Samurai Ākaibusu Fōramu (the Samurai Archives Forum)
A really cool thing just happened the other day.
So when I first tried to learn a little bit about Japanese history, one of the only credible online resources was a website called Samurai Archives. This was way back to 2002. I was brought there by Google, Yahoo, or whatever we used back then[i]. The site featured articles on famous samurai, convenient timelines of certain eras that were great for perspective, and a fairly dynamic forum. I checked the site from time to time over the years to come.
Years later, on a whim I searched for “Japanese History” in iTunes – pretty sure nothing would be there – when suddenly I saw an old familiar face: the Samurai Archives podcast[ii]. (OK, the podcast itself wasn’t a familiar face, but you know what I mean.) Anyhoo, the SA Podcast immediately became a staple of my core podcast routine.
Eventually, I would start JapanThis! and when the subject matter became more history-centric, I was again found myself drawn to the Samurai Archives site. In particular, I came to the forum. The forum is where people asked questions (sometimes very obscure questions). Ideas were hashed out, knowledge was shared, and epic nerd fights broke out. And while I wasn’t a contributor to that community, I was definitely lurking and learning; in time, our paths would cross and I am proud to call some of the movers and shakers at SA my friends.
This Is Touching and All, But You Said Something Cool Happened
Right. So, the SA forum was powered by an ancient version of phpBB. The last time I used phpBB was c. 2004 before the collision of chat clients with the rise of MySpace gave birth to “modern” social media. I don’t know the version history of phpBB, but the forum had become a dinosaur. You couldn’t even “like” or “favorite” something, for FFS[iii].
So the cool thing that happened was this: the Samurai Archives Forum was updated.
Actually, it hasn’t just been updated. It’s been reborn and this couldn’t have happened at a better time. Japan is already seeing record numbers of foreign tourists. Interest in Japanese history in the English speaking[iv] world is clearly increasing and the build up to the 2020 Olympics is going to guarantee a boom in the Edo Period. I also guarantee you that interest in the Sengoku Period and Kamakura Period will also grow due to their connection to Edo.
The new forum is starting completely from scratch here.
I’m a little giddy because the new forum assigns various ranks[v]. One of those ranks is sign-up order. Old school peeps may remember Trillian. You had serious cred on Trillian if you had a number that showed you were an early adopter. I’m user #5 on the new SA forum and I’m pretty proud of that.
The old forum isn’t gone, though. It was active for about 10-15 years and had attracted 220,118 Japanese history fans. Now it’s archived here. It’s footprint on the web is so strong that you can generally search directly from Google, “samurai archives forum” plus whatever term you’re looking for and it will come up.
Anyways, this is great news both for the site and for Japanese history lovers everywhere. You can connect with like minded people, ask questions, help others by answering questions, and engage in all sorts of discussions about your favorite aspects of J-history. It’s also a fantastic place to share resources and book recommendations. And while the old forum is archived, this new forum let’s you make your own mark on the future of fandom, discussion, and research of Japanese History. I hope to be more active there myself since the new forum is so much more user friendly. So, see you there soon!
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[i] My web mail address at the time was definitely Yahoo. But if memory serves me well, MSN Messenger and AIM reigned supreme, but a dying framework called BBS was still the center of online communities. Daring, but ultimately “iffy” attempts at social networking services came and went. I’m looking at you, Friendster and MySpace. RIP, y’all.
[ii] Their 15 part series, Intro to Japanese History, is pretty much required listening. I myself go back from time to time and re-listen because they really pack a lot of interesting stuff from various angles. The art history, military history, and archaeology expertise that comes from some of the hosts is the sort of stuff that is often looked over. Another episode entitled Military History Lesson: Strategy Vs Tactics – A Sengoku Example, is also required listening. I’m not a big fan of samurai warfare and military affairs, but in a martial culture like old Japan, you have to have a certain amount of understanding of it. Before this episode, I thought strategy and tactics were synonyms. Boy, was I wrong! Some of the knowledge I took away from this episode helped me understand the nature of castles and castle towns a little better, too.
[iii] C’mon, I “like” and “favorite” shit left and right like a monkey with an iPhone.
[iv] And by “English speaking world” I don’t mean countries where English is the native language, I mean countries where people can read English language books or communicate via SNS in English.
[v] The old forum had ranks, too.