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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The question of maritime transport presented some difficulty


himself remained in Japan throughout the whole war. He went to Nagoya towards the close of 1592 and stayed there until the beginning of 1594, and it was generally understood that he intended ultimately to assume direct command of the oversea armies. In fact, at a council held to consider this matter, he proposed to cross the water at the head of one hundred and fifty thousand men, handing over the administration of affairs in Japan to Ieyasu. On that occasion, one of his most trusted followers, Asano Nagamasa, provoked a violent outburst of temper on Hideyoshi's part by declaring that such a scheme would be an act of lunacy, since Hideyoshi's presence alone secured the empire against recurrence of domestic strife. The annals are not very clear at this point, but everything seems to indicate that Hideyoshi's purpose of leading the armies in person would have been carried into practice had it not become certain that the invasion of China would have to be abandoned. The time and the manner in which this failure became clear will be seen as we proceed.


The sea which separates Japan from the Korean peninsula narrows on the south to a strait divided by the island of Tsushima into two channels of nearly equal width. Tsushima had, for centuries, been the Japanese outpost in this part of the empire. To reach the island from the Japanese side was always an easy and safe task,

but in the fifty-six-mile channel that separates Tsushima from the peninsula of Korea an invading flotilla had to run the risk of an attack by Korean warships.* The army assembled at Nagoya totalled over three hundred thousand men, whereof some seventy thousand constituted the first fighting line and eighty-seven thousand the second, the remainder forming a reserve to meet contingencies. The question of maritime transport presented some difficulty, but was solved by the expedient of ordering each maritime feudatory to furnish two large ships for every hundred thousand koku of the fief's assessment, and their crews were obtained by compelling each fishing village to furnish ten sailors for every hundred houses it contained. These were not fighting vessels but mere transports. Fighting men to the number of ninety-two hundred were, however, distributed among the ships, and were armed with match-locks, bows, and swords. The problem of commissariat was very formidable. This part of the enterprise was entrusted solely to Asano Nagamasa, minister of Justice, one of the five bugyo,--that is to say, five officials called administrators, in whose intelligence and competence Hideyoshi placed signal reliance. In the records of the Asano family it is stated that an immense quantity of rice was shipped at the outset, but that on landing in Korea the army found ample supplies of grain in every castle throughout the peninsula. Nevertheless, the problem of provisions ultimately became exceedingly difficult, as might well have been predicted.

*See the Encyclopedia Britannica, 11th edition; article "Japan," by Brinkley.


As for the plan of campaign, it was precisely in accord with the principles of modern strategy. The van, consisting of three army corps, was to cross rapidly to Fusan on the south coast of the peninsula, whence a movement northward, towards the capital, Seoul, was to be immediately commenced, one corps marching by the eastern coast-road, one by the central route, and one by the western. "Thereafter the other four corps, which formed the first fighting line, together with the corps under the direct orders of the commander-in-chief, Ukita Hideiye, were to cross for the purpose of effectually subduing the regions through which the van had passed; and, finally, the two remaining corps of the second line were to be transported by sea up the west coast of the peninsula, to form a junction with the van which, by that time, should be preparing to pass into China over the northern boundary of Korea, namely, the Yalu River. For the landing-place of these re-enforcements the town of Pyong-yang was adopted, being easily accessible by the Tadong River from the coast. In later ages, Japanese armies were destined to move twice over these same regions, once to the invasion of China [in 1894], once to the attack of Russia [in 1904], and they adopted almost the same strategical plan as that mapped out by Hideyoshi in the year 1592. The forecast was that the Koreans would offer their chief resistance, first, at the capital, Seoul; next at Pyong-yang, and finally at the Yalu, as the approaches to all these places constituted positions capable of being utilized to great advantage for defensive purposes."*

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