The Mongols Attack Japan

I’m back – I hope to stay.

Dear Year 8 students, 

I hope you still remember me after my long absence on sick leave! After my emergency operation, I needed quite a long time to get back to normal. Fortunately, my organs appear to be functioning properly now – more or less. Here’s hoping they stay that way.

I hope that you have all been happy at school and have managed all the demands on your time.

The mini-unit below is about the Mongols and their attacks on Japan in the 13th century. I understand that you have already learned quite a lot about medieval Japan and these Mongol attacks with Ms Giesbrecht. Like other medieval events that we have encountered, such as the Norman Conquest and the Black Death, these two failed invasions illustrate the beliefs and mentality of the would-be conquerors and the desperate defenders.

Below, you will find some extra activities, quizzes and websites about this remarkable story, followed by a Kahoot.

Kind regards from Ms Green

Artist: Katsushika Hokusai Source: The Great Wave off Kanagawa, Public Domain via Wikipedia


The Mongols conquered a vast empire in far less time than the Romans had required to conquer a smaller one. As a fighting force, the Mongols were efficient, ruthless, systematic and terrifying. When the leaders of a city realised that they were in line for a Mongol attack, they often surrendered meekly and began to pay tribute. This was a sensible idea, for the Mongols were tolerant towards their subjects but merciless towards their foes.

Below you will find some useful resources to help you discover what happened when the seemingly invincible Mongols attacked Japan in the thirteenth century. As the picture above suggests, it is always complicated to attack an island, especially one surrounded by potentially stormy seas. 

Handouts and Activities

Extension Task: Write a paragraph titled “The Story So Far” in which you use these key words and new vocabulary: Kublai Khan, Japanese sovereign/emperor, tribute, Mongols, Samurai, empire, code of honour, typhoon, brutal, armada.

Corresponding Task: Watch the video (Why were the Mongols so effective?) under “Recommended Videos” below and answer questions ⓐ, ⓑ and that are listed there.

Online Quizzes and Activities

(Simple multiple choice questions to help you focus on the main wording and details in the videos)

Recommended Websites

(The three handouts above are based loosely on this much longer article, along with other sources.)

Recommended Videos

ⓐ As you watch the video, write down key words. I shall do the same on the board. We shall have a quick quiz afterwards on the meaning of some words.

ⓑ The presenter lists 3 reasons why the Mongols were such successful conquerors. Write these down too. He repeats the reasons, so don’t panic if you miss them on the first run-through.
1♦ 2♦ 3♦ 

ⓒ Discussion question: Which three words would you use to sum up the Mongols and their style of conquest? (You can borrow words from the handout and the video.)


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18 Replies to “The Mongols Attack Japan”

  1. Samurai: We accomplished our goal of fighting with courage, we were favoured by the gods from our honour and pride. By following our code, the gods have shown their recognition of our bravery.

    Kublai Khan: We treated our enemies without mercy, it is unfortunate they were bailed out by a typhoon. My army is indestructible and we would have not stopped until we had won.

    Liam: The greatest happiness is to form unity throughout conflict and battle no matter the result, accept the circumstances and fight for your freedom. Happiness is not seeing your enemies fail, but to praise their courage, determination and respect the battle.

    Ms Green: A very thoughtful and well expressed comment, Liam!

  2. Samurai: Our gods have rewarded our bravery and honour in combat by creating the divine winds to protect us from the Mongol threat.

    Mongols: Our invincible army had nothing in its way of conquering Japan; it was just unfortunate timing invading during a storm. Nothing will stop us next time.

    Thomas: The greatest happiness is to defeat enemies in combat and to fight with honour and dignity. The result of fighting with honour and dignity is to be praised by others and to be spared by the gods.

    Ms Green: Convincing and well expressed, Thomas.

  3. Mongols: Our victory looked imminent from the moment we arrived. We vastly outnumbered the primitive samurai. We had been born into ferocious overseas fighting and had superior tactics from our conquests across the world. When the samurai came forward one by one it was a joke to us; we slaughtered all these incompetents. Their saving grace is something of nightmares, giant winds stirred around the island, causing massive waves that destroyed our armada and decimated our troops. The few of us who were still alive after the ordeal were slaughtered in front of the emperor. We looked to redeem ourselves against these dishonourable pests and sent yet another massive fleet of ships. The Samurai improved their defences but it would be no match for us. The feeling of dread swept over our troops as the winds kicked up again. By the end of our second campaign, the water was bleached red.

    Samurai: When these invaders came to our land, we felt disrespected, they shamed our leader and they had the temerity to come to our shores, this would be the time for bloodshed. We stood for the first time united, the clans we fought against now stood by to fight off the invaders. This would be a chance for some of us to prove ourselves in one on one combat. When they landed, the first challenges came forth stating their name and rank, a normal procedure under the strict bushido code we live by. What came next was unbelievable: the people who came forward were countered by groups of up to 10 soldiers who slaughtered them in cold blood. These were the most dishonourable acts we had ever seen; this stirred our ranks even though we were drastically outnumbered. The fighting was bloody as the more advanced Mongols took control of the battle. It was not until that night that the gods’ winds would punish their dishonour. The winds brought waves that consumed their ships and troops and delivered victory to us, our kamikaze came to aid again against the attackers and the samurai honour was restored.

    Kublai Khan: These insolent warriors were saved by luck and poor timing. My armada greatly outnumbered their pathetic troops and their so-called honourable code. They showed defiance in standing against me and they deserved punishment. I was indestructible, my empire spans further than any other in existence and the leader “of a small country” stood against me. This is unjust. If their winds had not saved them I would have had them all SLAUGHTERED AT MY FEET. We will seek our attention elsewhere and leave this pathetic country to squabble within itself.

    Jackson: Unlike Genghis Khan and his love for the slaughter and hardships of the people he dominated, I believe the greatest happiness is found in friendship. Throughout life we will all experience times of hardship and loneliness, but our friends will be there to support us no matter what. With friends, you can have any type and an infinite number of them. When things do go wrong, you will know just how much you treasure them.

    Ms Green: Jackson, you write in a knowledgeable and mature way about these events. I found your comment at the end inspiring and the depth of your understanding impressive!

  4. Kublai Khan: Victory was in my hands, but the wretched Japanese samurai fought well and bravely and they believed that their gods rewarded them with the divine winds. If not for those winds, Japan would have been mine. I was close to having that tiny, pathetic country in my grasp. Their inferior fighting techniques and military tactics led them to being pummelled until their so-called gods stood up and said no more and washed my invincible army into a red ocean.

    Japanese Emperor: The samurai fought well against the dishonourable Mongol army who employed barbaric tactics in battle. But thankfully the gods were our saviours, for they had seen how we fought against the brutal Mongol army.

    Samurai warrior: We fought with honour and we fought bravely while the Mongols fought with no honour at all. But the gods, our gods, sent us the divine winds; they are truly on our side. After the first attack we were given the order to build a defensive wall and to up our defensive tactics and our general warfare tactics. So the next time the Mongols invaded, the wall helped but their sheer force was too great for us to hold them. Luckily, our saviours came to our aid again and summoned the divine winds to help us.

    Armaan: The entire Mongol invasion of Japan was a very messy encounter of 2 great nations. One gigantic empire was led by the ruthless murderers known as the Khans. They were a dynasty of terror and fear. The Japanese on the other hand were a very noble and honourable kind of people. Their warriors followed a strict code of honour known as the Bushido code while the Mongol army were trained in using numbers to their advantage. The great Genghis Khan once said that the greatest happiness was to slaughter everyone and take everything dear to them. But in my humble opinion the greatest happiness one can have is the feeling of being loved and always having a space where no one can judge or hate you.

    Ms Green: A thoughtful and inspiring close, Armaan, as well as a clearly written and hard-hitting description of events and adversaries.

  5. Kublai Khan: We hoped to annihilate the Japanese in an actual battle. It was very unlucky that the typhoons hit us.

    Samurai: Our courage and our faith in our gods saved us from defeat. We will always be protected by our gods.

    Miraz: The greatest happiness is defeating your enemy in a battle. not necessarily physically, bur rather with intelligence and honour.

    Ms Green: A thoughtful closing comment, Miraz. Well done!

  6. Kublai Khan: We were going to demolish the Japanese forces and add Japan to our vast Empire. Well, we were – if it wasn’t for those 2 typhoons that hit us during 2 consecutive attempts at conquest. The Samurai put up a bit of a fight but if it wasn’t for their gods being on their side we would have crushed the Japanese.

    Samurai Warriors:
    We were being slaughtered by the Mongols, left, right and centre. We were no match for them, for they had thousands more warriors than us and they had no moral code. The Mongols were savages: they had no honour when they fought, they would just kill us without stating their name and heritage and would just bombard us, not fight in one-on-one combat. If it wasn’t for our gods and the ‘divine winds’ they sent us, we would not have stood a chance.

    Tom: The greatest happiness is found from your friends and family, the support that they give you and knowing that they are there for you. Knowing that your friends are there for you no matter the situation is the greatest happiness of them all. This is what will bring you the greatest happiness.

    Ms Green: Convincingly written, hard-hitting and an inspiring final comment, Tom.

  7. Kublai Khan: Why this? Every time that we attack Japan!

    Samurai warriors: OK, the typhoon helped us but we were also brave and courageous.

    Ryan: A typhoon is pretty useful when defending an island.

    Ms Green: You’re not wrong there, Ryan!

  8. Japanese Emperor: The leader of a small country? Who defeated your ‘indestructible’ army twice? The gods will reward those who fight with bravery and courage, even when helplessly outnumbered. That was no coincidence that your fleet was destroyed by the divine winds, you underestimated us and paid the price. I commend the efforts of the Samurai – you have defined what it is to be a warrior of this great country. And to you Kublai Khan, I recommend you stay away from Japan unless you want 20,000 more of your soldiers drowned – the seas are pretty rough at the moment.

    Citizen of Moscow (1283): I admire the bravery of Japan against the Mongols and feel ashamed that my city fell without much of a fight and surrendered. Hopefully soon, the Mongol Empire will fall and this promising victory could be the start of many. The Mongols ransacked our city, emptying it of valuable history and for that I despise them. The reason I am writing this is to let the Japanese know that they have the support of many cities under Mongol rule. LONG LIVE JAPAN!

    Kublai Khan: Never in all my life of invading and slaughtering, have I seen such atrocious luck to the army that was clearly the better opponent. I have lost thousands of the best soldiers and will not be attempting an attack on Japan for a long time. I do not appreciate the cheek from you, Japanese Emperor and you ought to be paying tribute to the dominant empire. Pure luck, that’s what saved you. Also citizen of Moscow, I will be finding out your name and ensure you are punished. Perhaps I should send soldiers to Moscow to squash any particular rebellion.

    Luke: I do not believe, as Genghis Khan does, that driving your enemies away is the meaning of the ‘greatest happiness’. In fact, the value of friendship is far more important. Having friends by your side is greatly underestimated as in times of isolation and loneliness, you have people to bring you back and support you. Knowing that you are not alone is invaluable.

    Ms Green: You write with great conviction, Luke. Your closing comments are inspiring and the others are insightful, incisive and original. Well done!

  9. Kublai Khan: The typhoon luckily saved our enemies. This typhoon has gone against us. Although we were blown out by the typhoon, my army is still powerful and will never ever be stopped.

    Samurai: We fought bravely till the end, but with all the typhoons coming in, our army of samurai and our leader would have been wiped out if we hadn’t got lucky. We still followed the Bushido code once the battle finished.

    Kosta: The greatest happiness there is is to accomplish a victory in this war. No matter how hard it will be, or what obstacles are ahead, there is always peace when it comes to victory. With friends around you in war, it will always feel better to win.

    Ms Green: Well expressed and thoughtful, Kosta.

  10. Kublai Khan:
    If not for those wretched typhoons we would have annihilated them, those fools! Only bad luck favoured them; they were not divine winds but only black magic done by the Japanese. What a puny little excuse for being scared and building walls. If you want to fight the Mongol Empire come and fight my armada!

    Only the gods have shown us mercy. Praise the gods in the highest! We were outnumbered by the Mongols but still we were given motivation by our Daiymo that if we die we will be martyrs and go to Takama-ga-hara (Heaven). We were ready to face the Mongols. As they were arriving, fear was dwelling in my heart and I could hear my heart beat.

    At the conclusion, the loss was Kublai Khan’s losing thousands and thousands of men. It would have been a peaceful approach to not attack Japan after failing the first time. Finding the seas are treacherous, I would never have attempted it again.

    Genghis Khan (the grandfather of Kublai Khan) was a brutal man and his approach was violent, he was wrong in destroying harmless children and woman.

    Ms Green: A very thoughtful, cleverly written and considered response, Rak.

  11. Hettie: In life, I would say the greatest joy is seeing my family members succeed and accomplish their hopes and dreams. I think this would make me feel joy as my family is my support system who will always be there to support me. They cheer me on all the time; to see them all happy and accomplished at the same time would be the best thing that could ever happen to me.

    Samurai: It was our greatest time in our life to see Japan succeed, after the Mongols tried to attack us twice and failed each time. We were strong and slick. We never showed an ounce of weakness during the two attempted conquests of Japan. We protected our country with pride and dignity, just as we had trained to do since we were four. The honour that came to us will live on forever.

    Kublai Khan: No one was as powerful as us, we had conquered basically the whole of Asia, over my dead body would I see the Mongols fall once again and become a weak country. Our victory was my power, I will not stop until everyone pays tribute to me.

    Ms Green: Convincingly written and an inspiring personal contribution, Hettie!

  12. Kublai Khan: I don’t know how we were struck down by a typhoon on both of our attacks on Japan. We were easily going to come out victorious until the Japanese gods unleashed 2 typhoons on us. This a terrible loss for us Mongols.

    Japanese Samurai: It was a miracle that the typhoons saved us. It could’ve been a lot worse than it was. We were being slaughtered by the Mongols. We thank our gods for saving us.

    Joel: I am shocked by Genghis Khan’s saying, “The greatest happiness in this world is watching your opponents in tears. I believe that with Genghis Khan saying this, the Mongols got everything that they deserved during this invasion.

    Ms Green: Well expressed, Joel. I like the word “unleashed”.

  13. Kublai Khan:
    I was thrilled at the idea of expanding my empire beyond the sea. As I got news of my army slaughtering the opposition, I laughed at the screams of my fallen enemies. Yet my face was full of horror when the news came that a breeze blew them away…again! I hate to admit it but I give up. I may be like my bloodthirsty tyrant grandfather, but I know a lost cause when I see one. The country will never outdo me anyway!

    Emperor of Japan:
    My thanks to the divine gods above for ordering the sea to thrust itself upon the barbarians who were attempting to slay the peace of this land. I express my gratitude for your voice in the wind that gave us all hope. We know that you are with us and have thwarted the Mongols. My people and I will be ever grateful to you.

    Me (Sian):
    I was amazed when I heard that a second typhoon had saved Japan, and though it may seem to have a supernatural source, the area and oceans do encounter typhoons and strong winds many times. Nevertheless, the chances were small of another typhoon occurring.

    Ms Green: This comment is written in an original and convincing fashion, Sian! Excellent expression and knowledge shown. Well done.

  14. Ben: The key to true happiness is my brotherhood: when one falls we help them up; when we are wounded we get help; we stand as one and we stick together as one.

    Samurai: Before the typoon struck, we had almost lost hope, but with our courage we stuck to the Bushido code and got through this tough time.

    Kublai Khan: We conquered the world and no one is and ever will be as powerful as us.

    Ms Green: Thoughtful remarks, Ben. I like the solidarity with your friends that you have described.

  15. Samurai: We succeeded in fighting with determination and aggression; because of this, the gods showed their recognition of us and wiped out the Mongols.

    Kublai Khan: We were extremely unlucky not to have conquered Japan. With our ever so powerful army we shall take over Japan in the coming years.

    Will N: The greatest happiness is to defeat your enemy in battle with respect and pride.

    Ms Green: Thoughtful and well expressed, Will!

  16. Mongols: We were sure that we were going to win the fight but the gods weren’t with us in this fight with the samurai. The 2 typhoons ruined our plans and the biggest battle that we have ever had.

    Samurai: I thought we had lost everything but it seems like the gods were with us; two typhoons circled us and protected us from the Mongols. Our courage will always be with us as we protected our land from defeat.

    Nick: I think the greatest happiness is found from your family and friends and the support you get from them and knowing that they are there for you when you’re in battle.

    Miss Green: Thoughtful comments, Nick, especially your personal one.

  17. Mongols: We were sure to win, but the gods turned the tides and decided to summon a typhoon and get rid of any sign of victory. They threw us down into the depths along with all our fame and glory.

    Samurai: We Samurai are well trained in hand-to-hand combat, weaponized combat, pretty much everything in that genre, but we were no match for the Mongols. With the fearless Mongols staring into our souls, we were shaking in our helmets. I don’t know why but the gods put good money on us and summoned what we call kamikaze (two typhoons) and put victory in our hands. Thank the gods.

    Jack: I think the greatest happiness is the feeling when you know you’re right. When you know you’re right, it’s impossible for anyone to prove you’re wrong. That’s my greatest happiness.

    Ms Green: Original and interesting remarks, Jack!

  18. A Mongolian soldier: As soon as we landed on the shore, I was assured of our victory. We outnumbered them by thousands and thousands, not to mention the skilled soldiers we have. It was then that the typhoon hit: our ships on shores were struck by waves, which crushed our ships and drowned our men. We had to retreat.

    Samurai warrior: We have to live and fight for honour. We went against the Mongolians courageously but they were just too much for us. We were fighting a losing battle and our warriors are just waiting to be slaughtered; we felt demoralised. However, the gods were on our side, sending the Kamikaze, a miracle. These typhoons were sent to protect our land from this horror.

    Kublai Khan: The stubborn ruler of that small country, I would have absolutely destroyed him and have those peasants beneath me if not for that damn wind. They were lucky, twice in a row. I cannot afford another battle.

    The Japanese emperor: Kublai Khan is a mighty ruler that I admit, but he is in no place to threaten my country and my people, with or without the divine wind, we still would have fought until the end for honour and for our country. If death was what awaits us, we would die with no shame or regret.

    Yvonne and Amy: We say that the greatest happiness is seeing your enemies flee from you in fear as you successfully protected your loved ones.

    Ms Green: Well expressed and convincing answers, Yvonne and Amy. You have shown the viewpoints of the adversaries very well.

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