(POWER and CLASS IN JAPAN, 500 to 1333 -- continued)
In 1274 the Mongols, backed by Koreans and Chinese, landed on the coast of Kyushu. They attacked the Samurai with explosive devises and poisoned arrows and gained advantage, but a storm arose in the evening and they were forced to abandon their invasion and withdraw from Japan.
Japan's ruler, Hojo Tokimune (r. 1268-84), was known for leading the Japanese forces against the invasion and for having spread Zen Buddhism and Bushido among the warrior class. In the wake of the invasion he extended his power, appointing nine new governors in western Japan, six of them members of the Hojo or allied clans.
In 1281, the Mongols with their Korean and Chinese troops returned to Kyushu. Samurai kept the Mongol cavalry from deploying. After a week of fierce fighting the Mongols had established only a small beachhead. The Mongols were forced to retreat to small islands they held. A storm arose that wrecked the Mongol armada. The Samurai attacked and slaughtered the 30,000 Mongol, Koreans and Chinese trapped on the small islands.
As with the first invasion, Shinto priests described the storm that smashed the Mongol invasion as divine intervention, as a god (kami) wind (kaze). Japan's victory over the Mongols gave its military sense of superiority that would remain to 1945. And among the Samurai it reinforced the notion that the shogunate was the right form of government.
Japan was now more defense conscious, and new taxes were levied to maintain defensive preparations for the future. A new discontent arose against the Hojo shogunate, some of it from those who had expected more compensation for their help in defeating the Mongol. Rule by the Hojo family was weakened by discontent. Officials of the Hojo shogunate had created two contending imperial lines to alternate on the throne. In 1318 a new emperor Go-Daigo, ascended the throne. When it was his turn to step down, instead he raised an army in an attempt to overthrow the shogunate. In 1332 the shogunate's army won. The shogunate exiled Go-Daigo and placed another emperor on the throne. In 1333, Go-Daigo escaped and won enough allies to his side while the Hojo shogunate was abandoned by some its crucial backers. The result was a military victory for Go-Daigo. Rule by the Hojo clan and rule from Kamakura was over. An attempt to re-establish rule by the emperor, the so-called Kenmu restoration, had begun.
The History of Japan, by Louis B Perez, Greenwood Press, 1998
Japan: the Story of a Nation, by Edwin, by Edwin O Reichauer, Fourth Edition, Alfred A Knopf, 1989
The Cambridge History of Japan, Vol 3, editors Kazo Yamamura, John Whitney Hall, Cambridge University Press, 1990
Copyright © 2009-2013 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.