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Letter from Kublai Khan to the Japanese Emperor

RANSHIN: In 1266, Kublai Khan sent envoys to Japan with a letter addressed to the “King of Japan.”

In 1266, Kublai Khan (1215–1294), the new Mongol emperor of China, sent envoys to Japan with a letter addressed to the “King of Japan”—a title guaranteed to offend the Japanese emperor. The letter itself was equally unpalatable. The Great Khan “invited” Japan to send envoys to the Mongol court in order to establish friendly relations between the two states—code for the tributary relationship China habitually imposed on its neighbors. The letter ended with an implicit threat: “Nobody would wish to resort to arms.” Both the largely symbolic imperial court at Kyoto and the military government at Kamakura, which had controlled Japan since the late twelfth century, chose to ignore the khan’s overtures.

For several years Kublai Khan was distracted by more immediate concerns: subduing the newly conquered province of Korea and his war against the Song dynasty of southern China. It was 1274 before the Mongol emperor turned his attention to Japan once more. On November 2, a fleet of 900 ships sailed from Korea with over 40,000 men, including Chinese, Jurchen, and Korean soldiers and a corps of 5,000 Mongolian horsemen.

A 1266 letter from Kublai Khan to the Japanese emperor threatening use of force

Related Events:

  • October 5, 1274: Around 1,000 soldiers of the Mongol army land on the Japanese island of Tsushima, the first attack of Kublai Khan’s Mongol invasion of Japan
  • July 29, 1279: Five emissaries dispatched by Kublai Khan from the Mongol Yuan dynasty are beheaded by Japan in Hakata
  • February 20, 1280: Japanese Imperial Court orders all temples and shrines to pray for victory in the impending second Mongol invasion
  • August 14, 1281:  During Kublai Khan’s second Mongol invasion of Japan his invading Chinese fleet of 3,500 vessels disappears in a typhoon near Japan

(Pamela Toler, Wonders & Marvels: https://www.wondersandmarvels.com/2015/06/blown-away-the-mongol-invasions-of-japan.html  On This Day.com: https://www.onthisday.com/photos/letter-from-kublai-khan-to-the-japanese-emperor)

Historical Background

  1. The Ninth Crusade
  2. Mongol Invasions of Japan
  3. Letter from Kublai Khan
  4. Hojo Tokimune

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RANSHIN: Samurai Crusaders
Tetsuo Ted Takashima
Translated by Alexandrea Mallia

On Sale: October 2022
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Pages: 476
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