Japan’s Fukuoka City Public Library hosted a conference on August 27 on the learned history of the game Ghost of Tsushima and the origins of the Mongol invasion. Dr. Hideo Hattori, a historical expert, explained many particular elements related to the iconic places and the past of the samurai during this turbulent era. He also explained the circumstances of the invasion and revealed many important facts that will help players see the game in a new light.
To get to the heart of this war, we need to understand that there was a country on the Chinese mainland called Song or Southern Song, and the Mongols were an ethnic minority conquering the northern half of Song. The Mongol political agenda was to destroy the Southern Song, who engaged in a prosperous trade with Japan during the Heian period. Eventually, this trade would lead to Japan being included in the target list of states that were to be subject to Mongol rule. Another reason for the Mongol targeting of Japan was Japan’s export of sulphur, which at the time was a very important military asset for creating gunpowder, back to the Song dynasty.
Japan initially refused diplomatic relations with the Mongol forces because they not only conquered the cities they invaded, but forced them to use their own calendar system and rules, an attitude that does not not suitable for a country with a rich heritage like Japan. As for sulphur, it existed in abundant quantity in addition to Japanese cypress wood, which was a commodity in China. Gunpowder is made from potassium nitrate, sulfur and charcoal, and Japan had many volcanoes while China had few. Dr. Hattori expressed his belief that another reason for the invasion was to put an end to this line of trade and its associated military advantages.
The first Mongol attempt to invade Japan was called the Battle of Bun’ei, which actually involved five main battles – the first two, on the islands of Tsushima and Iki, which Japan lost, and three others where the Japanese forces were able to reverse the situation. . As we saw in Ghost of Tsushima, battle involved the widespread use of gunpowder to create bombs as well as various types of poisons; another aspect that the conference addresses. Dr Hattori said poisons back then weren’t strong enough to be used in wars or hunting – unlike gambling – but they definitely existed. In reality, the islanders threw fecal and smoke balls at Mongol ships to blind soldiers and freeze their movements.
The Fukuoka Library lecture is 1.5 hours long and covers many other interesting topics related to Japanese culture and the difference between how the Mongol and Japanese nations waged war at the time. After the host read Dr. Hattori’s book The Mongolian Raid and the Kamikaze, he was deeply interested in learning how similar the historical facts are to the game. Dr. Hattori is also writing a third book about the invasion which will reveal more facts about this interesting period of Japanese history.
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