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Samurai Archives Japanese History Podcast


Follow your hosts on a trek into Japanese history, from ancient Japan to the end of the Samurai and all points in between - culture, warfare, literature, and interviews. Simply stated, our mission is to bridge the gap between the popular and the academic, and to bring the world of academic Japanese history accessible to a wider audience through discussion of topics and authors in an informative but informal manner. We encourage those listeners who want to know more to seek out works by the historians and authors we reference and interview, and to contribute to the conversation. Conversely, we hope scholars can view us as a way to reach a broader, non-specialist audience and raise the bar for general understandings of Japanese history. The Official Podcast of the Samurai Archives Japanese History page.

Please check us out on Patreon, and consider supporting the podcast.  Thanks!

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Podcast Frequently Asked Questions

1. Suggestions/How about topic X?

We absolutely welcome suggestions and topic ideas, and we have a list. Just keep in mind that we can't tell you when or if we'll get to it. There are a few reasons we have to pick and choose topics that we tackle:

A. We're all full time doing something else. Until a rich benefactor bankrolls this whole production, we do this during (not much) free time. Some of us don't have the time to explore any topics beyond what we're currently researching, so ideas that are a little too far away from that may not work.

B. Some great ideas are just impossible due to lack of sources and a lack of existing scholarship. Over the millennia, documents get lost, burned, looted, and trashed. Sometimes there just aren't any extant documents or information and what actually happened has been lost to history. Or maybe it exists in some mountain temple in Niigata, but hasn't been examined by scholars yet. You get the point. The best we could do would be a discussion about what might have happened, but per point A, no guarantees that will happen. It really depends on the topic/subject.

C. Interests matter. If a topic falls outside of the interest or specialty of everyone, it probably won't happen. On the bright side, that's when we can take the opportunity to interview other people with those specialties or interests. So if it's not something we'd tackle, sometimes we can find someone who does.

If we try to tackle something that is constrained by A, B, or C, it results in weak episodes, and can (or will) tick off people with that interest. So the cost/benefit ratio is just not worth it.

2. Audio Quality Stuff

Up to about early 2013 the episodes were done live in Honolulu, and because there is no winter, buildings for the most part are shoddy third world contraptions with no insulation or soundproofing (I'm looking at you, University of Hawaii). So that's pretty much the main reason why the sound quality was so bad. That and the old digital recorder had a problem with the left speaker. Equipment has been replaced, but otherwise we're at the mercy of skype. Also, since this is all out of (my) pocket, I can't really afford to get super high tech with it. I'd like to get mics and/or a soundboard I could plug into the digital recorder, but that will probably have to wait until the Patreon income reaches that financial goal. I'm a software guy, not a hardware guy, so I do what I can with what I have - and thus spend hours and hours on post production.

3. Format Stuff

Mainly our format is to pick one of three formats: 
1. A specific research interests one of us has, and talk about it. 
2. One or two journal articles with an interesting topic to introduce and talk about. 
3. Some sort of event/conference/presentation that one or more of us attended. 
Ideas that fall into one of those three are the most likely to get done sooner rather than later.

Everyone involved in the podcast is free to do one-off type episodes or change the format as they wish - interview a third party, write a "scripted" individual episode, team up with another person and do an episode, etc. It's sort of rare because of time constraints. The Bonus Episodes are an example of "going off format". And with all episodes, if a person wasn't there for the recording, they have nothing to do with it. That should be obvious, but sometimes people don't get it, so there you go. The members of the podcast are much more of a confederation than a team. Sometimes person A is around, sometimes person B, sometimes person C, and sometimes only A and C or B and C, etc. 

I like to expand the format whenever I can and as much as possible, and I'd like to do more of that as time and ability permits. Some people prefer discussion, some people prefer scholarly treatments, some people prefer philosophical meanderings on Japanese history; I try to address all that when I can. I don't like being locked into one format.

Also, we don't like to "date" the episodes. Preferably if someone listens to an episode recorded in 2014 in 2022, it's still relevant, and doesn't include a lot of references to current events, the date, etc. Each episode should be considered a standalone episode, with very little impact on the preceding and following episodes.

Are you going to do any narrative history episodes like the XYZ podcast?

At least one. More if possible. The sheer volume of reading and research and time that goes into it is staggering. We don't like to half-ass that sort of thing like some other podcasts out there that crank out lots of episodes but with little substance. If we're going to do it, we want to do it right.

4. How much work goes into the podcast? How hard can it be?

Well, depends on a few things. If the topic is a research topic someone is already working on, it's a lot easier, and essentially becomes an interview with that person. Topics based on journal articles basically just require reading that article, and maybe one or two related to get a good foundational base. That plus any prior knowledge. Bigger topics take more time, effort, and reading.

The number one thing that requires the most time and effort is editing the audio. Conservatively it takes about 3-5 times as long to edit an episode as the episode is long. So for every hour of audio, it takes an additional 3-5 hours to go through and edit it all into a coherent and clean episode. This is a big reason why we're currently only doing one episode per month.

5. How can I support the podcast/forum/website/blog?

The Samurai Archives has been around for 18 years. I've always tried to keep pace with the technology, so that's why there is so much stuff. But doing so takes $$$. So I've dutifully paid out of pocket for these 18 years, scraping together funds from the Amazon links, the T-shirt shop, etc. But anything above and beyond that income comes right out of my pocket. SO, help is greatly appreciated. I've set up a Patreon account that is at this point finally paying for the podcast. If you check out the site, you'll see the financial goals that I've set, as well as the little perks you can get for donating. And like I always say, even 1$ an episode helps - As things progress, I can tick off each financial goal, and every time that happens I'll be able to continue improving the podcast. 

So please take a look, and consider contributing. It's a pretty easy process, and you have full control over how much and how often you contribute:

You can also toss out a positive review on iTunes and help get the word out. You don't even have to write anything. You can just click the stars, and bam, all done.

If you have any questions not covered here, feel free to contact us.