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Old April 24th, 2012, 06:13 PM   #1

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Early Japanese Warfare, c. 300-1100 CE


While the samurai of the Sengoku Jidai period are among the most instantly recognizeable (and some would say, over-hyped) fighting men in human history, little is said of their predecessors. What was warfare like in the earliest centuries of Japanese history?

I've read that the traditional curved samurai swords were first derived from weapons used by the Ainu, who were insultingly termed emishi 'earth spiders' and regarded as barbarians. Shields, breastplates, and polearms of Chinese style were apparently common in the first few centuries of the Christian era.
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Old April 24th, 2012, 06:47 PM   #2

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This is a really broad topic, Salah.

What are you most interested in for the period? Tactics? Armor? Weaponry?

The earliest weapons introduced to the Japanese battlefield were from their early wars with Korea. Perhaps the most important of these being the (war) horse.
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Old April 24th, 2012, 06:49 PM   #3

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Quote:
Originally Posted by leakbrewergator View Post
What are you most interested in for the period? Tactics? Armor? Weaponry?
Any and all of the above - its a subject I'm very curious about.
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Old April 24th, 2012, 07:03 PM   #4

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Any and all of the above - its a subject I'm very curious about.
Haha.

I guess we can start somewhere.....

How about the Ritsuryo System? These were a set of codes (Most notably, Taiho) that were issued in the late 7th-early 8th century that established the reorganization of Japan's military as a whole.
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Old April 24th, 2012, 07:05 PM   #5

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I'm already learning as I've never heard of the Ritsuryo System before

I wasn't thinking Japanese warfare would have been that organized so early.
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Old April 24th, 2012, 07:07 PM   #6
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Why did crossbow warfare diminish in Japan after decentralization and the rise of samurai?
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Old April 24th, 2012, 07:10 PM   #7

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Why did crossbow warfare diminish in Japan after decentralization and the rise of samurai?
A good question - I'm also curious as to why the shield fell out of usage. Wouldn't it have still be useful to spearmen at least?
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Old April 24th, 2012, 07:13 PM   #8

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I'm already learning as I've never heard of the Ritsuryo System before

I wasn't thinking Japanese warfare would have been that organized so early.
Yep. They basically came about because of the wars with Korea I mentioned earlier. Japan basically got throttled. The short term effect was the introduction of new weapons. i.e. the horse, better arrows, spears, shields, swords, etc. The long term effect was the realization that Japan really needed to get it's act together.

The first piece of reforms came about in 645 after the overthrow of the Soga family. This reform focused heavily on weaponry and the establishment of arsenals. Also, vital positions like the border guards were established. This was known as the Taika Reform Edict.
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Old April 24th, 2012, 07:18 PM   #9

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A good question - I'm also curious as to why the shield fell out of usage. Wouldn't it have still be useful to spearmen at least?
Well, you have to remember the dominant form of warfare was archery. This didn't really lend itself well to hand shields. In lieu of the shield, the armor that has now become synonymous with the samurai was developed.
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Old April 24th, 2012, 07:40 PM   #10
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crossbow's relative usefulness over bow is that..

A. it required considerablly less training to be proficent at it.
B. it's easier to use effectively while in heavy armour
C. it's easier to mass produce

However, after Japan's decentralization... most of the fighting in the insuing era are done by career warrior, so training isn't really a issue for them. and more over when you don't have a reasonable urban manufacturing base making a crossbow is no less costly than making a bow.
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