Battle of Bun'ei

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Battle of Bun'ei
Part of the Mongol invasions of Japan
Japanese samurai defending the stone barrier at Hakata.[1]
Date November 19, 1274
Location Hakata Bay, near present-day Fukuoka, Kyūshū
Result Japanese victory.
Sasa Rindo.svg Kamakura shogunate Mongol Empire
Commanders and leaders
Hōjō Tokimune Kublai Khan
~10,000 ?
Casualties and losses
Light Light (before the typhoon)

The Battle of Bun'ei (文永の役 Bun'ei no eki?),[2] also known as the First Battle of Hakata Bay was the first attempt by the Yuan Dynasty founded by the Mongols to invade Japan. After conquering the Japanese settlements on Tsushima and Iki islands, Kublai Khan's fleet moved on to Japan proper and landed at Hakata Bay, a short distance from Kyūshū's administrative capital of Dazaifu. Despite the superior weapons and tactics of the Mongols, who established the Yuan Dynasty in China in the early 1270s, the Yuan forces that disembarked at Hakata Bay were grossly outnumbered by the samurai force; the Japanese had been preparing, mobilizing warriors and reinforcing defenses since they heard of the defeats at Tsushima and Iki. The Japanese defenders were aided by major storms which sunk a sizable portion of the Mongolian fleets. Ultimately, this invasion attempts was decisively repulsed shortly after their initial landings.

The Yuan troops withdrew and took refuge on their ships after only one day of fighting. A typhoon that night, said to be divinely conjured wind, threatened their ships, persuading them to return to Korea. Many of the returning ships sank that night due to the storm.[3]

The battle[edit]

After landing in the bay, the Yuan force quickly overran the town of Hakata (now a ward of Fukuoka), but were engaged by a number of samurai soon afterwards.

At first, the samurai were hopelessly outmatched; accustomed to smaller scale clan rivalries, they could not match the organization and massed firepower of the invaders. The Mongols fought with precision, loosing heavy volleys of arrows into the ranks of the Japanese. The Mongols also employed an early form of rocket artillery, and their infantry used phalanx-like tactics, holding off the samurai with their shields and spears. Though unable to conclusively defeat the Yuan forces, the Japanese fought hard and inflicted heavy casualties.

In the course of the day's fighting, the Hakozaki Shrine was burned to the ground.[4]

Despite their initial victories, the Yuan did not pursue the samurai further inland to the defenses at Dazaifu.[5] Nihon Ōdai Ichiran explains that the invaders were defeated because they lacked arrows.[6]

More likely this was a result of their unfamiliarity with the terrain, the expectation of Japanese reinforcements, and the heavy losses already suffered. The Yuan force, which may have intended to carry out a reconnaissance in force rather than an immediate invasion,[citation needed] returned to their ships. That night, the Yuan lost roughly one-third of their force in a typhoon. They retreated back to Korea, presumably at the prodding of their Korean sailors and captains,[7] rather than regrouping and continuing their attack.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ This excerpt is taken from the narrative picture scroll Moko shurai ekotoba, which was painted between 1275 and 1293 -- see Mongol Invasions of Japan
  2. ^ In the name "Battle of Bun'ei," the noun "Bun'ei" refers to the nengō (Japanese era name) after "Kōchō" and before "Kenji." In other words, the Battle of Bun'ei occurred during Bun'ei, which was a time period spanning the years from February 1264 to April 1275
  3. ^ Davis, Paul K. (2001). 100 decisive battles: from ancient times to the present, pp. 145-147., p. 145, at Google Books
  4. ^ Turnbull, Stephen R. (2003). Genghis Khan and the Mongol Conquests 1190–1400, p. 66., p. 66, at Google Books
  5. ^ Davis, p. 145., p. 145, at Google Books
  6. ^ Titsingh, Isaac. (1834). Annales des empereurs du Japon, p. 262., p. 262, at Google Books
  7. ^ Davis, p. 147., p. 147, at Google Books