Blown Away: The (Attempted) Mongol Invasion of Japan

Japan had expected the Mongol invasion for years. In 1266, Kublai Khan, 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…

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Female Samurai: Warriors and Otherwise

Female samurais are stock figures in modern anime, manga, western comic books, and fantasy novels:  hard-fighting, often hard-drinking, badasses with swords and bows.  The key word is fantasy. In medieval Japan, samurai was a class distinction as well as a job description.  Women who were born into the samurai class were samurais whether or not…

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Daughters of the Samurai

In Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey From East to West, Janice P. Nimura tells the story of three young girls, ages eleven, ten and six, whom the Japanese government sent to the United States in 1871 as part of the westernizing reforms of the Meiji Restoration that transformed Japan in the mid-nineteenth century. The…

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