The two attempts by Khubilai Khan, the Mongol Emperor of China, to invade Japan in 1274 and 1281 represent unique events in the history of both countries. It pitted the samurai of Japan against the fierce warriors of the steppes who had conquered half the known world.
The Mongol conquest of Korea left them with a considerable quantity of maritime resources, which enabled them to thin seriously for the first time about crossing the Tsushima strait between Korea and Japan with an army of invasion. The first invasion, which began with savage raiding on the islands of Tsushima and Iki, made a landfall at Hakata Bay and forced the samurai defenders back inland. Luckily for the Japanese defenders, a storm scattered the Mongol invasion fleet, leading them to abandon this attempt.
In the intervening years the Japanese made defensive preparation, and the Mongol increased their fleet and army, so that the second invasion involved one of the largest seaborne expeditions in world history up to that time. This attempt was aimed at the same landing site, Hakata Bay, and met stiffer opposition form the new defences and the aggressive Japanese defenders. Forced buy a series of major Japanese raids to stay in their ships at anchor, the Mongol fleet was obliterated by a typhoon - the kami kaze (divine wind) - for the loss of as many as 90 per cent of the invaders. Although further preparations were made for an assault by the Mongols at the end of the 13ht and beginning of the 14th centuries, this proved to be the last realistic threat of an invasion of the home islands till 1945.
About the Author
Stephen Turnbull took his first degree at Cambridge University, and received a PhD from Leeds University for his work on Japanese religious history. He has traveled extensively in Europe and the Far East and also runs a well-used picture library. His work has been recognized by the awarding of the Canon Prize of the British Association for Japanese Studies and a Japan Festival Literary Award. He currently divides his time between lecturing in Japanese Religion at the University of Leeds and writing.
Praise for The Mongol Invasions of Japan 1274 and 1281…
"Stephen Turnbull does a superlative job of telling the story of these invasions. There is so much myth involved and so little historical record of these events that untwisting myth from reality is quite difficult. Yet it is done with clarity and Stephen tells a good story. This is all superbly illustrated by Richard Hook and enhanced by period artwork and photos of the few artifacts and images of the locales in which the battles were fought. It makes for superb reading of a pivotal event in Japanese and world history. It is a book I very much enjoyed and highly recommend to you." -Scott Van Aken, Modeling Madness / modelingmadness.com (February 2010)