Notes: Episode 23, The Meiji Restoration (Part 1)

As with every show, I’ll list any corrections or clarifications here. If there’s anything I’ve overlooked, please contact me by email or in the comments and I’ll edit the notes to reflect the new information.


19:42 – The incident I was thinking of was an American ship, not British, which in 1837 tried to return three Japanese sailors who had shipwrecked on the coast of Oregon. The ship was turned away by Japanese authorities. Granted, the return of the sailors was more or less an excuse to try and open up trade, which I can understand being irksome for Japanese officials, but the fact of the matter is that the sailors were not allowed to return to Japan under sakoku isolation.

24:25 – In fact, Kobe beef as it’s known today was only established in 1943. Eating beef was very much a function of the Meiji Restoration, being seen as potentially one of the reasons Americans specifically tended to be physically strong. Cattle before the restoration was primarily a work animal, only eaten when it had outlived its usefulness as a beast of burden.

28:09 – The word in Japanese is taisei and means “administration” on a practical level, but can also refer to the order or system of administration – the implication being that not only was the Emperor asking the shogun to act as a viceroy of sorts, but the shogun was also expected to create the rules of the society which he would be administrating.

43:34 – I didn’t realize while recording, but we joked about gunboat diplomacy and then drifted past it without any sort of explanation or definition. Essentially it’s the practice of negotiating international policies while simultaneously demonstrating (usually) naval power, creating an implied threat if the stronger party doesn’t get what they want. This can be as “innocuous” as simply having a battleship docked within view (though this is still rather threatening), or as ham-fisted as Perry’s approach in destroying several buildings as demonstration of the potential consequences. As Perry’s demonstration was markedly more blatant than most examples of the tactic, I would speculate that he didn’t believe that the Japanese would understand an implied threat of naval force.

49:10 – The policy James and I are referring to is the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, which stated that while the Western hemisphere was under the United States’ sphere of influence and any incursion into it would be seen as aggression against the United States, the government of the US would in return not interfere with either European colonies or internal European affairs. While partially meant to extract the Americas from European influence, the policy was also designed to protect the United States from what it saw as the instability of a post-Napoleonic Europe. As mentioned, the Monroe doctrine was not an insulation from cultural or economic trade, but merely diplomatic exertion of force.

51:41 – “Cancon”, for any who don’t know, is a requirement that Canadian radio and television channels broadcast content that meets a minimum amount of Canadian content (sometimes as high as 40%). This requirement is put in place by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commision (CRTC) and is designed to generate and protect Canadian arts and entertainment, which is considered by the CRTC to be particularly important with the cultural juggernaut that is the United States looming south of the border. The percentages, and even the effectiveness of the program, are often criticized.

56:03 – Sorry, Arkansas. It was nothing personal.

1:09:06 – Koumei’s personal name was Osahito, but this would almost never have been used.

1:11:02 – More specifically, The Last Samurai mixes elements of the Boshin war with the Satsuma Rebellion of 1877. The movie actually takes place during the rebellion, but borrows very heavily from the Boshin war for concepts and events. I checked the Wikipedia article for a refresher on the plot, and noticed that in the “See also” section, it has a link to a page called “White savior narrative in film”. I leave this information here without further comment.

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