View Full Version : Samurai in Thailand

Paul Steadman
16th October 2001, 13:36
Hello All,

A couple of years ago I read about a group of samurai in Siam (maybe on a trading/diplomatic mission etc) who assisted the Siamese in routing a rebellion and putting the King of Thailand back on the throne. This occured maybe in the 1700 +/-.

I can't find the reference anywhere, has anyone elso heard of this occurance. Any help at all would be greatly appreciated.


Paul Steadman

Karl Friday
16th October 2001, 14:10
Originally posted by Paul Steadman
Hello All,

A couple of years ago I read about a group of samurai in Siam (maybe on a trading/diplomatic mission etc) who assisted the Siamese in routing a rebellion and putting the King of Thailand back on the throne. This occured maybe in the 1700 +/-.

Tom Nelson, currently at Oxford (thomas.nelson@wadh.ox.ac.uk) is working on a book on that very topic.

Paul Steadman
16th October 2001, 14:26
Thanks Karl,

Somehow I knew you might have some info. Thanks for replying.


Paul Steadman

16th October 2001, 14:34
There are a few words (and really just a few - page 165 :) ) written in Draeger/Smith "Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts" about this topic.


Paul Steadman
16th October 2001, 14:57
Hi Ruediger,

Thanks for the reference. I've never read that paragraph before and I've owned the book for 5 years! You were right about it being a few words...

It's really bugging me, I can't recall where I read it originally, maybe an S. Turnbull book or something. Anyway thanks again.


Paul Steadman

John Lindsey
16th October 2001, 18:12

I just bumped an old post I did on this subject, in this forum..

Joseph Svinth
16th October 2001, 19:00
There are also some references in Noel Perrin, _Giving Up the Gun: Japanís Reversion to the Sword, 1543-1879_ (Boston: David R. Godine, 1979) (the Siamese preferred Japanese matchlocks to English) and David K. Wyatt, _Thailand: A Short History_ (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1984). See also Anthony Reid, _Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce 1450-1680_, volume I (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1988).

Seems the Thai court replaced the samurai with armed women ca. 1688; the leader of these women was reportedly called Ma Ying Taphan, or the Great Mother of War.

18th October 2001, 03:55

I found this again:

During the reign of King Ekathotsarot, a band of Samurai worriers [warriors] was attached to the King's guards. Yamaday [probably Yamada] the chief, was bestowed a high rank by the King. However in 1620, King Songdhamrna seized the throne of King Ekathotsarot's son and the Samurai guards were forced to flee. They took refuge in Phetchburi and then to Nakhon Sri Thammarat.
source: http://www.corpincentives.com/anews/ayutth.htm.

King Narai

King Narai dethroned his villainous uncle, to free Siam from his evil rule. The new King Narai was aged twenty five at the time. He had not been on the throne long when his two younger brothers plotted against him. Narai had them both executed. he could not trust anybody, so employed Japanese Samurai as body-guards and one thousand Portuguese soldiers.

With the Japanese, Portuguese and Siamese soldiers he massed a considerable army. Siam under King Narai was too strong and powerful for any country to attack. The King had new forts constructed at Bangkok and moved his residence to Lopburi, thinking that Ayutthaya was too easily accessible from the sea.

He signed treaties with the Dutch, French, British and Portuguese. He cultivated friendships with Alexander VII, Louis XIV of France, Charles II of England and the Pope of Rome. Siam was now at peace. The King promoted foreign trade. He appointed Greek-born Phaulkon (Falcon) as superintendent of foreign trade. By his sagacity, wisdom and diligence in management, Phaulkon soon rose to the highest post of honor in the state, being made Premier of Siam.

King Narai, with consummate acumen, more European than Asiatic in his ideas was careful to keep his people employed and applied himself with vigor to improving the agriculture of his country. He promoted security and happiness in the Kingdom of Siam. The laws he framed were so sound and stable and at the same time so wisely conformable to both King and his subjects alike that to this day they constitute the fundamental law of the land.

At the age of fifty-two King Narai fell seriously ill at the palace in Lopburi. He was betrayed by his own son and two princes of the Macassar, they forced their way into the palace to slay the king but the brave old and very sick man divined their purpose at a glance. he leapt out from his bed and seizing his sword (daab), threw himself upon it, dying as the assassins entered. Shortly after Phaulkon, the kingís closest ally, was arrested and charged with treason by jealous noblemen and later executed.

He died bravely saying " I die for the glory of god, the service of the King and the interests of the state". So died a great man and warrior, servant to king Narai. In this picturesque drama of Siamese history, no figure appears so truly noble and brilliant as this King.
source: http://www.usmta.com/history-heros-2.htm


Intercourse by sea between Thailand and other Asian nations had taken place since ancient times, particularly with India (Bengal and the Coromandel Coast) and Iran. During the period of European expansionism into the Far East, such intercourse was still taking place in the form of trade and exchanges of envoys. Since these ties did not have any impact on subsequent relations between Thailand and other countries, they will not be discussed here. Relations between Thailand and Japan, however, need to be mentioned.
In 1593, when King Naresuan defeated Phra Maha Uparaja, the Burmese Crown Prince, in a battle on elephant-back, his army was composed of 500 Japanese soldiers. This indicated that the Japanese had entered Thailand some time before that.

These Japanese consisted of volunteer soldiers, traders and seafarers. At the time, Japan placed restrictions on its trade with foreign countries, that is, prior permission had to be obtained for this purpose. The Japanese who left their country to become volunteer soldiers or traders were adventurers at heart, as were the Europeans who had journeyed to the Far East during the same period. Many of their actions, therefore, depicted this adventurous spirit. The Japanese volunteer corps performed well if they were kept under good supervision. However, whenever they were allowed to become involved in Thai politics, problems always arose. One case in point was Yamada Nagamasa, who was conferred the title of Okya Senabhimuk and given command over the Japanese volunteer corps during the reign of King Songtham (1610 - 1628). Yamada served King Songtham with loyalty, as evidenced by his role in supporting the King 's brother to assume the throne, as was His Majesty 's wish. Yamada also played a part in getting rid of Phya Silpa and in promoting Phra Arthityawong (August-September 1629) to the throne over King Prasattong (1629 -1656). All these actions were taken out of Yamada 's perception of what constituted loyalty. However, once he became too involved in domestic politics, which was totally unbefitting of a foreigner, disaster was to befall him and he was eventually poisoning.

The actions of Japanese citizens in Thailand during that period were entirely separate from the actions of the Japanese Government, which maintained friendly relations with Thailand. The Shokun had promoted cordial relations with the Thai Kingdom since the reign of King Ekatosarot (1605 - 1610). During King Songtham 's rule, ties between Japan and Thailand grew even closer. Thailand dispatched several envoys to Japan, namely, Khun Pichitsombat and Khun Prasert in 1621, Luang Thongsamut and Khun Sawat in 1623, and Khun Raksasittiphon in 1626. The Shogun always responded to Thai letters, such as one requesting Japan to refrain from involvement in any actions taken by Thailand to keep Cambodia in line. The Shogun replied that the Japanese in Thailand were basically traders who should not become involved in domestic affairs. Therefor, if ever they interfered in internal politics, Thai rulers were free to punish them as deemed appropriate.

The close relations between the two rulers were apparent from their correspondence. King Songtham, for example, once wrote : The existence of a sea separating Thailand and Japan has made contact between our two nations difficult. However, merchant ships of both nations now ply regularly between our two countries, causing relations to become even closer. It is now apparent that you (the Shogun) have sincere affection for us, an affection even stronger than that of our immediate kin. In reply, the Shogun 's letter said : The cordial relations between our two countries cannot be destroyed. Since we both have mutual trust, the existence of a sea between us is not of any significance.

The two sides exchanged a large number of gifts. Thai fire arms and ammunition were popular among the Japanese as being of high quality. The Thais, for their part, were fond of Japanese horses. In terms of trade, Japan purchased as many as 15,000 pieces of deer skin from Thailand each year, not to mention tin, teak, sappan wood, boards, sugar, coconut oil, lead, and other commodities. The Japanese offered silver bullion and copper in exchange for the goods.

Trade between Thailand and Japan came to a halt during the reign of King Prasattong circa 1633. The main reason for this was Japan 's decision not to trade with foreign countries. The Netherlands and China, however, were allowed to carry on trade with Japan on the island of Deshima, near Nagasaki. Therefore, subsequent trade between Thailand and Japan had to pass through the Dutch and Chinese.

In sum, relations between Thailand and Japan during that period were cordial and close, although they were sometimes interrupted due to the actions of Japanese citizens in Thailand, which were unconnected to the Japanese Government. When trade relations subsequently came to a halt, this was a result of the Japanese Government 's policy of isolation caused by Japanese displeasure towards European missionaries. Thailand, however, continued to seek friendly relations with Japan, as evidence by the dispatch of envoys to that country in 1656 during the reign of King Chaiyaracha and in 1687 during the reign of King Narai (1656 - 1688). Source:http://www.mfa.go.th/background/japan.htm.

Howzat?? :)


18th October 2001, 04:45
Found another site. This professor thinks Yamada may have been an invented story.

Moving further west, the next major settlement of Japanese was in Ayutthaya, Thailand. Ayutthaya lies on the shores of the Menam River, a bit north of present-day Bangkok. As the capital of Thailand, it was host at that time to the king's castle. Burmese forces leading an army of elephants later attacked and destroyed Ayutthaya, laying waste in the process to the Japanese town of which nothing remains today.

Akioka: Wasn't Ayutthaya the town in which Yamada Nagamasa is said to have become a hero?

Umesao: The legend of Yamada Nagamasa has it that Japanese people played heroic roles during the Ayutthaya period, but there seem to be a number of doubts cast upon this legendary figure. Several years ago, Thailand requested that the Japanese government build a museum in Ayutthaya, and the Japanese government agreed. Japanese people living in Bangkok at the time wanted the museum to serve as a memorial to Yamada Nagamasa, but Thai officials maintained that his existence is not backed by historical facts. The grand museum that stands today gives no mention of Yamada Nagamasa, and his true identity remains a mystery. He is said to have been from Shimizu in Shizuoka Prefecture, but he seems to have been a fictitious legend. One theory posits that he was a complete fabrication by the famous hero Shimizu no Jirocho.

The independent nation of the Arakan Kingdom was located in the western part of Burma, or present-day Myanmar. We know that a mercenary troop of Japanese samurai was stationed in the town of Akyab, the town in which King Arakan resided. We find in the various records that have been uncovered testimony that the samurai were truly brave and skillful, though quite arrogant, fighters. These records indicate just how far the Japanese had traveled. source: http://www.jef.or.jp/en/jti/200109_014.html.

http://www.jef.or.jp/en/jti/img/200109_014_2.jpgsource: http://www.jef.or.jp/en/jti/200109_014.html.
Passport to Southeast Asia. The second line from the right reads"Annan Koku Fune Chi." If I read it correctly [first line says issued in Japan], the second line states one can travel by boat [fune] or land [chi] to the country [koku/kuni] of Vietnam [Annan]. Annam is one of the earlier names of today's Vietnam.

Curiously, the Chinese characters for Annam are peaceful [an] south [nan] -- probably selected because they sound like the locally-used name, not because it was a peaceful country in the south [note: "opinion time"].


18th October 2001, 05:05
I'll just add links now. Do a "search" for Yamada because some of the references are way down on the page.





http://www.bibliothek.asienhaus.de/97gesamt/DESKRIPT/K1-00938.HTM A book printed in Finland ca 1990. Title's in English ...

http://frankiefsyeong.tripod.com/tourinfo.html....Chao Phraya Kalahom, who usurped the throne and assumed the name of Prasat Thong,
regarded the Japanses as his enemy and expelled them from Siam in 1632. Thus official relations
between the two countries came to an end.

www.hunsa.to/nakhonsri/tour.htm...a Japanese volunteer soldier living in the Ayutthaya period during the reign of King Songtham. He was rewarded for his many contributions to the palace by being appointed Ok Ya Sena Phimuk and as the lord of Nakhon Si Thammarat in 1629. Traces of his home still exist in the area of the Thai restaurant on Nang Ngam Road (beside the provincial hall).


18th October 2001, 19:12
I have absolutely no input on this topic. I just wanted to say to Guy,
Nice job with the source information! Not just generalized info, but cited sources! Really, excellent job.

Arman Partamian
Daito-ryu Study Group
Baltimore, MD

19th October 2001, 00:03

Citing sources is second-nature to most researchers, and I'm glad you recognize the importance of citations. When I was younger, footnotes and endnotes used to really bother me -- they got in the way; not any more. Nowadays, I often look at the citations when deciding on a book; on many occasions, I've found valuable information within the notes.

I must admit to being lazy when I couldn't remember a particular source -- and didn't want to take the time to do a Google search. In those cases, I generalize and say "I've heard" or "I've read somewhere" -- being careful not to mislead readers.

Another thing to bear in mind is that all too often, we readers are very comfortable with information culled from the internet. Information from the internet and www sites should be regarded with healthy amounts of suspicion, until you can independantly verify what they say -- or find an opposing viewpoint.

And if you were "impressed" with what I provided, wait till you read a post or two by Joe Svinth. Joe is the king of citation! When I grow up, I want to be like Joe (except for his anti-bayonet leanings....) :)


19th October 2001, 14:15

I totally agree with you. Nothing irritates me more then to read a book on a scholarly or academic topic and not see footnotes. Apparently, often times the publisher and editor remove them on the assumption that less people will buy the book if there are a ton of footnotes. Personally, I think this is really stupid. Whenever anyone makes a claim or conclusory statement in a book, the first thing I look for is a footnote or citation supporting their statement (unless it is one of general knowledge, of course). They are great for learning more about a topic, as well as for judging the reliability of the author's claims.

I, too, used to hate footnotes. Then graduate school, and law school. . .let's just say I was successfully reprogrammed. :)

Hopefully we can get people who post on the BB to be more aware of the need for source citation.

Arman Partamian
Daito-ryu Study Group
Baltimore, MD

Joseph Svinth
20th October 2001, 11:03
For myself, I find that what "everyone knows" often needs footnoting worst. Why? Because what we as a community accept as fact often is nothing more than a lie agreed upon. Also, footnotes can't be trusted any more than anything else. Just look at Terence Dukes' books, to say nothing of assorted dissertations on the shelf. Footnotes everywhere, and most of them seem to be made up.

Still, for one's own purposes, footnotes are great, especially if you:

a) Expect to be answered a lot of trick questions (the collegiate viewpoint);
b) Need to provide a doctrinal or legally-sufficient answer in a hurry (the Army SOP);
c) Spent some time looking something up, and don't want to repeat the experience (what Guy did here).

As for learning to use the Internet as a research tool, here are a couple helpful sites:

* http://www.lib.uidaho.edu/tutorial
* http://www.lib.uidaho.edu/library/guides/webeval1.html

22nd October 2001, 14:12
Yes, but if an author's footnotes are bogus, then it is likely that the author's claims are also bogus. Thus, even made-up footnotes are valuable because they reveal the the author's mistakes, bad research, or outright lies. It is when an author doesn't use footnotes that you have problems verifying conclusions.

Arman Partamian
Daito-ryu Study Group
Baltimore, MD

Tee Sok
21st February 2008, 11:02
Hello all,

this thread was a very interesting read, with good reference as well.
I would like to know if any of you have any input on fights or technique exchange between the Samurai and Krabi Krabong fighters (guards, soldiers...) in Thailand.
Do you have news about Thomas Nelson's book?

Thank you very much

21st August 2012, 18:30
Hello Guy,

just a little correction in the text."
Moving further west, the next major settlement of Japanese was in Ayutthaya, Thailand. Ayutthaya lies on the shores of the Menam River, a bit north of present-day Bangkok"

There is NO river anywhwer in Thailand,ancient or present day called "Menam River".

Menam is incorrectly romanicized.It comes from Mae (แม่)=mother and Nam (น้ำ )=water or liquid

The standard romnicized spelling is Maenam and means mother water or more correctly a major river that is the source of other,lesser waterways.
There are only 2 Maenam rivers in Thailand,The Mekong and the Chao Phraya.
Some would also say that the Mekong is in Lao or Cambodia.It is actually the border of these countries with Thailand along its length.

The Chao Phraya River is the only one that has access Ayutthaya and also runs through Bangkok into the Gulf of Thailand so this is the river refered to.:cool:

Cheers John Williams

21st August 2012, 18:34
Cheers John Williams

21st August 2012, 18:40
Tom Nelson, currently at Oxford (thomas.nelson@wadh.ox.ac.uk) is working on a book on that very topic.

Hello Karl,

There is a movie called Yamad,the Samurai of Ayutthaya that is based on the historical facts(as much as a movie can be)

John Williams

5th October 2012, 01:33
Maybe the readers of this thread already found their way to the movie but here is the full movie Yamada the warrior of Ayuthaya:


Guess not accurate especially after diving into the matter. However I liked the movie. I was born in Thailand but raised in the Netherlands and went back a few years ago to visit my family, there i saw King Naresuan the movie which was quite impressive. And yes in the movie where some japanese samurai too: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pjy8P0p2DW0&feature=relmfu

There are some more scenes showing some i guess ashigaru like soldiers. But couldnt find them right now. However if you like historical drama and epic battle scenes this one might be for you.

Another entertaining thai production (fictional story set in the times of Naresuan for your ease) that comes to my mind is Ong Bak 2 see full movie : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dIy7Ot5PGFk
0:12:28 zatoichi? lol, 0:18:32 training scene, 0:23 dual scene

If you really have nothing to do and look for thai beautiful women with katana's vs a bunch of ninja's and yes there is even a scene with a 'sensei' with hakama then this might be for you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fn1AwYv-z6s .. that is if u like B movies or C. However this kind of movies where made in Hollywood already longtime ago.

And the one not so serious either, but which i liked very much was the thai movie chocolat. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zmqn_a1i_2U,
There the saya is,,, 2 saya's are used as some very flashy escrima like baton style weapon.

Anyway if there is going to be a book or project writing about Yamada would be interesting. I am interested in a lot of (once) martial cultures and how it is put on the big screen most of the time in hollywood style prominent or in the background as decor.

Gosh i did not explore Bollywood movies yet but i bet there should be some hidden samurai in there too :)

From movies to shinkens and iaito's, does someone know if this is genuine quality? http://www.thaitsuki.com/ swords from Thailand. ^^

17th February 2013, 02:51

The link to the book about Yamada Nagamasa. It is a nice book to read.