The invasions of Korea launched by the dictator Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1592-1593 and 1597-1598) are unique in Japanese history for being the only time that the samurai assaulted a foreign country. Hideyoshi planned to invade and conquer China, ruled at the time by the Ming dynasty, and when the Korean court refused to allow his troops to cross their country, Korea became the first step in this ambitious plan of conquest. In 1592 a huge invasion force of 150,000 men landed at the ports of Busan and Tadaejin under the commanders Konishi Yukinaga and Kato Kiyomasa. These two Japanese divisions rapidly overran their Korean counterparts, taking the principal cities of Seoul and then Pyongyang and driving the remnants of the Korean Army into China. The Japanese division under Kato Kiyomasa even started to advance into Manchuria. However, the Korean strength was in their navy and the vital Korean naval victory of Hansando disrupted the flow of supplies to the invasion forces, forcing them to hold their positions around Pyongyang. In 1593, the Chinese invaded capturing Pyongyang from the Japanese and driving them southwards. This phase of the war ended in a truce, with the Japanese forces withdrawing into enclaves around the southern port of Busan while the Ming armies largely withdrew to China. In 1597, following the breakdown in negotiations, the Japanese invaded again with a force of 140,000 men. However, the Chinese and Koreans were now better prepared and the advance came to a halt south of Seoul, and then forced the Japanese southwards. In November 1598 Hideyoshi died, and with him the enthusiasm for the military adventure. The Japanese council of regents ordered the withdrawal of the remaining forces, and the naval battle of Noryang, which saw the Japanese fleet annihilated by the Korean admiral Yi-Sunshin, proved to be the last significant act of the conflict.
About the Author
Stephen Turnbull is the world's leading authority on samurai culture. He took his first degree at Cambridge and has two MAs (in Theology and Military History) from Leeds University. In 1996 he received a PhD from Leeds for his thesis on Japan's Kakure Kirishitan. In its published form the work won the Japan Festival Literary Award in 1998. Having lectured in East Asian Studies and Theology he is now retired and is an Honorary Lecturer at Leeds, a Research Associate at SOAS and Visiting Professor of Japanese Studies at Akita International University. He has published 73 books and many journal articles. His expertise was also put to use in helping design the award-winning computer strategy game Shogun Total War, and in 2010 he acted as Historical Adviser to Universal Pictures for the movie 47 Ronin. He is currently working on a major project tracing the historical evolution of the ninja as a cultural phenomenon.
Peter Dennis was inspired by contemporary magazines such as Look and Learn, leading him to study Illustration at Liverpool Art College. Peter has since contributed to hundreds of books, predominantly on historical subjects, including many Osprey titles. A keen wargamer and modelmaker, he is based in Nottinghamshire, UK.
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