Picture of Masakiyo's Challenging Battle as Retold in the Chronicle of the Great Peace

Gallery 103

In Japan at this time, crests identified a person’s household. Samurai would enter a battle accompanied by a banner with their crest. Crests could be found on clothing and accessories too.

In Japan, explosives were a factor on the battlefield as early as the 1300s, initially as bombs and mortars. Some bombs contained smaller cartridges filled with gunpowder. The first explosion scattered the cartridges, which then exploded themselves, illustrated here as small sunbursts amidst the black and grey whirls of smoke.

The gruff looking horseman is Satō Kazue-no-kami Masakiyo, a censor-avoiding alias of the historical figure Katō Kiyomasa (1562–1611), a feudal lord. Satō is recognizable by his distinctive helmet, which takes the shape of a tall, brimless hat typically worn by aristocrats. Kiyomasa was a celebrated commander of the Japanese invasion of Korea (1592–98). He was also allegedly a tiger hunter.

Called Shimura Masazō Katsutoyo to please the censors, the historical Kimura Shigenari (1593–1615) was a celebrated warrior who died young in only his second campaign. He was cut down while leading his detachment into battle, and was immortalized for his fearlessness.

It might be surprising to learn that the use of the long pike or spear in battle was as much of an innovation in Japanese warfare as explosives. Both were used against Japanese forces in the Mongol invasions of Japan in 1274 and 1284. As battlefield tactics changed in Japan, warriors came to favor both over swords, bows, and arrows.