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Portuguese participation in the siege of Moji?

_dk
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April 5th, 2018, 5:11 am #1

Hi, first post here :)

Here and there I've seen claims saying Otomo Sorin asked Portuguese traders to bring their ship to help take Moji in 1561. Apparently the Portuguese agreed, shot a few cannons from their carrack, and called it a day without being much of a factor in the battle. Turnbull calls this episode "the first naval bombardment on Japan by a European power" in his Samurai Sourcebook, a quote that Wikipedia gleefully cites, but in true Turnbull fashion, he didn't cite his sources for this claim. A few casual Japanese blogs also mention the Portuguese carrack in their narratives, but their sources are unclear as well. Japanese Wikipedia also mentions this, but did not offer a citation on that line.

The reason I'm skeptical is because places where I would expect an episode like this to be included does not mention Portuguese participation in Moji at all. C. R. Boxer's Christian Century in Japan and Fidalgos in the Far East, though often offering a blow by blow narrative of Portuguese activities in Japan, does not mention the siege of Moji. The "Christianity and the Daimyo" chapter in the Cambridge History of Japan, despite detailing Jesuit relations with Otomo Sorin, also did not mention Moji. Peter Shapinski's Lords of the Sea thesis analyses the Murakami involvement in Moji, but perhaps because it was out of scope, the Portuguese aren't mentioned. Various works concerning the spread of gunpowder in Japan like the Japan chapter in Peter Lorge's Asian Military Revolution or Olof Lidin's Tanegashima also did not mention this battle. In that vein, Noel Perrin's Giving Up the Gun might have a mention about this, but I haven't looked and I frankly know better.

...so yeah, my question is simply, did this happen? Or was this Edo-period fantasy? Also, where can I read a reliable account of the siege of Moji?
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ltdomer98
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April 5th, 2018, 3:26 pm #2

How fortuitous: I'm working on a paper on the competition between the Otomo and the Mori over Hakata (and Moji) this semester.

Give me a few weeks and I'll have a much better idea for you.

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ltdomer98
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April 6th, 2018, 12:00 am #3

So, after an afternoon of looking through databases and secondary works in Japanese, I've found no reference to it. I skimmed through 8 books on the Otomo I have sitting on my desk, no mention of Portuguese ship involvement at Moji. I've looked through the document databases of the Tokyo Historiographical Institute, and I have not found any document from 永禄4 (1561) concerned with the battle that mention a Portuguese ship. The hits that showed up were mostly Mori documents, from various internal monjo or the Hagi-han Batsueturoku. The J-Wiki article cites the latter for the documents related to the 1561 battle, but none of them mention a Portuguese ship.

I also checked Chris Mayo's dissertation on the Otomo from 2013, and he makes no mention of it either. Considering the dissertation seeks to answer whether or not Sorin converted to Christianity for material gain, I'd have to think he'd mention the Portuguese lending naval support if they did. I'm going to see if I can contact him and find out, though.

Over the next month I'll be plowing through Otomo collections, so I'll see what else I can find.

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_dk
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April 6th, 2018, 3:56 am #4

Thanks ltdomer! This is very interesting, and I'm very much looking forward to your upcoming paper.

So far it doesn't look good for Turnbull's claim, though he spent a good two paragraphs speculating how the Portuguese bombardment must have terrified the Mori defenders. He must have got it from somewhere, though. Considering that not a few Japanese sites also tell this story, it seems to me so far that the story could have been modern era fiction. Does the Imperial Japanese Army's Military History say anything about Moji?
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April 6th, 2018, 9:08 am #5

I looked up Moji in the index of the Japanese translation of Frois's History http://wiki.samurai-archives.com/index. ... y_of_Japan
Apparently Frois doesn't mention Moji. There are (modern) footnotes giving the background of Otomo's campaigns in 1561 and 63 with references. They mention attacks on Moji, but nothing about ships. So...
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ltdomer98
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April 6th, 2018, 1:24 pm #6

_dk wrote:Thanks ltdomer! This is very interesting, and I'm very much looking forward to your upcoming paper.

So far it doesn't look good for Turnbull's claim, though he spent a good two paragraphs speculating how the Portuguese bombardment must have terrified the Mori defenders. He must have got it from somewhere, though. Considering that not a few Japanese sites also tell this story, it seems to me so far that the story could have been modern era fiction. Does the Imperial Japanese Army's Military History say anything about Moji?
The volume on Kyushu only covers the campaign of Hideyoshi. The IJA histories only cover the campaigns of Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Ieyasu, for the most part.
Bethetsu wrote:I looked up Moji in the index of the Japanese translation of Frois's History http://wiki.samurai-archives.com/index. ... y_of_Japan
Apparently Frois doesn't mention Moji. There are (modern) footnotes giving the background of Otomo's campaigns in 1561 and 63 with references. They mention attacks on Moji, but nothing about ships. So...
Also interesting.

I'll do a few more searches trying using different terms, but I highly doubt it would be talked about in any Japanese period document without using the term "Moji." I probably won't get to do more searching through monjo volumes for a few days, though.
Last edited by ltdomer98 on April 6th, 2018, 1:26 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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April 6th, 2018, 8:33 pm #7

For what it's worth, a Google book search on Moji and Portugal in Japanese returned this snippet
https://books.google.ca/books?id=en0KAA ... %8F%B8++%E from a 1981 book called 九州戦国史. No idea how reliable this author or the publisher is though, but they seem to focus on Kyushu history.
Last edited by _dk on April 10th, 2018, 4:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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ltdomer98
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April 6th, 2018, 11:49 pm #8

Interesting. I don't have that book (will be requesting it through our library), but I have 九州戦国合戦記 by the same author (Yoshinaga Masaharu) and in his entry for Moji, he makes no mention of the Portuguese ship. He's pretty good about noting sources, at least in the book I have in front of me, so if I can get that one I'll run it down.
And we have it in storage, so it's being delivered to me and I'll be able to look at the full text in a few days.
Last edited by ltdomer98 on April 6th, 2018, 11:51 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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May 5th, 2018, 6:18 am #9

Hope you've had a chance to take a look at that book, because I've found more snippets from Google Books that seems somewhat promising :)

There is this horribly OCR'ed snippet from 門司鄉土叢書 (local gazetteers of Moji?), and this entry from the Nihon bushō retsuden. But again, I don't know how reliable these are.
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May 5th, 2018, 8:48 pm #10

hm, can't edit the last post

Also, I note that City of Kitakyushu published a book on the history of Moji (for children) that repeats the assertion that Moji was bombarded by a Portuguese ship, and goes further to say it was the first naval bombardment in the world [doubtful]. http://www.city.kitakyushu.lg.jp/files/000063485.pdf

Certainly adds credence that it was at least a commonly accepted story, though that doesn't mean much in terms of whether it was real or not.

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May 7th, 2018, 7:41 am #11

Hi, I found this:
On page 167 in the Kyûshû sengokushi, by Yoshinaga san, the passage “…の奮戦南蛮船による砲撃.” (“…fought bravely, and from foreign ships there was a bombardment.”) The only source cited is; «歴代鎮西要略». I haven’t got the original source, but maybe “Itdomer98” has access to it? The “南蛮船” refers to western ships, from Spain, Portugal, Dutch and so on. Most likely here, Portuguese. The western ships were assisting the Ôtomo forces. Best, Ujisato
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May 8th, 2018, 1:46 am #12

Thanks Ujisato! We seem to be getting warmer now.

The reason why I'm intrigued is because naval bombardment doesn't seem to have been a thing in the Sengoku period. The next time someone thought bombard a castle from the sea in Japan, correct me if I am wrong, seems to be the Dutch when they helped the Bakufu forces during the Shimabara Rebellion. If Turnbull was correct that the Portuguese bombardment of Moji terrorized the Mori forces, wouldn't the daimyo in the region adopt the cannon and adapt to it? But what we see is that the Japanese scarcely used the cannon, let alone on boats, and naval battles remained to be fought as close encounters. The Mori themselves even shunned the missionaries unlike the Kyushu daimyo who mostly welcomed them to get access to Portuguese guns and trade.
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May 8th, 2018, 5:58 pm #13

_dk wrote:If Turnbull was correct that the Portuguese bombardment of Moji terrorized the Mori forces, wouldn't the daimyo in the region adopt the cannon and adapt to it? But what we see is that the Japanese scarcely used the cannon, let alone on boats, and naval battles remained to be fought as close encounters. The Mori themselves even shunned the missionaries unlike the Kyushu daimyo who mostly welcomed them to get access to Portuguese guns and trade.
The Japanese struggled against the Mongol bombs, recurve bow and non singular battle tactics as well as Korea's turtle ships and none of them were adapted by the Japanese
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May 9th, 2018, 9:11 am #14

Indeed, why is that? One could say unlike the Mongols, the Portuguese came at a time of constant internecine warfare where warring factions would theoretically utilize every advantage they have, like what happened with the Tanegashima guns. And the bombardment on Moji might not have been very effective (it might not have even happened), so naval bombardment didn't catch on. Would be an interesting episode to examine, with implications for the Military Revolution theory, if we can get some details surrounding how it actually happened.
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May 11th, 2018, 5:22 pm #15

Wasn't it Conlan that wrote that the Japanese handled the Mongols well enough and did not need the typhoon's help?
I believe also Conlan who demonstrated that Japanese using "singular battle tactics" is BS. Or was that Friday?

Leaving aside that the turtle ship very likely wasn't iron-plated but iron-spiked, its number (one to three ships) was too few to actually make that large an impact in the engagement. In any case there was no point in copying the turtle ship when there was no more wars to fight in the Edo.

Also leaving aside all the problems with the Military Revolution theory (or rather we'd need to strictly define it), it needs to be noted that the naval bombardment, if it happened, did not seriously effect the outcome of the engagement. I wonder if they even could given the location on top of a significant coastal elevation. Without dedicated bomb ships (and I don't see how they'd be sent over to Japan), I suspect common naval ordinance of the day would be hard pressed to do much more than damage the outer bailey, or maybe any harbour below.

Regardless of whether or not a naval bombardment took place, the siege came down to a traditional fight between the besiegers and a relief force. So the bombardment, even if it took place, did not destroy significant amount of the castle's fortifications for a successful assault to take place or force the castle to surrender. At the time, Japanese naval tactics centered around small and medium boats using small galley and archery/boarding tactics by the boats/ships of small coastal pirate/merchant lords. If the naval bombardment had such little impact, even if it took place the Japanese might just have saw no point in changing their entire way of naval warfare (which we would have to take into account societal mobilization) in order to build the large, open-sea going naval vessels and to dump the amount of extremely expensive ordinance necessary for a naval bombardment on them

It's important to remember that, on land, few lords had the monetary resources to afford cannons (the arquebus was expensive enough), and the mountainous terrain plus rarity of transport would naturally limit their appearance in open battle.
Remember that Japanese lords were so poor, relatively speaking when compared to the resources of mainland Eurasian states in this period, that, besides the odd mercenary bands, the Japanese warriors were conscripts without regular payment. Fighting was an obligation in return for land rights, not a paid profession. And foreign state-of-the-art technology was expensive on top of already having to maintain large armies. Even the Edo Shogunate only bought, what, 16? European cannons for use at Osaka in 1614 when at the same time it called on a couple of hundreds of thousand men (though to be fair it seem to have casted many more smaller pieces for use).
Last edited by Parallel Pain on May 11th, 2018, 5:44 pm, edited 5 times in total.
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_dk
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May 13th, 2018, 9:26 am #16

Thanks to Ujisato's tip, I've found the mention of Portuguese ships in Moji in 歴代鎮西要略, quoted in 下関二千年史 (p. 362)



Interestingly, it does corroborate Turnbull's account of how it brought misery to the Mori defenders. Other elements of his account are missing from here though, like the Portuguese ship being brought from Funai (some blogs say Hakata) or that the ship retreated after running out of ammunition, so there may be other accounts of the Portuguese ship. It appears that 歴代鎮西要略 is written in the Edo period, and J-Wiki calls it "信憑性に疑問符を付く軍記物". So more verification is probably need to say for sure (best case scenario would be to find a Portuguese account confirming their involvement).

Also, Kenneth Chase's book says Nobunaga used ships to bombard Nagashima in 1574, so I guess I was wrong about the lack of adoption. It stands to reason that if anyone could afford putting siege artillery on ships, it would be Nobunaga. His cannon ships also carried the day in Kizugawaguchi when they destroyed the Mori ships from a distance, but one still got boarded and capsized because it was top-heavy. Furthermore, Japanese cannons may have played a part in the victory at the naval battle of Chilcheollyang (ie. the one that the Koreans attribute to Yi Sun-sin not being on the field).
Last edited by _dk on May 13th, 2018, 9:38 am, edited 2 times in total.
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May 14th, 2018, 6:54 pm #17

Oh yeah, there was the bombardment of Ōtorii and Shinobashi (Shinopase) at Nagashima in 1574. My bad too.

Interestingly those naval bombardment had much more effect than the one at Moji. And the Mōri made no changes to naval tactics for the Kizugawaguchi engagements in 1576, when the Oda naval forces was destroyed by Mōri's incendiary projectiles, and in 1578, when the rumored-to-be-armored 7 giant ships defeated the Mōri forces.
_dk wrote:but one still got boarded and capsized because it was top-heavy.
Where's this from? It's certainly not in the Shinchōkōki. I just checked.
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May 14th, 2018, 9:03 pm #18

Parallel Pain wrote:Where's this from? It's certainly not in the Shinchōkōki. I just checked.
I got this from Technology and European Overseas Enterprise: Diffusion, Adaptation and Adoption, which cites the Yoshida Monogatari. I see that it's a 1702 gunkimono written from a western Japan's pov, so I guess it might have been a face-saving addition.

Peter Sharpinsky suggests that the Murakami were familiar with naval cannonade due to their association with the wokou, but iirc didn't explain, if that's the case, how they became outgunned by the Kuki fleet in Kizugawaguchi.

Coming back to Moji. Now, this is speculation, but the note in 歴代鎮西要略 that mentions the Portuguese ship (兵船皆南蠻船) is in small text, which seems to me like a later annotation. The warships involved in Moji obviously cannot all be Portuguese, as the character 皆 ("all") implies. If that small text is a later addition, then the subsequent mention of 鐵炮 would likely not mean Portuguese cannons but rather matchlocks, which is what the term teppo refers to in this period.
Last edited by _dk on May 14th, 2018, 9:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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May 14th, 2018, 11:26 pm #19

_dk wrote:I got this from Technology and European Overseas Enterprise: Diffusion, Adaptation and Adoption, which cites the Yoshida Monogatari. I see that it's a 1702 gunkimono written from a western Japan's pov, so I guess it might have been a face-saving addition.

Peter Sharpinsky suggests that the Murakami were familiar with naval cannonade due to their association with the wokou, but iirc didn't explain, if that's the case, how they became outgunned by the Kuki fleet in Kizugawaguchi.
That's a weird suggestion, since it would need Sharpinsky to demonstrate that the wokou was familiar with cannonade (I'm guessing he means naval gunfire, not the actual cannon that haven't been invented yet).
The Shinchōkōki attribute the Mōri victory in 1576 to considerable numerical advantage (but then Shinchōkōki sometimes gives pro-Oda numbers), and to the Mōri using flaming arrows and something called the Hōroku, which seem to have been some kind of inflamable projectile (grenade?) that stuck and burnt enemy ships. Interestingly that the Oda, having already demonstrated to have put cannons on their ships back in 1574, were nonetheless defeated. So either cannons, even on Oda ships, were very rare and were simply not on any of the 300 Oda ships present in 1576, or cannons alone were not the decisive factor, or at least couldn't overcome numerical advantage and Mōri's flaming projectiles.
The Shinchōkōki attribute the Oda victory in 1578 to Kuki luring enemy vessels close and then sinking many of the first wave with a volley of cannon fire. The Mōri forces kept their distance afterwards, allowing the 7 giant vessels and accompanying smaller vessels to complete the blockade. Interestingly, there's no mention in the Shinchōkōki of flaming projectiles this time around, and also no mention of the giant Oda ships having armor. The Shinchōkōki simply says the Mōri attacked with arrows and arquebus fire.
The ships having armor is based on a single line in the Tamonin-Nikki, which is itself based on a rumor. The usual assumption made is that some external armor was put onto these ships to withstand Mōri's flaming projectiles. It's not an unreasonable assumption, but nonetheless is still an assumption.
Note here that the text does not mention either side having cannons in 1576, and does not mention the Mōri having cannons in 1578. Its quite clear cannons were the decisive factor only in engagements when they were mentioned. So either they were very rare, or they were usually not all that effective. Note that the Oda fleet in 1576 seemed to have forces from Izumi. On the other hand the Oda fleet in 1574 at Nagashima and 1578 at Kizugawaguchi were commanded by men from Owari (well, Kuki and Takigawa are mentioned for the 1578 battle anyway). So maybe only Owari men, aka men closer to Nobunaga, had the resources to put cannons on their ships.
_dk wrote:Coming back to Moji. Now, this is speculation, but the note in 歴代鎮西要略 that mentions the Portuguese ship (兵船皆南蠻船) is in small text, which seems to me like a later annotation. The warships involved in Moji obviously cannot all be Portuguese, as the character 皆 ("all") implies. If that small text is a later addition, then the subsequent mention of 鐵炮 would likely not mean Portuguese cannons but rather matchlocks, which is what the term teppo refers to in this period.
That's actually some very good points. Given the unreliableness of the source already, these things you point out seem to me that there might have been no bombardment at all. Unless other sources are found I guess I would say there was no bombardment, and the Portuguese likely didn't even participate.
Last edited by Parallel Pain on May 14th, 2018, 11:40 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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May 15th, 2018, 3:05 am #20

Parallel Pain wrote:That's a weird suggestion, since it would need Sharpinsky to demonstrate that the wokou was familiar with cannonade (I'm guessing he means naval gunfire, not the actual cannon that haven't been invented yet).
Wew, this is what I get for working off memory. Now that I've gone back to find his thesis, Peter Sharpinsky was referring to guns, not cannons, when he mentioned the Murakami association with wokou. Speaking about atakebune in general, he also mentions "as their development coincided with the large-scale introduction and application of firearms in Japan, atakebune were also built to carry around three cannon placed in the forecastle section of the central turret for use against other ships and bombarding enemy fortifications", citing "Ota Gyuichi, 248." and "EK doc. 2382, “Kobayakawa Takakage shojo,” Tensho 11 (1583) 5.10."

According to Sharpinsky, as an aftermath of the Kizugawaguchi battles, the Kurushima branch of the Murakami clan switched to Nobunaga's side, prompting reprisal attacks from the other two Murakami branches still allied to Mori. In 1583, they laid siege to the island fortress of Kashima from the sea, mounting muskets and cannons 大筒 on their atakabune, but "as Kashima castle sat on heights many times the elevation of Kurushima, perhaps the besieging forces’ artillery simply did not have the range." This instance of naval bombardment was also ineffective.

Sharpinsky, citing Elionas, also brought attention to Okitanawate 1584, where the Arima bombarded the Ryuzoji forces from the sea with western artillery. Interestingly, according to Frois, "in the absence of a [trained] gunner, a Caffir loaded, a Japanese soldier aimed, and a Malabari fired the pieces."
Last edited by _dk on May 15th, 2018, 3:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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