Isaac Meyer

Historian, teacher, podcaster

Episode 289 – The Right Tool for the Job, Part 2

This week, we’re going to talk about the impact that the gun had on Sengoku Era Japan, and the ways that it both reinforced and undermined the political trends of the time.

Sources

Lidin, Olof G. Tanegashima: The Arrival of Europe in Japan.

Conlan, Thomas. Weapons and Fighting Techniques of the Samurai Warrior

Images

The Battle of Osaka at the start of the siege in late 1614. I’m including this so you can get a sense of the castle layout; the blue are the defenders, and they’re arrayed around that third outermost wall designed to defend the main keep from cannon fire.

The “Red Demon Armor” of Ii Naomasa. No wonder he got shot.

Negoroji today. The current temple dates to the Edo period, as the earlier one was burned by Hideyoshi to put a stop to their pernicious gunsmithing.

A bronze swivel mounted cannon manufactured at Nobunaga’s Kunitomo gunworks.

These bronze cannon are emblematic of the type of weapons you’d see at Osaka castle.

Today there’s a firearms museum at Kunitomo, and it’s well worth a look. Here are examples of the kind of arquebuses they have on hand.

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Episode 288 – The Right Tool for the Job, Part 1

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Episode 290 – What Goes Up, Part 1

2 Comments

  1. Jason

    So, what happened to all the firearms during the Edo period? Were people required to surrender them? If so to whom and what did the Bakufu do with them? Were a lot of firearms present in Japan around the time of Commodore Perry?

    • ijmeyer

      So, I’d planned to cover this but ran out of time and decided not to add another episode on it just yet. Short answer: yes, firearms stuck around. Commoners couldn’t own them, but samurai continued to train with them and they remained on the “syllabus” of samurai education in the Edo period. However, newer models weren’t imported; in 1850, Japan was still using arquebus designs from the 1500s. During the Tokugawa peace, there was no need to keep up with the latest innovations in weapons technology, and so Japan fell pretty far behind in this regard.

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