Episodes

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01Deer Cry Hall - The Essay20180423Japan's uneasy embrace of modernity, exemplified by a controversial 19th-century building.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

Christopher Harding begins his exploration of some of the darker sides of Japan's recent history by reflecting on popular doubts and misgivings about mainstream modern life through the story of a building: Deer Cry Hall. The rise and fall of this single, iconic piece of late nineteenth century architecture represented Japanese concerns about foreignness and fakery in the new world their modernizing leaders were creating.
Producer: Sheila Cook.

01The Essay20180423
02Happy Families - The Essay20180424Chris Harding explores contrasting models of 'family' in turn-of-the-century Japan.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

Delving further into the darker sides of Japan's recent history, Christopher Harding explores two starkly contrasting models of "family" in turn-of-the-century Japan. One was a neo-Victorian idyll, epitomised by the Emperor serving as the benevolent head of a national family; the other was symbolised by a woman who joined a group of anarchists plotting to assassinate the Emperor and by feminists who opposed "the heavy investment of powerful people in this familial ideal."
Producer: Sheila Cook.

02The Essay20180424
03Rebranding The Buddha - The Essay20180425How Buddhism was reimagined in the service of Japanese militarism.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

Christopher Harding examines how Buddhism was reimagined in early 20th century Japan in the service of militarism and nationalism. At risk of terminal decline and blamed for an economic and imaginative stranglehold on the population, its standing was transformed by the former Buddhist priest turned philosopher, Inoue Enryo, who turned "philosophical somersaults to find a basis in Buddhism for war".
Producer: Sheila Cook.

03The Essay20180425
04The Art Of The Heist - The Essay20180426How a famous crime is also a metaphor for 1960s Japan.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

Christopher Harding tells the story of a famous crime, the robbery of hundreds of millions of yen in 1968 - which also serves as a metaphor for the theft of postwar promises of liberty and openness in 1960s Japan. The country's "radical moment" was purloined in the interests of rapid economic growth and embrace of an American alliance.
Producer: Sheila Cook.

04The Essay20180426
05Japan Refusal - The Essay20180427Does mental illness in Japan indicate a rejection of a narrow modernity?

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

Christopher Harding asks if mental illness in Japan may actually be a sign of a rejection of a narrowly-conceived modernity? From the neurasthenia of the great novelist Natsume Soseki to the "hikikomori" or acute social withdrawal of the 1990s, he questions whether these conditions may actually be a rational response to a tightly governed society: "their deep disorientation may be the result of living in a rapidly-changing society and possessing an almost pathological degree of clear-sightedness" This is the final episode in a series of essays in which he explores the doubts and misgivings which have beset the rapid modernisation of mainstream life in Japan.
Producer: Sheila Cook.

05The Essay20180427Radio 3 presenter Tom McKinney celebrates French composer Olivier Messiaen.

Essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond

Radio 3 presenter Tom McKinney celebrates a composer who's particularly important to him: the Frenchman Olivier Messiaen - one of the most individual musical voices of the twentieth century, whose music opened up a new world of listening for Tom.

This is the first of five editions of The Essay in which Radio 3 classical music presenters celebrate composers whose 'secret admirers' they are.
Coming up from Tuesday to Friday:
Kathryn Tickellon Percy Grainger
Andrew McGregor on Gavin Bryars
Penny Gore on Leos Janacek
Kate Mollesonon Eliane Radigue.

Does mental illness in Japan indicate a rejection of a narrow modernity?

Christopher Harding asks if mental illness in Japan may actually be a sign of a rejection of a narrowly-conceived modernity? From the neurasthenia of the great novelist Natsume Soseki to the "hikikomori" or acute social withdrawal of the 1990s, he questions whether these conditions may actually be a rational response to a tightly governed society: "their deep disorientation may be the result of living in a rapidly-changing society and possessing an almost pathological degree of clear-sightedness" This is the final episode in a series of essays in which he explores the doubts and misgivings which have beset the rapid modernisation of mainstream life in Japan.
Producer: Sheila Cook.