01 Japanese History

#16 The Mongol Invasions

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This episode is about The Mongol Invasions. Let’s look at how the Kamakura Shogunate responded to foreign invasions.


At the beginning of the 13th century, Genghis Khan established the Mongol Empire. The Mongol Empire established a cavalry army and ruled over a vast area that straddled the Eurasian continent.


Genghis Khan’s grandson, the fifth emperor, Kublai Khan, conquered China and founded the Yuan Dynasty. After conquering the Koryo Dynasty on the Korean peninsula, Kublai also attempted to subjugate Japan.


Envoys from Kublai came to Japan several times. At that time, the head of the Kamakura shogunate was Hojo Tokimune. Tokimune was very young but rejected the requests for submission and prepared for the invasion of the Yuan army.


In 1274, a large Yuan army appeared in northern Kyushu. Japanese warriors fought bravely. However, they were troubled by the Yuan army’s mass warfare methods and the “tetsu-hau” explosive weapon.


Suddenly, however, a storm broke out and Yuan’s ships were destroyed, this led to the Yuan forces retreating. This is referred to as the Battle of Bun’ei.


The following year, Yuan’s envoy came to Japan again and demanded subjugation. Tokimune had the envoy executed and prepared for the next battle. The fortifications built at this time still remain in Hakata, northern Kyushu.


In 1281, Yuan invaded Japan with an even larger army than before. This time, however, the Japanese army successfully blocked the invasion and did not allow the Yuan forces to land. Then, once again, a storm occurred, devastating Yuan’s fleet. This is called the Battle of Koan.


The people called the storm that saved them from two crises a kamikaze, or divine wind. Since that time, the belief was born that a kamikaze would blow and save the country in times of national crisis.


After winning the battles against the Yuan forces, Hojo Tokimune died at the young age of 34. He was buried at Engaku-Ji Temple in Kamakura. The Kamakura shogunate successfully defended Japan from foreign invasions. However, the economic damage caused by the war led to the decline of the Kamakura shogunate.


Thank you for reading.

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