EU 1.08/IGC 2.0k
Free Ireland, Norway, Bretagne. COT in Skane, Anglia and Moscow. United Prussia.
Playable nations: Spain, England, Turkey, Russia, Prussia, Austria, France and Nippon
Part I: 1492-1514
Midnight, Jan. 1, 1492
My lord sleeps fitfully.
He tosses and turns, and groans softly to himself. The calming tea I had made for him seems not to have the effect it has had so many other nights. Perhaps because the chill wind from Yokohama Bay has made this winter evening cold. Or perhaps my talents, like myself, have grown so dull with age.
I am a wizened old crone, long past her prime. And for anyone in my profession, I should have long ago retired to the more honorable profession of teacher, even if it is a teacher in the floating world. But unfortunately for me, it seems one old man has become fond of this old woman. It is perhaps my fate that that man happens to be the most powerful man in all Japan.
I blush sometimes to think how it must be to the Empress, left alone on this wintry night in a drafty castle, while her husband finds solace in the home of another woman. I am nobody, but perhaps that is why he comes. To pour his worries out to a woman who has no power, to bend the ear of someone who has been trained since childhood to listen.
Already when he arrived, he was in such a state. All he could do was complain. About the poverty of his state. About its backwardness. About its isolation on the edge of the world. To our west was China, a massive empire whose riches he could only dream to have. To the south, the Thais and the Vietnamese, who would just as happily shake his hand as stab his back. To our north and east, a vast and icy unknown. Almost sobbing, he said the yearly income of our proud nation was a mere 100,000 ducats, not even enough to pay the monthly upkeep of our vast armies. And certainly not enough to fund any of our scholars in their inquiries and investigations. Any of the warring families would be happy to see him toppled in a military coup, and one of their own installed in his place. He felt his light was fading.
I told him he needed rest. I had the servants warm a bath for him, and massaged his feet gently to put him to sleep. My lord closed his eyes, and lay his head on the wooden pillow. I undressed and lay beside him, and myself fell asleep listening to his breathing.
An hour ago, he awoke, sweating. His eyes were wild, I had thought him possessed by a demon. His grasped my arm tightly I felt it drained of blood. As I made the tea to put him back to sleep, he told me animatedly of his vision. He had dreamed of metal birds that screamed through the sky, of vast flotillas of floating iron. Of hundreds of battles, between thousands of men. Among them, a strange race he had never seen before, of pale-skinned men. He saw the banner of the Rising Sun – our banner – hoisted high over foreign cities. But what made him weep with fright as he woke was not this vision, but the last one. He had seen the rubble of his castle, the ruins of Edo. And the strange pale men bending over the Emperor’s shoulder. He had seen defeat.
As he sipped his tea in silence, he was still weeping. As he drew his kimono around him to shut out the cold, his eyes met mine. They had turned suddenly sharp and cold. He said: “We began too late. We must begin again. Now.” And then he lay back down into his dreadful sleep.
And thus it began…
In 1492, Japan was gripped by a great frenzy. The emperor had emerged and declared that a new day had dawned. No longer would we be trapped in these islands, warring amongst ourselves. Our destiny lay beyond, in the great lands of Asia, to which we would bring our civilization.
The first task would be the building of a navy. Our armies numbered almost half a million: 195,000 men camped on the Edo Plain alone, led by the great general Hosokawa. Another 195,000 were barracked near Kyoto in Honshu, still another host of comparable size was quartered in Kyushu. Yet there was no way for us to project our power unless we had the ships to carry them. Our shipyards could indeed together shape a mighty armada. But our problem was that we had no means to pay for them. The most we could afford was to build between 3 to 4 vessels a year, on the measly 100,000 ducats we had at our disposal. Unfortunately, it looked as is Hosokawa might spend his last active years not besieging castles but overseeing the shipwrights and sailors as they cobbled together the beginnings of a Japanese navy.
Three years later, and our first flotilla of 10 troop transport ships is docked at Edo. National enthusiasm for our fledgling navy is so high that the people of Kyushu decide themselves to build a warship, and give the captaincy to one of their own, a former fisherman named Hondo. Since the emperor felt that the navy could not yet be sent to battle, he asked Hondo instead to map the surrounding seas. He also believed a naval base needed to be built, on the wild island of Formosa, in advance of an attack on China. The 10,000 horsemen he transported on his new navy made short work of the natives. Unfortunately, the boatload of prisoners that followed them never arrived.
In 1501, the aged emperor died suddenly, his dream far from completion. His son continued the cause, and by 1505, Japan had three sizable fleets, docked in Kyushu, Honshu and Edo. By this time, the fervor whipped up in the populace produced another adventurer, who this time was sent along with the colonists to Formosa. The following year, Fujiwara, a former nightsoil collector from Edo, founded a naval base in Kaohsiung.
1505 was also the year of revelation for Japan. It appears the court had been for years quietly sending gifts of silk to the Vietnamese court at Hue, and in a secret ceremony, married off one of the daughters of a prominent clan to the Vietnamese emperor’s nephew. In April, the emperor revealed that Japan had joined the Vietnamese-Thai alliance. It made many uncomfortable to know that we were being led abroad by a bunch of poorly civilized thugs who could not be counted on, but the message was unmistakable: Nippon was finally emerging from its long isolation.
In 1507, Hondo dies, having mapped the waters north and east of Japan. His remaining ships dock in Kaohsiung, were they join the 10 ships transferred out of Kyushu carrying what would become the first strike force of Japanese soldiers in the coming war against China.
In a meeting between the emperor and his advisors and spies, the point was raised that the most logical target of a war would be the land of Korea. First of all, its inhabitants were not Han Chinese, and thus would welcome their freedom from Han servitude. Secondly, its separation by two sea zones from the home islands would facilitate the transport of our armies across the Japan Sea. Either of the two provinces of Yalu and Kwongju would make an excellent base of attack on the rest of the Middle Kingdom.
The emperor thought quietly, and said: “That is exactly why we should not attack it.” He placed a thin finger further south, at a tiny insignificant tropical island called Hainan. A hubbub arose among the assembled worthies: was this the goal of a war Japan had been preparing for over a decade? Well, who could argue with a god? Yet privately, the nobles worried.
On Dec. 20, 1510, Nippon declared war on China. The emperor grinned when the Vietnamese ambassador at court delivered his country’s promise of support, and barely blinked when told the Thai envoy had decided to send his regrets. No matter, he thought, the Vietnamese are the key to our entire enterprise.
Japan’s army of thousands and fledgling navy were being paid half wages, and fed half-rations. Full support for just the army would cost Edo 24,000 ducats a month, ducats the emperor did not have. Morale was low. With his forces barely in shape for any war, much less with China, the emperor was putting the fate of his whole nation on the line. The bet was all or nothing.
The siege of Hainan commenced as soon as war was declared. Japan’s spies reported that nearly all of China’s armies were headed south. It seemed however, that their destination was not Hainan – they would have to cross water – but the nearest adjacent enemy territory, the pestilential Red River delta around Hanoi. From the battle stations on Hainan, the emperor received regular reports from spies disguised as fishermen in the Tonkin Gulf: China was throwing its entire might against the Vietnamese citadel, and more men were dying from hunger and disease than from battle. From over 100,000 men, China’s main army had been cut by two-thirds.
Now, he said, we strike.
Men and cannons were sent to Kwongju and Yalu, while another diversionary force landed in Shantung, to draw the attention of the Chinese armies from the siege of the two Koreas. The war on the mainland, which lasted for nearly three years, would be known as the Cat-and-Mouse War. Having been drawn down into the land of Dai Viet, the bulk of the Chinese army had to travel all the way north to engage Nippon. Not only that, but the emperor activated a unique strategy, which depended on losing more than it did winning.
Given the low morale of the forces, the standing order at every engagement was to retreat as soon as the enemy initiated battle. That way, loss of troops would be minimized, while at the same time slowing the enemy army. Engaged by some 54k soldiers in Shantung, the diversionary force quickly retreated into Chansi to besiege Beijing. Engaged there, the soldiers retreated into Tianjin. And so on. The technique worked to surprising effect in Korea, where an army retreating from Kwongju added to the forces besieging Yalu, hastening the fall of the city’s walls.
The Shantung force under the adventurer Fujiwara successfully tied down the main Chinese army and bought time for the other two armies to capture Yalu. Fujiwara then laid siege to Hunyang as a small regiment each of cavalry and infantry were detached from the victorious Yalu besiegers to pin the approaching Chinese forces across the Yalu river. The remaining cannons and infantry then moved on to reduce the walls of Kwongju’s garrison.
On Dec. 15, 1514, Nippon’s first great war against China, the Cat-and-Mouse War, ended in a checkmate. Beijing sued for peace, granting Hainan, Yalu and Kwongju. These three provinces – the Koreas alone had populations near the size of Edo and Honshu – in addition to the naval base on Taiwan and an infant colony in Luzon had expanded the Japanese empire’s size by two-fold. And this had been accomplished on the nearly no money at all (although Edo had to borrow from its merchants 200,000 ducats a few months before the end of the war) when both naval and land forces had their funding cut in half.
We had indeed begun.
Ending stats: Nippon 2nd in victory points, behind Spain