Japan and East Asian Studies Podcasts

Let’s face it, there are a ton of podcasts out there on Japanese language, culture, history, current events, and Japan in general. Few of us have the time to dig through them all and sort out what’s what. The subgenres are also many: podcasts in Japanese, in Japanese for learning Japanese, in English for learning Japanese, about living in Japan, about Japan, etc.

Below, I’d like to provide a starting point for the latter type of podcast, emphasizing Japanese Studies itself, particularly series that are being released by and/or for scholars of Japan. These can provide a great foundation for learning more about Japan in general, particularly from experts in the field.

This list is based on an excellent chapter on podcasting as pedagogy by Tristan R. Grunow (Pacific University) entitled “Podcasting During the Pandemic and Beyond” in the Asia Shorts volume by the Association for Asian Studies: Teaching About Asia in a Time of Pandemic, edited by David Kenley.

Below, I will provide a short description of each podcast and its contents, including Japan-focused and East Asia-focused podcasts. Some podcasts are available on your typical podcast platforms and/or are hosted on their respective websites, so be sure to poke around based on your needs.

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Japan

 

Japan on the Record

Format: Interview
Average Length: 15-20 minutes
Genre: News, Current Events

Japan on the Record is a podcast hosted and produced by Tristan R. Grunow (Pacific University) where specialists from the Japanese Studies field react to current issues in the news and/or Japanese Studies field. Each episode, which drops roughly every 1-2 weeks, features a 1 on 1 interview (with the exception of special features, like a roundtable on #BlackInTheIvory). Topics have included accessibility, protests, racism, the Olympics, and more. Given its focus on current matters in the news, the podcast skews towards modern/contemporary subjects.

Japan Forum Podcast

Format: Interview
Average Length: 40-50 minutes
Genre: Publications, Research

Japan Forum Podcast is affiliated with the official journal of the British Association for Japanese Studies, Japan Forum. As a multidisciplinary journal of Japanese Studies that includes topics across the arts, humanities, social sciences, and more, the podcast also interviews specialists in the field on relevant topics and/or their recent works. The focus thus far has been heavily modern Japan, and some of the earlier episodes are a bit rough in quality. The podcast has eleven featured episodes since 2019, and seems to post roughly on a monthly basis.

Michigan Talks Japan

Format: Interview
Average Length: 40-60 minutes
Genre: Publications, Research, Academics

Michigan Talks Japan is a podcast produced by the Center for Japanese Studies at the University of Michigan. The podcast is hosted by cultural anthropologist Allison Alexy, who interviews scholars of Japan about their work, backgrounds, and the Japanese Studies field more generally. Guests are drawn from speakers for CJS, so they range widely in their expertise across time periods and fields. The podcast is organized into short “seasons,” with the first season containing 5 episodes and the second season now in progress. They also have a previous podcast series connected to CJS, the Japanese Studies Radio Hour (2016-2018), which is currently archived and had a similar format.

New Books in Japanese Studies

Format: Interview
Average Length: 50-60 minutes
Genre: Publications, Research

The New Books in Japanese Studies podcast is a subsection of the New Books Network, which is a consortium of podcast channels that introduce new scholarship to the public through interviews with authors. The podcast has been active since 2017 and covers a variety of time periods, fields, and topics. Episodes are roughly an hour long, as they delve deeply into the works discussed, and are posted on an irregular schedule because of the diversity of topics, which might fall into many different categories on the New Books Network. Listening is a good way to keep on top of the Japanese Studies field (and many others). There have been 30 episodes to date. Note that there is also a broader category of New Books in East Asian Studies as well.

The Meiji at 150 Podcast

Format: Interview
Average Length: 30-40 minutes
Genre: Publications, Research, History/Culture

The Meiji at 150 Podcast was also managed and produced by Tristan R. Grunow, and ran from 2017 to 2019. The podcast was created in conjunction with the Meiji at 150 project hosted at the University of British Columbia, which sponsored conferences, workshops, multimedia and pedagogy resources, and more related to the 150th anniversary of the Meiji Restoration. The podcast features interviews with specialists in Japanese history, art, literature, culture, and more, discussing their research and teaching connected to this moment of Japanese history. 

In keeping with the theme, the podcast is 150 episodes. There are several features that make this podcast stand out as easy to navigate and readily accessible, including an episode guide that allows you to search for interviews by author, theme, or topic, and full transcripts of 50-60 selected episodes. The Meiji at 150 Podcast is great for casual listening or formal use in the classroom, particularly in conjunction with the many other resources available on the project site.

Hokkaido 150

Format: Interview
Average Length: 15-40 minutes
Genre: Publications, Research, History/Culture

Hokkaido 150, also produced by Grunow, is follow-up to the Meiji at 150 Podcast, and complements the Hokkaido  at 150: Settler Colonialism and Indigeneity in Modern Japan and Beyond project, focusing on the 150th anniversary of the Japanese colonization of the island of Hokkaido, or Ainu Moshir as it was known to the Indigenous Ainu peoples. This podcast, no longer active, featured 11 episodes of interviews with scholars of Japan from various disciplines, discussing settler colonialism in Hokkaido, Ainu history past and present, and more.

History of Japan Podcast

Format: Documentary-style narrative
Average Length: 30-40 minutes
Genre: History/Culture

The History of Japan Podcast has been run by Isaac Meyer, a former PhD student specializing in modern Japan at the University of Washington, from 2013 to the present. Meyer pics a different topic from Japanese history each week and covers it in episodes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour long. Podcast episodes are straightforward narration that is engaging and well-researched. Each episode also includes show notes that link to related scholarship used to develop the episode, as well as visual aids like images and maps. At a whopping 374 episodes and counting, there’s a lot to dig into.

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East Asia

 

East Asia for All

Format: Co-hosted analysis
Average Length: 30-40 minutes
Genre: Pop culture, Media, History/Culture

East Asia for All is a podcast hosted by Melissa Brzycki (Monmouth University) and Stephanie Montgomery (St. Olaf College), scholars of East Asian Studies. The podcast focuses on digging deep into East Asian popular culture, from everyday understandings and reception to situating them in historical perspectives. They cover films, TV, literature, and many other aspects of pop culture. There are currently 9 episodes and 8 minisodes, and they drop sporadically, no doubt because both hosts are full-time professors. The production value is high and the topics fun, so hopefully more will come out before long. The website also features extensive reading lists for each episode and transcripts.

East Asia Now

Format: Interview, Lecture
Average Length: 15-60 minutes
Genre: Current events, History, Research

East Asia Now is a podcast developed by the Center for East Asian Studies at the University of Wisconsin—Madison. It explores the connections between East Asia and the United States through interviews, discussions, and lectures. The podcast grew out of a previous (now discontinued) project, TransAsia and the World, which ran from 2018 to 2019 and featured about 15 episodes on similar topics. East Asia Now picked up this thread in 2019 and has released 5 or 6 episodes in 2020, each about an hour long. The future posting schedule and/or plan for continuation is somewhat unclear. 

University of Chicago East Asian Studies Podcast

Format: Lecture
Average Length: 20-60 minutes
Genre: Current events, History, Research

The University of Chicago East Asian Studies Podcast ran between 2009 and 2014, featuring 38 episodes. Each episode features a recording of a lecture or presentation from their various East Asian Studies lectures series and events, some of which are available in both audio and video format. 

East Asia Hotspots

Format: Interview
Average Length: 20-40 minutes
Genre: Current events, Politics, Research

East Asia Hotspots is a podcast on contemporary politics, policy, and society in East Asia produced by East Asia National Resource Center at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. The podcast currently has three seasons starting from April 2020, with four episodes per season (the current season, #3), has two episodes. Guests are featured for interview-style discussions on modern East Asia. Each episode is anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes long, and transcriptions of each episode are available as a downloadable PDF.

Postcards from Asia

Format: Documentary-style narrative
Average Length: 60 seconds
Genre: History/Culture

Postcards from Asia (now under the larger rubric of Postcards from Abroad) is a podcast program produced at the University of Kansas. A collaboration between Kansas Public Radio and the Center for East Asian Studies, each episode is a 60-second-long snapshot of some facet of life in China, Japan, Korea, and Mongolia. There are just over 300 of these mini episodes, and on the website you can also access the transcripts that go with them.

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There are many more podcasts out there about Japan, from deep dives into history or popular culture to guides to everyday life while being an immigrant abroad. Hopefully the podcasts above give you a starting point to better understand current events and see what some of the latest scholarship is bringing to the table! Happy listening!

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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2 Responses to Japan and East Asian Studies Podcasts

  1. Akylina says:

    That’s an amazing list, Paula! Sometimes it’s really difficult to find exactly the type of podcast you’re looking for in the sea of podcasts, so thank you so much!

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