Mongol ships, drawn from Korea and the remnants of the Sung navy, were far superior to the primitive Japanese boats. They were capable of bringing thousands of troops over several hundred miles of ocean to Japan. Nevertheless, supplies ran low, and contributed to the Mongol defeat. Ships have been excavated from Takashima, but because they were so light―most of their provisions having been exhausted―they did not sink deeply into the mud. Hence, little of their wooden structures survive. Anchor stones remain, however. Some intact wooden anchors have been excavated, while other anchor stones grace the compounds of local shrines, such as those depicted here.

Armor Box

The commander Shoni Kagesuke is sitting on the box that contained his armor, and which is decorated with his family crest. Likewise, the commander Adachi Morimune also has his armor placed next to him, along with arrows and a quiver, which also was used to store food.


Enemy heads were particularly valued because they proved that a warrior had killed several opponents. In passage seven, we see where Adachi Yasumori criticizes Suenaga's service as being insufficient because he had not brought back any heads. During the second invasion Suenaga managed to capture two heads, which are recorded by a scribe in a report that would be submitted to Kamakura. This system was open to abuses, for one warrior scoured the battlefield for enemy dead, and brought back numerous heads.

Domaru 胴丸

Currently, this term represents a type of armor fastened together on the right side. Lacking shoulder boards, and less boxy than oyoroi, this armor is more appropriate for combat on foot. The first reference to domaru appears in the 1270s. Suits of domaru were embellished with accouterments, including leggings, gloves, and shin guards.


The formal headgear worn by nearly all adult males. One was granted to a young man during his coming of age ceremony. The man who provided the eboshi also determined the adult name of the young warrior, and was called an eboshi oya (eboshi parent, or, less literally, a godfather). Suenaga's eboshi oya was Mii Sueshige. They shared the same character of “Sue” in their name.

Gong and Drum

Mongol gongs and drums were used to coordinate their troop movements. Often the Mongols have been portrayed as fighting in mass, but units of Japanese warriors, such as those commanded by Shiroishi Rokuro, could cut through these forces, thereby suggesting that they were more dispersed than has been commonly realized.

Hakozaki shrine

Shrine located in the Hakata region is dedicated to Hachiman, the god of war. This shrine was burned down after the first Mongol invasion of 1274, but was rebuilt shortly thereafter.

Koshitate 楯

Shields, made from wood boards or doors, that were placed in front of foot soldiers to protect them from arrows. Sometimes they were emblazoned with familial crests. At times, charging troops could hold them. They were also used to protect men in the Japanese skiffs.


A “bear claw” that was designed to pull horsemen from their mounts. Used by both foot soldiers and skilled horsemen to dismount their opponents.

Naginata 長刀

A weapon resembling a halberd or a glaive, with a long curved blade attached to a wooden staff.


Initially known only as yoroi, this term refers to the most expensive armor, which was worn with shoulder boards (sode), helmets and all other accoutrements. By far the most expensive armor, oyoroi was suited for generals or other ranking individuals. This box-like armor was ideally suited for use on horseback and most effective in providing protection against arrows. Suits of oyoroi open on the right side, but are supplemented with a special board to help fortify this vulnerable region. Gradually, as battles came to be fought on foot, oyoroi came to resemble domaru.


The Kamakura regime rewarded its warriors for verifiable military service. As a result of the Mongol Invasions, Kamakura honed mechanisms of recording battle, and rewarding verifiable military service. Literacy was high, as all members of the warrior order could write their own wills. One of Suenaga's commendations, written in his own hand, survives to this day.

Sumiyoshi shrine

Shrine located in Hakata on the coast of Northern Kyushu.


Bow strings were made from fiber or sinews, were damaged when wet, and so were protected with these bow-string holders.