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The Impact of Firearms on Japanese Warfare, 1543-98
Author(s): Delmer M. Brown
Source: The Far Eastern Quarterly, Vol. 7, No. 3 (May, 1948), pp. 236-253
Published by: Association for Asian Studies
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2048846
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THE IMPACT OF FIREARMS ON JAPANESE WARFARE,
1543-98
DELMER M. BROWN*
University of California, Berkeley
DEVELOPMENT OF THE USE OF HAND GUNS
THE characteristic feature of Japanese warfare, prior to the intro-
duction of firearms in 1543,1 was the use of swords and spears2 in
hand-to-hand fighting. Armies were made up of small, independent bands
*
Dr. Brown is Assistant Professor of Far Eastern History at the University of California,
Berkeley. He taught and studied in Japan from 1932 to 1938, served as an Intelligence Officer
with the Navy in the Pacific during the war, and completed his Doctor's degree in Japanese
history at Stanford University in 1946. His special field of interest is the development of
money economy in Japan.
'The Mongols, in their first expedition against Japan in 1274, used weapons which, accord-
ing to a Japanese military history written in the fourteenth century, were called tepp6 .,Z
(a word now meaning "gun" or "firearm"). The reference reads: "When the fighting began,
mighty iron balls, known as
tePP6,
were [flung?]. They rolled down the hills like cart
wheels, sounded like thunder and looked like bolts of lightning. Two or three thousand
were [thrown?] at a time, and many soldiers were burned to death;" see "Taihei
ki"**-k
published in Kokubun s6sho ; [Library of national literature] (10th ed., Tokyo:
Hakubun Kan, 1918), vol. 4, pp. 478-79. The "M6ko shfirai emaki" t [Scroll
of the Mongol invasion], which was painted toward the close of the thirteenth century at the
request of a warrior who took part in the war against the Mongols, depicts one of these "iron
balls" exploding, or burning, slightly in front of, and above, a Japanese warrior. For a picture
of that portion of the scroll see L. Carrington Goodrich and Feng Chia-sheng;""The early
development of firearms in China," Isis, 36 (Jan. 1946), 118. It appears that these balls were not
discharged by an explosive but were a type of bomb or rocket, although Goodrich and Feng
conclude that "there is valid literary evidence for the development, by the thirteenth century,
of real firearms in China..." (p. 123). G. Schlegel also found that the Chinese knew and
employed firearms in the thirteenth century; "On the invention and use of firearms and
gunpowder in China, prior to the arrival of the Europeans," T'oung
Pao,
2d ser., 3 (1902), 10.
Pelliot later showed, however, that what Schlegel considered to be a thirteenth-century cannon
was a type of bomb; P. Pelliot, "Bulletin critique," T'oung pao, 2d ser., 21 (1922), 432-34.
For a picture of what is claimed to be the oldest-dated cast-iron cannon, cast in China in
1377, see Thomas A. Read, "The early castings of iron: a stage in iron age civilization,"
Geographical review, 24 (1934), 548.
Boxer found a gun on exhibit in Kamakura which was claimed to have been in the
possession of Ashikaga Takauji (1305-58), but he found no evidence on the gun or in con-
temporary sources that provided any basis for this claim; C. R. Boxer, "Notes on early military
influence in Japan (1543-1853), Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, 2d ser., 8 (1931),
71 (hereafter cited as TASJ). The "H6j6 godai ki"
4kA
l
-
[Chronicles of the H6j6
family through five generations] contains an account of the presentation of a gun
(teppogJM)
to Hoj6 Ujitsuna in 1510 by a Buddhist priest who had just returned from China; Kond6
Heij6
{E#J:*,
ed., Shiseki shfiran
jkV ro
[Collection of historical materials] (3d ed.,
Tokyo: Kond6 Shuppan Bu, 1907), vol. 5, ch. 26, pp. 58-60. Naganuma Kenkai
has found numerous references to the existence of guns in Japan prior to the arrival of the
236
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FIREARMS IN JAPANESE WARFARE 237
of soldiers who fought more as individuals than as units of a tactical
formation,3 and naval units consisted of fishing vessels that were comman-
deered for transporting armies within bow-range or sword-reach of the
enemy.4 Thus, all battles, whether on land or at sea, were little more than
"monster fencing matches."5 But the introduction of the Portuguese
arquebus and the subsequent widespread manufacture of firearms soon
led to radical developments in military techniques.
Portuguese; "Tepp6 no denrai" X2,fi [Introduction of firearms], Rekishi chir, 23,
no. 6 (1914), 623-35; "Tepp6 no denrai (hosetsu)"
Uj
[Introduction of fire-
arms (supplementary study)], Rekishi chiri, 24, no. 2 (1914), 131-50 and no. 4 (October 1914),
339-68; and "Tepp6 no denrai
(W)"
[Introduction of firearms
(reply)],
Rekishi chiri, 25, no. 1 (1915), 32-64. But it is generally agreed that guns were not used
extensively for military purposes until the end of the Tembun
Xa
era (1532-54); Kuroita
Katsumi d,
9
Kokushi no kenkyiTt
K 0 WftJ
[A study of Japanese history] (6th ed.,
TokNo: Iwananii Shoten, 1937), vol. 2, p. 273.
The first Japanese historian to make a study of firearms was Arai Hakuseki
VAN~a
(1656-1725) who wrote the "Honch6 gunki k6"
*-M g4
(12 vols.) sometime prior to
1709, the date of the earliest-known colophon. He studied the development and advantages
of each type of weapon and devoted the sixth volume to firearms: "Kakirui" et l
fi
[Types of firearms], Arai Hakuseki zenshf-t jpjjjJ l t [Complete works of Arai Haku-
seki]
(Tokyo, 1907), vol. 6, pp. 335-41. Since his time other historians have discussed the
subject; see NaganUma Kenkai, Nihon bunka shi ?lo
kenkyit
H
*Mtt, PL
[A study
of the cultural history of Japan] (Tokyo: Kyoiku Kenkvyu Kai, 1923), 512-22 for a summary
of their studies. But they were not concerned with the total effect these new weapons had
upon Japanese warfare. The more recent studies too have been limited, for the most part, to
problems associated with the introduction itself: TsuLboi Kumaz6 i9L.5 "Tepp6
denrai k6" e [Consideration of the introduction of firearms], Shigakit zasshi, 3,
no. 30 (Feb. 1892), 37-53; various studies of Naganuma Kenkai (cited above); Gotb Shukud6
,gX<n
"Tepp6 ron b6kei no isshu yo mondai"
MAri
[An important problem associated with the discussion of
guns],
Rekishi chir, 24, no. 5 (Nov.
1914), 492-501; Oshigami Moriz6ot Aid, "Naganuma kun no tepp6 denrai ron hosetsu'
'p8Ct),T@X~gR [Supplementary
discussion to
Naganuma's
study
of the intro-
dluction of
firearms],
Rekishi chirn, 24, no. 2 (Aug. 1914), 172-79; "Tepp6 denrai ron no
Y'6setsi" r - [Additional dliscussion of the dispute about the introduction
of firearms], Rekishi chir, 24, no. 4 (Oct. 1914), 371-81; "Tepp6 no hibiki"
[The sound of guns], Rekishi chiri, 24, no. 5 (Nov. 1914), 501-04. Of late some scholars have
Louched upon various phases of the problem, and one has attacked the problem directly: D6
Tomi6 jX}
Tepp5
denrai ki i
nig
[The
introduction of
firearms] (Tokyo,
1939). But even this excellent work misses the significance of defensive fighting behind breast-
works -
a direct result of the adoption of firearms (pp. 14)-58).
2 Bows and arrows were also used, but
apparently
the armor provided stuch effective pro-
tection against arrows that the outcome of most battles was determined only after the opposing
forces met in close combat. For discussion and pictures of weapons and other military gear used
during the Middle Ages see Got
6
Moriichi
4g,
,
Nihon rekishi kakogaku Es
*St
Aft [Japanese historical archaeology] (4th ed., Tokyo, 1940), 88-276, and Frank Brinkley,
Japan, its history, arts and literature (Boston, 1901), vol. 2, pp. 128-72.
3Brinkley, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 161.
4Arthur J. Marder, "From Jimmu Tenno to Perry, sea power in early Japanese history,"
American historical review, 51 (Oct. 1945), 1-34.
Brinkley, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 133.
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238 THE FAR EASTERN QUARTERLY
The effectiveness of the new weapon deeply impressed local military
barons. They paid high prices for the few guns that could be purchased
and immediately ordered their blacksmiths to undertake the manufacture
of similar pieces. But such technical problems as closing one end of the
barrel were solved only after assistance had been received from occidental
gunsmiths.6 Nevertheless, a Portuguese adventurer, in writing of his
experiences in Japan at this time, reported that within two or three
years the Japanese had succeeded in making several hundred guns, and
that by 1556 there were more than 300,000 guns in Japan.7 At first the
manufacture of firearms was confined to the island of Kyushu, where the
Portuguese vessels called, but within a few years blacksmiths from the
main island were journeying to Kyushu to study methods of making this
new type of weapon.8 The more famous gunsmiths founded "schools,"9
and men trained in them were soon opening up shops in the most distant
villages of Japan. Sakai in the province of Izumi and Yokkaichi and
Kunitomo in the province of Kai became particularly famous as centers
for the production of firearms.10
In 1549 Oda Nobunaga
-
the military baron who with his successor,
Toyotomi Hideyoshi, succeeded in unifying Japan under one strong,
central government - placed an order for five hundred matchlocks with
the gunsmiths of Kunitomo.11 Two decades later Takeda Shingen, the
"The "Nanp6 bunshfi"
-M
A, an account written in about 1600 by a Buddhist priest
of the province of Osumi, provides the most detailed and authentic information relative to the
introduction of firearms into Japan; quoted in Koji ruien
t$mt,
vol. 31, pp. 878-80 and
translated in James Murdoch, A history of Japan (London: Kegan Paul, 1925), vol. 2, p. 42.
The interest of the barons in the Portuguese guns is also described by Fernao Mendes Pinto,
one of the first Portuguese to visit Japan; Henry Cogan, tr., The voyages and adventures of
Ferdinand Mendez Pinto, the Portuguese (London, 1892), 256 if.
7Cogan's Pinto, p. 265. Pinto's whole narrative is questionable, however, and the figures could
have been based on no reliable statistics.
8
Kasai Shigesuke , "Nankai jiran ki" L [Chronicles of government
and war in the Nankai], Koji ruien, vol. 31, p. 884.
9When a certain artisan had gained a reputation for superior workmanship or technique,
a group of apprentices would gather to study his methods. The more capable apprentices
were adopted into the family of the master and gained the privilege of practicing the art under
the master's name, which became known as a ryil
A
or "School." The matchlocks of the
"schools" varied considerably. Therefore, we find no uniformity in the caliber of these early
guns; the weight of the loads ranged from 10 to 110 grams. Tokutomi Iichir6
Kinsei Nihon kokumin shi
rffy
-
*RIX
[Modern history of the Japanese people]
(Popular ed., Tokyo: Minyu Sha, 1935), vol. 10, p. 377 (hereafter cited as KNKS). For a
picture of a sixteenth-century matchlock made in Japan see Boxer, op. cit., p. 72.
10 Kuroita, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 274. The early development of the manufacture of firearms is
discussed at length in D6 Tomi6, op. cit., pp. 14-110.
""Kunitomo tepp6 ki"
pqA;k
E
[History of the firearms of Kunitomo], quoted in
Kuroita, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 274.
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FIREARMS IN JAPANESE WARFARE 239
lord of the province of Kai, is said to have addressed the following order
to his retainers:
Hereafter guns will be the most important [weapons]. Therefore, decrease the
number of spears
[in
your armies] and have your most capable men carry guns.
Furthermore, when you assemble your soldiers, test their marksmanship and
order that the selection of
[gunners]
be in accordance with the results [of the
test] .12
In the battle of Nagashino, which took place in the eastern part of Japan
in 1575, Nobunaga had an army of about 70,000 men, and 3,000 of them
were armed with matchlocks.13 Thereafter the use of handguns spread
rapidly. By the time of Nobunaga's death in 1582 probably one-third
of the soldiers in the armies of most of the leading military barons were
gunners.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the lord who gained control of the territories
conquered by Nobunaga, and who in ten years completed the task of
placing the entire country under his sway, gave more and more attention
to the problem of supplying his armies with a larger number of firearms.
This emphasis woTas particularly apparent in his preparations, in 1586, for
the conquest of Kyushu.14 Numerous extant documents signed by Hide-
yoshi at that time deal with arrangements for the procurement and distri-
bution of guns and ammunition."5 During the course of the campaign
hand guns were used extensively, not only by Hideyoshi but by the lords
of Kyushu.16 It would be difficult to prove that Hideyoshi's victory was
due to the employment of a larger number of firearms, but some basis for
this view may be found in the memoirs of the Satsuma writer who, in
relating details of the defeat, explained that the enemy had "several thou-
sand" guns.17 In 1590 Hideyoshi sent over
950,000
men against Hoj6
1
Takeda Shingen order, 8th moon, Genki 2 (1571), KNKS vol. 10, p. 384. Tokutomi expresses
some doubt as to whether this order was really issued by Shingen, but it is probable that
Shingen did place great value upon the use of guns at this time, for as early as 1555 he had
supplied one of his castles with 300 muskets; "Myoho-ji ki" 4gj4, [Chronicles of the
MIyOho Temple], KNKS, vol. 1, p. 103.
Kose Hoan , j yh, "Nobunaga ki" - [Chronicles of Nobunaga], Koji ruien,
vol. 31, p. 935. Nobunaga's extensive use of firearms has been studied in Do, op. cit., pp. 126-96.
14
Kose Hoan, "Taiko ki" ;; j-t [Chronicles of Toyotomi Hideyoshi], Shiseki shuiran,
vol. 6, ch. 29, p. 203.
Kusaka Hiroshi
VI -FA,
ed., Ho Ko ibumn -, [Documents of Toyotomi Hide-
yoshi]
(Tokyo: Hakubun Kan, 1914), pp. 77-113.
16 "Taiko ki," Shiseki shuran, vol. 6, ch. 29, pp. 207-08. Hideyoshi wrote that "guns and
ammunition" had been captured from the enemy; Hideyoshi to Sagara et al, 10th moon, 22d
clay, Tenshfl 15 (1587), Ho Ko ibun, p. 170.
Katsube
Hyoemon kikigaki"
u
r t i ff PII F : [Record
of matters
heard
from
KatsUbe Hyoemon], KNKS, vol. 5, p. 287.
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240 THE FAR EASTERN QUARTERLY
Ujinao, the only important baron who had not yet submitted to Hide-
yoshi's overlordship. It is known that Hoj6 used firearms, as an account
of the period contains the statement that he placed three muskets and
one cannon at each loophole in his castle at Odawara.18 The author of the
same account expressed the view that Hideyoshi planned to demolish the
Odawara Castle by firing "several tens of thousands of guns."'19
The succession of victories won by the Japanese armies during the early
part of the Korean invasion (1592-1598) was due in large part to the fact
that Hideyoshi's troops were well supplied with muskets,20 whereas the
Koreans apparently had none.21 In the first land battle, fought at Fusan,
Hideyoshi's advance divisions were met by a Korean force of comparable
strength, but according to Hideyoshi's chronicler, "the curtain of arrows"
thrown up by the Koreans was "wiped out with gunfire."22 It is not sur-
prising, therefore, to read that within twenty days the Japanese armies
had captured the Korean capital, about 250 miles distant from Fusan.
The Japanese commanders were fully aware of the advantage which the
use of muskets gave them, as is shown by the following comments made
by Shimazu Yoshihiro in a letter which he sent to his home province early
in the war:
Please arrange to send us guns and ammunition. There is absolutely no use for
spears. It is vital that you arrange somehow to obtain a number of guns.
Furthermore, you should certainly see to it that those persons departing [for
Korea] understand this situation. The arrangements for guns should receive
your closest attention.23
The effectiveness of the musket became even more pronounced during
the battle fought in 1593 between a Japanese army, under Konishi, and a
1- "Hbj6 godai ki," Shiseki shfiran, vol. 5, ch. 26, p. 60.
19 Ibid., p. 59. There was very little fighting at Odawara because Hideyoshi forced Hoj6 to
surrender by surrounding the castle with a superior army and waiting until Hoj6's provisions
were exhausted (Murdoch, A history of Japan, vol. 2, pp. 256-58).
20 In preparing for the Korean invasion Hideyoshi ordered Shimazu of the province of
Satsuma to arm 1,500 men with muskets, 1,500 with bows, and 300 with spears. Hideyoshi to
Shimazu, Tensh6 19 (1591); translated in Asakawa Kanichi, ed., The Documents of the Iriki:
illustration of the development of the feudal institutions of Japan (New Haven, 1929), 332-35.
21John L. Boots found evidence that the musket was first introduced into Korea in 1590
when Japanese envoys presented several such weapons to the Korean king. He concludes,
however, that the Koreans did not learn the method of manufacturing small arms at that time,
since a Korean source (which he does not cite) shows that in the first battles with the Japanese
the Korean soldiers met the enemy with flails, tridents, and arrows; "Korean weapons and
armor," Transactions of the Korean branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 23, no. 2 (Dec.
1934), 25.
2"Taik6 ki," Shiseki shfiran, vol. 6, ch. 29, p. 309.
23 Shimazu Yoshihiro to Hishijima Kii no Kami, 9th moon, 28th day, Bunroku 1 (1592),
KNKS, vol. 10, pp. 379-80.
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FIREARMS IN JAPANESE WARFARE 241
Chinese force that had been sent to the aid of the Koreans. The size of
the Chinese army is not definitely known, but estimates range from 51,000
to 200,000, whereas the Japanese numbered about 25,000. Since the Chi-
nese seem to have had no hand guns,24 Konishi was able temporarily to
hold his ground even against such a superior force.25 Again in 1597,
during the latter phase of the war, the Japanese were outnumbered when
Chinese and Korean forces attacked them at Yol-san Castle, near Fusan.
Both the Koreans and the Chinese had by this time armed some of their
soldiers with matchlocks,26 and they were more advanced than the Japanese
in artillery warfare, but the defenders, equipped with a larger number of
small arms, were able to retain possession of the castle. A few days after
the battle the Japanese commander, Asano Yoshinaga, wrote to one of
his gunsmiths: "I have killed a large number of enemy soldiers, because
I used the guns I practised with, for so many years, at your place. I have
also established the inferiority of even the Korean and Chinese guns."27
On the following day the same commander dispatched a message to his
father: "When troops come [to Korea] from the province of Kai, have them
bring as many guns as possible, for no other equipment is needed. Give
strict orders that all men, even the samurai, carry guns.'
'28
DEVELOPMENT OF THE USE OF CANNON
Cannon were known in Japan as early as 1551, when two fieldpieces
were presented to Otomo Yoshizume by the "King of Rome."29 The Japa-
nese immediately attempted to copy these weapons, but, because of numer-
ous technical difficulties, not many satisfactory pieces were made during
24
Murdoch states that both the Jesuit and Korean sources show that the Chinese army had
a large artillery train of small field-pieces but no matchlocks (Murdoch, op. cit., vol. 2, p. 343).
The lack of small arms is surprising in view of the fact that there is a Chinese handgun dated
1421 in the Berlin Museum fur Vdlkerkunde; IV. Gohlke, "Das dlteste datierte gewehr,"
Zeitschrift fur historische wafjenskunde, 7 (1916), 205-06. N
5
W. G. Aston, "Hideyoshi's invasion of Korea," TASJ,
9, no. 3 (reprinted in 1881), 87-90;
Yoshi S. Kuno, Japanese expansion on the Asiatic continent: a study in the history of Japan
with special reference to her international relations with China, Korea and Russia (Berkeley,
1937), vol. 1, p. 156; KNKS, vol. 8, pp. 16-35.
`6
For pictures of sixteenth-century Korean matchlocks see Boots, op. cit., plates 25-27.
27 Asano Yoshinaga to Inatomi Ichimu, 1st moon, 10th day, Keich6 3 (1598), KNKS, vol. 10,
pp. 378-79.
28
Asano Yoshinaga to Asano Nagamasa, 1st moon, 11th day, Keich6 3 (1598), KNKS, vol. 10,
p.
379.
29"Zoho
Otomo
kohai
ki"
J J
,- [Supplement
to the
history
of the rise and
fall of the Otomo], quoted in Takekoshi Yosabur6 Ad4z AR,
Nissen gohyakunen shi
=:Pi art [History of two thousand five hundred years] (Tokyo, 1909), 514-15.
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242 THE FAR EASTERN QUARTERLY
the following decade. There is a reference in one chronicle, however,
which indicates that in 1558 artillery was fired from the coasts of the
province of Bungo to drive off an attack of "several hundred" boats.30
Nevertheless, it was not until the last quarter of the sixteenth century
that cannon attained a position of importance in Japanese warfare. Oda
Nobunaga appears to have taken the lead in the use of artillery, as well
as in the use of the musket, for in 1571 he placed an order with the
Kunitomo gunsmiths for a gun that would take a load weighing 750
grams.31 Cannon were employed in the battle of Noguchi in 1578,32 and
by the time of Nobunaga's death, four years later, they were being used
in such remote provinces as Etchu and Noto.33
The capture of the Kanki Castle by Hideyoshi in 1582 marks a milepost
in the history of siege warfare. The following account in the chronicles
of Nobunaga shows that cannon had become recognized as most efficacious
weapons in attacks upon fortifications:
Korezumi Gorozaemon and his soldiers from the province of Wakasa were
assigned to the eastern gate of the Kanki Castle. First he had two high towers
erected [from which] cannon were fired. The moat was filled in and artificial
mounds were made, and [from these the castle] was attacked. Takigawa Sagon
moved from the southern to the eastern gate where he had laborers erect towers
30
"Nankai jiran ki," quoted in Takekoshi Yosabur6, Nihon keizai shi
R *tidAl
,
[Economic history of Japan] (3d ed.; Tokyo: Heibon Sha, 1936), vol. 3, p. 17 and tr. in
Takekoshi Yosoburo (sic), The economic aspects of the history of the civilization of Japan
(London, 1930), vol. 1, p. 288.
31 "Kunitomo tepp6 ki," quoted in Kuroita, Kokushi no kenkyis, vol. 2, p. 274. A letter from
the lord of Bungo to a Jesuit priest in China in 1568 shows that this lord was still interested
in obtaining cannon from the Portuguese. Otomo indicated that he had been given a cannon,
but that it was lost at sea en route from Malacca. Otomo pointed out that he was protecting
the Christians and the Jesuit priests in his province and went on to request another cannon,
since he needed one badly in defending his frontiers and coasts against enemies. He closed
with the observation that, if he were successful in defending his territory, the Christian
churches, the Jesuit missionaries, the Christians, and the Portuguese all would be better off.
Otomo Sorin letter, dated Sept. 13, 1568 (8th moon, 22d day, Eiroku 11), tr. into Japanese
in
Murakami Naojir6
_i LfiX 05,
Yasokai shi Nihon tsfishih
I
fl *Zi [Japanese
correspondence of Jesuit missionaries] (2 vols.; Tokyo, 1907), vol. 2, pp. 86-87.
32
"Bessho
Nagahara
ki"
PVJiA FhvE [Chronicles
of Bessho
Nagaharu],
Gunsho
ruijis,
vol. 13, p. 1198.
33 Maeda Toshiie, who was fighting a campaign in the province of Etchui, ordered his
brother, who was then stationed in the province of Nato, to send twenty cannon balls; Maeda
Toshiie to Maeda Gor6bei, 4th moon, 18th day (1582) (unpublished manuscript in Sonkeikaku
Bunko
Ft"3
,, Tokyo). One month later Toshiie acknowledged the receipt of one
cannon and asked that another one be made immediately; ibid., Maeda Toshiie to Maeda
Gor6bei, 5th moon, 22d day (1582). But five days later Toshiie sent the cannon back to
Gor6bei, complaining that the barrel was too small and ordering that it be recast; ibid.,
Maeda
Toshiie to Maeda Gor6bei, 5th moon, 27th day (1582).
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FIREARMS IN JAPANESE WARFARE 243
and had the walls and citadel bombarded with cannon. The citadel caught fire
and burned down.34
After 1582, artillery played an important part in all Japanese siege war-
fare. For example, Hideyoshi, in preparing for his campaign against Haja
Ujinao in 1589, placed an order for twenty cannon.35 Hoj6 likewise relied
upon such weapons for the defense of his castle at Odawara.36 Accounts
dealing with the seige do not include specific reference to the use of
cannon - probably because Hideyoshi avoided direct assault and chose
to keep the castle surrounded until its provisions were exhausted - but
it is clear that the employment of heavy artillery had become a basic
element in Japanese warfare.
The Korean invasion, from the start, stimulated Japanese interest in
artillery, because, during the early months of the war, Hideyoshi's naval
forces received an overwhelming defeat at the hands of the Korean ships
equipped with cannon.37 There were several factors contributing to the
naval superiority of the Koreans, but it is apparent that the Japanese soon
recognized the importance of ships with greater firepower. To rectify the
situation Hideyoshi attempted, without success, to obtain two carracks
from the Portuguese,38 and by the second year of the war at least the larger
Japanese ships were armed with cannon.39 Toward the end of the invasion
these ships had sufficient firepower to gain one important naval victory
against a somewhat demoralized Korean fleet.40 Still greater interest in
heavy artillery was caused by the difficulty which the Japanese had in
capturing the strong Korean castles. During the first year of the war one
of the Japanese generals sent a message to his home province requesting
all available pieces of heavy artillery.41 One year later another general
"Noutinaga ki," KNKS, vol. 2, p. 490.
3' KNKS, vol. 6, p. 94.
3""Hoj6 godai ki," Shiseki shfiran, vol. 5, ch. 26, p. 60.
3
As early as 1377, according to the history of the Kory6 Dynasty, a department of cannon
was established; Boots, op. cit., p. 21. The Orye-ii Sikh. [The five ceremonies], written in
1474, lists several types of cannon for stones and weapons; Boots, op. cit., p. 21. The oldest
extant Korean cannon are heavy cast-iron pieces found in the Kudan Museum in Tokyo.
It is claimed that they were cast in Korea between 1522 and 1566 and that they were brought
to Japan (Wring the Korean invasion. They are '2 feet 2 inches long, slightly tapering,
31/4
inches across the muzzles with
13/,
inches bore. . . "; for illustration see ibid., plate no. 23.
Cf. A. L. Sadler, "The naval campaign in the Korean war of Hideyoshi (1592-98)," TASJ,
2d ser., 14
(1937),
180.
8
C. R. Boxer, "Notes on early European military influence in Japan (1543-1853)," TASJ,
8 (1931), 72-73.
"Taiko ki," Shiseki shfiran, vol. 6, ch. 29, p. 347. Cf. KNKS, vol. 9, pp. 456-68.
40
Murdoch, op. cit., vol. 2, pp. 355-56.
41
Shimazu Yoshihiro to Hishijima Kii no Kami, 9th moon, 28th day, Bunroku 1 (1592),
KNKS, vol. 10, p. 380.
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244 THE FAR EASTERN QUARTERLY
wrote: "Not long ago I despatched two messengers to consult with you
regarding cannon, [and again I] insist that you send me more. It does not
matter what size they are. Inquire around the province and send as many
as can be found."42 Nevertheless, at the end of the war in 1598, the Koreans
were still manufacturing and using cannon more extensively than the
Japanese, but the Japanese had made great strides toward a more wide-
spread use of heavy ordnance.
CHANGE IN MILITARY ORGANIZATION AND TACTICS
As a direct result of the adoption of firearms, close combat was largely
replaced by long-range fighting. A barrage of bullets from muskets was
generally sufficiently effective to determine the outcome of a battle before
the opposing forces came into direct contact. In case the enemy's advance
was not checked, bows and arrows, and finally spears and swords, were
used to supplement gunfire, but the new emphasis upon long-range fight-
ing brought revolutionary developments in the organization of armies
and in military tactics.
The first effect upon the organization of the army was the almost com-
plete displacement of cavalry, which had long been declining in impor-
tance,43 by infantry. An army of Takeda Shingen in 1573 included ap-
proximately one cavalryman to two infantrymen,44 but in 1590 Hideyoshi
ordered that Date's army should be supplied with only thirty horses.45
The fact that guns could not be easily manipulated on horseback served
to accelerate the shift toward infantry warfare. The second change result-
ing from the adoption of firearms was a basic rearrangement of units
within the army. Military accounts of the latter half of the sixteenth
century abound in charts showing the organization of armies.46 Generally,
companies of gunners were placed in the front ranks;47 they were followed
by companies of archers and the latter by spearmen and swordsmen. At
the center of the army rode the general, with his retainers and messengers,
and on each flank there were additional companies of gunners, archers,
and spearmen. The supplies, horses, and infantry guards were placed at
42
Ishida Mlitsunari to Shimazu, 9th moon, 25th day, Bunroku 2 (1593), KNKS, vol. 10, p. 381.
43
Brinkley, Japan, its history, arts and literature, vol. 2, p. 136.
14
Obata Kanbei
,J*
t
ir,
"Kby6 gunkan"
rp WW
[Military history of the province
of Kai], Koji ruien, vol. 29, pp. 181-82.
Date nikki" x Ed [Date diary], Gunsho ruijh, vol. 13, p. 1064.
"Koji ruien, vol. 29, pp. 44-72.
Early in the Korean campaign Hideyoshi instructed his generals in the field to keep
gunners in the vanguard. Hideyoshi to Kobayaski et al, 12th moon, 6th day, Bunroku 1 (1592),
Ho K5 ibun, p. 404.
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FIREARMS IN JAPANESE WATARFARE 245
the rear. In other words, the Japanese had adopted the basic principle
that the companies equipped with long-range weapons should be placed
in the van where they could initiate hostilities as soon as the enemy came
within effective firing range. Companies of archers followed the gunners,
because they could provide support, at a somewhat shorter range, for the
gunners. Spearmen and swordsmen were moved to the front only when
the engagement evolved into hand-to-hand fighting. On the whole, there-
fore, the armies came to be composed of interrelated units that could
be maneuvered to meet the exigencies of the new type of warfare. Thus
the military advantage came to lie with large armies under a central
command - a significant factor in the concentration of military power
that led to the establishment of a single government for all Japan in 1590,
fifty years after guns were first used in Japanese warfare.48
The more astute military barons soon discovered that when using fire-
arms the advantage lay with the army which could remain on the defensive
behind breastworks. In the battle of Nagashino in 1575, Oda Nobunaga
placed three thousand gunners behind stockades that were hastily built
on hills opposite the Takeda camps. He sent out small forces to make
surprise raids on the enemy rear and to feint frontal attacks. Finally these
tactics caused Takeda to order his center to move against Nobunaga's
breastworks; Takeda apparently hoped to storm the stockades before
Nobunaga's gunners could reload their muskets for a second volley. But
Nobunaga had ordered that only one thousand of his gunners should
fire at a time, and thus a somewhat continuous fire was maintained.
Takeda's center was forced to retreat and, with apparent success on both
wings as well, Nobunaga gave the signal
for his men to leave their positions
behind the stockades and to close with the enemy in hand-to-hand fight-
ing.49 Nobunaga's victory was decisive, and it is clear that the outcome
was determined before the armies came into direct contact.
Subsequent battles show the influence of the tactics used at Nagashino.
48
D6 Tomi6, op. cit., p. 145.
49 The most detailed contemporary account of the battle of Nagashino is found in the
"Nobunaga ki," Koji ruien, vol. 31, pp. 935-36. The best recent study of the use of firearms
in the battle is Lieutenant General Moriz6 Oshigami's _ "Nagashino eki higa no
senjutsu to buki to ni tsuite"
-A r, Aat
[Concerning the
weapons and tactics of the armies in the Nagashino battle], quoted at length in KNKS, vol. 2,
pp. 115-18. Oshigami concludes that Nobunaga's victory was due primarily to a wiser and
more extensive use of firearms. For a general survey of the battle see Watanabe Seiyfi
I't4j
, "Nagashino no sen" in Dai Nihon sen shi * ~
t,(Tokyo,
1924),
vol. 2; also cf. Tanaka Yoshinari ftJ Oda
jidai
shi a p4R t
[History
of
the Oda era] (Tokxo: Meiji Shoin, 1924), 138-49.
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246 THE FAR EASTERN QUARTERLY
In the engagement fought at Shizugatake in 1583, the generals of both
armies had fought under Nobunaga at Nagashino, and both were con-
vinced of the wisdom of defensive tactics, but Hideyoshi was able to
remain on the defensive and to provoke one of Shibata's more daring
generals to make a frontal attack. Shibata sent reinforcements to the aid
of his general, but these too were annihilated.50 In 1584 the armies of
Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu met at Komaki in what promised to be
a death struggle. Both generals spent several weeks in building unusually
strong defense works and then waited for the other to attack. As a result,
the campaign ended in a stalemate, and the two generals came to terms
without offering battle.51 Again in the Kyushu campaign in 1587 the same
defensive technique was used. Hidenaga, the man who was placed in
charge of Hideyoshi's armies, fortified his position against an enemy attack
by throwing up long rows of entrenchments and by cutting down trees
with which to make barricades. Behind these defense works he built towers
from which "musketeers could play upon the enemy's ranks while at a
distance from the entrenchment."52 The enemy unwisely relied upon old
ideas of warfare, as is shown by the following account of their movements:
First came a picked force of 3,000 swordsmen, who were directed to abolish
the entrenchments. Behind these was stationed a body of cavalry in readiness
to charge over the barricades the moment that practicable breaches had been
made. In the rear of the cavalry the main body of the army was drawn up,
while a force of 1,000 men was sent to assail the Imperialists in the rear.53
50The historical materials relating to the battle of Shizugatake were collected, during the
seventeenth century, under the title of "Shizugatake gasen ki" g [Records of the
battle of Shizugatake], Shiseki shfiran, vol. 13, pp. 350-55. See also Walter Dening, The Life
of Toyotomi Hideyoshi (3d ed., London: Keyan Paul, 1930), 203-08.
"1 While the two armies were facing each other at Komaki, Hideyoshi wrote: "Our encamp-
ments extend for a distance of ten or fifteen ch5
pq
along the front of Komaki Castle. Although
we have tried to force the enemy to fight it out in the open, Ieyasu absolutely will not come
out of his castle at Komaki. So there is no use in being here. Forts have been built at three
places before Komaki and strong forces have been placed therein...." Hideyoshi to Mori
Terumoto, (5th?) moon, 9th day, Tensh6 12 (1584), quoted in Miura Kaneyuki =-;,AWj
"Komakiyama jin to seikai sen" , > Jj& (I 9 [The encampment at Mount Komaki
and the world war], Rekishi to chir, vol. 3, no. 4 (April 1919), 427. See "Taik6 ki," Shiseki
shfiran, vol. 6, ch. 29, pp. 182-86. Hideyoshi's defenses have been described as follows by A. L.
Sadler in The maker of modern Japan: the life of Tokugawa Ieyasu (London: George Allen
& Unwin, 1937), 125: "Hideyoshi on his part built a rampart 15 feet high and 3 feet thick
between Nijubori and Iwasaki-yama, a distance of nearly a mile and a half, with several gates
in it, so that he could hold the position safely against attack while he considered his next
move... and thus the two armies dug themselves well in and lay opposite each other, both
fearing to repeat the mistake of Nagashino by making a frontal attack."
52J. H. Gubbins, "Hideyoshi and the Satsuma clan in the sixteenth century," TASJ, 8 (1880),
110.
5Ibid., p. 111.
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FIREARMS IN JAPANESE WARFARE 247
Of course, Hidenaga's forces were victorious.
The invasion of Korea presented new tactical problems, because the
Japanese armies were fighting in a strange land. They frequently were
surprised by attacks in open fields and often found their paths blocked
by Korean armies stationed in advantageous positions. Since the Korean
soldiers were not armed with muskets in the early years of the war, the
Japanese had no difficulty under circumstances of the first type.54 When-
ever they found themselves faced with a Korean force in a well-fortified
position, they often succeeded in erecting breastworks and then planning
tactics that would trick the Koreans into making a frontal attack. Both
at Imjin River and P'yeng-yang, where the Koreans were adequately pro-
tected by a broad stream, the Japanese succeeded in delaying matters until
the Koreans gave up their positions.55
EFFECTS OF FIREARMS UPON CASTLE CONSTRUCTION
The use of firearms and the resultant emphasis upon defensive tactics
operated to revolutionize castle construction. Before fortifications were
influenced by firearms castles were built of earth, and their walls, which
generally were no higher than ten feet, had loopholes through which
arrows were shot.56 But as early as 1549 Ashikaga Yoshiteru, who was
building a castle near Kyoto, ordered that stones be placed between the
moat and the wall "as protection against guns."57
The erection of the Azuchi Castle in 1576 marks the first great advance
in sixteenth-century military architecture. Azuchi was located on Lake
Biwa at a strategic point on the lines of communication of Nobunaga's
most powerful adversaries. The site chosen for the fortress was a pro-
montory rising six hundred feet above the lake. On the sides that were
not bounded by the lake, deep moats were cut. The stone wall enclosing
the castle was "several" thousand feet long and seventy feet high. Within
6
Early in the war the Koreans made a stand in a large plain surrounded by mountains,
near Chhshh .ij
M.
The Japanese sent detachments to block the passes in the mountains and
then descended upon the Koreans from all sides. Guns, bows, spears, and swords were all used
in the attack; KNKS, vol. 7, pp. 375-78.
b5 Murdoch, History of Japan, vol. 2, pp. 328-32.
56
A discourse on castle construction, written about 1565, provides the best description of
castles built before firearms had seriously affected military architecture. Kubota Saburobei no
Jo, "Chikuj6 ki"
*Ad
[Discourse on castle construction], Gunsho
ruiji2,
vol. 14, ch. 49,
pp. 942-47.
67"Manshbin dono anabo ki"
it2 MC
Kojitsu shsho, vol. 33, pp. 149-50. For
details of military and political events associated with the construction of this castle see KNKS,
vol. 1, p. 100.
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248 THE FAR EASTERN QUARTERLY
the walls was a central tower58 which was about 120 feet long, 102 feet
wide, and 96 feet high. Chinese artisans were imported to cover the
structures with tile. Within the outer wall there were four distinct cita-
dels, one within another. The walls and moats separating the citadels were
irregular, to confuse the attacker.59 Consequently, Azuchi differed from
earlier castles because of the following features: (1) massive proportions,
(2) the use of stone as the prevailing building material, (3) the erection
of a high central tower, (4) the irregularly formed inner citadels, and
(5) the location of the castle on a plain, rather than in densely vegetated
mountains. The first two features were meant to provide protection
against the more destructive weapons, and the last three were related to
the shift to long-range warfare. The towers and the location of the castle
upon the open plains afforded better visibility for the use of guns,60 and
the adoption of inner citadels gave the defenders an opportunity to rely
upon the use of gunfire behind fortified positions, even after the enemy
had broken through the outer walls of the castle.
Many castles were built in Japan after Azuchi was completed, but none
surpassed Nobunaga's fortress until the Osaka Castle was constructed in
1586. The grounds of this castle measured a mile and one-half long and a
mile wide. It stood on elevated ground and was girded by deep running
water on the north and east sides. On the west, open level ground extended
to the sea. The walls were from 18 to 21 feet thick and were made of huge,
granite stones that in some cases were 10 feet wide and 40 feet long. The
stones were fitted carefully together, making
the use of mortar unneces-
sary. A moat 20 feet deep surrounded each citadel, so that 3 moats were
crossed before reaching the center of the fortress. The 8-storied tower, the
gates and the roofs of the buildings were all covered with sheets of iron.
-
This tower, called tenshukaku i
-
a, has been the subject of considerable discussion,
for it is claimed that it was influenced by occidental ideas of fortification. Tanaka Yoshinari
in "Tenshukaku k-"
Stat
[Concerning the tenshukaku], Shigaku zasshi, 1, no. 2 (Jan.
1890), 17-22, found that none of the features of the tower were new to Japan and that the
word tenshukaku had a Buddhist, rather than a Christian, origin. Furthermore, Boxer, in
his study of the Portuguese sources, found no evidence that the Jesuits had had any part in
the construction of the Azuchi Castle; Boxer, "Notes on early European military influence in
Japan (1543-1853)," TASJ, 2d ser., 8 (1931), 71.
59
An authentic contemporary description of the Azschi Castle is included in "Azuchi
Yama ki"
?iWagE
[History of Mt. Azuchi], quoted in KNKS, vol. 2, pp. 169-70. Also
see "Nobunaga ki," quoted in Takekoshi, Nihon keizai shi, vol. 3, p. 20; N. Orui and M. Toba,
Castles in Japan (Tokyo, 1935), 18-21; and Tanaka, Oda jidai shi, 163-66.
60
Professor Kuroita attributes this development directly to the use of firearms, because the
densely vegetated mountains provided an attacker with natural defenses; Kuroita, Kokushi
no kenkyfl, vol. 2, p. 284.
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FIREARMS IN JAPANESE WARFARE 249
Stone was used in most of the substructure.6' The greater size and strength
of the Osaka Castle may have resulted, in part, from Hideyoshi's osten-
tatious display of power, but the recent adoption of artillery in siege war-
fare was undoubtedly a contributing factor.62
INFLUENCE OF FIREARMS ON NAVAL WARFARE
The influence of firearms on naval warfare is first noted in the construc-
tion of six "iron ships" in 1578. Once more Oda Nobunaga was responsi-
ble for the innovation. He had the ships equipped with cannon and built
to withstand gunfire. They were 72 feet long, 42 feet wide, and were
reportedly able to carry about 5,000 men.63 Soon after the construction
was completed an opportunity arose for testing the effectiveness of the
new ships. During the sixth moon of 1578 they were sailing toward
Kumano Village, when they were suddenly faced with a large fleet of small
pirate boats. The gunners and archers of the pirate craft peppered the
big ships but caused no serious damage. The commander in charge of
Nobunaga's fleet ordered his men to withhold their fire until the pirate
boats came within effective firing range. When the cannon were fired,
"many of the enemy boats were immediately sunk, and those remaining
did not come near again. "64 Five months later the "iron ships" were once
61
Kuwata Tadachika
M V,
in his study of source materials in relation to the castle,
concludes that it was "rebuilt" by the Tokugawa government some time prior to 1650,
"Toyotomi jidai no Osaka jb" "- pfl~l{-I X
:'
[The Osaka Castle of the Toyotomi era],
Rekishi chiri, 74, no. 3 (Sept. 1939), 208. It is not clear just how basic the alterations were, but
sixteenth-century sources reveal that the castle constructed by Hideyoshi was made of amaz-
ingly large stones and that the gate of the inner citadel was made of (or covered with?) iron;
ibid., p. 209. Rev. J. Summers found that the Osaka Castle was modeled after a famous
Chinese fortress, "Notes on Osaka," TASJ, 7, no. 1 (1879), 391. Also see Mathew Garbutt,
"Military works in old Japan," TASJ, 2d ser., 8 (1907-10), 61, and Orui, op. cit., pp. 21-25.
62 The Koreans had stronger castles during the sixteenth century than the Japanese. Hide-
yoshi's invasion, therefore, gave the Japanese an opportunity to observe and study Korean
techniques. As a result, the castles built in Japan after 1598 were influenced by continental
ideas of fortification; Kuroita, op. cit., vol. 2, pp. 284 and 348.
" "Tamon In nikki"
1; RIp
H PgI
[Tamon In diary], quoted in KNKS, 2, p. 505. This
diary, kept by a monk of a Nara temple, is considered one of the most reliable sources of the
sixteenth century, but the figure of 5,000 seems too high. Father Frois visited these boats and
saw the cannon with which they were equipped. Regarding the ships, he said that they were
the biggest and best ships he had seen in Japan and that they were similar to those made in
Portugal. Regarding the cannon, he expressed considerable surprise for he had at that time
(about 1580) not seen cannon in Japan, except for small ones made in the province of Bungo.
Father Frois explained that the ships were made to blockade the entrance to Osaka, and he
predicted that, largely as a result of these new ships, Osaka would soon fall; Frois' report, tr.
in Murakami, op. cit., vol. 2, pp. 434-35.
"Ota Gyflichi *m?g- "Nobunaga K6 ki" , [Chronicles of Lord Nobunaga],
Shiseki shfiran, 19, ch. 5, p. 146. In general, the above version is in agreement with the
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250 THE FAR EASTERN QUARTERLY
more called into action, when six hundred small boats from Mori's prov-
inces of western Japan appeared off Kizu. Nobunaga's chronicler reported
that the six ships had no difficulty in routing Mori's boats,65 but Yoshida,
a writer of western Japan, claimed that although Nobunaga's ships were
equipped with cannon, Mori's boats were not forced to withdraw. One
of the "iron ships," wrote Yoshida, was actually boarded, and because of
the excessive weight of so many men, it capsized.66 During the following
two decades the Japanese apparently made no further attempts to con-
struct ships armed with cannon,67 possibly because the "iron ships" re-
vealed serious technical deficiencies.
In the naval engagements fought at the beginning of the Korean in-
vasion, the Japanese navy was shown to be inferior in both offensive and
defensive power. The Korean warship was a 2-masted sailing vessel that
had from 20 to 30 oars and measured over 150 feet in length and about
25 feet in width.68 It was equipped with bombs,69 fire arrows, and ap-
description contained in the "Yoshida monogatari"
-A:
[Tales of Yoshida], written
by a retainer of Lord Mori of western Japan and quoted in KNKS, vol. 2, pp. 501-02. [The
first Chinese character for Ota Gyfiichi should be no. 1948 in the Daijiten.-Editor.]
65 "Nobunaga K6 ki," Shiseki shfiran, vol. 19, ch. 5, pp. 150-51.
"Yoshida monogatari," KNKS, vol. 2, p. 503.
as In 1586 Hideyoshi tried to purchase two Portuguese ships, but his attempt failed; Murdoch,
op. cit., vol. 2, p. 334. In the Hojo campaign of 1589 hundreds of boats were used, but there
is no indication that they were equipped with artillery. Kuki Umanosuke, the builder of
Nobunaga's "iron ships,",was placed in charge of 1,500 vessels, but this force met no opposition
and was engaged primarily in transporting supplies and blockading the coast of eastern Japan;
Rikugun Sanbu Honbu, ed., Dai Nihon sen shi Es *@ [Military history of Japan],
quoted in KNKS, vol. 6, pp. 143-44.
e8 Included in the Prince Yi Household Collection is a screen painting of a naval engagement
fought during the Korean invasion, and it depicts the general characteristics of the Korean
warship (at the close of the sixteenth century?). For a reproduction see Horace H. Underwood,
"Korean boats and ships," Transactions of the Korea branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 23
(1934), fig. 40. Underwood calculates that there must have been as many as six men to an oar
and that the oars were about three feet apart; ibid., p. 55.
I"
One of the naval commanders of the Japanese force had a ship (or ships?) burned by
horokubiya a 5 7Z
(
k
which were thrown by the Koreans. "Wakizaka ke denki"
)
Z
'
p,
[Biographical sketches of the Wakizaka family], quoted in KNKS, vol. 7,
674-75. According to the Daijiten (vol. 23, p. 153), a horokuibiya was a metal ball into which
explosives were inserted, and which was wrapped with cloth and then painted with lacquer.
Fire was set to the cloth and the ball thrown into the midst of the enemy where it exploded.
This weapon was mentioned in the "Nobunaga ki," written about 1600, as having been used
effectively, sometime prior to 1582, against enemy ships, Kojitsu sosho, vol. 31, p. 639, but
there is no evidence that the Japanese had used such weapons extensively. The Koreans had
long known similar weapons, as can be seen from the names and descriptions appearing in
the Korean work, Orye-iii 3Jj4i written in 1474 and quoted in Boots, "Korean weapons
and armor," Transactions of the Korea branch of the
Rwal
Asiatic Society, 23, no. 2 (Dec.
1934), 21. A later Korean source, the Ylly6sil kisul
#;; -I[=
which was written between
1567 and 1608, describes a weapon which fired a ball as far as 1,000 yards. The ball was filled
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FIREARMS IN JAPANESE WARFARE 251
proximately forty cannon.70 The ship was also designed to protect the
crew against the musket fire of the Japanese: the decks were covered with
heavy planks, the crew was entirely enclosed within the hull of the ship,
and there is some evidence that the vessel was ironclad.71 Also, the decks
were covered with iron spikes to make boarding more hazardous, because
the Japanese were recognized as being expert swordsmen. Furthermore,
the warship was comparatively fast and could be easily maneuvered.72
The Japanese ships, on the other hand, were seldom armed with heavy
artillery,73 and according to a Chinese account written about 1600, they
were inferior in other respects:
The biggest of them hold about three hundred men, the middle size from one
to two hundred and the smaller forty to fifty, or it may be seventy to eighty.
Anyhowv they are wretchedly small, and if they meet our big ships they cannot
do them any damage but are easily sunk. Therefore, they are afraid of our
Kwangtung and Fukien ships, especially of those of Kwangtung that have lofty
sides like a wall. The Japanese ships are flat-bottomed and so cannot cut the
waves, and their sails are hoist with the mast in the middle and not on one side
like ours. And their spars are always moving whereas ours are fixed. They can
only sail before the wind, and if they meet a contrary one or none at all they
unstep their mast and take to oars, for they cannot tack.74
The naval tactics of the Koreans were well adapted to the greater range
of their artillery. Instead of relying upon the traditional technique of sail-
ing alongside an enemy ship, pulling it in with grappling irons, and then
boarding to fight it out with swords and battle-axes, the Korean com-
mander, Yi Sun Sin, made every effort to keep his fleet out of the range
of the Japanese muskets but near enough for his own cannon and in-
with powder and had a delayed fuse; it may have been the hhrokubiya mentioned in the
Wakizaka records; ibid., pp. 22-23.
'I
For pictures of the types of cannon probably employed on the Korean warships, see Under-
wood, op. cit., figs. 42D, 43C, and 43D.
7
Homer B. Hulbert in The history of Korea (Seoul, 1905), 376-77, concludes that the Korean
warship had iron plates on its sides, but Underwood could not prove the existence of such a
feature, op. cit., p. 76.
72 Underwood, op. cit., pp. 74-76. Hulbert
(op.
cit., pp. 376-77) states that the Korean ship
was equipped with a ram, but Sadler found no evidence of rams and concludes: "...what
emerges very significantly from the latest Japanese researches on this fighting is that here also
it was the gun and the incendiary missile and not the ram that proved so deadly"; "The naval
campaign in the Korean war of Hideyoshi (1592-98)," TASJ, 2d ser., 14 (1937), 180.
"3Sadler, op. cit., p. 180. Underwood finds that "The Japanese thus had plenty of muskets
but few cannon. The Koreans on the other hand had no muskets but plenty of cannon,"
op. cit., p. 59. According to H. A. C. Bonar, "On maritime enterprise in Japan," TASJ, 15
(1887), 113, Japanese vessels were equipped with more than 78 oars and carried one cannon.
7" Mao YVan
LjIZ,
Wu-pei chih
j,=
[On preparations for war], written about
1600, KNKS, vol. 7, p. 623 and tr. in Sadler, op. cit., pp. 182-83.
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252 THE FAR EASTERN QUARTERLY
cendiary bombs to be effective. Only when a Japanese ship was crippled
did the larger Korean ships ram or sail alongside for boarding. There is
evidence also that the Koreans had adopted the line-head formation in
order to bring as many of their cannon as possible to bear upon the
enemy vessels, and that the principle of continuous fire was understood,
since the cannon were shot in an orderly fashion and only upon command.
Finally, the greater speed and maneuverability of the Korean ships gave
the commander complete freedom in carrying out his tactical plans.75
Japanese tactics, however, seem to have been limited to the "tradition of
using warships as mere platforms on which soldiers might fight.'"76 Of
course, each vessel carried a large number of muskets, and presumably the
Japanese had hoped to damage the enemy fleet before attempting to board
for hand-to-hand fighting, but in most of the early engagements. many
Japanese ships were sunk before the Korean ships came within the range
of the Japanese handgun.77
The Japanese commanders soon realized that their inferiority in naval
warfare lay in a lack of artillery, and they immediately took steps to equip
their ships with cannon. A Korean source reveals that during the second
year of the invasion "great bolts and huge iron balls not inferior to our
own, and huge round stones were hurled at us, and very many struck our
ships."78 At about this time Hideyoshi also made another attempt to
procure two Portuguese carracks, but the Portuguese refused to supply
him with these ships because they apparently did not wish to anger the
Chinese.79 During the second phase of the invasion (1597-98) more Japa-
nese ships were armed with artillery. In 1597 a raid was made by the
Koreans on a flotilla lying off Fusan and, according to a letter written by
Hideyoshi, the Japanese had no difficulty in driving off the attackers. He
wrote that over 160 boats were captured and "several thousand" enemy
killed.80 It would appear that a fundamental factor in the Japanese victory
was the demoralization of the Korean navy, largely because Yi Sun Sin
had been deprived of his command,81 but contemporary accounts show
75
Underwood, op. cit., pp. 79-81.
7" Marder, "From Jimmu Tenno to Perry, sea power in early Japanese history," American
historical review, 51 (Oct. 1945), 26.
77 See KNKS, vol. 7, pp. 621-84, and Sadler, op. cit., pp. 179-208.
78
Chung mu hong chun soh
f,/.gtjkq
a compilation of Yi Sun Sin E papers
(compiled in 1796), quoted in Sadler, op. cit., p. 190, footnotes.
78
Boxer, op. cit., pp. 72-73.
10
Toyotomi Hideyoshi to Aki Chinagaon, 8th moon, 10th day, Keich6 2 (1597), KNKS,
vol. 9, p. 467.
I"
Marder, op. cit., p. 29.
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FIREARMS IN JAPANESE WARFARE 253
that cannon were fired by the Japanese at the beginning of the engage-
ment.82
SUMMARY
Firearms were clearly a basic element in the radical developments in
Japanese warfare during the last half of the sixteenth century. It is also
certain that these developments had far-reaching economic, social, and
political implications. The large-scale manufacture of muskets and am-
munition, the building of huge stone castles, the movement of large armies
to distant points - all operated to stimulate greater industrial and com-
mercial activity.83 The maintenance of standing armies at the castles led
to the growth of castle towns and to a greater differentiation between
soldiers and peasants,84 especially after 1588 when the peasants were pro-
hibited by law from keeping firearms.85 Finally, the new long-range weap-
ons provided the more capable and foresighted barons with an important
means of extending their military power and, therefore, facilitated the
establishment, by Nobunaga and Hideyoshi, of Japan's first strong, central
government.86
82"Seikan ir)aku" ;f~ 34 [Outline history of the Korean invasion], KNKS, vol. 9, p. 461.
83For an excellent survey of the economic history of the Middle Ages, see Shiba Kentaro
"Chfisei no keizai"
rP#F 4:T
[Medieval economy], Iwanami koza: Nihon
rekishi, ser. 10, 3 (July 1934), but no adequate study of the expansion of industry in the six-
teenth century has been made.
8
K. Asakawva, "Some aspects of Japanese feudal institutions," TASJ, 46, no. 1 (1918), 98.
I"
Toyotomi Hideyoshi order, 7th moon, 8th day, Tensh6 16 (1588), Ho Ko ibun, pp. 202-03.
The social repercussions arising from the introduction of firearms (leserve further study.
It appears that at first the position of the professional soldier was undermined by the more
extensive use of firearms, for there was a definite tendency for companies of gunners to be
organized from among untrained peasants. But with the growing importance of large castles
and the concurrent establishment of political centralization, the differentiation between peas-
ant and soldier again became quite clear, and during the prolonged period of peace that came
after 1615 the warrior class formed the elite in the rigid social structure that
prevailed
tinder
the Tokugasva Shogunate.
88 DO Tomih drasss the conclusion: "We can not deny that the introduction of firearms scas
an important factor in the establishment of the modern, centralized state," op. cit., p. 192.
This view marks a definite advance beyond the traditional interpretation which ascribes the
centralization of Japan to the political and military genius of Nobunaga and Hideyoshi, but
this problem too should receive study. It is suggested that the discovery of new sources of
precious metals, the introduction of improved methods of mining and better metallurgical
techniques, and the general expansion of commerce and industry also faciliated the emergence
of a centralized feudal state.
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