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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The armada began by attacking Tsushima and Iki


was now inevitable. Kublai massed 25,000 Mongol braves in Korea, supplemented them with 15,000 Korean troops, and embarking them in a flotilla of 900 vessels manned by 8000 Koreans, launched this paltry army against Japan in November, 1274. The armada began by attacking Tsushima and Iki, islands lying in the strait that separates the Korean peninsula from Japan. In Tsushima, the governor, So Sukekuni,* could not muster more than two hundred bushi. But these two hundred fought to the death, as did also the still smaller garrison of Iki. Before the passage of the narrow strait was achieved, the invaders must have lost something of their faith in the whole enterprise. On November 20th, they landed at Hako-zaki Gulf in the province of Chikuzen There they were immediately assailed by the troops of five Kyushu chieftains. What force the latter represented there is no record, but they were certainly less numerous than the enemy. Moreover, the Yuan army possessed a greatly superior tactical system. By a Japanese bushi the battle-field was regarded as an arena for the display of individual prowess, not of combined force. The Mongols, on the contrary, fought in solid co-operation, their movements directed by sound of drum from some eminence where the commander-in-chief watched the progress of the fight. If a Japanese approached to defy one of them to single combat, they enveloped and slew him. Further, at close quarters they used light arms dipped in poison, and for long-range purposes
they had powerful crossbows, which quite outclassed the Japanese weapons. They were equipped also with explosives which they fired from metal tubes, inflicting heavy loss on the Japanese, who were demoralized by such an unwonted weapon. Finally, they were incomparable horsemen, and in the early encounters they put the Japanese cavalry out of action by raising with drums and gongs a din that terrified the latter's horses. But, in spite of all these disadvantages, the Japanese fought stubbornly. Whenever they got within striking distance of the foe, they struck desperately, and towards evening they were able to retire in good order into cover "behind the primitive fortifications of Mizuki raised for Tenchi Tenno by Korean engineers six centuries before."

*Grandson of Taira no Tomomori, admiral of the Hei fleet in the battle of Dan-no-ura.

ENGRAVING: REPULSE OF THE MONGOL INVADERS (From a scroll painting in possession of the Imperial Household)

That night the west coast of Kyushu was menaced by one of those fierce gales that rage from time to time in sub-tropical zones. The Korean pilots knew that their ships could find safety in the open sea only. But what was to be done with the troops which had debarked? Had their commanders seen any certain hope of victory, they would not have hesitated to part temporarily from the ships. The day's fighting, however, appears to have inspired a new estimate of the bushi's combatant qualities. It was decided to embark the Yuan forces and start out to sea. For the purpose of covering this movement, the Hakozaki shrine and some adjacent hamlets were fired, and when morning dawned the invaders' flotilla was seen beating out of the bay. One of their vessels ran aground on Shiga spit at the north of the haven and several others foundered at sea, so that when a tally was finally called, 13,200 men did not answer to their names. As to what the Japanese casualties were, there is no information.

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