"The duty of a warrior is simply to grab his sword and be prepared to die."
- First rank samurai Kiyomasa Kato (1562-1611)
This thread will give much information of Japanese military history. From the birth of the samurai in the medieval times to the high-tech weapons of today. For a thousand years, Japan has been one of the world's leading military nations and deserved better acknowledgement. This is what I hope to accomplish with this thread, so please read some of the sections that you find interesting.
The Sengoku period, commonly known as the Warring States period in English-speaking countries, were an epoch of civil war and conflicts between independent city states. Although the official civil war only lasted for a few hundred years, the struggle for a united Japan had gone on for millenniums. The war was fought primary by powerful daimyo (see the section "Feudalism"). Many city states were small and could not afford effective weapons, while others were simply too ancient - these states were quickly consumed by the larger feudal empires. Despite being the same people, holding great respect for each other, and having many civilian marriages, the city states could never get along until they were united by a mighty shogun in the year of 1600 (see the section "The road to Sekigahara").
So how was the Japanese community organized? A single word to describe it would be feudalism, but the Japanese community and government was very unlike the simultaneous European feudal monarchies. The country did not exist, and the word Nippon ("Japan") was only used to describe a large island group even further east than China, past the sea of Korea and then a long way to the southeast. Instead of a single country, several city states governed the lands of today's Japan. These states were ruled by powerful daimyo (feudal rulers), and military men was given pieces of land in exchange for their service in the army. The daimyo were all struggling to proclaim a title that only the emperor could give away: shogun. The shogun was a military dictator, one who held greater power than any mortal. Once a shogun had risen, he was almighty, and not even the emperor could prevent his advance if he was a cruel ruler. But one who gained the title of shogun was still opposed by his former enemy daimyo and sometimes he even gained new enemies that was jealous or frightened by his power. The feudalism of Japan changed when a new force came to dominate the eastern battlefields, a warrior class more powerful than any of the world (see the section "Birth of the samurai").
Military of the city states:
The feudal war only became more fierce as time progressed. Settlements were raided, women were raped, and many civilians were taken captives and turned into slaves. During this era, the feudal forces lacked effective discipline; not the ashigaru (professional soldiers) and especially not the hyakushou (peasants). The ashigaru were a common sight in the richer armies. They worn light or medium armor consisting of several small copper plates sown together with a tight leather wrapping, allowing great agility on the battlefield but little protection against melee weapons. Armament varied from different classes. The tadai hohei ("heavy infantry") were armed with a long spear (yari), a long sword (tachi), and a short sword or dagger (wakizashi). The shashu hohei ("archer infantry") on the other hand, were a light infantry equipped with an oyumi (crossbow) and two wakizashi.
Also, there was hyakushou - peasants turned soldiers of the state and given barely any training at all. They were more often recognized as policemen to keep order in the streets rather than field warriors as their only weapon was a long, non-sharpened, wooden staff. They were expected to beat each other to death or keep their enemies at a distance while the "real" soldiers, the ashigaru, attacked from the flanks.
Birth of the samurai:
From the carnage of war without discipline, organization, or reason, a new class of warrior were born. They were the complete opposite of the former warriors - they had perfect discipline, excellent training, and good equipment - not to mention unbreakable loyalty. They were called samurai (literally meaning "to serve"). A samurai's equipment consisted of a full body armor made of purest iron and steel, a helmet that covered the head from all sides, and of course their weapons. The most famous equipment of the samurai were no doubt the katana - a long sword created with a very intense procedure, having a blade sharp enough to cut a stone in half with a single cut. They also worn the short sword wakizashi as well as the yumi - a longbow made of bamboo with a range of up to 150 meters. But they had more weapons. Yari (spear), Hoko (pike), Naiganata (halberd), tanto (dagger), kodachi (light sword), and some samurai even used non-classified weapons of their own design. Their training was also unmatched - from the age of 5 they began handling wooden swords and they then trained without stopping - six hours per day for the rest of their lives. In the first battles of samurai, they were unstoppable as their armor resisted any opposing weapons and their swords cut through the thickest armor or shield like nothing. The samurai were then organized into many feudal states, most commonly as cavalry, and were given large amounts of land and money in exchange for their unbreakable loyalty. The samurai strictly followed a book called bushido (literally "the way of the warrior"). The code contained very many areas, most famously the seppuku - a suicidal ritual consisting of cutting up the stomach with a wakizashi or dagger. The samurai also had three things he valued more than anything else in this life: His loyalty, his honor, and his sword. The sword were the most important weapon of a samurai and despite mastery in any battle style they always favored kenjutsu (Japanese fencing).
The west and their weapons:
It was in the fall of 1543, a Chinese vessel led by the Portuguese explorer Fernao Mendes Pinto (1509-1583), had suffered from a storm and landed in the Japanese island of Tanageshima for repairs. While reconstructing the damaged parts of the vessel, they suddenly found themselves surrounded by the local daimyo and his lifeguard, as they had been out hunting when they saw the Chinese ship. Of course, the Portuguese language were certainly not understandable by the samurai, and not even the Chinese could make any sense until they wrote in the sand. The East Asian alphabets are very similar, so the Japanese could understand their peaceful intentions. Despite communication problems, the daimyo managed to open trade with the Europeans - his greatest interest was in the firearms. Although cannons had been well-known in Japan for centuries, this was the first time they could use a hand-held weapon with effective field capabilities. He gained three matchlock muskets as a gift from Fernao, and immediately ordered his blacksmith to examine and begin producing the weapon. In less than 18 months, the Japanese had a very improved firearm compared to the Europeans. It was small, easy to carry, had fairly effective range, and faster reload time. It was known by the Japanese as hinawajuu (arquebus), and would come to dominate the battlefields during the rise of Tokugawa Ieyasu (see the section "The road to Sekigahara").
The road to Sekigahara:
The shogun Taiko is now dead by disease, and his 7 year old son has been sent away by one of the daimyo of the regency council, Tokugawa Ieyasu. One of his rivals, Mitsunari, is upset and sends a squad of ninjas to assassinate Ieyasu, but thanks to the skill of his samurai bodyguards - and a fair amount of luck - the assassination attempt was stopped. Despite direct orders from his father to do nothing as revenge, Ieyasu's son Hidetada attacks Mitsunari's mansion with only his personal lifeguard as he is not yet a general able to control a major force. The attack was ceased by Ieyasu who, despite his open apologies, in fact admired his son's courage and skill to successfully attack a well-guarded castle with 14 men, only half of them being samurai. But the conflict could no longer be evaded and the armies of Eastern and Western Japan soon gathered. The west-Japanese forces led by Mitsunari and Tokugawa's eastern-Japanese army was both stopped by a fort in the middle of their campaigns, led by Kobayakawa Hideaki. Hideaki was a personal friend of both the two, and both sides attemtped to gain his trust - he possessed more modern firearms than entire Asia combined, and was therefore extremely important for the outcome of the battle, which would take place at the vital crossroads of Sekigahara. For a moment it looked as Hideaki were to support Mitsunari, but during the battle his army stood still on top of a hill overlooking the fierce melee combat between the eastern and western armies. Mitsunari sent a flare to signal his "ally" to attack, but Hideaki didn't react - until Tokugawa's cannons fired upon him. The great gamble Tokugawa Ieyasu made by firing upon the man he wanted as his ally have gone to history - and it was successful. Hideaki woke up from his daydreaming and pointed 20 000 muskets along with 600 cannons against the west-Japanese army. The battle was over after just a few volleys. Sekigahara was the greatest gathering of samurai in Japanese history - more than 250 000 men stood on a single battlefield and more than half were samurai. After this, Tokugawa Ieyasu was unchallenged as shogun - and Hideaki became one of his closest advisors and generals along with his son. Not until the 19th century there would be another civil war in Japan (see the section "The Meiji revolution").
The Meiji revolution:
It was in 1862 when the first shots of the Meiji restoration was fired. Another civil war had broken out, this time between the shogun and the emperor. It in fact began in 1854 when the American admiral Matthew C. Perry (1794-1858) sailed into Tokyo bay and opened fire upon the unprotected city as an attempt to force the isolated country into trading with the west. The emperor and the shogun both wanted to resist, but the emperor was only a symbolic ruler and the shogunate had too primitive weapons. Only the elite samurai of Shinsengumi and ninjas of Oniwabanshu could resist USA, but then with extreme success. Many weapons were stolen and several military leaders assassinated all over America, but it didn't stop the civil war. The emperor wanted to westernize the country while the shogun demanded to keep the honorable way of fighting with swords. It was a rough conflict with many casualties on both sides, and eventually the shogunate was overthrown because of the emperor's weapons trade with Germany and Great Britain. The westernization that followed would invite Japan to one of the world's leading military powers, and the decisive victory over Russia (see the section "Russo-Japanese war") made them even more respected in the west.
Time passed until 1904. Europe was in conflict that was only decades from becoming the first world war, and in the east the conflicts were even more devastating than the upcoming world-shaking war. Japan had occupied large areas of China and Korea along with their British allies, and now a Japanese army stood at the borders to Russia - the greatest military power in Europe. Tsar Nicholas II of Russia sent his entire Asian fleet to the Japanese island of Hokkaido and demanded their withdrawal from China. But within 2 days, all 24 Russian vessels had been sunk. This started the Russo-Japanese war, a huge conflict that would only last for a year but demanded more than a million human lives. The majority of battles was fought over the Korean naval base of Port Arthur, which was of high strategic importance for both sides. Eventually Europe was shocked by the news. Russia had withdrawn from Asia! A medieval Eastern nation had defeated the world's greatest military power!
Alliance offers and trade proposals came to Japan from all corners of the world - Korea and the Phillipines became vassals of Japan in exchange for help with chasing out the Russians and Americans in the territories. Japan was now unchallenged as the greatest military power of the Far East.
The world wars:
Japan immediately answered to the British call for aid during WWI and begun attacking German colonies in Asia. The Kaiser (german emperor), ordered his colonists to move further inlands as he expected the Japanese to use air raids. Even if Japan could move at will in Korea and the Phillipines, they could not build air bases there. But despite being so far indland, the colonies were still seized or destroyed by Japanese air raids. Japan had commited world history's first naval-launched air raids by their aircraft carriers, and the Germans was unable to react in time on this new technology. At the end of WWI, Japan controlled every single colony in Asia that recently had been German.
Japan first entered WWII after being provoked by the Allies. Great Britain had not been of aid despite alliance, Russia had violated the contract of 1905, and USA had attacked Japanese trading vessels. As a response Japan attacked all countries of the Allies at once, as well as joining up with the Axis alliance. The attack of Pearl Harbor opened a conflict with USA, where Japanese aircraft crashed their planes into the enemy ships after running out of ammunition. By the Japanese it was an honorable sacrifice, but by the west it was pure stupidy. USA sent it entire Pacific navy and air force against Japan, but despite technological supremacy, USA was unable to acheive any major victories. Countless of Americans were slaughtered in the process of attacking, while the Japanese defenders rarely lost a single soldiers except during the close combat charges. In 1945 USA launched the world's first nukes against the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagazaki, killing almost a million civilians. Japan surrendered the war and realized they needed reformation.
Did you know...?
...that a katana can cut through stone?
...that a samurai's armor can resist even modern machine guns?
...that Japan has defeated USA, Russia, France, Germany, and Great Britain in several wars?
...that a well-trained samurai is able to evade bullets?
...that the world's first naval-launched air raids was commited by Japan in the first world war?
...that it was in fact USA who started the war against Japan in WWII?
...that Japan was the first country to use EMP (ElectroMagnetic Pulse) as a weapon?
...that the Japanese army have better equipment today than entire Europe and USA together?
...that Japanese computer and robot technology is superior to any of the world?
Last edited by Ninja of Cao; 10-31-2010 at 09:08 AM.