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The Mongol invasions of Japan took place in 1274 and 1281 CE when Kublai Khan (r. 1260-1294 CE) sent two huge fleets from Korea and China. In both cases, the Japanese, and especially the samurai warriors, vigorously defended their shores but it would be typhoon storms and the so-called kamikaze or 'divine winds' which sank and drowned countless ships and men, thus saving Japan from foreign conquest. The whole glorious episode, which mixed divine intervention with martial heroism, would gain and hold mythical status in Japanese culture forever after.
The Mongols had already sucked half of China and Korea into their huge empire, and their leader Kublai Khan now set his sights on Japan. Kublai was the grandson of Genghis Khan and had founded the Yuan dynasty of China (1271-1368 CE) with his capital at Dadu (Beijing), but just why he now wanted to include Japan in his empire is unclear. He may have sought to conquer Japan for its resources. The country did have a long-standing reputation in East Asia as a land of gold, a fact recounted in the West by the Venetian traveller Marco Polo (1254-1324 CE). Kublai Khan may have wished to enhance his prestige or eliminate the trade between that country and his great enemy in southern China, the Southern Song Dynasty (1125-1279 CE). The conquest of Japan would also have brought a new and well-equipped army into the Khan's hands, which he could have used to good effect against the troublesome Song. The invasions may even have been some sort of revenge for the havoc that the wako (Japanese pirates) had been causing to East Asian coastlines and trade ships. Whatever his reasons, the approach was clear: diplomacy first, warfare second.
The Great Khan sent a letter to Japan in 1268 CE recognising its leader as the 'king of Japan' and expressing a desire to foster friendly relations but also demanding tribute be paid to the Mongol court with the ominously veiled threat that the use of arms was, the Khan hoped, to be avoided. A Chinese ambassador, Zhao Liangbi, was also sent to Japan in 1270 CE, and he stayed there for a year to foster some sort of understanding between the two nations. Further letters and ambassadors were sent by the Khan up to 1274 CE, but all were blatantly ignored as if the Japanese did not quite know how to respond and so decided to sit silently on the diplomatic fence.
The Kamakura Shogunate had ruled Japan since 1192 CE, and the regent shogun Hojo Tokimune (r. 1268-1284 CE) was confident he could meet any threat from mainland Asia. Troops were put on alert in the Dazaifu fortress and military base in northwest Kyushu where any invasion seemed most likely to land, but the Khan's diplomatic approach was rebuffed both by the Japanese emperor and the shogunate. The lack of subtlety in the Japanese response to the Khan's overtures may have been down to their lack of experience in international relations after a long period of isolation and by the bias of their principal contact with mainland Asia, the Southern Song, and the low opinion exiled Chinese Zen Buddhist monks had of their Mongol conquerors.
The First Invasion (Bunei Campaign)
The Khan amassed a fleet of some 800-900 ships and dispatched it from Korea to Japan in early November 1274 CE. The ships carried an army of some 16,600-40,000 men, which consisted of Mongols and conscripted Chinese and Koreans. The first Japanese territory to receive these invaders was Tsushima and Iki Islands on 5 and 13 November respectively, which were then plundered. The Mongol attacks had met stiff resistance on Tsushima, where the defenders were led by So Sukekuni, but were successful largely thanks to superior numbers. The defensive force at Iki, led by Taira Kagetaka, was equally valiant, but they were eventually obliged to make a last stand within Hinotsume castle. When no reinforcements came from the mainland, the castle fell.
The invaders employed more dynamic battlefield strategies using well-disciplined & skilful cavalry which responded to orders conveyed by gongs & drums.
After a brief stop at Takashima Island and the Matsuura peninsula, the invasion fleet proceeded to Hakata Bay, landing on 19 November. The large bay's sheltered and shallow waters had suggested to the Japanese this would be the exact spot chosen by the Mongol commanders. Prepared they may have been, but the total Japanese defence force was still small, between 4,000 and 6,000 men.
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The Mongols won the first engagements thanks to their superior numbers and weapons - the powerful double-horn bow and gunpowder grenades fire by catapults - and their more dynamic battlefield strategies using well-disciplined and skilful cavalry which responded to orders conveyed by gongs and drums. The Mongols had other effective weapons, too, such as armour-piercing crossbows and poisoned arrows. In addition, the Japanese were not used to combat involving mass troop movements as they favoured allowing individual warriors to pick their own single targets. Rather, the Japanese warriors operated in small groups led by a mounted samurai skilled at archery and a number of protective infantry armed with a naginata or curved-blade pole-arm. Another disadvantage was that the Japanese tended to use shields only as protective walls for archers while the Mongols and the Korean infantry typically carried a shield of their own as they moved around the battlefield. The samurai did have certain advantages over the enemy as they wore iron-plate and leather armour (only the Mongol heavy cavalry wore armour) and their long sharp swords were used much more effectively than the Mongol short sword.
Curiously, 18 days after first landing on Japanese soil and despite creating a bridgehead at Hakata Bay, the invaders did not push on deeper into Japanese territory. Perhaps this was because of supply problems or the death of the Mongol general Liu Fuxiang, killed by a samurai's arrow. It may also be true that the whole 'invasion' was actually a reconnaissance mission for the second larger invasion yet to come and no conquest was ever intended in 1274 CE. Whatever the motive, the invaders remained by their ships for the night, withdrawing out into the bay for safety on 20 November. This was a fateful decision because, in some accounts, a terrible storm then struck which killed up to a third of the Mongol army and severely damaged the fleet. The attackers were thus obliged to withdraw back to Korea.
Kublai Khan then returned to diplomacy and sent another embassy to Japan in 1275 CE demanding, once again, tribute be paid. This time the shogunate was even more dismissive in its reply and beheaded the Mongol ambassadors on a beach near Kamakura. The Khan was undeterred and sent a second embassy in 1279 CE. The messengers met the same fate as their predecessors, and the Khan realised only force would bring Japan into the Mongol Empire. However, Kublai Khan was occupied with campaigns in southern China against the Song, and it would be two more years before he turned his attention once again to Japan.
Meanwhile, the Japanese had been expecting an imminent invasion ever since 1274 CE, and this period of high suspense made a great dent in the government's treasury. Apart from keeping the army on standby, fortifications were built and massive stone walls erected around Hakata Bay in 1275 CE which measured some 19 kilometres (12 miles) in length and were up to 2.8 metres (9 ft) high in places. Intended to permit archers on horses, the inner sides of the Hakata walls were sloped while the outer facing was sheer. If a second invasion was to come, Japan was now much more prepared for it.
The Second Invasion (Koan Campaign)
Kublai Khan's second invasion fleet was a whole lot bigger than the first one. This time, thanks to his recent defeat of the Song and acquisition of their navy, there were 4,400 ships and around 100,000 men, again a mix of Mongol, Chinese, and Korean warriors.
Once again, the invaders hit Tsushima (9 June) and Iki (14 June) before attacking Hakata Bay on Kyushu on 23 June 1281 CE. This time, though, the force split and one fleet attacked Honshu where it was rebuffed at Nagato. Meanwhile, at Hakata, the Japanese put their defences to good use and presented a stiff resistance. The fortification walls did their job, and this time the attackers could not establish themselves permanently on the beach, resulting in much shipboard fighting. Eventually, after heavy losses, the Mongols withdraw first to Shiga and Noki Islands and then to Iki Island. There they were harassed by Japanese ships making constant raids into the Mongol fleet using small boats and much courage. Many of the later stories of samurai heroics come from this episode of the invasion.
On 14 August a typhoon destroyed most of the Mongol fleet, wrecking ships that had been tied together for safety against Japanese raids.
The Khan then dispatched reinforcements from southern China, perhaps another 40,000 men (some sources go as high as 100,000), and the two armies gathered to make a combined push deeper into Japanese territory, this time selecting Hirado as the target in early August. The combined fleets then moved east and attacked Takashima, the battle there taking place on 12 August.
Fierce fighting raged for several weeks and the invaders likely faced shortages of supplies. Then, yet again, the weather intervened and caused havoc. On 14 August a typhoon destroyed most of the Mongol fleet, wrecking ships that had been tied together for safety against Japanese raids and smashing the uncontrollable vessels against the coastline. From half to two-thirds of the Mongol force was killed. Thousands more of the Khan's men were washed up or left stranded on the beaches of Imari Bay, and these were summarily executed, although some Song Chinese, former allies of Japan, were spared. Those ships that survived sailed back to China.
The storm winds that either sunk or blew the Mongol ships safely away from Japanese shores were given the name kamikaze or 'divine winds.' as they were seen as a response to the Japanese appeal to Hachiman, the Shinto god of war, to send help to protect the country against a vastly numerically superior enemy. The name kamikaze would be resurrected for the Japanese suicide pilots of the Second World War (1939-1945 CE) as they, too, were seen as the last resort to once again save Japan from invasion.
It seems, too, that the Mongol ships were not particularly well-built and so proved much less seaworthy than they should have been. Modern marine archaeology has revealed that many of the ships had especially weak mast steps, which is something absolutely not to have in the case of a storm. The poor workmanship may have been due to Kublai Khan rushing to get the invasion fleet together as many of the ships in the fleet were of a variety without a keel and highly unsuitable for sea voyages. Further, Chinese ships of the period were actually renowned for their seaworthiness, so it seems the demand for a huge fleet in a short space of time resulted in a risk that did not pay off. Nevertheless, the crucial factor in the fleet's demise was the Japanese attacks which had forced the Mongol commanders to have their large and unwieldy ships lashed together using chains. It was this defensive measure which proved fatal, come the typhoon.
The Mongols would also fail in their attempts to conquer Vietnam and Java, but after 1281 CE, they did then establish a lasting peace over most of Asia, the Pax Mongolica, which would endure until the rise of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644 CE). Kublai Khan never gave up on the diplomatic route either and continued to send unsuccessful missions to persuade Japan to join the Chinese tribute system.
The Japanese, meanwhile, may have seen off the two invasions they called Moko Shurai but they fully expected a third to come at any time and so kept an army in constant readiness for the next 30 years. Fortunately, for them, the Mongols had other challenges to face along the borders of their massive empire and there would be no third time lucky in the attempt to conquer Japan. The great significance of the invasions to the Japanese people is here summarised by the historian M. Ashkenazi:
For the Japanese of the thirteenth century, the threatened Mongol invasion was, historically, and politically, a major watershed. It was the first time the entire military might of Japan had had to be mobilized for defence of the nation. Until then, even foreign wars were little more than squabbles that involved one or another faction within Japan - essentially domestic affairs. With the Mongol invasion, Japan became exposed to international politics at a personal and national level as never before. (188-9)
The Buddhist monks and Shinto priests who had long been promising divine intervention were proved right when the storms destroyed the Mongol fleets, and this resulted in an upsurge in both religions' popularity. One area of life where the invasions are curiously absent is in Japanese medieval literature but there is one famous scroll painting depicting the invasion. Commissioned by a samurai warrior who fought during the invasion, Takezaki Suenaga, it is known as the Mongol Scroll (Moko Shurai Ekotoba) and was produced in 1293 CE to promote Takezaki's own role in the battle.
Unfortunately for the Japanese government, though, the practical costs of the invasions would have serious consequences. An army had to be kept in constant readiness - Hakata was kept on alert with a standing army until 1312 CE - and payment to soldiers became a serious problem leading to widespread discontent. This was a war of defence not conquest and there were no spoils of war like booty and land to reward the fighters. The agricultural sector was also severely disrupted by the defence preparations. Rivals to the Hojo clan, who ruled the Kamakura Shogunate, began to prepare their challenge to the political status quo. Emperor Go-Daigo (r. 1318-1339 CE), eager for the emperors to regain some of their long-lost political power, stirred up a rebellion which resulted in the eventual fall of the Kamakura Shogunate in 1333 CE and the installation of the Ashikaga Shogunate (1338-1573 CE) with its first shogun Ashikaga Takauji (r. 1338-1358 CE).
This content was made possible with generous support from the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation.
History and Memory: The Mongol Invasions of Japan
This lesson uses the Mongol invasions of Japan as a case study in historiography. Students develop and apply important historical thinking skills. In particular, they distinguish and examine secondary and primary sources, including written, visual, and archaeological sources, and recognize the benefits and challenges of each in forming a historical narrative.
The lesson can be used as part of (1) the first unit in a world history course to introduce students to reasons for studying history, to a comparison of history and memory, and to protocols/routines for studying, analyzing multiple sources, asking questions, writing, etc. throughout a world history course or (2) the study of East Asia in World History Era 5, 1000-1500 CE. This lesson is differentiated for middle and high school use.
Prior to this lesson, introduce students to and engage them in annotated reading. This strategy encourages close reading by having students identify main ideas, highlight/underline important details, and add comments on or questions about the reading.
Jōmon period (c. 14,000–1000 BC ) Edit
The Jōmon were the first settlers of the Japanese archipelago. The Jōmon period is the time in Japanese prehistory between c. 14,000–1000 BCE    during which Japan was inhabited by a hunter-gatherer culture, which reached a considerable degree of sedentism and cultural complexity. The name "cord-marked" was first applied by the American scholar Edward S. Morse, who discovered sherds of pottery in 1877 and subsequently translated it into Japanese as jōmon.  The pottery style characteristic of the first phases of Jōmon culture was decorated by impressing cords into the surface of wet clay and is generally accepted to be among the oldest in East Asia and the world. 
Near the end of the Jōmon period (c. 1000 BC ), villages and towns became surrounded by moats and wooden fences due to increasing violence within or between communities. Battles were fought with weapons like the sword, sling, spear, bow and arrow. Some human remains were found with arrow wounds.
Yayoi period (1000 BC – 300 AD) Edit
The Yayoi period is the Iron Age era of Japan from 1000 BC to 300 AD.    Japan transitioned to a settled agricultural society.   There was a big influx of farmers from the Asian continent to Japan. The Yayoi culture flourished from southern Kyūshū to northern Honshū. The rapid increase of roughly four million people in Japan between the Jōmon and Yayoi periods are partially due to migration and due to a shift from a hunter-gatherer to an agricultural diet with the introduction of rice cultivation. 
Bronze goods and bronze-making techniques from the Asian mainland reached the Japanese archipelago as early as the 3rd century BC. It is believed that bronze and, later, iron implements and weapons were introduced to Japan near the end of this time (and well into the early Yamato period). Archaeological findings suggest that bronze and iron weapons were not used for war until later, starting at the beginning of the Yamato period, as the metal weapons found with human remains do not show wear consistent with use as weapons. The transition from the Jōmon to Yayoi, and later to the Yamato period, is likely to have been characterized by violent struggle as the natives were displaced and assimilated by the invaders with their vastly superior military technology.  The most well-regarded theory is that present-day Yamato Japanese are descendants of both the Indigenous Jōmon people and the immigrant Yayoi people. 
Around this time, San Guo Zhi first referred to the nation of "Wa (Japan)". According to this work, Wa was "divided into more than 100 tribes", and for some 70 or 80 years there were many disturbances and wars. About 30 communities had been united by a sorceress-queen named Himiko. She sent an emissary named Nashime (ja:難升米, Nashonmi in Chinese) with a tribute of slaves and cloth to Daifang in China, establishing diplomatic relations with Cao Wei (the Chinese kingdom of Wei).
By the end of the 4th century, the Yamato clan was well established on the Nara plain with considerable control over the surrounding areas. The Five kings of Wa sent envoys to China to recognize their dominion of the Japanese Islands. The Nihon Shoki states that the Yamato were strong enough to have sent an army against the powerful northern Korean state of Goguryeo (of the Three Kingdoms of Korea). Yamato Japan had close relations with the southwestern Korean kingdom of Baekje. In 663, Japan, supporting Baekje, was defeated by the allied forces of Tang China and the southeastern Korean kingdom of Silla, at the Battle of Hakusonko in the Korean peninsula. As a result, the Japanese were banished from the peninsula. To defend the Japanese archipelago, a military base was constructed in Dazaifu, Fukuoka, on Kyushu.
Yamato period (250–710 AD) Edit
This period is divided into the Kofun and Asuka period. Ancient Japan had close ties with the Gaya confederacy and Baekje on the Korean Peninsula. Gaya, where there was an abundance of naturally occurring iron, exported abundant quantities of iron armor and weapons to Wa, and there may have even been a Japanese military post there with Gaya and Baekje cooperation. [ citation needed ] . According to the Gwanggaeto Stele, Silla and Baekje were client states of Japan.  The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences investigated the stele and reported that it reads, "Silla and Baekje were client states of Japan". 
In 552, the ruler of Baekje appealed to Yamato for help against its enemies, the neighboring Silla. Along with his emissaries to the Yamato court, the Baekje king sent bronze images of Buddha, some Buddhist scriptures, and a letter praising Buddhism. These gifts triggered a powerful burst of interest in Buddhism.
In 663, near the end of the Korean Three Kingdoms period, the Battle of Baekgang (白村江) took place. The Nihon Shoki records that Yamato sent 32,000 troops and 1,000 ships to support Baekje against the Silla-Tang force. However, these ships were intercepted and defeated by a Silla-Tang fleet. Baekje, without aid and surrounded by Silla and Tang forces on land, collapsed. Silla, now viewing Wa Japan as a hostile rival, prevented Japan from having any further meaningful contact with the Korean Peninsula until a far later time. The Japanese then turned directly to China.
Nara period (710–794 AD) Edit
In many ways, the Nara period was the beginning of Japanese culture as we know it today. It was in this period that Buddhism, the Chinese writing system, and a codified system of laws made their appearance. The country was unified and centralized, with basic features of the later feudal system. Succession disputes were prevalent during this period, just as in most of the later periods.
Much of the discipline, weapons, and armor of the samurai came to be during this period, as techniques of mounted archery, swordsmanship, and spear fighting were adopted and developed.
The Nara period saw the appointment of the first Sei-i Tai-shōgun, Ōtomo no Otomaro by the Emperor in 794 CE. The shōgun was the military dictator of Japan with near absolute power over territories via the military. Otomaro was declared "Sei-i Taishōgun" which means "Barbarian-subduing Great General".  Emperor Kanmu granted the second title of Sei-i Tai-shōgun to Sakanoue no Tamuramaro for subduing the Emishi in northern Honshu. 
Heian period (794–1185 AD) Edit
The Heian Period marks a crucial shift, away from a state that was united in relative peace against outside threats to one that did not fear invasion and, instead, focused on internal division and clashes between ruling factions of samurai clans, over political power and control of the line of succession to the Chrysanthemum Throne.
With the exception of the Mongol invasions of the 13th century, Japan did not face a considerable outside threat until the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century. Thus, pre-modern Japanese military history is largely defined not by wars with other states, but by internal conflicts. The tactics of the samurai of this period involved archery and swordsmanship. Nearly all duels and battles began with an exchange of arrow fire and then hand-to-hand combat with swords and daggers.
The Imperial family struggled against the control of the Fujiwara clan, which almost exclusively monopolized the post of regent (Sesshō and Kampaku). Feudal conflicts over land, political power, and influence eventually culminated in the Genpei War (1180–1185). This was a national civil war between the two most powerful clans: the Taira and Minamoto clans.  They fought for control over the declining Imperial Court in Kyoto. Each side had a large number of smaller allied clans. The Battle of Dan-no-Ura was a major naval battle between these clans on April 25, 1185. Minamoto had a fleet of 300 ships and Taira had 400 to 500 ships. It resulted in a decisive victory for the Minamoto clan and the destruction of the Taira clan.  The end of the Genpei War brought the end of the Heian period and the beginning of the Kamakura period.
This period is marked by the departure from relatively small or medium-sized clan-like battles, to massive clashes of clans over the control of Japan. The establishment of the Kamakura shogunate coincided with the ascendancy of the samurai class over the aristocratic nobility kuge ( 公家 ) of the Imperial Court. The Shogunates were military governments and de facto rulers of Japan. They dominated Japanese politics for nearly seven hundred years (1185–1868), subverting the power of the Emperor as a figurehead and the Imperial Court in Kyoto.
In the Kamakura period, Japan successfully repulsed the Mongol invasions, and this saw a large growth in the size of military forces, with samurai as an elite force and as commanders. Following roughly fifty years of bitter fighting over control of the Imperial succession, the Muromachi period, under the Ashikaga shogunate, saw a brief period of peace as the power of the traditional systems of administration by the Imperial Court gradually declined. Later, the position of the provincial governors and other officials under the shogunate slowly gave way into a new class of daimyōs (feudal lords) in the early 11th century. The Daimyō were protected by samurai and they dominated Japan's internal politics.  This brought the Japanese archipelago into a period of 150 years of fractious disunity and war.
Kamakura period (1185–1333) Edit
Before the establishment of the Kamakura shogunate, civil power in Japan was primarily held by the ruling emperors and their regents. The regents were typically appointed from the ranks of the imperial court and the aristocratic clans that vied there. Military affairs were handled under the auspices of the civil government. After defeating their main rival the Taira clan, the Minamoto clan established the Kamakura shogunate.  Minamoto no Yoritomo seized power from the central government and the aristocracy and established a feudal system based in Kamakura. The samurai gained political power over the aristocratic nobility (kuge) of the Imperial Court in Kyoto.  Emperor Go-Toba and the aristocracy remained the de jure rulers. In 1192, Yoritomo was awarded the title of Sei-i Taishōgun by Emperor Go-Toba. The political system that Yoritomo developed with a succession of shōguns as the head became known as a shogunate. This brought a period of peace. The battles fought during this period mainly consisted of agents of the Minamoto suppressing rebellions. Yoritomo's wife's family, the Hōjō, seized power from the Kamakura shōguns.  When Yoritomo's sons and heirs were assassinated, the shōgun himself became a hereditary figurehead. Real power rested with the Hōjō regents. The Kamakura shogunate lasted for almost 150 years, from 1192 to 1333. The Mongol invasions of Japan (1274 and 1281) were the most important wars of the Kamakura period and defining events in Japanese history.
Japan's remote location makes it secure against invaders from the Asian continent. The Japanese archipelago is surrounded by vast seas and has rugged, mountainous terrain with steep rivers. Kyushu is closest to the southernmost point of the Korean peninsula with a distance of 190 km (120 mi). That's almost 6 times farther away than from England to France 33.3 km (20.7 mi). Throughout history, Japan was never fully invaded nor colonized by foreigners. Japan only surrendered once after World War II. 
Gorō Nyūdō Masamune ( 五郎入道正宗 , Priest Gorō Masamune, c.1264–1343) ,  is recognized as Japan's greatest swordsmith. He created the finest swords and daggers (called tachi and tantō), in the Soshu tradition. 
First Mongol Invasion (1274) Edit
In the 13th century, the Mongols conquered and controlled China under the Yuan dynasty. Subsequently, they attempted to invade Japan twice. In early October 1274, the Battle of Bun'ei began with a combined force of Mongols and Koreans. They arrived on ships and seized the Japanese islands Tsushima, Iki island, Hirato island, Taka and Nokono. The Mongols slaughtered the inhabitants of Tsushima and about 1000 Japanese soldiers were killed on Iki island.  When the Mongols arrived on Japan's mainland of Kyushu they encountered the first real Japanese army.  During the Battle of Akasaka the Japanese won with a surprise attack by the forces of Kikuchi Takefusa. The second victory was at the Battle of Torikai-Gata where the samurai of Takezaki Suenaga and Shiraishi Michiyasu killed 3,500 Mongols.  The Mongol army and Hong Dagu withdrew to their ships towards the Yuan Dynasty. The Japanese army conducted night attacks and killed as many soldiers as they could. On the night of October 19, a typhoon caused one-third of their returning ships to sink and many Mongol soldiers drowned. This typhoon was called the Kamikaze which means 'divinely conjured wind'.  
Second Mongol Invasion (1281) Edit
The Kamakura shogunate anticipated a second invasion so they constructed walls and fortresses along the shore and gathered forces to defend it. The second Mongol invasion was the largest naval invasion in history until D-Day. In the spring of 1281, Kublai Khan sent two separate forces. An impressive 900 ships containing 40,000 Yuan troops set out from Masan, Korea, while an even larger force of 100,000 sailed from southern China in 3,500 ships. The Mongols planned an overwhelming coordinated attack by the combined imperial Yuan fleets. The Chinese fleet of the Yuan was delayed by difficulties in provisioning and manning their large number of ships. 
This culminated in the Battle of Kōan. The Eastern Route Army arrived at Hakata Bay in Kyushu on June 21, 1281. They proceeded without the larger southern force. Waves of samurai responded and prevented the Mongols from forming a beachhead. The samurai used a harassment tactic by boarding the Yuan ships with small boats at night. They killed many of the Yuan forces in the bay and the samurai left before dawn. This caused the Yuan to retreat to Tsushima. During the next few weeks up to 3000 Yuan were killed in close quarters. On July 16, the first of the Southern force ships arrived. By August 12, the two fleets were ready to attack Japan. However, on August 15 a major typhoon (kamikaze) struck the Tsushima Strait. It lasted two full days and destroyed most of the Yuan fleet. Over 4,000 ships were destroyed in the storm 80 percent of the Yuan soldiers drowned or were killed by samurai on the beaches. The loss of ships was so great that "a person could walk across from one point of land to another on a mass of wreckage". 
The equipment, tactics, and military attitudes of the samurai and their Mongol opponents differed greatly, and while both invasions failed miserably, their impact on developments and changes in samurai battle were quite significant. The samurai remained attached to ideas of single combat, that of honorable battle between individual warriors, and to certain ritual elements of battle, such as a series of archery exchanges conducted before entering into hand-to-hand fighting. The Mongols, of course, knew nothing of Japanese conventions, and were arguably much more organized in their strike tactics. They did not select individual opponents with whom to conduct honorable duels, but rode forth on horseback, with various forms of gunpowder weapons and the famous Mongol bow, charging into enemy lines and killing as many as they could without regard to Japanese conceptions of protocol. Though archery and mounted combat were central to Japanese warfare at this time as well, the Mongols remain famous even today for their prowess in these matters. The ways that samurai tactics and attitudes were affected by these experiences are difficult to ascertain, but they were certainly significant.
Kusunoki Masashige Edit
One of the greatest samurai was Kusunoki Masashige. He lived during the Kamakura period and represents the ideal of samurai loyalty. Kusunoki fought against the Kamakura shogunate in the Genkō War (1331–1333) to restore power to Emperor Go-Daigo. Kusunoki was also a brilliant tactician and strategist. The defense of two key Loyalist fortresses at Akasaka, the Siege of Akasaka, and Chihaya, the Siege of Chihaya, helped enable Emperor Go-Daigo to briefly regain power.  In 1333, Go-Daigo rewarded Kusunoki with governorship of Settsu Province and Kawachi Province.  The Meiji government posthumously gave Kusunoki the highest decoration of Senior First Rank in 1880. Kusunoki "stands in the history of his country as the ideal figure of a warrior, compact of civil and military virtues in a high degree." 
Muromachi period (1336–1467) Edit
The shogunate fell in the wake of the 1331 Genkō War, an uprising against the shogunate organized by the Emperor Go-Daigo. After a brief period under true Imperial rule, the Ashikaga shogunate was established in 1336, and a series of conflicts known as the Nanboku-chō wars began. For over fifty years, the archipelago became embroiled in disputes over control of Imperial succession, and thus over the country.
Battles grew larger in this period, and were less ritualized. Though single combats and other elements of ritual and honorable battle remained, organized strategies and tactics under military commanders began to emerge, along with a greater degree of organization of formations and divisions within armies. It was in this period, as well, that weaponsmithing techniques emerged, creating so-called "Japanese steel" blades, flexible yet extremely hard and sharp. The katana, and myriad similar or related blade weapons, appeared at this time and would dominate Japanese arms, relatively unchanged, through the mid-20th century. As a result, it was also during this period that the shift of samurai from being archers to swordsmen began in a significant way.
Sengoku period (1467–1603) Edit
The Sengoku Period is marked by social upheaval, political intrigue and near-constant military conflict. Less than a century after the end of the Nanboku-chō Wars, peace under the relatively weak Ashikaga shogunate was disrupted by the outbreak of the Ōnin War (1467–1477). This was a civil war between the Ashikaga shogunate and numerous daimyō. The ancient capital of Kyoto was converted into a battlefield and a heavily fortified city that suffered severe destruction.
The authority of both the shogunate and the Imperial Court had weakened, and provincial Governors (shugo) and other local samurai leaders emerged as the daimyōs, who battled each other, religious factions (e.g. the Ikkō-ikki), and others for land and power for the next 150 years or so. The period has come to be called the Sengoku period, after the Warring States period in ancient Chinese history. Over one hundred domains clashed and warred throughout the archipelago, as clans rose and fell, boundaries shifted, and some of the largest battles in all of global pre-modern history were fought.
A great many developments and significant events took place during this period, ranging from advances in castle design to the advent of the cavalry charge, the further development of campaign strategies on a grand scale, and the significant changes brought on by the introduction of firearms. The composition of the army changed, with masses of ashigaru, footsoldiers armed with long lances (yari), archers, and, later, gunners serving alongside mounted samurai. Naval battles likewise consisted of little more than using boats to move troops within range of bow or arquebus, and then into hand-to-hand fighting.
The long-standing rivalry between the daimyo Takeda Shingen of Kai Province and Uesugi Kenshin of Echigo Province are legendary. The Battles of Kawanakajima between the armies of Shingen and Kenshin (1553–1564) are one of the most cherished tales in Japanese military history and the epitome of Japanese chivalry and romance. They're mentioned in epic literature, woodblock printing and movies. 
In the first conflict between Shingen and Kenshin they were very cautious, only committing themselves to indecisive skirmishes. There were a total of five engagements at Kawanakajima.  Only the fourth battle was a serious, all-out battle between the two.  During the fourth battle, Kenshin's forces cleared a path through the Takeda troops and Kenshin engaged Shingen in single combat. Kenshin attacked Shingen with his sword while Shingen defended with his Japanese war fan (tessen). Both lords lost many men in this fight, and Shingen in particular lost two of his main generals, Yamamoto Kansuke and his younger brother Takeda Nobushige.  After the death of Shingen, Tokugawa Ieyasu borrowed heavily from Shingen's governmental and military innovations after he had taken leadership of Kai Province during Toyotomi Hideyoshi's rise to power. Many of these designs were used by the Tokugawa shogunate.
The Hōjō clan, in and around the Kantō region, were among the first to establish networks of satellite castles, and the complex use of these castles both for mutual defense and coordinated attacks. The Takeda, under Takeda Shingen, developed the Japanese equivalent of the cavalry charge. Though debate continues today as to the force of his charges, and the appropriateness of comparing them to Western cavalry charges, it is evident from contemporary sources that it was a revolutionary development, and powerful against defenders unused to it. The Battles of the Sengoku period of particular interest or significance are too numerous to list here. Suffice to say this period saw a myriad of strategic and tactical developments, and some of the longest sieges and largest battles in the history of the early modern world.
Azuchi–Momoyama period (1568–1600) Edit
This was the final phase of the Sengoku period. It's named for the increasingly important castle-cities, is marked by the introduction of firearms, after contact with the Portuguese, and a further push towards all-out battle, away from individual combats and concepts of personal honor and bravery.
The arquebus was introduced to Japan in 1543, by Portuguese on board a Chinese ship that crashed upon the tiny island of Tanegashima in the southernmost parts of the Japanese archipelago. Though the weapon's introduction was not seen to have particularly dramatic effects for several decades, by the 1560s thousands of gunpowder weapons were in use in Japan, and began to have revolutionary effects upon Japanese tactics, strategy, army compositions, and castle architecture.
The 1575 Battle of Nagashino, in which about 3,000 arquebusiers led by Oda Nobunaga cut down charging ranks of thousands of samurai, remains one of the chief examples of the effect of these weapons. Highly inaccurate, and taking a long time to reload, arquebusses, or hinawa-jū (火縄銃) as they are called in Japanese, did not win battles on their own. Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and other commanders developed tactics that honed arquebus use to the greatest advantage. At Nagashino, Nobunaga's gunners hid behind wooden barricades, embedded with large wooden spikes to ward off cavalry, and took turns firing volleys and reloading.
As in Europe, the debilitating effects of wet (and therefore largely useless) gunpowder were decisive in a number of battles. But, one of the key advantages of the weapon was that unlike bows, which required years of training largely available only to the samurai class, guns could be used by relatively untrained footmen. Samurai stuck to their swords and their bows, engaging in cavalry or infantry tactics, while the ashigaru wielded the guns. Some militant Buddhist factions began to produce firearms in foundries normally employed to make bronze temple bells. In this manner, the Ikkō-ikki, a group of monks and lay religious zealots, turned their Ishiyama Honganji cathedral-fortress into some of the most well-defended fortresses in the country. The ikki and a handful of other militant religious factions thus became powers unto themselves, and fought fierce battles against some of the chief generals and samurai clans of the archipelago.
Though civil strife continued to rage as it had for the previous century, the battles growing larger and more tactically complex, it was at this time that the many "warring states" began to be united. There were 3 powerful daimyō who unified the Japanese archipelago. In the second half of the 16th century, Japan was first fully unified by daimyō Oda Nobunaga and then by Toyotomi Hideyoshi.  The third daimyō who unified Japan was Tokugawa Ieyasu after the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. This resulted in 268 years of uninterrupted rule by the Tokugawa clan. 
With an ambition to conquer China's Ming Dynasty, Toyotomi Hideyoshi requested passage through the Korean peninsula from the King of Joseon. Upon being refused, Hideyoshi launched invasions of Korea with an army of 158,800 soldiers between 1592 and 1598.  The Japanese army quickly captured several major cities from the unprepared Joseon kingdom including the capital, causing the king to retreat and request military aid from China. With the arrival of the Chinese army, the joint Chinese-Korean troops pushed the Japanese army down to the southeast of the Korean peninsula where a military stalemate was established by 1594. Concurrently, the "Righteous Army" of Korean civilians waged guerilla warfare and Admiral Yi Sun-sin repeatedly disrupted the Japanese supply lines at sea. After Hideyoshi's death, the Council of Five Elders ordered the remaining Japanese forces in Korea to retreat.
The Battle of Sekigahara was the last major battle of the Sengoku period on October 21, 1600. This was a huge battle between the forces loyal to Toyotomi Hideyori versus Tokugawa Ieyasu. Hideyori's Western Army consisted of many clans from Western Japan with a total of 120,000 men. The Eastern Army was 75,000 men strong with clans from Eastern Japan.  The decisive victory of the Eastern Army solidified the rule of Tokugawa Ieyasu. In 1603, Ieyasu was appointed with the title of shōgun by Emperor Go-Yōzei.   This made Ieyasu the nominal ruler of the whole country of Japan. The Tokugawa shogunate was the last shogunate until the Meiji Restoration in 1867.
Edo period (1603–1867) Edit
This period was one of relative peace under the authority of the Tokugawa shogunate, a forced peace that was maintained through a variety of measures that weakened the daimyōs and ensured their loyalty to the shogunate. Since 1660, Japan had 200 years of peace with no major domestic or foreign conflicts. The Tokugawa peace was ruptured only rarely and briefly prior to the violence that surrounded the Meiji Restoration of the 1860s.
The lack of warfare caused the samurai to increasingly become courtiers, bureaucrats, and administrators rather than warriors. The conduct of samurai served as role model behavior for the other social classes.
Miyamoto Musashi was one of the most famous Japanese swordsman, philosopher, strategist, writer and rōnin who lived from 1584 to 1645. He became the Kensei (sword saint) of Japan.  He had a unique double-bladed swordsmanship (Nito-Ichi-ryū) and an undefeated record in 61 duels. He wrote the classic Japanese martial arts literature The Book of Five Rings and Dokkōdō (The Path of Aloneness). 
The Tokugawa Shogunate enforced the policy of Sakoku ("closed country"), which prohibited most foreign contact and trade between 1641 and 1853.  Under the policy, most foreign nationals were barred from entering Japan and common Japanese people couldn't leave. By restricting the daimyōs' ability to trade with foreign ships coming to Japan or pursue trade opportunities overseas, the Tokugawa shogunate could ensure none would become powerful enough to challenge its supremacy.
The Siege of Osaka, which took place in 1614–1615, was essentially the last gasp for Toyotomi Hideyori, heir to Hideyoshi, and an alliance of clans and other elements who opposed the shogunate. A samurai battle on a grand scale, in terms of strategy, scale, methods employed, and the political causes behind it, this is widely considered the final conflict of the Sengoku period.
Outside of the siege of Osaka, and the later conflicts of the 1850s to 1860s, violence in the Edo period was restricted to small skirmishes in the streets, peasant rebellions, and the enforcement of maritime restrictions. Social tension in the Edo period brought a number of rebellions and uprisings, the largest of which was the 1638 Shimabara Rebellion. In the far north of the country, the island of Hokkaido was inhabited by Ainu villagers and Japanese settlers. In 1669, an Ainu leader led a revolt against the Matsumae clan who controlled the region, and it was the last major uprising against Japanese control of the region. It was put down in 1672. In 1789, another Ainu revolt, the Menashi–Kunashir Rebellion, was crushed.
The Bakumatsu were the final years of the Tokugawa Shogunate and the isolationist Sakoku policy between 1853 and 1867. The appearance of gunboat diplomacy in Japan in the 1850s, and the forced so-called "opening of Japan" by Western forces, underscored the weakness of the shogunate and led to its collapse. Though the actual end of the shogunate and establishment of an Imperial Western-style government was handled peacefully, through political petitions and other methods, the years surrounding the event were not entirely bloodless. Following the formal termination of the shogunate, the Boshin War ( 戊辰戦争 , Boshin Sensō, "War of the Year of the Yang Earth Dragon") was fought in 1868–1869 between the Tokugawa army and a number of factions of nominally pro-Imperial forces.
Since the first visit of Commodore Perry to Edo Bay in July 1853, Japan lacked industrial and military power to prevent western coercion with unequal treaties that took advantage of Japan.   Japan had antiquated and decentralized military forces. The feudal lords were pressured into signing multiple treaties with the Americans known as “The Unequal Treaties”. 
Thereafter in 1853 six island fortifications with cannon batteries were built at Odaiba in Edo Bay by Egawa Hidetatsu for the Tokugawa shogunate. The purpose was to protect Edo from another American incursion. Thereafter Industrial developments started in order to build modern cannons. A reverbatory furnace was established by Egawa Hidetatsu in Nirayama to cast cannons. It was completed in 1857.  
Japan was determined to avoid the fate of other Asian countries which were colonized by western imperial powers. The Japanese people and the government with Emperor Meiji realized that in order to preserve the independence of Japan it had to modernize to become an equal of the western colonial powers. In 1868 Tokugawa Yoshinobu resigned which ended the Tokugawa dynasty and the last shogunate. The Meiji Restoration restored practical abilities and the political system under Emperor Meiji.  This caused enormous change in Japan's political and social structure from the late Edo Period to the early Meiji Period. Japan set out to "gather wisdom from all over the world" and embarked on an ambitious program of military, social, political, and economic reforms. Japan quickly transformed in one generation from an isolated feudal society to a modern industrialized nation state and an emerging great power. 
After a long period of peace, Japan quickly rearmed and modernized by importing western weapons, then manufacturing them domestically, and finally by manufacturing weapons of Japanese design. Japan was the first non-European country to industrialize. During the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), Japan became the first modern Asian nation to win a war against a European nation. In 1902, it became the first Asian nation to sign a mutual defense pact with a European nation, Britain.
Japan was influenced by Western imperialism in Asia which caused Japan to participate as a colonial power. Japan was the last major power to enter the race for global colonization. It expanded rapidly, with colonial acquisitions, from 1895 till 1942. The Empire of Japan was one of the largest in history. It included colonies in Manchuria, China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Indochina, Burma and many Pacific islands. In 1937, Japan had one-sixth the industrial capacity than the USA. The Japanese industry was dependent on the shipment of raw materials from Japan's overseas territories and foreign imports. A series of increasingly stringent economic embargoes on raw materials by the United States such as the Japanese Oil Embargo (1940–1941) pushed the Empire of Japan into conflict with the United States. 
Meiji era (1868–1912) Edit
Modern army established Edit
In the mid-19th century Japan didn't have a unified national army. The country consisted of feudal domains (han) with the Tokugawa shogunate (bakufu) in overall control since 1603. The bakufu army was a large force, but only one among others. The Shogunate's efforts to control the nation depended upon the cooperation of its vassal Daimyos' armies. 
From 1867, Japan requested various Western military missions in order to help Japan to modernize its armed forces. The first foreign military mission in Japan was held by France in 1867.
On June 29, 1869 Emperor Meiji founded a Shinto shrine called Tōkyō Shōkonsha in Kudan, Tokyo (present-day Chiyoda, Tokyo). It was established in the wake of the Boshin War (1868–1869) to honor those who died for the Emperor. It was renamed to Yasukuni Shrine by the Emperor in 1879 which literally means "Pacifying the Nation".  The Emperor wrote a poem “I assure those of you who fought and died for your country that your names will live forever at this shrine in Musashino.” The Yasukuni Shrine commemorates the honor and achievements of the millions of men, women, children and pets who died in service of Japan from the Boshin War to the First Indochina War (1946–1954). Later the shrine would include the worship of all who died serving in wars involving Japan since 1853 such as the Taishō and Shōwa period. 
In 1871, the politicians Iwakura Tomomi and Ōkubo Toshimichi led the organization of a national army. It consisted exclusively of 10,000 strong samurai. Ōkubo was also a samurai of Satsuma and he was one of the Three Great Nobles of the Restoration and one of the main founders of modern Japan. 
In 1873, the Imperial government asked the newly appointed War Minister Yamagata Aritomo ( 山縣 有朋 , June 14, 1838 – February 1, 1922) to organize a national army for Japan. So Yamagata convinced the government and enacted a conscription law in 1873 which established the new Imperial Japanese Army. The law established military service for males of all classes, for a duration of 3 years, with an additional 4 years in the reserve. Yamagata modernized and modeled it after the Prussian Army. Duke Yamagata Aritomo was born in a lower ranked samurai family from Hagi. He was a field marshal in the Imperial Japanese Army and twice Prime Minister of Japan. He was one of the main architects of the military and political foundations of early modern Japan. Yamagata Aritomo is regarded as the father of Japanese militarism.  
The principal officer training school for the Imperial Japanese Army was established as the Heigakkō in Kyoto in 1868. It was renamed in 1874 to the Imperial Japanese Army Academy ( 陸軍士官学校 , Rikugun Shikan Gakkō) and relocated to Ichigaya, Tokyo. The second Army Academy was built by the second French Military Mission to Japan. The inauguration was in 1875. This was an important Military Academy for Japanese Army officers. It is on the same ground as the modern Japan Ministry of Defense. The second French Military Mission also helped reorganize the Imperial Japanese Army, and establish the first draft law (January 1873). Some members of the mission became some of the first western students of Japanese martial arts in history. Such as Étienne de Villaret and Joseph Kiehl were members of the dojo of Sakakibara Kenkichi and learned Jikishinkage-ryu.  Captain Jules Brunet, initially a French artillery advisor of the Japanese central government, eventually took up arms alongside the Shōgun Tokugawa Yoshinobu's army against the Imperial troops during the Boshin War.
Class distinctions were mostly eliminated during modernization to create a representative democracy. The samurai lost their status as the only class with military privileges. However, during the Meiji period, most leaders in Japanese society (politics, business and military) were ex-samurai or descendants of samurai. They shared a set of values and outlooks that supported Japanese militarism. Thus the military class that began with the samurai in 1192 CE continued to rule Japan.
The Constitution of the Empire of Japan was enacted on November 29, 1890.  It was a form of mixed constitutional and absolute monarchy.  The Emperor of Japan was legally the supreme leader, and the Cabinet were his followers. The Prime Minister would be elected by a Privy Council. In reality, the Emperor was head of state but the Prime Minister was the actual head of government.
Sino-Japanese War (1894–1895) Edit
The Sino-Japanese War was fought against the forces of the Qing dynasty of China in the Korean Peninsula, Manchuria, and the coast of China. It was the first major conflict between Japan and an overseas military power in modern times.
The conflict was primarily over influence in Korea.  After more than six months of unbroken successes by Japanese land and naval forces and the loss of the port of Weihaiwei, the Qing government sued for peace in February 1895.
The war demonstrated the failure of the Qing dynasty's attempts to modernize its military and fend off threats to its sovereignty, especially when compared with Japan's successful Meiji Restoration. For the first time, regional dominance in East Asia shifted from China to Japan  The prestige of the Qing Dynasty, along with the classical tradition in China, suffered a major blow. The Qing's loss of Korea as a tributary state sparked an unprecedented public outcry. Throughout most of history Korea was a tributary state and vassal state of multiple Chinese dynasties. Japan's victory of the First Sino-Japanese War put Korea completely under Japanese control. Korea became a Japanese vassal state.
The Treaty of Shimonoseki ( 下関条約 , Shimonoseki Jyoyaku) signed between Japan and China ended the war. Through this treaty, Japan forced China to open ports for international trade and cede the southern portion of China's Liaoning province as well as the island of Taiwan to Japan. China also had to pay a war indemnity of 200 million Kuping taels. As a result of this war, Korea ceased to be a tributary state of China, but fell into Japan's sphere of influence. However, many of the material gains from this war were lost by Japan due to the Triple Intervention. Korea was fully annexed by Japan with the Japan–Korea Treaty of 1910 signed by Ye Wanyong, Prime Minister of Korea, and Terauchi Masatake, who became the first Japanese Governor-General of Korea. 
Japanese invasion of Taiwan (1895) Edit
The Japanese occupation of Taiwan was strongly resisted by various interests on the island, and was only completed after a full-scale military campaign requiring the commitment of the Imperial Guards Division and most of the 2nd and 4th Provincial Divisions. The campaign began in late May 1895 with a Japanese landing at Keelung, on the northern coast of Taiwan, and ended in October 1895 with the Japanese capture of Tainan, the capital of the self-styled Republic of Formosa. The Japanese defeated regular Chinese and Formosan formations relatively easily but their marching columns were often harassed by guerillas. The Japanese responded with brutal reprisals, and sporadic resistance to their occupation of Taiwan continued until 1902.
The Boxer Rebellion Edit
The Eight-Nation Alliance was an international military coalition set up in response to the Boxer Rebellion in the Qing Empire of China. The eight nations were the Empire of Japan, the Russian Empire, the British Empire, the French Third Republic, the United States, the German Empire, the Kingdom of Italy and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In the summer of 1900, when the extra-jurisdictional international legations in Beijing came under attack by Boxer rebels supported by the Qing government, the coalition dispatched their armed forces, in the name of "humanitarian intervention", to defend their respective nations' citizens, as well as a number of Chinese Christians who had taken shelter in the legations. The incident ended with a coalition victory and the signing of the Boxer Protocol.
Russo-Japanese War Edit
Following the First Sino-Japanese War, and the humiliation of the forced return of the Liaotung peninsula to China under Russian pressure (the "Triple Intervention"), Japan began to build up its military strength in preparation for further confrontations. Japan promulgated a ten-year naval build-up program, under the slogan "Perseverance and determination" (Jp:臥薪嘗胆, Gashinshoutan), in which it commissioned 109 warships, for a total of 200,000 tons, and increased its Navy personnel from 15,100 to 40,800.
These dispositions culminated with the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). The battleship Mikasa was the flagship of admiral Tōgō Heihachirō. At the Battle of Tsushima, the Mikasa with Admiral Tōgō led the Combined Fleet of the Imperial Japanese Navy into what has been called "the most decisive naval battle in history".  The Russian fleet was almost completely annihilated: out of 38 Russian ships, 21 were sunk, 7 captured, 6 disarmed, 4,545 Russian servicemen died and 6,106 were taken prisoner. On the other hand, the Japanese only lost 117 men and 3 torpedo boats. This overwhelming victory made admiral Tōgō one of Japan's greatest naval heroes.
The Japanese victory in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905 marks the emergence of Japan as a major military power. Japan demonstrated that it could apply Western technology, discipline, strategy, and tactics effectively. The war concluded with the Treaty of Portsmouth. The complete victory of the Japanese military surprised world observers. The consequences transformed the balance of power in East Asia.
The Battle of Yalu River was the first major land battle during the Russo-Japanese War from 30 April to 1 May 1904. It was also the first victory in decades of an Asian power over a European power. It marked Russia's inability to match Japan's military prowess. 
Western powers viewed Japan's victory over Russia as the emergence of a new Asian regional power. With the Russian defeat, some scholars have argued that the war had set in motion a change in the global world order with the emergence of Japan as not only a regional power, but rather, the main Asian power. 
Taishō era and World War I (1912–1926) Edit
The Empire of Japan was a member of the Allies during World War I. As an ally of Great Britain, Japan declared war on Germany in 1914. Japan quickly seized the German island colonies the Mariana Islands, Caroline Islands and Marshall Islands in the Pacific.
The Japanese seaplane carrier Wakamiya conducted the world's first successful naval-launched air raids on 5 September 1914 and during the first months of World War I from Kiaochow Bay off Tsingtao. On 6 September 1914 was the very first air-sea battle in history.  A Farman aircraft launched by Wakamiya attacked the Austro-Hungarian cruiser Kaiserin Elisabeth and the German gunboat Jaguar off Tsingtao. Four seaplanes bombarded German land targets. The Germans surrendered on 6 November 1914.  
During the Russian Civil War the Allied Powers intervened in Russia. The Empire of Japan sent the largest military force of 70,000 soldiers to the eastern region.  They supported anti-communist White forces in Russia. The Allied Powers withdrew in 1920. The Japanese military stayed until 1925 following the signing of the Soviet–Japanese Basic Convention.  A small group of Japanese cruisers and destroyers also participated in various missions in the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.
In 1921, during the Interwar period, Japan developed and launched the Hōshō, which was the first purpose-designed aircraft carrier in the world.  [Note 1] Japan subsequently developed a fleet of aircraft carriers that was second to none.
Shōwa era and World War II (1926–1945) Edit
Already controlling the area along the South Manchuria Railroad, Japan's Kwantung Army further invaded Manchuria (Northeast China) in 1931, following the Mukden Incident, in where Japan claimed to have had territory attacked by the Chinese. By 1937, Japan had annexed territory north of Beijing and, following the Marco Polo Bridge Incident, a full-scale invasion of China began. Japanese military superiority over a weak and demoralized Chinese Republican army allowed for swift advances down the eastern coast, leading to the fall of Shanghai and Nanjing (Nanking, then capital of the Republic of China) the same year. The Chinese suffered greatly in both military and civilian casualties. An estimated 300,000 civilians were killed during the first weeks of Japanese occupation of Nanjing, during the Nanking Massacre.
In September 1940, Germany, Italy, and Japan became allies under the Tripartite Pact. Germany, which had previously trained and supplied the Chinese army, halted all Sino-German cooperation, and recalled its military advisor (Alexander von Falkenhausen). In July 1940, the U.S. banned the shipment of aviation gasoline to Japan, while Imperial Japanese Army invaded French Indochina and occupied its naval and air bases in September 1940.
In April 1941, the Empire of Japan and the Soviet Union signed a neutrality pact and Japan increased pressure on the Vichy French and Dutch colonies in Southeast Asia to cooperate in economic matters. Following Japan's refusal to withdraw from the Republic of China (with the exclusion of Manchukuo) and Indochina the United States, Great Britain, and the Netherlands imposed an embargo (July 22, 1941) on gasoline, while shipments of scrap metal, steel, and other materials had virtually ceased. Meanwhile, American economic support to China began to increase.
Hideki Tojo was a politician and general of the Imperial Japanese Army. Politically, he was a fascist, nationalist, and militarist.  Tojo served as Prime Minister of the Empire of Japan during most of the Pacific War (his tenure being October 17, 1941 to July 22, 1944). Tojo supported a preventive war against the United States. 
Isoroku Yamamoto was the most famous military commander. He was a Fleet Admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy and the commander-in-chief of the Combined Fleet during World War II. Isoroku's extensive naval career started when he served on the armored cruiser Nisshin during the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905). He oversaw many naval operations such as the attack on Pearl Harbor, Battle of the Java Sea, Battle of the Coral Sea and the Battle of Midway. He became an exalted naval hero. 
Hiroyoshi Nishizawa was arguably the most successful Japanese flying ace of the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service with an estimated 120 to 150 victories.  
Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and against several other countries on December 7–8, 1941, the United States, United Kingdom, and other Allies declared war. The Second Sino-Japanese War became part of the global conflict of World War II. Japanese forces initially experienced great success against Allied forces in the Pacific and Southeast Asia, capturing Thailand, Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore, the Dutch East Indies, the Philippines, and many Pacific Islands. They also undertook major offensives in Burma and launched air and naval attacks against Australia. The Allies turned the tide of war at sea in mid-1942, at the Battle of Midway. Japanese land forces continued to advance in the New Guinea and Solomon Islands campaigns but suffered significant defeats or were forced to retreat at the battles of Milne Bay, the Kokoda Track, and Guadalcanal. The Burma campaign turned, as the Japanese forces suffered catastrophic losses at Imphal and Kohima, leading to the greatest defeat in Japanese history up to that point. 
From 1943 onwards, hard-fought campaigns at the battles of Buna-Gona, the Tarawa, the Philippine Sea, Leyte Gulf, Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and others resulted in horrific casualties, mostly on the Japanese side, and produced further Japanese retreats. Very few Japanese ended up in POW camps. This may have been due to Japanese soldiers' reluctance to surrender. The Battle of Okinawa was the bloodiest battle of the Pacific War. The total number of casualties shocked American military strategists. This made them apprehensive to invade Japan's main islands, because it would result in a very high death toll.    The brutality of the conflict is exemplified by US troops taking body parts from dead Japanese soldiers as "war trophies" or "war souvenirs" and Japanese cannibalism. 
During the Pacific War, some units of the Imperial Japanese Army engaged in war crimes. This was in particular the mistreatment of prisoners of war and civilians. Between 1937 and 1945, approximately 7,357,000 civilians died due to military activity in the Republic of China.  Mistreatment of Allied prisoners of war through forced labour and brutality received extensive coverage in the west. During that period there were significant underlying cultural differences, because according to Bushido it was cowardly and shameful to surrender to the enemy. Thus soldiers who surrendered had relinquished their honor and didn't deserve respect or basic treatment. Fred Borch explained:
As Japan continued its modernization in the early 20th century, her armed forces became convinced that success in battle would be assured if Japanese soldiers, sailors, and airmen had the "spirit" of Bushido. . The result was that the Bushido code of behavior "was inculcated into the Japanese soldier as part of his basic training." Each soldier was indoctrinated to accept that it was the greatest honor to die for the Emperor and it was cowardly to surrender to the enemy. . Bushido therefore explains why the Japanese in the NEI so mistreated POWs in their custody. Those who had surrendered to the Japanese—regardless of how courageously or honorably they had fought—merited nothing but contempt they had forfeited all honor and literally deserved nothing. Consequently, when the Japanese murdered POWs by shooting, beheading, and drowning, these acts were excused since they involved the killing of men who had forfeited all rights to be treated with dignity or respect. While civilian internees were certainly in a different category from POWs, it is reasonable to think that there was a "spill-over" effect from the tenets of Bushido.
The Japanese government has been criticized for inadequate acknowledgement of the suffering caused during World War II in history teaching in its schools which caused international protest.   However, many Japanese officials such as Prime Ministers, Emperors, Chief Cabinet Secretaries and Minister for Foreign Affairs made more than 50 war apology statements from 1950 to 2015. Japan also paid billions of dollars in war reparations for 23 years from 1955 till 1977. Other countries have exploited the war guilt to boost nationalism and hostility against Japan. For example, the Chinese Communist Party uses patriotism as a tool to alleviate social discontent over internal problems. The Jiang Zemin government chose patriotism as a way to counterbalance the decline in socialist ideology. This caused patriotism to be fostered through the Chinese educational system with an anti Japanese nature. The anti-Japan protests in China in April 2005 were mostly young people with nationalist views. The Chinese police force stood by idly during the violent protests. 
On August 6 and August 9, 1945, the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. An estimated 150,000–246,000 people died as a direct result of these two bombings.  Japan didn't have nuclear weapon technology so this new type of atomic bomb was a surprise. Hiroshima was totally unprepared. 69% of Hiroshima's buildings were destroyed and 6% damaged.   At this time, on August 8, the Soviet Union entered the war against Japan.
Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945, and a formal Instrument of Surrender was signed on September 2, 1945, on the battleship USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay.  The surrender was accepted, from a Japanese delegation led by Mamoru Shigemitsu, by General Douglas MacArthur, as Supreme Allied Commander, along with representatives of each Allied nation. A separate surrender ceremony between Japan and China was held in Nanking on September 9, 1945.
Throughout history Japan has never been fully invaded nor conquered by a foreign power. Japan also never capitulated to a foreign power, thus Japan was unwilling to surrender. However, Japan couldn't counter the destructive nuclear bombs of America. So the Japanese thought it was better to accept the humiliating Potsdam Declaration and rebuild Japan rather than continue fighting with millions of casualties and decades of guerrilla warfare. On August 15, 1945, a broadcast of a recorded speech of Emperor Shōwa was released to the public. The last sentence is indicative:
it is according to the dictates of time and fate that We have resolved to pave the way for a grand peace for all the generations to come by enduring the unendurable and suffering what is unsufferable. 
Following the surrender, Douglas MacArthur established bases in Japan to oversee the postwar development of the country. This period in Japanese history is known as the Occupation, when for the first time in history Japan was occupied by a foreign power. U.S. President Harry Truman officially proclaimed an end to hostilities on December 31, 1946. As the de facto military ruler of Japan, Douglas MacArthur's influence was so great that he was dubbed the Gaijin Shōgun ( 外人将軍 ) .  The Allies (led by the United States) repatriated millions of ethnic Japanese from colonies and military camps throughout Asia. This largely eliminated the Japanese Empire and restored the independence of its conquered territories. 
Upon adoption of the 1947 constitution, Japan became the State of Japan (Nihon Koku, 日本国 ). The Empire of Japan was dismantled and all overseas territories were lost. Japan was reduced to the territories that were traditionally within the Japanese cultural sphere pre-1895: the four main islands (Honshu, Hokkaido, Kyushu, and Shikoku), the Ryukyu Islands, and the Nanpō Islands. The Kuril Islands also historically belong to Japan.  The Kuril Islands were first inhabited by the Ainu people and then controlled by the Japanese Matsumae clan in the Edo Period.  However, the Kuril Islands weren't included due to a dispute with the Soviet Union.
Over the course of the war, Japan displayed many significant advances in military technology, strategy, and tactics. Among them were the Yamato-class battleship, aircraft carrier innovation (e.g. Hōshō), the Sen-Toku submarine bomber carriers, Mitsubishi Zero fighters, Kamikaze bombers, type 91 torpedo, Nakajima Kikka, Yokosuka MXY-7 Ohka, Kaiten human torpedoes and the Kairyū-class submarine.
Shōwa era (Post-war) (1945–1989) Edit
Post World War II, Japan was deprived of any military capability after signing the surrender agreement in 1945. The U.S. occupation forces were fully responsible for protecting Japan from external threats. Japan only had a minor police force for domestic security. Japan was under the sole control of the United States. This was the only time in Japanese history that it was occupied by a foreign power. 
Unlike the occupation of Germany, other countries such as the Soviet Union had almost zero influence in Japan. West Germany was allowed to write its own constitution under supervision of the Allies. West Germany was at the forefront of the Cold War and wasn't required to include a pacifist clause in their constitution. Meanwhile, general Douglas MacArthur had near complete control over Japanese politics. Japan's 1947 constitution was mostly written by the United States and under the guidelines of General Douglas MacArthur. This changed Japan's previous authoritarian system of quasi-absolute monarchy to a form of liberal democracy with a parliamentary-based political system. The constitution guarantees civil and human rights. The Emperor changed to a symbolic status as "the symbol of the State and of the unity of the people." Douglas MacArthur included Article 9 which says Japan forever renounces war as an instrument for settling international disputes and declares that Japan will never again maintain "land, sea, or air forces or other war potential."  Japan became a pacifist country since September 1945. The trauma of World War II produced strong pacifist sentiments among the nation.
There were growing external threats of the Cold War and Japan didn't have adequate forces to counter it. During the Korean War (1950–1953) Japan was the forward logistics base and provided many supplies for US and UN forces. The unilateral renunciation of all military capabilities was questioned by conservative politicians. These sentiments were intensified in 1950 as occupation troops were moved from Japan to the Korean War (1950–53). This left Japan virtually defenseless and vulnerable. They thought a mutual defense relationship with the United States was needed to protect Japan from foreign threats. In July 1950 the Japanese government, with the encouragement of the US occupation forces, established a National Police Reserve (警察予備隊 Keisatsu-yobitai). This consisted of 75,000 men equipped with light infantry weapons. This was the first step of its postwar rearmament.   In 1952, Coastal Safety Force ( 海上警備隊 , Kaijō Keibitai ) , the waterborne counterpart of NPR, was also founded.  
The Allied occupation of Japan ended after the signing of the Treaty of San Francisco on September 8, 1951, which became effective on April 28, 1952, thus restoring the sovereignty of Japan.
On 8 September 1951 the Security Treaty Between the United States and Japan was signed. The treaty allowed United States forces stationed in Japan to deal with external aggression against Japan while Japanese ground and maritime forces dealt with internal threats and natural disasters. The United States was permitted to act for the sake of maintaining peace in East Asia and could exert its power on Japanese domestic quarrels. The treaty has lasted longer than any other alliance between two great powers since the Peace of Westphalia treaties in 1648.  Accordingly, in mid-1952, the National Police Reserve was expanded to 110,000 men and renamed the National Safety Forces.  The Coastal Safety Force was an embryonic navy that was transferred with the National Police Reserve to the National Safety Agency.
Strict civilian control over the military was established with the 1947-constitution to prevent the military from regaining overwhelming political power. Thus soldiers, sailors and airforce members cannot be involved in political activities. The Defense Agency of Japan stated that:
"Painfully aware of the regrettable state of affairs that had prevailed in this country until the end of World War II, Japan has adopted systems of uncompromising civilian control that are entirely different from those that existed under the former Constitution, so that the JSDF should be established and operated in accordance with the will of the people."
The war-renunciation clause of Article 9 was the basis for strong political objections to any sort of armed force other than a conventional police force. In 1954, however, separate land, sea, and air forces were created for defensive purposes, under the command of the Prime Minister. The 1954 Self-Defense Forces Act (Act No. 165 of 1954) reorganized the National Security Board as the Defense Agency on July 1, 1954. Afterward, the National Security Force was reorganized as the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF), which is the de facto post-war Japanese army. The Coastal Safety Force was reorganized as the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), which is the de facto Japanese Navy.   The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) was established as a new branch of the JSDF. General Keizō Hayashi was appointed as the first Chairman of Joint Staff Council—professional head of the three branches.  Conscription was abolished on 3 May 1947. Enlistment in the JSDF is voluntary at 18 years of age and older. 
The Far East Air Force, U.S. Air Force, announced on 6 January 1955, that 85 aircraft would be turned over to the fledgling Japanese air force on about 15 January, the first equipment of the new force. 
On 19 January 1960, the unequal status of Japan with the United States was corrected with the amended Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between the United States and Japan by adding mutual defense obligations. This treaty requires the US to pre-inform Japan of US army mobilization and to not impose itself concerning Japanese domestic issues.  Japan and the United States are obligated to assist each other if there's an armed attack in territories administered by Japan. Japan and the United States are required to maintain capacities to resist common armed attacks. This established a security alliance between Japan and the United States.  This treaty doesn't obligate Japan to defend the United States.
Japan is the only country to have suffered nuclear attacks in history. Thus in 1967, Prime Minister Eisaku Satō outlined the Three Non-Nuclear Principles by which Japan stands against the production or possession of nuclear weaponry. However, due to its high technology level and large number of operating nuclear power plants, Japan is considered to be "nuclear capable", i.e., it could develop usable nuclear weapons within one year if the political situation changed significantly.  Thus many analysts consider Japan a de facto nuclear state.   Numerous politicians such as Shinzo Abe and Yasuo Fukuda explained that Japan's constitution doesn't ban possession of nuclear weapons. They should be kept at a minimum and used as tactical weapons.  The 1951 US-Japan Security Treaty puts Japan under the US nuclear umbrella.
The last Japanese soldiers of World War II to surrender were Hiroo Onoda and Teruo Nakamura in 1974. Onoda was an intelligence officer and second lieutenant in the Imperial Japanese Army. He continued his campaign after WWII for 29 years in a Japanese holdout on Lubang Island, the Philippines. He returned to Japan when he was relieved from duty by his commanding officer, Major Yoshimi Taniguchi as per the order of Emperor Shōwa in 1974.   Teruo Nakamura was an Amis aborigine from Japanese Taiwan in the Takasago Volunteer Unit of the Imperial Japanese army. He was stationed on Morotai Island, Indonesia and discovered by a pilot in mid-1974. Nakamura was repatriated to Taiwan in 1975.  
Throughout the post-war Shōwa period, the Japanese had a low opinion of the JSDF. They were seen as remnants of the imperial military who caused a severe loss and humiliating surrender of World War II. They were considered "tax thieves" (zeikin dorobo) for being expensive and unnecessary while Japan had decades of booming economy. So the JSDF was still trying to find its place in Japanese society and earn respect and trust from the public. The SDF was managed by the Japan Defense Agency which had little political influence compared to ministries. The JSDF had good personnel and equipment, but mainly served a supplementary role for the US military against the Soviet Union. 
Japan had record high economic growth during the Japanese economic miracle. By the 1970s Japan ascended to great power status again. It had the world's second largest economy. However, its military power was very limited due to pacifist policies and article 9 of the 1947 constitution. Japan exerted disproportionately small political and military influence in the world. This made Japan an abnormal great power. 
Heisei era (1989–2019) Edit
Departure from pacifism Edit
During the Gulf War (1990–1991) the Japan Self-Defense Forces couldn't participate due to restrictions of the 1947 constitution. However, Japan did make a financial contribution of $10 billion and sent military hardware.  Japan's inability to send troops was regarded as a big humiliation. They learned that only making financial contributions (checkbook diplomacy) did not earn Japan international respect. Furthermore, Japan couldn't provide much support to US forces which caused frustration. This humiliation was decisive in making policymakers and military planners determined to depart from Japan's pacifist foreign policy. 
Since 1991, the JSDF has conducted international activities to provide support for peacekeeping missions and disaster relief efforts as well as to help prevent conflict and terrorism. Particularly humanitarian aid such as helping the victims of the 1995 Kobe earthquake and humanitarian, reconstruction assistance in Iraq (2003 till 2009).  In 1992 a law was passed to permit the JSDF to participate in UN Peacekeeping missions.
The Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation were revised in 1997 which increased the scope for the JSDF as rear-support for US forces by providing logistics support near Japan. 
On May 28, 1999, the Regional Affairs Law was enacted. It allows Japan to automatically participate as "rear support" if the United States begins a war under "regional affairs." 
21st Century Edit
The modern Japan Self-Defense Forces is one of the most technologically advanced armed forces in the world. The JSDF ranked as the world's fourth most-powerful military in conventional capabilities in a Credit Suisse report in 2015.  It has the eighth-largest military budget in the world with just 1% of GDP (2011). 
Since 1991 the JSDF has participated in dozens of international peacekeeping operations including UN peacekeeping and disaster relief.  From 1991 to 2016 the JSDF had approximately 32 overseas dispatches. These were mainly in Southeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East.
Japan has been a member of the United Nations since 18 December 1956 and served as a non-permanent Security Council member for a total of 20 years. Japan is one of the G4 nations seeking to gain permanent membership of the Security Council.  In 2004, the former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan announced a plan to expand the number of permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council. Despite being the third largest national economy in the world in terms of nominal GDP,  with global political influence, some debate whether or not a country with no official standing military can be considered a world power that should have a permanent seat on the council.
The Anti-Terrorism Special Measures Law was passed on October 29, 2001. It allows the JSDF to contribute by itself to international efforts to the prevention and eradication of terrorism. While on duty the JSDF can use weapons to protect themselves and others who come under their control. Previously Japan's policy was non-involvement. 
On 22 December 2001, the Battle of Amami-Ōshima was a six hour long confrontation with an undercover North Korean spy and infiltration ship. The spy ship was heavily armed and 400 km north west of the Japanese island Amami Ōshima. The spy ship didn't heed warnings of the Japanese Coast Guard and tried to escape. 12 patrol boats and 13 planes of the JCG and 2 MSDF destroyers chased the ship. Eventually the spy vessel opened fire and, after receiving fire from JCG cutters, sunk with self-destructive explosion. All 15 crew members died. This was the first time since World War 2 that Japan attacked and sank a foreign ship in Japan's sea territory. 
On March 27, 2004, the Japan Defense Agency activated the Special Operations Group with the mandate under the JGSDF as its Counter-terrorist unit. 
On June 8, 2006, the Cabinet of Japan endorsed a bill elevating the Defense Agency ( 防衛庁 ) under the Cabinet Office to full-fledged cabinet-level Ministry of Defense ( 防衛省 ) . This was passed by the National Diet in December 2006, and has been enforced since January 9, 2007. 
In 2007, Prime Minister Shinzō Abe said that Japan's constitution did not necessarily ban possession of nuclear weapons, so long as they were kept at a minimum and were tactical weapons, and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda expressed a similar view. 
On January 9, 2007, Section 2 of Article 3 of the Self Defense Forces Act was revised. JSDF activities abroad were elevated from "miscellaneous regulations" to "basic duties." This fundamentally changed the nature of the JSDF because its activities are no longer solely defensive. JMSDF ships can be dispatched worldwide such as in activities against pirates. The JSDF's first postwar overseas base was established in Djibouti, Somalia (July 2010). 
Since 2010, Japan reemerged as a major military power. Various policies increased the role of Japan's military in its foreign policy. Japan's 2010 National Defense Program Guidelines changed its defense policy from a focus on the former Soviet Union to China. 
After a decade of defense spending cuts, Japan increased its defense budget in 2013. The Cabinet of Japan approved the National Security Strategy (NSS) in December 2013. This explains what instigated Japan's military resurgence: China is using military force in the skies and seas to unilaterally change the status quo in the South China Sea and East China Sea. This is based on China's assertions that are incompatible with the established order. China also lacks transparency of its military and national security policies. 
The Japanese are concerned about a gradual decline in commitment by the United States to support Japan in a multi-polarizing world. Thus since 2010 Japan has moved to a more autonomous security policy while maintaining the U.S.-Japan alliance. Japan has increased its power projection capabilities such as with the development of homemade long-range cruise missiles, the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade and the modification of two Izumo-class destroyers into de facto aircraft carriers with F-35bs. There's gradual integration among the three JSDF branches so they can operate more autonomously from the US. 
The United States maintains American military bases in Japan as part of the U.S.-Japan alliance of 1951. Most US military are in Okinawa Prefecture. In 2013 there were approximately 50,000 U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan with 40,000 dependents and 5,500 American civilians employed by the United States Department of Defense.  The United States Seventh Fleet is based in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture. The 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force (III MEF) is based in Okinawa. 130 USAF fighters are stationed in the Misawa Air Base and Kadena Air Base.  U.S. Fleet Activities Yokosuka is the largest and strategically most important U.S. naval base in the western Pacific.  The base was previously the headquarters of the Yokosuka Naval District of the Imperial Japanese Navy, but now only a small portion of it is used by the JMSDF. Kadena Air Base is the largest and most active US Air Force base in the Far East.  Japan pays 75% ($4.4 billion) of all US basing costs.  Japan's willingness to host the majority of the US Armed Forces in Asia makes Japan essential to America's security policy in the Indo-Pacific. This helps the U.S. to project military force in the Pacific and Asia. The U.S.-Japan alliance is the cornerstone of peace, stability and economic prosperity in the Pacific.  
On December 4, 2013, the National Security Council was established to coordinate the national security policies of Japan. 
In June 2014, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his cabinet agreed to lift the long-term ban on Japanese troops engaging in combat abroad. This was in a bid to strengthen the Japanese situation amid an ever-growing Chinese military aggression and North Korea's nuclear weapons programme. 
The JSDF Act was amended in 2015 in order to make it illegal for JSDF personnel/staff to participate in collective insubordination or to command forces without authority or in violation of orders, which was stated to be the reason why Japan was involved in China in World War II. 
Global U.S.-Japan alliance Edit
Until 2015, the U.S.-Japan alliance was a regional alliance with an exclusively defense oriented policy on defending Japan. The Guidelines for Japan-U.S. Defense Cooperation (2015) changed it into a global alliance with global military cooperation and greater U.S.-Japan coordination. It removed the regional restrictions that the alliance was only for Japan and the surrounding area. This allowed Japan to assume a global military role such as in the Indo-Pacific.  It was the first defense cooperation guidelines revision since 1997. Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry reaffirmed that America has an ironclad commitment to Japan's security which covers all territories under Japan's administration.  Constitutional reinterpretations of Article 9 and military legislation have expanded the role of the JSDF such as collective self-defense with allies.
On 18, September 2015, the National Diet enacted the 2015 Japanese military legislation, a series of laws that allow Japan's Self-Defense Forces to collective self-defense of allies in combat for the first time under its constitution. The Self-Defense Forces may provide material support to allies engaged in combat internationally. It also allows JSDF troops to defend weapons platforms of foreign countries that contribute to Japan's defense. The justification is that by not defending/supporting an ally, it would weaken alliances and endanger Japan. These were Japan's broadest changes to its defense laws since World War II. 
Since March 2016, Japan's Legislation for Peace and Security enables seamless responses of the JSDF to any situation to protect the lives and livelihood of Japanese people. It also increases proactive contributions to peace and security in the world and deepens cooperation with partners. This enhanced the Japan-US alliance as global partners to promote peace and security in the region and the international community. 
As of 2012, Japan and its allies want to maintain a "Free and Open Indo-Pacific" (FOIP). This means any country can freely navigate across the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean from Asia to Africa for economic purposes. By implementing and guarding the rule of law in the oceans, peace, stability and prosperity can be promoted.  The FOIP strategy became the official policy of Japan and the United States in 2017.  This is the opposite to China's Belt and Road Initiative where China seeks to become the main economic partner with major or dominant influence in countries in Eurasia, the Middle-East and Africa. There are territorial disputes in the South China Sea, because China claims nearly the whole South China Sea and wants to control the vital sea lanes in Asia. China built military outposts on islands which intimidate and violate the territorial claims of other countries like Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and the Philippines. One third of global seaborne trade ($3 trillion) passed through the South China Sea in 2017. 
A January 2018 survey by the Cabinet Office found 89.8% have a good impression of the JSDF. 
Japan activated the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, its first marine unit since World War Two, on April 7, 2018. They're trained to counter invaders from occupying Japanese islands.  Japan didn't have an amphibious force since the Imperial Japanese Navy Land Forces. 50 ARDB soldiers were deployed with 4 armored vehicles for the first time in an overseas training exercise with American and Filipino marines in Operation Kamandag in Luzon, the Philippines from 2 to 11 October 2018. This was the first time that Japanese armored vehicles landed on foreign soil since World War II. 
The Ministry of Defense said from 1 October 2018, the maximum age for enlisted personnel and non-commissioned officer applicants will be raised to 32 from 26 to secure “a stable supply of Self-Defense Forces (military) personnel amid a declining pool of recruits due to the recently declining birth rate.” 
The Ministry of Defense is developing supersonic glide bombs to strengthen the defense of Japan's remote islands, including the Senkaku Islands. The anti-surface strike capability will be used to help the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade's landing and recapture operations of remote islands. 
Military cooperation increased significantly with other like-minded democratic countries such as India, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. Such as on 2 October 2018, British troops of the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) exercised together for the first time with Japanese GSDF soldiers in Oyama, Shizuoka prefecture. This also marked the first time in history that foreign soldiers other than Americans exercised on Japanese soil. The purpose was to improve their strategic partnership and security cooperation. Lieutenant General Patrick Sanders said that Japan won't have to fight alone. 
The Ministry of Defense allocated $57 million for research and development of a hypersonic missile in the 2019 Defense Budget. It could travel five times the speed of sound (Mach 5) or faster. A scramjet engine prototype, jet fuel technology and heat-resistant materials will be built with testing from 2023 to 2025. 
Japan christened the 84-meter long, 2,950 tons Oryu submarine on October 4, 2018. It is Japan's first submarine powered by lithium-ion batteries and was developed by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force will utilize it by March 2020. 
The JGSDF and the Indian Army conducted their first joint military exercise in the Indian state of Mizoram from 27 October to 18 November 2018. It's primarily anti-terror drills and improving bilateral cooperation with 60 Japanese and Indian officers. 
Japan and the United States conducted the biggest military exercise around Japan thus far in the biennial Keen Sword from 29 October to 2 November 2018. It included a total of 57,000 sailors, marines and airmen. 47,000 service members were from the JSDF and 10,000 from the U.S. Armed Forces. A naval supply ship and frigate of the Royal Canadian Navy also participated. There were simulations of air combat, ballistic missile defense and amphibious landings. 
Since 2008, the number of scrambles by the JASDF to intercept Chinese aircraft has increased rapidly. In 2010 there were scrambles against 31 Chinese aircraft and 193 Russian aircraft. In 2018 this increased to 638 Chinese aircraft and 343 Russian aircraft. Chinese aircraft flight paths are mostly in the East China Sea, around the Ryukyu islands and through the Korea Strait. Russia frequently conducts flights orbiting Japan. 
The Ministry of Defense reported in fiscal 2018 that there were 999 scrambles by JASDF jets against mainly Chinese and Russian unidentified aircraft. That is the second highest amount of scrambles by the JASDF since 1958. 638 (64%) were Chinese aircraft and 343 (34%) were Russian aircraft. On June 20, 2019, two Russian bombers (Tupolev Tu-95) violated Japanese airspace twice on the same day. 
In December 2018, the Ministry of Defense announced they would procure an additional 63 F-35As and 42 F-35Bs. This increases the total F-35 Lightning II procurement from 42 to 147. 
The Japanese government approved the first ever JSDF dispatch to a peacekeeping operation that's not lead by the United Nations. Two JGSDF officers will monitor a cease-fire between Israel and Egypt at the Multinational Force and Observers command in the Sinai peninsula from 19 April till 30 November 2019. 
On 19 April 2019, Japan and the United States confirmed that cyberattacks are also covered by the bilateral security treaty. This will be judged on a case-by-case basis. Defense cooperation will increase for outer space, cyber and electronic warfare. 
Defense Minister Takeshi Iwaya announced plans to deploy Type 12 surface-to-ship missiles in March 2020. They have an increased range of 300 km and will be used to protect the southern Ryukyu Islands. Japan is also developing high-speed gliding missiles with a range of 1000 km. 
Reiwa era (2019–present) Edit
People's Liberation Army Navy vessels (PLAN) increasingly make incursions in the Western Pacific Ocean via the Miyako Strait. The Miyako Strait is one of the few international waterways through which China can access the Pacific Ocean. There is also increased Chinese naval and aerial activity near the Senkaku islands which are owned by Japan, but claimed by China. This puts the Southern Ryukyu Islands at the forefront of Japan's national defense. By 2030 China could have four aircraft carriers. Meanwhile, Japan only has two relatively small Izumo-class carriers. Each Izumo can carry just 10 F-35s. There are currently no plans to build bigger multi-purpose operation destroyers though experts say Japan needs at least four carriers for effective use in real combat situations. 
China's military spending increased a lot in 20 years. In 2019 China was the second highest military spender with $250 billion (1.9% of GDP). This strengthened its military power in the seas and skies around Japan. Comparatively, Japan's expenditure was $46.6 billion (0.9% of GDP).  Japan still depends on America for deterrence and offensive attack capabilities due to Article 9 of the 1947 constitution.
In May 2019, the JMSDF participated for the first time in two quadrilateral naval exercises. It included the JS Izumo and JS Murasame. It was also the first extended naval deployment of marines of the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade. The first exercise was a four-way sail-through in the South China Sea with naval ships of the United States, India, Japan and the Philippines. The second was the La Pérouse exercise in the Bay of Bengal with France, United States, Australia and Japan. 
On May 28, 2019, President Donald Trump inspected the JS Kaga, the second ship in the Izumo class, during his visit in Japan and supported the country's effort for an active role in the defense and security of the Pacific region. This was the first ever inspection by a U.S. president of a Japanese warship. Trump also stated that the JS Kaga will help defend Japan and America against threats in the region and far beyond. 
There is increasing support among Japanese to change Japan from being a pacifist to a "normal" country with an official military. In April 2019, a Kyodo News poll showed 45% thought Article 9 of the constitution should be revised.  This support for revision is partially due to: the hostility of North Korea, an increasingly assertive China, and unstable relations with Russia due to territorial disputes that prevent a peace treaty being signed. There are territorial disputes involving the Senkaku Islands, Liancourt Rocks, and the Kuril Islands. Japanese claim that the U.S. has failed to properly address these issues, so Japan must grant itself the means to adequately protect itself.
Attempts have been made by multiple Governments of Japan to amend the Japanese Constitution so that Japan can have an official and normal military with offensive capabilities to share an equal burden of national security duties. This was prevented by an anti-war sentiment among the populace and politicians. In May 2017, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe set a 2020 deadline for revising the Article 9 of the Japanese Constitution, a clause in the national Constitution of Japan outlawing war as a means to settle international disputes involving the state. This charter was written by the United States.   
The 'Defense of Japan 2019' white paper lists China as a bigger threat than North Korea. Defense Minister Taro Kono said “The reality is that China is rapidly increasing military spending,” “China is deploying air and sea assets in the Western Pacific and through the Tsushima Strait into the Sea of Japan with greater frequency.” The paper downgraded South Korea for exiting a military intelligence-sharing pact. This could make it more difficult to manage threats from North Korea. 
On October 21, 2019, a senior U.S. military officer in Tokyo said that "Japan’s avoidance of offensive weaponry under its constitution is no longer acceptable." The officer stated that Japan needs to rethink its rejection of offensive weapons and that the government should discuss it with the public. The officer also mentioned restrictions that limit the US forces and the JSDF's preparation for contingencies. The officer said that the government of Japan should inform the public about the threats of China and North Korea. In particular China's military buildup with ballistic missiles and its antagonistic behavior threatens Japan and other countries. 
On September 10, 2020, Japan and India signed a military pact called the Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA). The pact allows them to exchange logistical support and supplies. This includes transportation and cross-use of facilities during joint exercises and U.N. peacekeeping operations and to share food, fuel, spare parts. Narendra Modi and Shinzo Abe believe it will boost a Free and Open Indo-Pacific region and to deter Chinese aggression in Asia. Japan already had such agreements with Australia, Canada, France, UK and USA. 
Australia and Japan agreed in-principle to sign a Reciprocal Access Agreement (RAA) on 17, November 2020. This will enhance and streamline strategic and defense co-operation. Prime Minister Morrison said it is a "pivotal moment in the history of Japan-Australia ties". 
In 2021, the NHK reported that the Chinese military used a hacker group called Tick for cyberattacks on nearly 200 Japanese research institutions and firms.  A member of the China’s Communist Party used a false name to rent servers in Japan from which the cyberattacks were conducted. 
As of 2021 [update] , the Japanese government has discovered that foreign groups funded with Chinese capital are involved in at least 700 land sales within 10 km (6.2 mi) of U.S. military bases—and Japanese Self-Defense Force, Coast Guard, and space development facilities—in Japan. In Kanagawa Prefecture, a Chinese government–linked land buyer acquired multiple high-rise buildings and other locations overlooking the bases. Similar instances were found in Okinawa Prefecture and Tottori Prefecture. In 2017, the Sankei Shimbun reported that Chinese capital had purchased land in Hokkaido equivalent to the acreage of 513 Tokyo Domes. The Japanese Diet intends to pass a foreign land use control bill. 
What distinguishes Japan from other countries is that Japan was near continuously ruled by the military class with the shōgun, daimyo and samurai in the top of the Japanese social structure for 676 years (from 1192 till 1868). In 1192, the shōgun Minamoto no Yoritomo and the Minamoto clan established a feudal military government in Kamakura.  The Emperor was above the shōgun and revered as the sovereign, but merely a figurehead. The Imperial Court nobility was a nominal ruling court with little influence. The actual ruling class were Japanese military figures: the shōgun (military dictator), daimyo (feudal lords) and the samurai (military nobility and officers).  The samurai were idolized and their conduct was role model behavior for other social classes. This resulted in Japanese culture to have a long militaristic heritage. In human history only a few countries had a warrior caste at the top of their social structure, a class that was practically above the aristocracy. Few military governments lasted more than 600 years.
One key difference between ancient China and Japanese society was the development of the samurai class in Japan. Feudal China had four classes: Confucian literati and landlords, peasants, artisans and merchants. The Confucian literati and landlords were at the top of Chinese social structure. Japanese feudal society was also stratified, but had the samurai class in the top of Japanese society since the 12th century. Thus many experts consider pre-modern Japan a "warrior nation" as the ideals, ideologies of the samurai permeated through Japanese culture and society.  Such as bushido and the Japanese proverb Hana wa sakuragi, hito wa bushi (Japanese: 花は桜木人は武士 , literally "the [best] blossom is the cherry blossom the [best] man is the warrior").  Comparatively the Chinese idiom is Haonan budang Bing, Hao tie bu dading (Chinese: 好铁不打钉、好男不当兵 , means "Good iron is not cast into nails good men are not made into soldiers"). 
Japan is a very large empire entirely composed of islands. One language is spoken throughout, not very difficult to learn. This country was discovered by the Portuguese eight or nine years ago. The Japanese are very ambitious of honors and distinctions, and think themselves superior to all nations in military glory and valor. They prize and honor all that has to do with war, and all such things, and there is nothing of which they are so proud as of weapons adorned with gold and silver. They always wear swords and daggers both in and out of the house, and when they go to sleep they hang them at the bed's head. In short, they value arms more than any people I have ever seen. They are excellent archers, and usually fight on foot, though there is no lack of horses in the country. They are very polite to each other, but not to foreigners, whom they utterly despise. They spend their means on arms, bodily adornment, and on a number of attendants, and do not in the least care to save money. They are, in short, a very warlike people, and engaged in continual wars among themselves the most powerful in arms bearing the most extensive sway. They have all one sovereign, although for one hundred and fifty years past the princes have ceased to obey him, and this is the cause of their perpetual feuds.  
Nakamura explained in 1843:
Our nation is a nation of arms. The land to the west [China] is a nation of letters. Nations of letters value the pen. Nations of arms value the sword. That's the way it has been from the beginning. Our country and theirs are separated from one another by hundreds of miles, our customs are completely different, the temperaments of our people are dissimilar – so how could we possibly share the same Way? (Nakamura 1843 cited in Watanabe 2012: 285).  
The Meiji Restoration consolidated the political system under the Emperor of Japan with practical abilities. The shogun and daimyo were abolished. Their domains were returned to the emperor. Power was mainly transferred to a group of people called the Meiji oligarchy and the Genrō who helped restore imperial power.  The Genrō were retired senior statesmen and informal advisers to the emperor. All Genrō except Saionji Kinmochi were descendants of medium or lower ranking samurai families from Satsuma and Chōshū. They were instrumental in overthrowing the Tokugawa Shogunate in the Boshin War (1868–1869). 
In 1873, Emperor Meiji abolished the samurai class in favor of a western-style conscripted army. They lost their privileges such as the only class allowed to wield weapons. Many samurai volunteered as soldiers, and many advanced to be trained as officers. Much of the Imperial Japanese Army officer class was of samurai origin, and were highly motivated, disciplined, and exceptionally trained. Many samurai were literate and well-educated. Such as Baron Sadao Araki who served as the Minister of Education and Iwasaki Yatarō who founded Mitsubishi in 1870.  So most leaders in Japanese society during the Meiji period (military, politics and business) were ex-samurai or descendants of samurai. They shared a set of values and outlooks. This caused Japanese militarism to dominate the political and social life of the Empire of Japan. The military class has arguably been the de facto rulers of Japan for about 753 years from 1192 until 1945, starting with the first shogun until the last ex-samurai politicians. The 1947 constitution transformed Japan into a pacifist country. The former soldiers gained other professions such as salaryman. Douglas MacArthur was dubbed the Gaijin Shōgun ( 外人将軍 ) for being the military governor of Japan from 1945 to 1951. 
The First Invasion (Bunei Campaign)
Finally, in 1274, the Mongol fleet sailed out, with about 15,000 Mongol and Chinese troops and 8,000 Korean troops, in 300 large ships and 400–500 smaller ships. They conquered the islands of Tsushima and Iki easily, and landed on November 19 in Hakata Bay, not far from Dazaifu, Kyushu’s former administrative center. The next day the Battle of Bun’ei took place, also known as the “Battle of Hakata Bay” the Mongols had better tactics and weapons, but their numbers were much smaller than those Japanese warriors who had been prepared for the attack for several months, and also received aid as soon as they heard the news of the fall of Tsushima and Iki. The Japanese managed to survive all day, and the storm that night forced the Mongol army to retreat.
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Stephen Turnbull is the world's leading authority on samurai culture. He took his first degree at Cambridge and has two MAs (in Theology and Military History) from Leeds University. In 1996 he received a PhD from Leeds for his thesis on Japan's Kakure Kirishitan. In its published form the work won the Japan Festival Literary Award in 1998. Having lectured in East Asian Studies and Theology he is now retired and is an Honorary Lecturer at Leeds, a Research Associate at SOAS and Visiting Professor of Japanese Studies at Akita International University. He has published 73 books and many journal articles. His expertise was also put to use in helping design the award-winning computer strategy game Shogun Total War, and in 2010 he acted as Historical Adviser to Universal Pictures for the movie 47 Ronin. He is currently working on a major project tracing the historical evolution of the ninja as a cultural phenomenon.
Richard Hook was born in 1938 and trained at Reigate College of Art. After national service with 1st Bn, Queen's Royal Regiment he became art editor of the much-praised magazine Finding Out during the 1960s. He earned an international reputation particularly for his deep knowledge of Native American material culture and illustrated more than 30 Osprey titles. Richard's three children Adam, Jason, and Christa are all professionally active in various artistic disciplines. He died in 2010.
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By the 1250s, the Mongol Empire controlled large amounts of Eurasia including much of Eastern Europe, Anatolia, North China, Mongolia, Manchuria, Central Asia, Tibet and Southwest Asia. Möngke Khan (r. 1251–59) planned to attack the Song dynasty in southern China from three directions in 1259. Therefore, he ordered the prince Kublai to pacify the Dali Kingdom.  Uriyangkhadai led successful campaigns in the southwest of China and pacified tribes in Tibet before turning east towards Đại Việt by 1257. 
The conquest of Yunnan Edit
In order to avoid a costly frontal assault on the Sung, which would have required a risky forced crossing of the lower Yangtze, Mongke decided to establish a base of operations in southwestern China, from which a flank attack could be staged.  In the late summer of 1252 he ordered his brother Kublai to led the southwest campaign. In fall, the Mongol armies advanced to the Tao River, then penetrated the Szechwan basin, defeated the local Sung garrisons, and established a major Mongolian base in the city of Li-chou.  Total Mongol forces raised up to 100,000 men. 
When Mongke learned that the king Duan Xingzhi of Dali in Yunnan (a kingdom ruled by the Tuan dynasty) refused to negotiate, and his prime minister Gao Xiang had murdered the envoys whom Mongke had sent to Dali to demand the king's surrender, he ordered Kublai and Uriyangkhadai attack Dali in summer 1253.  In September, Kublai launched a three-pronged attack on Dali.  The western army led by Uriyangkhadai, marched from modern-day Gansu through eastern Tibet toward Dali the eastern army led by Wang Te-ch'en marched southward from Sichuan, passed just west of Chengdu before reuniting briefly with Kublai's army in the town of Xichang. Kublai's army met and engaged with Dali forces along the Jinsha River.  After several skirmishes which Dali forces repeatedly turned back the Mongol raids, Kublai's army crossed the river on inflated rafts of sheepskin during a night and routed Dali defensive positions.  With Dali forces in disarray, three Mongol columns quickly captured the capital of Dali on December 15, 1253, and even though its ruler had rejected Kublai's submission order, the capital and its inhabitants were spared.  Duan Xingzhi and Gao Xiang both fled, but Gao was soon captured and beheaded.  Duan Xingzhi fled to Shanchan (modern-day Kunming) and continued to resist the Mongols with aids from local clans until autumn 1255 when he was finally captured.  As they had done on many other invasions, the Mongols left the native dynasty in place under the supervision of Mongolian officials.  Bin Yang noted that the Duan clan was recruited to assist with further invasions of the Burmese Pagan Empire and the initial successful attack on the Vietnamese kingdom of Dai Viet. 
At the end of 1254 Kublai returned to Mongolia to consult with his brother the khagan. Uriyangkhadai was left in Yunnan, and from 1254 to 1257 he conducted campaigns against local Yi and Lolo tribes. In early 1257 he returned to Gansu and sent emissaries to Mongke's court informing his sovereign that Yunnan was now firmly under Mongolian control. Pleased, the emperor honored and generously rewarded Uriyangkhadai for his fine achievement.  Then Uriyangkhadai subsequently returned to Yunnan and began preparing for the first Mongolian incursions into Southeast Asia. 
In the autumn of 1257, Uriyangkhadai addressed three letters to Vietnamese ruler Trần Thái Tông (known as Trần Nhật Cảnh by the Mongol) demanding passage through to southern China.  Trần Thái Tông opposed the encroachment of a foreign army across his territory to attack their ally, and so prepared soldiers on elephants to deter the Mongol troops.  After the three successive envoys were imprisoned in the capital Thang Long (modern-day Hanoi) of Đại Việt, Uriyangkhadai invaded Đại Việt with generals Trechecdu and Aju in the rear.  
Mongol forces Edit
In 1258, a Mongol column under Uriyangkhadai, the son of Subutai, invaded Đại Việt. According to Vietnamese sources, the Mongol army consisted of at least 30,000 soldiers of which at least 2,000 were Yi troops from the Dali Kingdom.  Modern scholarship points to a force of several thousand Mongols, ordered by Kublai to invade with Uriyangkhadai in command, which battled with the Viet forces on 17 January 1258.  Some Western sources estimated that the Mongol army consisted of about 3,000 Mongol warriors with an additional 10,000 Yi soldiers. 
A battle was fought in which the Vietnamese used war elephants: king Trần Thái Tông even led his army from atop an elephant.  Aju ordered his troops to fire arrows at the elephants' feet.   The animals turned in panic and caused disorder in the Vietnamese army, which was routed.   The Vietnamese senior leaders were able to escape on pre-prepared boats while part of their army was destroyed at No Nguyen (modern Viet Tri on the Hong River). The remainder of the Dai Viet army again suffered a major defeat in a fierce battle at the Phú Lộ bridge the day after. This led the Vietnamese monarch to evacuate the capital. The Đại Việt annals reported that the evacuation was "in an orderly manner" however this is viewed as an embellishment because the Vietnamese had to retreat in disarray to leave their weapons behind in the capital. 
King Trần Thái Tông fled to an offshore island,   while the Mongols occupied the capital city Thăng Long (modern-day Hanoi). They found their envoys in prison, however one of whom died. In revenge, Mongols massacred the city's inhabitants.  Although the Mongols had successfully captured the capital, the provinces around the capital were still under Vietnamese control.  : 85 While Chinese source material is sometimes misinterpreted as saying that Uriyangkhadai withdrew from Vietnam due to poor climate,   Uriyangkhadai left Thang Long after nine days to invade the Song dynasty in modern-day Guangxi in a coordinated Mongol attack with armies attacking in Sichuan under Möngke Khan and other Mongol armies attacking in modern-day Shandong and Henan.  The Mongol army gained the popular local nickname of "Buddhist enemies" because they did not loot nor kill while moving north out to Yunnan.  After the loss of a prince and the capital, Trần Thái Tông submitted to the Mongols. 
In 1258, the Vietnamese monarch Trần Thái Tông commenced regular diplomatic relations and a tributary relationship with the Mongol court, treating them as equals to the embattled Southern Song dynasty without renouncing their ties to the Song.  In March 1258, Trần Thái Tông retired and let his son, prince Trần Hoảng, succeed the throne. In the same year, the new king sent envoys to the Mongol in Yunnan. The Mongol leader Uriyangkhadai demanded that the king come to China to submit in person. King Trần Thánh Tông answer: "If my small country sincerely serves your majesty, how will your big country treat us?" The Mongol envoys traveled back to Thăng Long, Yunnan and Dadu, eventually the message from the Vietnamese court was that the king's children or brother would be sent to China as hostage.  
Background and diplomacy Edit
With the defeat of the Song dynasty in 1276, the newly established Yuan dynasty turned its attention to the south, particularly Champa and Đại Việt.  An army commander in Guangxi wrote to the Yuan court that he claimed "the defenses of Champa were so weak that I could conquer the country with three thousand infantry soldiers and three hundred cavalrymen", and navigators told the court that "Champa could be easily reached in one day's sailing from Hainan".  Kublai also was interested in Champa because, by geographical location, it dominated the sea routes between China and the states of Southeast and South Asia.  Although the king of Champa accepted the status of a Mongol protectorate,  his submission was unwilling. In late 1281, Kublai issued the edict ordering the mobilization of a hundred ships and ten thousand men, consisting of official Yuan forces, former Song troops and sailors to invade Sukhothai, Lopburi, Malabar and other countries, and Champa "will be instructed to furnish the food supplies of the troops."  However, his plans were canceled as the Yuan court discussed that they would send envoys to these countries to make them submit to the Mongol. This suggestion was adopted and successful for the Yuan, but these missions all had to pass by or stop at Champa.  Kublai knew that the pro-Song sentiment was strong in Champa, the Cham king was had been sympathetic to the Song cause.  A large numbers of Chinese officials, soldiers and civilians who fled from the Mongol had refuge in Champa, and they had inspired and incited to hate the Mongol.  Thus, in the summer of 1282, when Yuan envoys He Zizhi, Hangfu Jie, Yu Yongxian, and Yilan passed through Champa, they were detained and imprisoned by the Cham Prince Harijit.  In summer 1282, Kublai ordered Sogetu of the Jalairs, the governor of Guangzhou, to lead the punitive expedition to the Chams. Kublai declared: "The old king (Jaya Indravarman V) is innocent. The ones who oppose to our order was his son (Harijit) and a Southern Chinese."  In late 1282, Sogetu led a maritime invasion of Champa with 5,000 men, but could only muster 100 ships and 250 landing crafts because most of the Yuan ships had been lost in the invasions of Japan. 
Sogetu's fleet arrived in Champa's shore, near modern-day Thị Nại Bay [vi] in February 1283.  The Cham defenders had already prepared a fortified wooden palisades on the west shore of the bay.  The Mongol landed at midnight of 13 February, attacked the stockade by three sides. The Cham defenders opened the gate, marched to the beach and met the Yuan with 10,000 men and several scores of elephants.  Undaunted, the highly experienced Mongol general selected points of attack and launched so fierce an assault that they broke through then initial defeated the Chams.  The battle lasted from early morning to about 11 am - 1 pm as the Cham stockade was captured.  The Yuan learned that the food supply found in the stockade was sufficient to feed several ten thousands of men.  Sogetu's forces arrived the capital Vijaya and captured the city two days later, but then withdrew and set up camps outside the city.  The aged Champa king Indravarman V abandoned his temporary headquarter (palace), set fire to his warehouses and retreated out of the capital, avoiding Mongol attempts to capture him in the hills.  The Cham king and his prince Harijit both refused to visit the Mongol camp. The Cham executed two captured Mongol envoys and ambushed Sogetu's troops in the mountains. 
As the Cham delegates continued to offer excuses, the Yuan commanders gradually began to realize that the Chams had no intention of coming to terms and were only using the negotiations to stall for time.  From a captured spy, Sogetu knew that Indravarman had 20,000 men with him in the mountains, he had summoned Cham reinforcements from Panduranga (Phan Rang) in the south, and also dispatched emissaries to Đại Việt, Khmer Empire and Java for seeking aid.  On 16 March, Sogetu sent a strong force into the mountains to seek and destroy the hideout of the Cham king. It was ambushed and driven back with heavy losses.  His son would wage guerrilla warfare against the Mongols for the next two years, eventually wearing down the invaders. 
The Mongols withdrew to the wooden stockade on the beach in order to await reinforcements and supplies. Sogetu's men unloaded the supplies, cleared the field for farming rice so he was able to harvest 150,000 piculs of rice in that summer.  Sogetu sent two officers to Cambodia to open relations with that country, but they were detained.  Stymied by the withdrawal of the Champa king, Sogetu asked for reinforcements from Kublai. In March 1284 another Mongol fleet with more than 20,000 troops of 200 ships under Ataqai and Ariq Qaya embarked on a fruitless mission to reinforce him.  Sogetu presented his plan to have more troops invade Champa through Đại Việt. Kublai accepted his plan and put his son Toghan in command, with Sogetu as second in command. 
Interlude (1260–1284) Edit
In 1261, the Vietnamese king Trần Thánh Tông (son of Trần Thái Tông – known to the Mongols as Trần Nhật Huyên) agreed to acknowledge the overlordship of Kublai Khan, and sent tributary envoys to Dadu. Kublai enfeoffed Trần Thánh Tông as "King of Annam" (Annan guowang).  However in 1267, he rejected the "Six-Duties of a vassal state" of the Mongol Emperor gave, included the permit the stationing of a darughachi (regional general) with authority over the local administration.  Kublai Khan was dissatisfied with the tributary arrangement, which granted the Yuan dynasty the same amount of tribute as the former Song dynasty had received, and requested greater tributary payments.  These demands included taxes to the Mongols in both money and labor, "incense, gold, silver, cinnabar, agarwood, sandalwood, ivory, tortoiseshell, pearls, rhinoceros horn, silk floss, and porcelain cups".  Later that year, Kublai required that the Đại Việt court send two Muslim merchants he believed to be in Đại Việt to China in order for them to serve on missions on the Western regions and designated heir apparent of the Yuan as "Prince of Yunnan" to take control of Dali, Shanshan (Kunming) and Đại Việt. This would mean that Đại Việt should be incorporated into the Yuan Empire, which was totally unacceptable to the Vietnamese.  In 1274, Chinese refugees from Southern Song fled in 30 boats to Dai Viet. 
In 1278, Trần Thái Tông died, the king Trần Thánh Tông retired and made crown prince Trần Khâm (as known as Trần Nhân Tông, known to the Mongol as Trần Nhật Tôn) his successor. Kublai sent a mission led by Chai Chun to Đại Việt, one again urged the new king to come to China in person, however the Yuan mission ended in failures as the king resisted to go.  The Yuan then refused to recognize him as king and tried to place a Vietnamese defector as king of Dai Viet.  Frustrated with these failed diplomat missions, many Yuan officials urged Kublai to send a punitive expedition to Đại Việt.  In 1283, Khubilai Khan sent Ariq Qaya to Dai Viet with an imperial request for help from Annam (Dai Viet) to attack Champa through Vietnamese territory, with demands for provisions and other support to the Yuan army.  
In 1284 Kublai appointed his son Toghan (Vietnamese: Thoát Hoan) to command a force overland to assist Sogetu. Toghan demanded from the Vietnamese a route to Champa, which would trap the Cham army from both north and south, but they refused, and came to the conclusion that this was a pretext for a Yuan conquest of Dai Viet. Nhân Tông ordered a defensive war against the Yuan invasion, with Prince Trần Quốc Tuấn in charge of the army.  A Yuan envoy recorded that the Vietnamese had already sent 500 ships to help the Cham.  In fall 1284 Toghon moved his troops to the border with Dai Viet, and in December a envoy reported that Kublai had ordered Toghon, Pingzhang Ali and Ariq Qaya to enter Dai Viet under the banner to attack Champa, but instead to invade Dai Viet.  Southern Song Chinese military officers and civilian officials left to overseas countries, went to Vietnam and intermarried with the Vietnamese ruling elite and went to Champa to serve the government there as recorded by Zheng Sixiao.  Southern Song soldiers were part of the Vietnamese army prepared by king Trần Thánh Tông against the second Mongol invasion.  Also in the same year, the Venetian traveler Marco Polo might have visited Dai Viet (Caugigu) [a] almost when the Yuan and the Vietnamese were ready for war, then he went to Chengdu via Heni (Amu). 
Mongol advance (January-May 1285) Edit
The land Yuan army invading Dai Viet under the command of prince Toghon and Uighur general Ariq Qaya, while Tangut general Li Heng and Muslim general Omar led the navy.  The Vietnamese forces, were reported numbered 100,000.  Yuan troops crossed the Friendship Pass (Sino-Vietnamese border's gate) on 27 January 1285, divided in six columns working their way down the rivers.  After passed the mountainous terrains with collecting nails, traps along the highway, Mongol forces under Omar reached Vạn Kiếp (modern-day Hải Dương province) on 10 February, and three days later they broke the Vietnamese defenses to reach the north bank of Cầu River.  On 18 February the Mongols used captured vessels defeated the Vietnamese and succeeded in crossing the river. All prisoners caught to have the words "Sát Thát" tattooed on their arms were executed. Instead of advancing further south after their victory, the Yuan forces remained kin the north bank of the river, fighting daily skirmishes but making little advances to the Vietnamese in the south. 
In a pincer movement, Toghon sent an officer name Tanggudai to instruct Sogetu, who was in Huế to march north while at the same time he was sending frantic appeals for reinforcements from China, and he wrote to the Vietnamese king that the Yuan forces had come in, not as enemies but as allies against Champa.  In late February, Sogetu's forces marched from the south penetrated the pass of Nghệ An, captured the cities of Vinh and Thanh Hoá, the Vietnamese supply bases in Nam Định and Ninh Bình, captured 400 Song officers who were fighting alongside with the Vietnamese. Prince Quốc Tuấn divided his forces to try preventing Sogetu grouping with Toghon, but were overwhelmed. 
In late February, Toghon launched a full offensive against Dai Viet. Yuan fleet under the command of Omar attacked along the Đuống River, succeeded capturing Hanoi while driving king Nhân Tông to the sea.  Planning to weaken the Mongol strength, the Vietnamese abandoned the capital and retreated south while enacting a scorched earth campaign by abandoning empty capital and cities, burning villages and crops where the Mongols occupied.  In the next day, Toghon entered the capital and found an empty palace.  Many Vietnamese royals and nobles were frightened and defected to the Yuan, including prince Trần Ích Tắc.  The king Trần Nhân Tông and his army managed to escape to his royal estates in Nam Định, and re-concentrated here.  The Yuan forces under Omar launched two naval offensives in April and again drove the Vietnamese forces to the south. 
Vietnamese counterattack (May-June 1285) Edit
In May 1285, the situation began changing as Yuan's supplies were overextended, Toghon ordered Sogetu to led his troops attack Nam Định (the main Vietnamese bases) to seize foods.  In Thăng Long, the situation of the Yuan forces grew more desperate. Shortage of food, starvation, summer heat and disease also took their toll of lives. They were hemmed in the city and environments where the Mongol cavalry was ineffective. In a battle in Hàm Tử pass (modern-day Khoái Châu District, Hưng Yên) in late May 1285, a contingent of Yuan troops was defeated by a partisan force consisting of former Song troops led by Zhao Zhong under prince Nhật Duật and native militia.  On 9 June 1285, Mongol troops evacuated Hanoi to retreat back to China. 
Taking advantage, the Vietnamese force under prince Quốc Tuấn sailed to the north and attacked Vạn Kiếp, the important Mongol camp and cut off the Mongol supplies.  Many Yuan generals were killed in the battle, included the senior Li Heng who was struck by a poisoned arrow.  The Yuan forces became disarrayed, and Sogetu was killed in Chương Dương by Cham-Vietnamese force in June 1285.  To protect Toghon from being shot, the soldiers made a copper box in which they hid him until they reach the Guangxi border.  Yuan generals Omar and Liu Gui ran to the beach, found a small boat and escaped back to China. The Yuan remnants retreated back to China on late June 1285 as the Vietnamese king and royals returned to capital Thăng Long after the 6-months resistance war.  
Background and preparations Edit
In 1286, Kublai Khan appointed Trần Thánh Tông's younger brother, Prince Trần Ích Tắc, as the King of Đại Việt from afar with the intent of dealing with the uncooperative incumbent Trần Nhân Tông.   Trần Ích Tắc, who had already surrendered to the Yuan, was willing to lead a Yuan army into Đại Việt to take the throne.  Kublai Khan cancelled plans underway for a third invasion of Japan to concentrated military preparations in the south.  Kublai accused the Vietnamese for raiding China, and pressed the efforts of China should be directed towards winning the war against Đại Việt. 
In October 1287, the Yuan land forces commanded by Toghon (assisted by Nasir al-Din and Kublai's grandson Esen-Temür)  moved southwards from Guangxi and Yunnan in three divisions led by general Abachi and Changyu,  while the naval expedition led by generals Omar, Zhang Wenhu, and Aoluchi.  The army was complemented by a large naval force that advanced from Qinzhou, with the intent to form a large pincer movement against the Vietnamese.  The force was composed of Mongols, Jurchen, Han Chinese, Zhuang, and Li troops.   Total Yuan forces raised up to 170,000 men for this invasion. 
The Yuan were successful in the early phases of the invasion, occupying and looting the Đại Việt capital. 
In January 1288, as Omar's fleet passed through the Ha Long Bay to join Toghon's forces in Vạn Kiếp (modern-day Hải Dương province), followed by Zhang Wenhu's supply fleet, the Vietnamese navy under prince Trần Khánh Dư attacked and destroyed Wenhu's fleet.   The Yuan land army under Toghan and naval fleet under Omar, both already in Vạn Kiếp, were unaware of the loss of their supply fleet.  Despite that, in February 1288 Toghon ordered to attack the Vietnamese forces. Toghon returned to the capital Thăng Long to loot food, while Omar destroyed king Trần Thái Tông's tomb in Thái Bình. 
Due to a lack of food supplies, Toghon and Omar's army retreated from Thăng Long to their fortified main base in Vạn Kiếp (northeast of Hanoi) on 5 March 1288.  They planned to withdraw from Đại Việt but waited for the supplies to arrive before departing.  As food supplies ran low and their positions became untenable, Toghon decided on 30 March 1288 to return to China.  Toghon boarded a large warship for himself and the Yuan land force could not withdraw in the same way from which they came. Trần Hưng Đạo, aware of the Yuan retreat, prepared to attack. The Vietnamese had destroyed bridges and roads and created traps along the retreating Yuan route. They pursued Toghon's forces to Lạng Sơn, where on April 10,  Toghon himself was struck by a poisoned arrows,  and was forced to abandon his ship and avoided highways as he was escorted back to Siming in China by his few remaining troops through the forests.  Most of Toghon's land force were killed or captured.  Meanwhile, the Yuan fleet commanded by Omar were retreating through the Bạch Đằng river. 
At the Bạch Đằng River in April 1288, the Vietnamese prince Trần Hưng Đạo ambushed Omar's Yuan fleet in the third Battle of Bạch Đằng.  The Vietnamese forces placed hidden metal-tipped wooden stakes in the riverbed and attacked the fleet once it had been impaled on the stakes.  Omar himself was taken as a prisoner of war.   The Yuan fleet was destroyed and the army retreated in disarray without supplies.  A few days later, Zhang Wenhu who thought that the Yuan armies were still in Vạn Kiếp, unaware of the Yuan defeat, his transport fleet sailed into the Bạch Đằng river and was destroyed by the Vietnamese navy.  Only Wenhu and few Yuan soldiers managed to escaped. 
Several thousand Yuan troops, unfamiliar with the terrain, were lost and never regained contact with the main force.  An account of the battle from Lê Tắc, a Vietnamese scholar who defected to the Yuan in 1285, said that the remnants of the army followed him north in retreat and reached Yuan-controlled territory on Lunar New Year's Day in 1289.  When the Yuan troops were withdrawn before malaria season, Lê Tắc went north with them.  Many of his companions, ten thousand died between the mountain passes of the Sino-Viet borderlands.  After the war Lê Tắc got permanently exiled in China, and was appointed by the Yuan government the position of Prefect of Pacified Siam (Tongzhi Anxianzhou). 
The Mongol Yuan dynasty was unable to militarily defeat the Vietnamese and the Cham.  Kublai was angry over the Yuan defeats in Đại Việt, banished prince Toghon to Yangzhou  and wanted to launch another invasion, but was persuaded in 1291 to send the Minister of Rites Zhang Lidao to induce Trần Nhân Tông to come to China. The Yuan mission arrived in Vietnamese capital on 18 March 1292 and stayed in a guesthouse, where the king made a protocol with Zhang.  Trần Nhân Tông sent a mission with a memorial to return with Zhang Lidao to China. In memorial, Trần Nhân Tông explained his inability to visit China. The detail said among ten Vietnamese envoys to Dadu, six or seven of them died on the way.  He wrote a letter to Kublai Khan describing the death and destruction the Mongol armies wrought on Dai Viet, vividly recounting the brutality of the soldiers, and the desecration of sacred Buddhist sites.  Instead of going to Dadu personally by himself, the Vietnamese king sent a gold statue to Yuan court.  Another Yuan mission was sent in September 1292.  As late as 1293, Kublai Khan planned a fourth military campaign to install Trần Ích Tắc as the King of Đại Việt, but the plans for the campaign were halted when Kublai Khan died in early 1294.  The new Yuan emperor, Temür Khan announced that the war with Đại Việt was over, and he sent a mission to Đại Việt to restore friendly relations between two countries. 
Đại Việt Edit
Three Mongol invasions devastated Đại Việt, but the Vietnamese did not succumb to Yuan demands. Eventually, not a single Trần king or prince visited China.  The Trần dynasty of Đại Việt decided to accept the supremacy of the Yuan dynasty in order to avoid further conflicts. In 1289, Đại Việt released most of Mongol prisoners of war to China, but Omar, whose return Kublai particularly demanded, was intentionally drowned when the boat transporting him was contrived to sink.  In the winter of 1289–1290, king Trần Nhân Tông led an attack into modern-day Laos, against the advice of his advisors, with the goal of preventing raids from the inhabitants of the highlands.  Famines and starvations ravaged the country from 1290 to 1292. There were no records of what caused the crop failures, but possible factors included neglect of the water control system due to the war, the mobilization of men away from the rice fields, and floods or drought.  Although Đại Việt repelled the Mongols, the capital Thăng Long was razed, and the Vietnamese suffered major losses in population and property.  Nhân Tông rebuilt the Thăng Long citadel in 1291 and 1293. 
In 1293, Kublai detained the Vietnamese envoy, Đào Tử Kí, because Trần Nhân Tông refused to go to Beijing in person. Kublai's successor Temür Khan (r.1294-1307), later released all detained envoys and resumed their tributary relationship initially established after the first invasion, which continued to the end of the Yuan. 
During the Mongol invasions, the Vietnamese began to focus on the development of military technology. One example was a new type of watercraft which was light, manoeuvrable, fast, and able to hold three times as many oarsmen.  Fire arms and fire lance techniques were brought to Đại Việt by the remnants of the Song, and the Vietnamese developed these weapons further in the next century.  When the Ming dynasty conquered Đại Việt in 1407, they found that the Vietnamese were skillful in making a type of fire lance which fires out an arrow and a number of lead bullets as co-viative projectiles.   Vietnamese ceramic and metal working industry also had changed after the Mongol invasions. 
The Champa Kingdom decided to accept the supremacy of the Yuan dynasty and also established a tributary relationship with the Yuan.  In 1305, Cham king Chế Mân (r. 1288 – 1307) married the Vietnamese princess Huyền Trân (daughter of Trần Nhân Tông) as he ceded two provinces Ô and Lý to Đại Việt. 
Despite the military defeats suffered during the campaigns, they are often treated as a success by historians for the Mongols due to the establishment of tributary relations with Đại Việt and Champa.    The initial Mongol goal of placing Đại Việt, a tributary state of the Southern Song dynasty, as their own tributary state was accomplished after the first invasion.  However, the Mongols failed to impose their demands of greater tribute and direct darughachi oversight over Đại Việt's internal affairs during their second invasion and their goal of replacing the uncooperative Trần Nhân Tông with Trần Ích Tắc as the King of Đại Việt during the third invasion.   Nonetheless, friendly relations were established and Dai Viet continued to pay tribute to the Mongol court.  
Vietnamese historiography emphasizes the Vietnamese military victories.  The three invasions, and the Battle of Bạch Đằng in particular, are remembered within Vietnam and Vietnamese historiography as prototypical examples of Vietnamese resistance against foreign aggression.   Prince Trần Quốc Tuấn is remembered as the national hero who saved Vietnamese independence. 
- ^ Caugigu refers to Giao Chỉ, or Đại Việt at the time, the northern part of modern-day Vietnam. 
- ^ abAnderson 2014, p. 129.
- ^ abcAtwood 2004, p. 579.
- ^ abHà & Phạm 2003, p. 66-68.
- ^Man 2012, p. 350.
- ^Atwood 2004, p. 579–580.
- ^ abcAnderson 2014, p. 127.
- ^ abcdefghLo 2012, p. 288.
- ^ abcdefLo 2012, p. 292.
- ^ abMan 2012, p. 351.
- ^ abcdefghLo 2012, p. 302.
- ^ abcdeBaldanza 2016, p. 17.
- ^ abWeatherford 2005, p. 212.
- ^ abHucker 1975, p. 285.
- ^ abcHaw 2013, p. 361-371.
- ^ abcBulliet et al. 2014, p. 336.
- ^Baldanza 2016, p. 17-26.
- ^ abcAllsen 2006, p. 405.
- ^Rossabi 2009, p. 27.
- ^ abAnderson 2014, p. 116.
- ^ abHerman 2020, p. 47.
- ^Anderson 2014, p. 117.
- ^Allsen 2006, p. 405-406.
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Primary sources Edit
- Harris, Peter (2008), The Travels of Marco Polo, the Venetian, Alfred A. Knopf
- Lê, Tắc (1961), An Nam chí lược, A brief history of Annam, University of Hue , The Travels of Marco Polo (宋濂), History of Yuan (元史) , Jami' al-tawarikh
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THE MONGOL INVASION (s) OF JAPAN!
Both Japan and China have a long-intricate backstory, each with a unique and rich cultural history that spans thousands of years. Today, it seems like practically everything in the world is manufactured from one of these two economic powerhouses, but long before they began exporting anime, video games, and John Woo action movies, these two nations were all but isolated from the rest of civilization, and for the most part, each other. Well, that is until this one time…
You see, during the 1200’s these two nations were under the rule of some of history’s most badass military forces: The Mongol Warriors of China’s Yuan Dynasty and the elite warrior caste of feudal Japan: the Samurai! It was at the later half of the Thirteenth Century when these two legendary warriors finally came into conflict with one another. Regardless of the outcome, it was sure to be a spectacular showdown that would echo through the halls of their ancestors, like the taunts of opposing football teams echoing through the locker rooms.
The Mongols Take China
So the Mongols were this group of hardcore warriors who first came together with the sole purpose of conquering the world (or at least Asia). They were a rambunctious horde of horse-back riding, arrow-shooting, felons who were first brought together, under the united banner of the Mongolian tribes, by a larger-than-life butt-kicking fiend known as: Genghis…
*Genghis* Khan (not to be confused with the Trek villain)
A drive-by-shooting, circa: Medieval China.
Between siring an astronomical number of heirs, Genghis Khan (read all about him here) conquered practically everything in sight. Whole villages would bow down before him, just because they’d heard rumors of the unpleasant alternative. He was even quoted as saying,“I am the scourge of God. Had you not created Great Sins, God would not have sent a punishment like ME upon you!” Modesty was not exactly his strong-suite. With an army of one-hundred-thousand, Genghis Khan took on the world, and won.
The empire he left behind eventually stretched from the Eastern Coast of Asia to Germany! That’s larger than any single country today! This Mongolian legacy was inherited down the line by Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis, who established what is known as the Yuan Dynasty of China. He also once even met a guy named Marco Polo. Kublai Khan also decided to expand the Mongolian Empire, like his grandpa Genghis. The Mongols were basically the only ones in history to lead a successful assault on Russia in the middle of winter! So naturally they figured those islands off the coast of Korea shouldn’t be too much trouble, right?
Meanwhile, in Japan…
Around this same time, Feudal Japan was an interesting place to say the least. The only way I can think to describe it is a mix between the Wild West and a classic shogun movie. For much of its history, Japan was at war, with itself. Originally established as a government that closely resembled the Chinese, the Japanese soon began to culturally differentiate themselves from their neighbors across the bay, during the Heian period.
In 645 CE, a series of tax / land reformations were issued by the Japanese Emperor, a disastrous failure known as the Taika Reforms which inevitably backfired, and directly led to the land owners and farmers gaining more political power than the actual government. This gave rise to the Fujiwara Clan headed by Nakatomi no Kamatari from the capitol of Kyoto. The Fujiwara family ruled Japan until the 11th Century when public order evaporated like an ice cube in Death Valley and the islands soon fell into chaos.
Enter: the Samurai
The Samurai were armor-wearing martial artists with the single-coolest weapon ever created: The Katana, a super cool sword with a curved blade and elongated hilt. The lone, often nomadic, Samurai warriors answered to no one… well, except for the guy with the biggest check book. Wealthy landowners across Japan would hire armies of these Katana-sporting mercenaries to protect their property.
Samurai were said to have lived by a code of honor known as Bushido, ‘The Way of the Warrior’ which was similar to that of the Knight’s code of Chivalry, with a Zen Buddhist twist. The Seven Virtues of Bushido are as follows: Rectitude, Courage, Benevolence, Respect, Honesty, Honour, and Loyalty. Above all else, their goal in life was to die an honorable death, a trait shared by their Nordic counterparts, the Vikings.
The two most powerful clans of Japan at the time: the Taira and Minamoto clans, constantly vied for supremacy, often pitting their greatest warriors against one another in single-combat death-battles. Eventually, in 1192, Minamoto Yoritomo emerged the victor. Minamoto established a new order: martial law enforced by the Shogun, military commanders of the Samurai forces. Together, the Shogun and Samurai would maintain relative peace for the next 700 years…
Kublai Khan picks a fight
The year was 1266. While pillaging his way across the continent, Kublai Khan paused for a moment to insult the Japanese Emperor (Kameyama) before asking him to send a donation. In his letter, Kublai Khan referred to the Emperor Kameyama as “the ruler of a small country” and advised him to pay tribute, or else. The 1200’s equivalent of a whiny internet troll demanding attention in the comments section of a You Tube video.
The Mongolian emissaries returned with no response (although I’m willing to bet the messengers simply didn’t want to repeat the real response to their kill-crazy despot’s face). Over the next six years, Khan sent *Five* separate notifications to the shores of Japan, and each time the Mongolian messengers were sent packing with nothing more than “the finger” in response to Kublai’s request.
Finally, after losing his patience, Kublai Khan said “That’s it!” and in 1272 he commissioned the construction of about 600 sea-faring attack-ships, drafted an army of 40,000 Mongols, Chinese, and Koreans over the next two years and prepared his armies for a full-scale invasion of Japan!
The Mongolians had an armada of ships that would embarrass the Greeks during the Siege of Troy. They set sail for the East, and got all pumped, cranking up the death metal tunes en route. On their way across the sea to Japan’s mainland from Korea, the Yuan warriors stopped by a few smaller islands along the coast and kicked their butts too, just because. These stab-happy Mongolian warlords were all walk and no talk, that’s just how they rolled. These guys meant business.
The Samurai on the other hand were smooth operators: calm and efficient in everything from trimming a Bonsai tree to committing suicide when they failed. This ragtag group of honorable mercs knew they were hopelessly outnumbered, but 10,000 samurai answered the call anyway and geared up for the coming battle. Assembling along the shore, they wore elaborate armor and masks that were evocative of demons, striking fear into the hearts of their enemies – like a medieval Japanese Batman, and just like the Dark Knight, they were not to be trifled with!
Round One: FIGHT!
On November 18th, 1274: the Khan’s armada was in sight of Hakata Bay, on the island of Kyushu (near Fukuoka, which sounds like a funny insult).
Here’s how I imagine this went down:
When the Mongolian boats appear, a lone Samurai warrior walks out onto the beach. He bows before the intimidating might of the mighty Khan’s forces, barely acknowledging the approaching war drums. This single samurai warrior shouts above the roar of the tide, announcing his full name, title, and lineage, as is his time-honored custom. The brave Samurai is preparing for one-on-one combat, a tradition passed down through the ages by his ancestors. However, halfway through listing his heritage his face becomes a pin-cushion for a volley of arrows…
Next, another samurai appears out of the bamboo woods, swearing to avenge his fallen master and openly challenging the entirety of the Mongolian invasion force, right before he too is obliterated. This probably went on a few more times until the Japanese came to the realization that the Mongols approached combat a little differently. Their form of combat would have been akin to an ant attempting to fight off a magnifying glass.
This brutal onslaught would have decimated the first wave of samurai if it weren’t for last-minute reinforcements which allowed them to retreat and lick their wounds. The remaining samurai said their prayers, kissed their families goodbye and prepared for a futile last stand against this unstoppable legion. However, fate had different plans in store.
That very night prior to the armada’s landfall, a torrential downpour came over the bay. The soldiers of the Great Yuan Fleet worried the incoming winds would crash their wooden ships against the rocks along the coast, so the commanders decided to set sail into the ocean and sit out the storm. Unfortunately, for Khan’s men, the entire armada was welcomed by a ginormous swirling monstrosity, known today as a TYPHOON!
48 hours after sailing into the oncoming storm of doom, the Mongolian Fleet was completely and totally annihilated after taking a brutal smack down from Mother Nature herself! One-Third of their ships lay at the bottom of the bay. This devastating defeat at the vicious hands of hurricane-force winds forced the Mongols to retreat back to China after just a single day of combat!
The unfortunate news of the fleet’s utter destruction soon reached the Yuan capital at Dadu (Beijing). Upon hearing the reports of their losses, Kublai Khan didn’t seem so much phased by the incalculable loss of life as he was preoccupied with the fact that his plans for world domination had been foiled by a freak storm. However, he seemed to take the news reasonably well considering he’d just lost a large-scale game of Battleship against himself. After silently brooding in contemplation, Khan dispatched a delegation of six Chinese diplomats to Japan, giving the Kamakura Emperor a choice: bow down before his might (in person), or be destroyed.
The Japanese response came in the form of six decapitated Chinese diplomats…
A Seven Year Interlude
You would think that having just suffered a PR nightmare, Kublai Khan would keep his cool and not do anything brash in response to this hollow provocation. Instead the Mongolian Emperor decided to invest all his resources into crushing his new sworn enemy by any means necessary. Another, even larger, fleet was commissioned with the sole purpose of crushing the Japanese resistance.
Over the next seven years the Mongolian forces regrouped, rebuilt, and rearmed a brand new and improved armada under a newly created government department: The Ministry for Conquering Japan (seriously!). This newly minted division of Mongolian bureaucrats drafted a two-pronged, fail-proof, plan of attack. Pleased with this, Kublai Khan put his stamp of approval on it.
This time however the Samurai had also been given a *Seven Year* window of prep time. A 25 mile long, 15 foot high, defensive wall was built around the perimeter of Hakata Bay and there were now 40,000 samurai awaiting their dreaded enemy from the west. This time they were ready to kick some Mongolian beards in. This time it was personal.
The Mongolian Yuan army was also eagerly anticipating a quick end to this cursed campaign. There would indeed be a quick and decisive end, just not the way they had in mind. A whopping 140,000 Mongol warriors aboard 900 ships set sail in two separate fleets from Southern China and Korea.
The Korean fleet arrived at Hakata Bay on June 23, 1281. This time, they were surprised to find a militarized fortification in their path. The Chinese fleet was running late, so they decided to wait for reinforcements. The Great(er) Armada never arrived… (more on that later)
Over the next 50 days, while the Mongols awaited backup, a bunch of sneaky Samurai silently rowed out into the bay, under the cover of darkness. These Samurai black-ops would raid their ships, assassinate their soldiers, and then set their boats on fire for good measure. After committing naval arson, they quietly ninja-ed out and rowed back to shore before the remaining Mongolian commanders smelled smoke the next morning.
Meanwhile, out to sea… an even larger convoy approached on the 12th of August, 1281: 3,500 ships manned by more than 100,000 Mongolian soldiers! While the brave samurai sharpened their steel, the Shinto monks desperately prayed against all odds for a miracle. Funny thing is, their prayers were answered! Three days later, this unprecedented Mongolian armada had Japan in its sights when they all started to hear the cracking of thunder over the bay. This is probably what they saw in the distance:
Uhh… is that what I think it is?
This even bigger, stronger attack force was met with something far deadlier: A SECOND TYPHOON!
This wasn’t just any kind of storm, this was the kind of storm that only occurred once every three hundred years or so and it just so happened to show up and rain on this Mongolian parade… once again.
Relentless winds, torrential rain, and towering waves battered the ships into one another until they were nothing but splinters. The few Mongols unlucky enough to wash ashore were then greeted by Japanese steel. This swirling vortex of doom completely annihilated any potential chance the Mongols ever had of conquering Japan… a second time in a row! Only a handful of beat-up Mongols made it back to China alive.
Most of what we know about these invasions comes from a scroll scribed by a samurai by the name of Takezaki Suenaga, who survived both campaigns, barely. According to the Japanese, who had prayed to the Shinto God of War (Hachiman) for help, the gods had indeed showed up to aide them with Kamikaze, or “The Divine Winds”.
Unfortunately for the Kamakura bakufu (the Japanese government of the time), their treasury had already run dry between paying the veterans of the first invasion, and the Shinto priests who claimed responsibility for their miraculous victory, leaving the actual samurai soldiers who fought and bled for their emperor with nothing.
This actually led to a 15 year civil war in 1318 when Go-Daigo seized power and the disgruntled samurai took his side, but that’s another story.
Following the Second (FAILED) Invasion of Japan, the Mongols had once again suffered monumental losses, in both sheer casualties and incomprehensible expenses. Not only that, but the notion of their perceived invincibility had been forever stained. All of these factors would eventually lead to the inevitable decline of the Mongolian rule.
Kublai Khan could care less, even after this embarrassing defeat, he was completely and utterly determined to mount a *THIRD* invasion, regardless of the horrendous economic pitfall that they’d already fallen into. He began to plan for an even bigger assault! Go big or go home I guess?
However, as fate would have it, the Khan died before he could go through with it. His successors, who knew when to take a hint, unanimously decided to cancel the whole operation.
Mongols Fail to Subdue Japan
Kublai Khan was one of the world’s most ambitious and accomplished leaders. During his reign, the Mongols ruled a vast expanse of Asia, as well as some parts of Eastern Europe. After a struggle with his brother Ariq Boke, Kublai subdued the Southern Song Dynasty of China. The only kingdom that remained out of his reach was Japan, but the Mongols failed to subdue it in 1274 and 1281. Because of this failure, Kublai Khan and the Mongols did not seem as powerful as they were before. These events are recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during that time.These Articles are Written by the Publishers of The Amazing Bible Timeline
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Korea: The Mongols’ Northeastern Ally
Between 1218 and 1233, Kublai Khan’s grandfather Genghis Khan and his uncle Ogedei subdued a large part of the Korean peninsula. Ogedei’s invasion in 1233 forced the Goryeo Dynasty king to flee to Ganghwa Island. Mongke, Kublai Khan’s brother, completely subdued the Koreans between 1253 and 1258.
When Kublai became the Khagan (Great Khan), the Crown Prince of Goryeo traveled to China and became a vassal to the Mongols. The Khagan accepted him in the royal court, and the Korean Crown Prince stayed in China for many years. When the king of Korea died, Kublai released the prince from the royal court and allowed him to return to his homeland. The Khagan supported the prince’s decision to claim his throne. But he was also prudent enough to send a Mongol administrator to Korea to ensure that the new king would behave. The prince became King Wonjong of Goryeo. His alliance with the Mongols was cemented further when the Khagan arranged the marriage of one of his daughters to the king.
The Mongols were masters of cavalry, but they had no experience in naval warfare. The Khagan knew this, so he enlisted the help of the Koreans in building a naval fleet. Korean sailors also played a large part in his campaigns against the Southern Song and Japan. They, however, paid dearly with their lives in Kublai’s disastrous Japan expeditions in 1274 and 1281.
Japan: The Isolated Kingdom
Just like his grandfather and other relatives, Kublai Khan also wanted to extend his empire. It was only natural that he would look beyond the Korean Peninsula and try to bring the isolated kingdom of Japan to heel. Fresh from his victory against his brother Ariq Boke, the energetic Khagan sent his ambassadors to demand the submission of Japan.
The Korean crew knew that they would gain nothing from the deal, so they tried to dissuade the Mongol ambassadors by frightening them with stories of strong winds and turbulent seas. Unused to traveling by sea, the ambassadors became frightened and told the Korean sailors to return to the peninsula. Kublai Khan sent a harsh letter to King Wonjong when he heard what the sailors said to the envoys.
In 1268, Kublai sent another embassy to Japan. This time, however, the Korean sailors learned their lesson, and they transported the envoys all the way to the royal court in Kyoto. The Japanese were not excited with the arrival of the Mongols, to say the least. The head of the bakufu (military government) Hojo Tokimune refused to submit to the Khagan by sending the ambassadors back to China without any message.
Kublai dispatched ambassadors once again in 1271 with the same demand. The envoys were barred from entering the royal court when they arrived in Kyoto. They had no choice but to sail back to China and tell the Khagan that they were denied. Although Kublai Khan was humiliated with Japan’s refusal to submit, he still sent another ambassador to the islands in 1272. The bakufu refused the ambassadors’ request to see the Japanese emperor. The Japanese even responded harshly to the envoys’ demands. The envoy, Chao Liangpi, went home empty-handed in 1273.
It was the last straw for Kublai Khan. In 1274, he ordered the Koreans to build a naval fleet that they could use in bringing Japan under submission. Thousands of Mongol, Jurchen, and Chinese men joined the army. The Korean soldiers and sailors also joined the expedition because of the Korean king’s alliance with Kublai Khan.
When all the warships were done, Kublai Khan’s navy sailed from a port near Busan to the islands of Iki and Tsushima. They easily defeated the Japanese defenders of the islands, so they sailed to Kyushu on November 19, 1274. The Mongol fleet initially overpowered the samurais, but luck was on the side of the Japanese. As soon as night came, a strong typhoon swept in. The Koreans convinced the Mongol overlords to retreat into the open sea so that their ships would not be swept into the rocky coast and be destroyed. The Mongols agreed to sail away from the coast, but they suffered heavy casualties after many of their ships sank.
The Mongol, Chinese, and Korean troops returned to North China in humiliation. Kublai was furious, but he could not strike back immediately as he was occupied with the war against the Southern Song. For some reason, he sent ambassadors once again to Japan in 1275. The ambassadors, however, reached a grim end when the Japanese executed them. Enraged with his ambassadors’ death but still busy with the Southern Song, Kublai allowed the Japanese a break. It was not until 1281 that he was free to launch another expedition to Japan.
Personal Tragedy and Decline
The years between 1280 and 1290, however, were marked with personal losses for Kublai Khan. His beloved consort, Chabi, died in 1281, and her death was followed by his son and heir, Zhenjin, in 1286. He became depressed when Chabi died. He also gorged himself on food and alcohol which worsened his gout and obesity. He even started the 1280s with the second expedition to Japan which quickly turned into a disaster.
The Second Invasion of Japan and the Kamikaze
The Japanese government knew that the Mongols would invade again, so the bakufu ordered their samurais to occupy the coast of Kyushu. They also built a long stone wall (genko borui) along the Hakata Bay.
Kublai would not give up on Japan, so he sent envoys once again but they, too, were executed by the Japanese. The killing of his envoys only solidified his decision to invade Japan for the second time. Preparations were already in full swing in 1280. Again, he ordered the unhappy Koreans and Chinese to build his ships. Kublai placed the Korean admiral Hong Tagu in charge of his fellow Korean sailors. Meanwhile, General Fan Wanhu led his fellow Chinese soldiers. The Mongol division, on the other hand, was led by Shintu.
As much as 40,000 Korean, Mongol, and Chinese troops sailed from Korea to Japan in mid-1281. The Chinese troops reached as many as 100,000. They sailed from Quanzhou in Fujian Province later to meet up with the Northern troops at Iki island in Nagasaki. Bad omens plagued the expedition from the start, while disagreements between the commanders made the journey more difficult.
On June 10, 1281, the troops from the north went right ahead and attacked Iki without waiting for the fleet from Quanzhou. They also sailed off to Kyushu where the fleet from Quanzhou finally caught up with them. Kublai’s combined fleet then attacked Kyushu in August 1281. It was bound to fail as the stone wall that the Japanese defenders constructed was effective in keeping the invaders out. From the start, the Chinese and Korean troops were unhappy about the expedition because they had nothing to gain from it. Their lack of enthusiasm in fighting the Japanese also made the expedition a failure.
In a case of extraordinary bad luck for Kublai’s troops, a typhoon swept in again and battered the Mongol fleet off Hakata Bay on the 15th and 16th of August. The Korean sailors tried to escape to the open sea, but the move came too late. Thousands of Korean, Mongol, and Chinese soldiers and sailors drowned when their ships sank. Those who were trapped on the coast were killed by the samurais.
The typhoon was a godsend and a morale booster for the Japanese. The “kamikaze” or “divine wind” saved them from the Mongols twice, and it reinforced their belief that they were favored by the gods. For Kublai Khan, however, it was a humiliating and shocking defeat. However, he stubbornly insisted on a third expedition, and the Mongols made preparations between 1283 and 1284. The third expedition was an unpopular idea among his advisers after their devastating loss in 1274 and 1281. He finally accepted his loss only when they vehemently objected to his plan.
Picture by: Araniko – Artdaily.org, Public Domain, Link
Henthorn, William E. Korea: The Mongol invasions. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1963.
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Political divisions and vassals [ edit | edit source ]
The Mongol world circa 1300. The gray area is the later Timurid empire.
The early Mongol Empire was divided into five main parts ⎖] and various appanage khanates. The most prominent sections were:
- Mongolia, Southern Siberia and Manchuria under Karakorum
- North China and Tibet under Yanjing Department , Transoxiana and the Hami Oases under Beshbalik Department , Georgia, Armenia, Cilicia and Turkey (former Seljuk ruled parts) under Amu Dar'ya Department , which was further subdivided into 10 provinces. ⎗]
When Genghis Khan was campaigning in Central Asia, his general Muqali (1170–1223) attempted to set up provinces and establish branch departments of state affairs. Genghis's successor Ögedei abolished them, instead dividing the areas of North China into 10 routes (lu, 路) according to the suggestion of Yelü Chucai, a prominent Confucian statesman of Khitan ethnicity. Ögedei also divided the empire into separate Beshbalik and Yanjing administrations, while the Headquarters in Karakorum directly dealt with Manchuria, Mongolia and Southern Siberia. Late in Ögedei's reign, an Amu Darya administration was established. Under Möngke, these administrations were renamed Branch Departments.
Kublai Khan, the founder of the Yuan Dynasty, made significant reforms to the existing institutions. He established the Yuan Dynasty in 1271 and assumed the role of a Chinese emperor. The Yuan forces seized South China by defeating the Southern Song Dynasty, and Kublai became the emperor of all China. The territory of the Yuan Dynasty was divided into the Central Region (腹裏) and places under control of various Xing Zhongshusheng (行中書省, "branch secretariats") or the Xuanzheng Institute (宣政院).
Vassals and tributary states [ edit | edit source ]
The Mongol Empire at its greatest extent included all of modern-day Mongolia, China, parts of Burma, Romania, Pakistan, much or all of Russia, Siberia, Ukraine, Belarus, Cilicia, Anatolia, Georgia, Armenia, Persia, Iraq, and Central Asia. In the meantime, many countries became vassals or tributary states of the Mongol Empire.