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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

Kublai immediately acted on the suggestion


It

is probable that Kublai's ambition, whetted by extensive conquests, would have turned in the direction of Japan sooner or later, but tradition indicates that the idea of obtaining the homage of the Island Empire was suggested to the great Khan by a Korean traveller in 1265. Kublai immediately acted on the suggestion. He sent an embassy by way of Korea, ordering the Koma sovereign to make arrangements for the transport of the envoys and to re-enforce them with a Korean colleague. A tempest interrupted this essay, and it was not repeated until 1268, when the Khan's messengers, accompanied by a Korean suite, crossed safely to Chikuzen and delivered to the Dazai-fu a letter from Kublai with a covering despatch from the Korean King. The Korean sovereign's despatch was plainly inspired by a desire to avert responsibility from himself. He explained that in transporting the embassy he acted unavoidably, but that, in sending it, the Khan was not actuated by any hostile feeling, his sole purpose being to include Japan in the circle of his friendly tributaries.

In short, the Koma prince--he no longer could properly be called a monarch--would have been only too pleased to see Japan pass under the Mongol yoke as his own kingdom had already done. Kublai's letter, however, though not deliberately arrogant, could not be construed in any sense except as a summons to send tribute-bearing envoys to Peking. He called himself "Emperor" and addressed the Japanese

ruler as "King;" instanced, for fitting example, the relation between China and Korea, which he described at once as that of lord and vassal and that of parent and child, and predicated that refusal of intercourse would "lead to war."

The Japanese interpreted this to be an offer of suzerainty or subjugation. Two courses were advocated; one by Kyoto, the other by Kamakura. The former favoured a policy of conciliation and delay; the latter, an attitude of contemptuous silence. Kamakura, of course, triumphed. After six months' retention the envoys were sent away without so much as a written acknowledgment. The records contain nothing to show whether this bold course on the part of the Bakufu had its origin in ignorance of the Mongol's might or in a conviction of the bushi's fighting superiority. Probably both factors were operative; for Japan's knowledge of Jenghiz and his resources reached her chiefly through religious channels, and the fact that Koreans were associated with Mongols in the mission must have tended to lower the affair in her estimation. Further, the Japanese had been taught by experience the immense difficulties of conducting oversea campaigns, and if they understood anything about the Mongols, it should have been the essentially non-maritime character of the mid-Asian conquerors.

By Kublai himself that defect was well appreciated. He saw that to carry a body of troops to Japan, the seagoing resources of the Koreans must be requisitioned, and on the bootless return of his first embassy, he immediately issued orders to the Koma King to build one thousand ships and mobilize forty thousand troops. In vain the recipient of these orders pleaded inability to execute them. The Khan insisted, and supplemented his first command with instructions that agricultural operations should be undertaken on a large scale in the peninsula to supply food for the projected army of invasion. Meanwhile he despatched embassy after embassy to Japan, evidently being desirous of carrying his point by persuasion rather than by force. The envoys invariably returned re infecta. On one occasion (1269), a Korean vessel carried off two Japanese from Tsushima and sent them to Peking. There, Kublai treated them kindly, showed them his palace as well as a parade of his troops, and sent them home to tell what they had seen. But the Japanese remained obdurate, and finally the Khan sent an ultimatum, to which Tokimune, the Hojo regent, replied by dismissing the envoys forthwith.


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