the other FrogInAWell blogs and on the domain’s home page. Come back in spring of 2005.

UPDATE: The China history group blog will be launching this month, June 2005! Stay tuned for more info!

Self Intro: K. M. Lawson

My name is Konrad Mitchell Lawson and later this month I will be starting a PhD in history in the United States. I am interested in issues related to treason, traitors, and collaboration in the modern history of East Asia.

During my masters degree, I studied International Affairs and have long had an interest in Sino-Japanese relations. Since then my interests have broadened to include Korea. On this blog, I think most of my postings will be related to modern Japanese history but also how Japan fits into the larger regional and global history of the 20th century. I am most familiar with the 大正 and 昭和 periods of modern Japanese history.

I will mostly be posting in English but will frequently include quotes from various sources in Japanese, occasionally with translation. Feel free to comment in Japanese or English. For those who want to read more, my personal blog can be found here.

Welcome to The Korea History Group Blog

Welcome to 우물 안 개구리, the newest addition to Frog in a Well. This new academic group blog is primarily focused on the study of the history of Korea, broadly defined, but some of our contributors will be writing from the perspective of other fields.

This is the sister blog to 井の中の蛙, or Frog In a Well – Japan, focusing on Japanese history, as well as 井底之蛙, or Frog In a Well – China, focusing on Chinese history. The weblog’s name 우물 안 개구리 is originally from a Chinese proverb that comes from the writings of Zhuangzi, one of the founders of what we now call Daoism (In the Burton Watson translation of his Basic Writings the story behind this proverb can be found in Section 17 “Autumn Floods” on pages 107-8). A frog tries to convince a turtle to join him in his wonderful well, of which he is a master. After trying to get in and getting stuck, the turtle withdraws and tells the frog instead of how deep and wide the sea is. The frog is left dumfounded. The proverb, which grew out of this Daoist fable, has come to represent a state of limited vision and even ignorance — of not being able to see outside one’s own immediate environment.

Our collaborative weblogs here begin from this position of humility, and we look forward to a useful and lively exchange of ideas and perspectives on the study of Korean history.

Our starting contributers are each graduate students or professors studying Korea and have agreed to share some of their ideas, discoveries, and other comments online here. I will invite each of them to introduce themselves so you may learn a little more about their respective interests and background and will then add them to the list of authors in the side bar. Information on how to contact us is also available in a link from the sidebar.

Let us hope that this new weblog, which will eventually be a multilingual Korean and English weblog, will not only make a useful contribution to online discourse about Korean history but also catches the interest of other academics who may have yet made the plunge to share their thoughts and research directly online. For those who are interested, below is a more detailed description of the goals, audience, and content for this weblog.


1) CONTENT – To bring together graduate students and scholars who study Korea on a single group blog to share information about their own research, passing discoveries they have made, and an opportunity to discuss and critique current research and scholarship in our field. In addition to our own research, we may end up posting links to other articles, write reviews of books read or presentations attended, make comments on interesting passages found in the archives, and information on useful resources available to those interested in studying Korea etc.

This is primarily a weblog about the history of Korea but we will be welcoming contributors from other fields or who are working between them. Some of us already dabble in literature, anthropology, and other areas and all of us can benefit from rich interdisciplinary interaction. Also see below under transnational.

2) WEBLOG AUDIENCE – My greatest hope is that our audience will include our peers – other scholars and students studying Korea who will find an interest in what we write and will post comments and criticism to our postings, or even better: will be motivated to continue the discussion online by creating their own weblog or at least makie an effort to bring their ideas online in some format so that everyone has access to it.

Too much of the best research by leading scholars in our field continues to be accessible to only small number of us who can consult expensive online databases and large libraries. Time and time again I have heard academics and students complain about the poor quality of content on the internet related to our fields of research. Until we contribute ourselves, there is little to be gained from such dismissals.

Thus ultimately, while I hope blogs like this will attract scholars and students of history and Korea specifically, the Frog in a Well-Japan and Frog in a Well-China blogs have already shown that there is a large audience of non-specialists out there who are interested in reading our postings regularly and post comments and questions, even when such postings are of a detailed and academic nature.

3) MULTILINGUAL – It is our hope to grow to include a number of contributors who are native speakers of Korean or students/scholars who are studying Korean history in Korea proper or other academic communities which are deeply connected with Korean language scholarship. Such contributors will be welcome to post in Korean and thus visitors who can only read English may at some point not be able to enjoy all the postings on this site. The idea is for contributors to use the language they feel most comfortable with when they write or respond to our postings, despite the sacrifice in readability which this will create for our non-Korean reading audience. The original idea behind Frog in a Well, and indeed the reason I chose this Chinese proverb was the frustration I felt at the fact that many of us studying in the US or outside of East Asia are often ignorant of the newest developments in the scholarship by those active in the Korean language academic communities outside of their own narrow topics of interest. Most of us recognize that there is a growing amount of high quality research in the Korean language that we don’t have the time to read or simply don’t know about.

It is the hope of many of us that Frog in a Well blogs will eventually have many contributors who are working in a number of academic communities, scholars based in Japan, China, Taiwan, and Korea etc. who know what is going on and who are interested in coming together on a weblog with students/scholars studying the history of this region elsewhere. There needs to be more of this interaction and this blog is one way to do this – but only if students/scholars whose native language is Korean feel comfortable posting and commenting in the language they work best in. Having said that, some contributors (such as is still unfortunately the case for myself) may have no or limited Korean language ability.

4) CROSS-POSTING AND TRANSNATIONAL – Many of us are working on areas that do not comfortably fit into just “Korea”. Postings here may include some which are transnational but might be of strong interest to those who want to read about “Korean history”. We will settle for the broadest and most inclusive definition possible for our postings. While Frog in a Well may eventually have a specific blog dedicated especially to transnational history focused on the Asian/Asia-Pacific region, for now, postings that may be of interest to readers of the Japan or China blogs that are hosted here at Frog in a Well, may be cross-posted at both blogs so that readers who regularly visit just one can find our postings.

Our homepage displays our Frog in a Well logo, based on a painting by Joseph Y. Lo, who has kindly given us permission to use a modified version of it.

In addition, I have prepared two buttons that you are free to use when linking to us:



The Japan History Group Blog

Welcome to the Japan History Group Blog, one of three history group blogs which will kick off the new “Frog in a Well” project. On this blog a group of students and scholars will post entries related to the history of Japan or other topics relevant to its study. The blog will be multilingual with postings in both Japanese and English. There is the possibility that other languages will be added later if we can make it possible for readers to easily configure what languages they wish to view. The frequency of postings will not likely be very high, especially while there are only a few people involved in each blog. Because participants are mostly going to be graduate students and professors, they all have limited free time to post their musings. Over time, as more join the project, postings will hopefully become more frequent.

The primary purpose of all the blogs at and the project as a whole is to promote more communication between those studying and researching in places like the United States with those in other places such as Japan. For this purpose, I will try to built a strong group of participants from a number of different schools and countries. I am hoping that blogs like this, multilingual bulletin boards such as the East Asia History Forums, and small research groups organized around specific interests will help promote more international awareness and cooperation in the field of history. I am hoping that the readers of this blog will eventually be as multinational as its authors will be. Even amongst those who work hard to keep “up to date” on scholarship in several languages and countries, it is often hard to know what new and important research is out there or what questions and issues are commanding the most attention.

The “Frog in a Well” project and its blogs are named after an old Chinese proverb (井底之蛙), variations of which can also be found in the Japanese and Korean languages. The story originally appears in the writings of Zhuangzi, one of the founders of the Daoist religion (In the Burton Watson translation of his Basic Writings the story can be found in Section 17 “Autumn Floods” on pages 107-8). A frog tries to convince a turtle to join him in his wonderful well, of which he is a master. After trying to get in and getting stuck, the turtle withdraws and tells the frog instead of how deep and wide the sea is. The frog is left dumfounded. The proverb which grew out of this Daoist fable has come to represent limited vision and even ignorance—of not being able to see outside one’s own immediate environment.

The Japanese equivalent of this in its full version is 「井の中の蛙大海を知らず」 which has an entry in the「日英故事ことわざ辞典」translated as “The frog in a well is ignorant of the (vast) sea.” The dictionary suggests two equivalents to this proverb in English, one of them being the cryptic, “They think a calf a muckle beast that never saw a cow.” The 4th edition of the 広辞苑 gives the following definition, 「考えや知識が狭くて、もっと広い世界があることを知らない。世間知らずのこと、見識の狭いことにいう。」However, in the case of the blogs here at, this old saying is simply meant to indicate that we are all limited in our perspectives, and can all benefit from sharing them.