Friday, November 9, 2007


Photo of the Kunitomo landmark in Nagahama City. Guns from Nagoya and Kiyosu Castle.

Good Evening!

I would like to write about Nobunaga's favorite toy. The gun! Yes, I mean the long barrel that can kill a man. Nobunaga would be the man who would change Sengoku warfare forever. He knew how to use the gun to its full potential. As stated earlier he placed an order for 500 hundred rifles at the Kunitomo gun factory in 1549. People called him an idiot to waste money on a useless weapon. They were right to some extent. Reloading was a problem. It was too slow and the gunners would have to drop their weapons to flee or fight. Nobunaga changed that quickly. He would create the rotating volley method that proved highly successful. Battles such as Muraki (1554) and the most famous one Nagashino (1575) were won by the gun. Sometimes he did not to fire a single shot to use its full strength. For example, the meeting with his father-in-law, Saito Dosan in 1553, Nobunaga brought 500 rifles with him. Dosan had only 100. The viper had to be scared to death to see his son-in-law with such brute force. Nobunaga used the gun's psychological advantage to its fullest.
When he was a young lad, Nobunaga would often practice with the gun. Indeed, he messed around with the sword, the bow, and the spear. But the gun was new, a symbol of power! Slowly, his free thinking mind would lead him to the future. Without his renaissance personality, Sengoku warfare might have been the same, the time to unite Japan much longer, and the technology development stalled. The gun spurred Japan's technology innovation. The castles had to be bigger, more stone had to be used, and more important, trade with the Europeans. Castles such as Azuchi, Himeiji , or Osaka would have never been built if the gun did not exist. The city of Sakai, located in the Osaka area was known to crank out guns too. Not only that, they were the Wall Street of Japan at the time during the Sengoku Era. Nobunaga knew the gun's drawback, but his futuristic thinking solved the problem. He dared while others did not. Eventually, Nobunaga was the one with the main prize-Tenka! And the gun played a huge role in Nobunaga's plans to unite the country. Last, the gun spurred Nobunaga's mind to a new naval weapon-iron clad ships!
As for the European guns itself, they arrived in 1543. The ship was swept by a typhoon and landed on the outskirts of Tanegashima, an island of Kyushu. The guns were first called Tanegashima, but now referred as teppo or hinawaju.

Osusume Yomimono. Recommended readings.

Perrin, Noel. Giving Up the Gun: Japan's Reversion to the Sword, 1543-1879. Boulder: Shambhala, 1980.
A great book. I bought it at a local used bookstore years ago. I disagree with some of his opinions on Nobunaga and the gun.

Brown, Delmer M."The Impact of Firearms on Japanese Warfare." Far Eastern Quarterly, vol.7 (1947/48), pp. 236-253. I like this article. Tons of useful footnotes.

Another Kunitomo landmark in Nagahama City, Shiga Prefecture. By the way, you can see Nagahama Castle, the gun museum, and the Odani Castle ruins (The Azai clan headquarters) in a day. If you really want to stretch it, the Anegawa (1570) battlefield too.

Tenka no tame!


D_A Renoir said...

I read an article that said Nobunaga's use of guns in Nagashino could be a fabrication.

Here's the link:

What do you think of that?

otsuke said...

There was probably a lot more guns at the battle than you think. The big question though, how many were actually used. I say the Oda/Tokugawa had around 4,000=5,000 guns on hand. That is including the 500 guns that was used on the raid at Mt. Tobigasu which was important.

Geography played a key role too. Once Nobunaga made camp at Chasuyama, he already knew that he was going to win since the Oda/Tokugawa were very close to the Takeda lines. This prevented the Takeda having mobility. The river made a difference too. The Samurai Archives Podcast has some great information on the battle. Highly recommend it.

Thanks for you comment.

D_A Renoir said...

Oh, I see... My Japanese is bad, so I wasn't so sure what the article said. Just that the gun thing may or may not be true.

Can you link me to the podcast?

otsuke said...


Episode 39. They also have podcasts on guns and Nobunaga.