As the Second World War began to reach its conclusion, the victorious allies turned their thoughts towards the peace that would follow. The Potsdam Declaration, in calling for Japan’s surrender, had declared that “stern justice [would] be meted out to all war criminals.” Gary J Bass’s Judgement At Tokyo is an engrossing study of the main trial which resulted: the International Military Tribunal in the Far East. Across some 800 plus pages, he charts the establishment, conduct, and aftermath of the Tokyo Trial, looking at the judges’ internal deliberations, the court proceedings, and their reception in Japan and beyond. In doing so, he seeks to understand the trial’s implications for post-war East Asia, even into the 21st century. 

In 1804, a girl was born in Wakayama, the capital city of Kishū domain in mid-Japan. Named Koume (“little plum”), she was born into a family of low-ranking samurai. Her father was a scholar and teacher, as in turn would be her husband, and indeed her son. Although she was a skilled painter and poet, she was not destined to be a significant historical actor: she married, she brought up a child, and she gained some note in the local community for her art. While Kishū domain played a small but significant part in the reforms of the early Meiji period, as a woman in a low-ranking family, Koume had no opportunities to shape these policies. What makes her noteworthy, however, is the diaries that she kept: a vivid record of the daily life of her family and the community in which she lived. 

A shift of perspective offers the opportunity for new insights into a familiar topic. Try a different standpoint, turn the map into a different orientation, and new patterns emerge. This is what Sheila Miyoshi Jager aims to do for East Asian history in The Other Great Game, by moving Korea from the margins of the narrative of the 19th century to its center. Jager argues that the question of Korea’s position in the new regional order was one of the most significant questions of the period. Indeed, as the title suggests, she positions it as the counterpart to the original “Great Game”—a roughly contemporaneous rivalry between the United Kingdom and Russia across Central Asia. She goes further to stress that Korea was not just a prize to be fought over, but that Korean politics too was an important part of this story. 

The Tokaido is the most famous route in Japan, linking its two major population centers: Kanto (essentially Tokyo and its suburbs) and Kansai (Osaka and Kyoto). Between the 17th and 19th centuries, the Daimyo, local rulers of Japan’s regions, were required to spend one year out of every two at the capital (then named Edo), and so had to cross the country on a regular basis. The Tokaido was the main route for those coming from the West, making it the central artery of early modern Japanese travel.

How can one design a city to be more like Tokyo? This is the challenge that Jorge Almazan and Studiolab have set themselves in studying what they describe as “one of the most vibrant and liveable cities on the planet”. Their method involves categorizing Tokyo’s subparts into different types of development, and charting the emergence over the last 150 years of a series of distinctive styles of urban space. By doing this, they not only hope to explore the city for the interested reader and traveler, but also to draw out a series of practical lessons for the urban planners of the future.

In the early 2000s, a group of anthropologists formed the Matsutake Worlds Research Group (MWRG). Their object of collaborative study was to be the matsutake mushroom and the ways in which humans interact with it. 15 or so years might seem a long time for a scholar (let alone a team of them) to study a single mushroom; nevertheless their project is ongoing, having produced two research monographs so far: Anna Tsing’s The Mushroom At The End Of The World and now Michael Hathaway’s What A Mushroom Lives For, as well as a series of essays. There promises to be at least one more book yet to come. 

It is widely accepted that Japan is a country deeply in touch with the natural world. From wall hangings of cranes and turtles, to carp banners flapping in the breeze, haiku about a frog in an old pond, and folk tales about foxes and badgers, Japanese arts and culture are suffused with images of nature. Moreover, in the present day, tourism is sold using images of cherry blossoms, autumn colors, and monkeys bathing in hot springs.