Episode 390 – Lords of the Sea, Part 1

This week, in the first of a four part series on piracy in Japan, we’re covering the background of piracy before the Sengoku civil wars. How did Japan’s pirates interact with the complexities of Japan’s classical and medieval world?


Shapinsky, Peter. Lords of the Sea: Pirates, Violence, and Commerce in Late Medieval Japan

Antony, Robert J (Ed). Elusive Pirates, Pervasive Smugglers: Violence and Clandestine Trade in the Greater China Seas.

Ma, Guang. “Re-evaluating the Wokou Problem in East Asia in the 1220s and 1390s from the Perspective of Environmental History.” Journal of Asian History 54, No 2 (2020).

Andrande, Tonio, Xing Hang, Jerry Bentley, and Anand Yang. Sea Rovers, Silver, and Samurai: Maritime East Asia in Global History, 1550-1700.


A map of shoen estates in the vicinity of Nara from the 800s CE. Up to the Sengoku period, shoen estates were the main method by which land was organized in Japan.
Yugeshima, which was once a shoen estate for Toji — and which was briefly governed by the pirate Ben no Bo Shoyo.
The Seto Inland Sea from space. You can see that both the location (connecting Kyoto to the wider sea) and the island-heavy nature of the territory made it ideal raiding ground for pirates.
Fujiwara no Sumitomo, the ostensible pirate lord.


1 thought on “Episode 390 – Lords of the Sea, Part 1”

  1. What’s that yojijukugo there on the picture of the pirate king? Something about Naritayama?

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