Just when the Japanese army seemed to be getting the worse of the struggle, relief came in the form of a typhoon, later described as a kamikaze (_divine wind_), which wrecked much of the Mongol fleet.
Following his victory against the Southern Song two years later in 1276, Kublai Khan again sent an envoy to Japan. Hojo Tokimune beheaded him, making a second Mongol invasion inevitable. In 1281, Kublai invaded Japan with a fleet of 4,400 warships bearing 140,000 men. The outcome of the battle is described in the ancient Chinese chronicle: _On August 1st, most of the fleet was destroyed by a fierce wind. On the 5th, Fan Wen-hu and other generals escaped on the ships that had survived the gale, leaving more than 100,000 troops behind at the foot of the mountains. With no ships to return in, the troops chose a leader and, following his orders, decided to cut down trees to build ships. At that moment, on the 7th, they were attacked by the Japanese army. The majority died in the battle and the remaining twenty to thirty thousand were taken prisoner and marched to Hakata. Here the Japanese killed the Mongols, Koreans and North Chinese (Han) troops, but spared the lives of the South Chinese, making them slaves. Thus the invasion ended as a tragic failure in which, as the legend goes, only three out of a hundred thousand returned._
The South Chinese troops whose lives the Japanese spared were from the Southern Song empire that had been overthrown by the Mongols several years earlier. Masters of maritime trade, they were a people well known to the Japanese who, by keeping them as slaves, were able to obtain various information such as shipbuilding techniques, sea routes, and the products and characteristics of foreign lands. This gave the Japanese the knowledge they needed to plunge into overseas adventures and led to the appearance of the wak_(Japanese pirates) who became feared on the Asian continent. The Mongol invasions thus indirectly spawned the Japanese pirates.
Information on Japan Opens the Way to the Age of Great Voyages
As explained in the previous section, the Mongol invasions had the unexpected result of making prisoners of the Japanese many South Chinese who had made their livings on and around the China Sea. By obtaining information about the China Sea region, the Japanese were able to strike out into maritime Asia. This was the dawn of the _age of great voyages_ that lasted from the fourteenth century to the beginning of the period of national seclusion in Japan in the early sixteenth century. Two main factors brought the Europeans to maritime Asia. One was the information on Japan provided by Marco Polo; the other was the Black Death. Both of these are deeply connected with the Mongol Empire. This section focuses on the first factor _information about Japan.
After working in the service of the Mongol ruler Kublai Khan for seventeen years, the Venetian merchant_s son Marco Polo made his way back by sea to the Persian Gulf via Southeast Asia and the Indian Ocean. From Baghdad, he traveled by land to the Black Sea coast and again set sail from Constantinople (now Istanbul), reaching his native Venice in 1295. After his arrival in Venice, he was captured by the Genoese navy and wrote The Travels of Marco Polo while in captivity. The seafaring Genoese must have been very interested in the sea routes that Marco Polo had used during his travels. At the easternmost end of this route was the country of _Zipangu_ (based on the Chinese pronunciation _Jiipenguo_ ). About Japan, Marco Polo wrote, Zipangu is an island in the eastern ocean, situated at the distance of about fifteen hundred miles from the mainland, or coast of Manji. It is of considerable size; its inhabitants have fair complexions, are well made, and are civilized in their manners. Their religion is the worship of idols. They are independent of every foreign power, and governed only by their own kings. They have gold in the greatest abundance, its sources being inexhaustible, but as the king does not allow of its being exported, few merchants visit the country, nor is it frequented by much shipping from other parts. To this circumstance we are to attribute the extraordinary richness of the sovereign_s palace, according to what we are told by those who have access to the place.