Japanese Pirates



One of the first accounts of Japanese pirates came from the Japanese poet Ki no Tsurayuki in 934 and describes precautions taken by the captain of his ship as he traveled in the Inland Sea. In the capital of Koguryo there is monument from celebrating the defeated of a Japanese piratical force in 404 A.D..   Japanese pirates mainly were freebooters who lived on land bordering the Inland Sea and the coast of Kyushu.  Piracy grew during periods when China and Korea closed their ports to foreign trade . The Kotsuna clan who controlled traffic in the Inland Sea and were involved in maritime trade and made no distinction between piracy and legitimate trade. Generations of Japanese families supporting themselves through the lucrative practice of piracy.The pirates were involved in the civil war between the northern and southern courts and were organized under an admiral named Murakami Yoshihiru who had a base on the Iyo channel. The island of Tsushima, was also an important base for pirates. In 1419 a Korean invasion force of 200 ships and 17,000 attacked Tsushima, but this force was defeated.They made raids upon the coast of Korea and China, especially the nearby Shandong  Peninsula. They were greatly feared by the coastal populations and were known as Wokou  (倭寇)  wokou  in Chinese.


After the failed Mongol invasions, diplomatic relations between Yuan China and Japan ceased, but private trading quickly resumed.After the victory of the Ming over the Yuan, the new Ming emperor, Hung-wu sent missions to Japan, seeking to induce Japan to enter the Chinese Empire as a tributary state such as Korea and to suppress the raids of Japanese pirates. there were also numerous Chinese pirates along the Chinese coast, and many of the Japanese pirate raiders had Chinese and Koreans in their crews. The Japanese,despite their respect for Chinese culture, felt this was an offense to their national pride,which was made stronger by the defeat of the Yuan invasion force in the 1290s. Diplomatic relations were resumed in 1401 and the Japanese agreed to suppress piracy . Yoshimitsu gained control over the western warlords, such as Ouchi and attacked two main pirate bases on the islands of Iki and Tsushima. yet these attacks did not stop piracy altogether.Authorized trade between Ming China and Japan continued fairly smoothly from 1405 to 1523, when increased restrictions from China led to an increase in unlicensed Wako trade and piracy.Piracy in Chinese waters began in earnest in from about 1545 with continuos raids from 1545 to 1563 as far as the Guangdong coast by 1550. There were inland raids and even Nanjing was raided .




Attacks varied from small bands of men to four or five thousand . No ships or detailed drawings of the pirate ships of this period survive, the average pirate ship probably carried a crew of 200 men. By 1555 the attacks had gotten so bad that the Ming government sent a mission to the Bakufu to make a greater effort to supress them.By 1560 the efforts of the Ming government to supress piracy were showing some success, thanks in part to a relaxation of the policy of seclusion and Chinese merchant ships were allowed to put to sea again.. The pirate bands turned more to smuggling.

What was the booty sought out by Japanese pirates ? Food shortages in Japan led to attacks on Korean granaries. In China the wako pirates sought silk ans copper cash and captives, which were sold as slaves or held for ransom.The No play Tosen deals with the tragic life of a Chinese captured at Ningpo and sold as a slave.




Pirate of the Far East

Turnbull takes readers on a journey through the centuries of the Asian pirate. Using a variety of photographs, maps and color plats illustrated by Richard Hook, readers are immersed into the exciting, yet dangerous life of the pirate. Weapons, armor and tactics are described in great detail, yet remain easy to read


 Coxinga and the Fall of the Ming Dynasty

This is the fantastic true story of the infamous pirate; Coxinga who became king of Taiwan and was made a god - twice. From humble origins, Coxinga's father became the richest man in China and Admiral of the Emperor's navy during the Ming Dynasty