View Full Version : Japanese Mercenaries

25th June 2002, 17:50

My son is into the computer game "Age of Empires" and has placed his Japanese forces in Europe. This inspired a thought but, to this point, not much research.

Was there much mercenary activity by Japanese Bushi in foreign lands and squabbles? If so, how far away from Japan did they get? Were they more individual "Soldiers of Fortune" or were there entire detachments ala the Hessians used by the British in the American Revolution?

Cheers and Thanks in advance,

Joseph Svinth
26th June 2002, 05:50
An anthropologist recently proposed the theory that the Zuni are descended, in part, from some Japanese Buddhist millenarians. (The Buddhists sailed east, landed in California, married local women, and kept heading east until they reached the center of the universe.) Quantifiably, there was a battalion of samurai in Thailand in the 17th century. I believe that most of these men were Christians. In the late 16th and early 17th centuries, there were also Japanese merchants in Manila, and a few went from there to Acapulco and Mexico City.

So, had Japan invaded Manila rather than Korea in the 1590s (it was considered), then probably Japanese forces would have been seen throughout the Pacific by the early 17th century.

26th June 2002, 13:09

Not really about mercenaries but :

>had Japan invaded Manila rather than Korea in the 1590s (it was considered)<

Thats interesting.

Didnt Hideyoshi only want to use Korea as a path to his real goal : China ? Hideyoshi assumed that the koreans would allow this and it only broke down into war when they refused to allow the japanese armies safe passage through their land.

If thats the case then Manila seems an odd stepping-stone to get to china .... distance wise for starters.

I am reading a book on this very thing, check out : http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0304359483/ref=sr_aps_books_1_1/202-6867711-0203026

- George

26th June 2002, 15:15
Hi all.
I am aware of Hideyoshi's 'grand scheme' for the domination of China but I would think that the conquest of Manila would have been looked upon as an 'aside' to that vision. Manila was a wealthy trading port and would have been a grand conquest for the Japanese had they gone ahead with it. Joe, Do you have any more on why they didn't? I was thinking perhaps due to the problems it may have caused with the European traders but would like to know more if there is any.
I have also heard that Samurai had roamed as far as Thailand and that they had established a 'colony' of sorts there...But I saw that in a thread here and cannot supply any hard facts of my own on that.
Other than that the only real outside contacts made were through the pirate activities of a few of the coastal Japanese families (Like the So, Kuki, and Matsuura) that regularly raided the coast of Korea and the vicinity only stopping when politics worked its wonders on Japan...Sorry not to have helped more..

Joseph Svinth
27th June 2002, 08:40
I doubt that Hideyoshi was serious about conquering the Philippines. Probably it was mostly bluster, intended to intimidate the Jesuits in Japan: "You speak of conquering Japan? Well, I'll conquer Manila instead!"

Alternatively, it was a pipe dream, like Joe Stalin's plan to invade Alaska as a way of countering Curtis LeMay's reorganization of the Strategic Air Command. (On the latter, see http://www.yale.edu/opa/v28.n7/story17.html and http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/bomb/filmmore/reference/interview/zubok4.html .)

As for the Japanese visiting Indochina, China, Thailand, Myanmar, etc., see http://www.jef.or.jp/en/jti/200109_014.html . (Arms merchants, the Japanese were. They're always popular visitors.) A more likely scenario posited in this article has Tokugawa Shogunate Japanese meeting the British and French in India, ca. 1650, and reaching North America in the early 18th century.

29th June 2002, 01:49
Japanese merchants were active in Korea, China, Okinawa and the Philippines, and there was a settlement in Manila before Hideyoshi went off to conquer Asia. Even more Japanese scattered about when Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu started their pogroms against Christians. Many Japanese who decided to run away ended up in Manila, from what I remember from my history classes.

I think, if one tries to get into the mind of someone like Hideyoshi, you goes where the gettin's good. China probably represented to him the Mother Lode of culture, wealth, and trade. He probably figured that if he were to conquer China, he'd take over a whopping amount of treasures and wealth, whereas he didn't see as much enticement with the Philippines. As it was, even though he managed to get up into Korea, he and other daimyo spirited away as many tea bowls and Korean ceramic artists as they could back with them.

Sometimes it's fun to play "what ifs," but one of the problems of thinking, "What if...Japan had tried to attack European armies at that time?" is that projecting any army in the field, in foreign countries, extends your line of supply and weakens you terribly, so no matter how great a samurai may be on his home turf, he will be weakened in proportion to his access to supplies. I read in one book on military history that in a typical campaign before the 20th Century, more casualties and deaths ensued from disease, starvation, exposure to the elements, etc., than from battlefield wounds and injuries. Field rations, modern medical practices, and more efficient transportation had as much to do with the success of modern armies as fighting spirit and advanced weaponry.

Wayne Muromoto

9th July 2002, 08:45
Hello everyone,

Just wanted talk something about Ieyasu and Philippines.

Ieyasu once summoned Franciscan monk Jeronimo de Jesus to audience to ask persuade the Spanish in the Philippines to come to Japan. "I want to see them and they can take what they want from Japan," he said. But Ieyasu wanted the Spanish to build ships for him so that he could send Japanese to Mexico and India.

The Spanish refused saying that it would be like giving Japanese a great weapon to invade the Philippines.

Ieyasu also ordered William Adams to build ships for him so that he could invade the Philippines and attack the Spanish for their attitude. Adams built one ship, a copy of the ship which he landed in from England, the Liefde. Ieyasu was very happy with the ship and ordered Adams to build another bigger one that could carry cannon.

Adams spent 18 months building another and when it was finished, Ieyasu was happy. But Ieyasu didn't use his ships to invade anywhere. He lent them to the Spanish governor of the Philippines in good will after the Spanish lost a ship in storm off coast of Edo.

Ieyasu hoped become friendlier with Spanish, but he learn't that Spanish were only interested invading and converting Japan to Christianity.

Later after Ieyasu died, his son Hidetada was Shogun. Hidetada didn't like Christians and decided ban all Christians. Even English were threatened including William Adams and the East India company. The head of the east India company (name?) tried tell Hidetada that English Christians were different, to prove it he offered to help invade Philippines together with Samurai and the help of Dutch. Hidetada, didn't want invade though, and banned all other Christians.

Yoshitaka Uno

9th July 2002, 23:59

Thanks all for the great contributions and thoughts on the subject. I'm wondering if the very nature of the samurai would lend itself to mercenary service to another country/soveriegn. I know they would shift loyalties quite often in their native land squabbles and logic would say that kind of behaviour wouldn't necessarily stop at a certain level.

I'm taking from all of this that there were no records of large contingents of samurai hiring out to the Spanish to go fight the native insurrectionists in the Phillipines. For that matter, were there any small contingents. Did Europe try to hire the Japanese to help achieve their gains in Asia?