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"What if idea: Ottomans vs. Japanese in c. 1600" Topic

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earlofwessex31 Oct 2017 7:12 a.m. PST

I have been wondering how a fight would go between the Japanese Eastern army that won the Battle of Sekigahara and their contemporaries of the Ottoman Empire. I cannot claim to be particularly well-informed on either of these forces, so I was hoping some of you who are better-informed would weigh in.

What would be the strengths and weaknesses of each side? What about the Japanese would surprise the Ottomans and vice versa? Which rules are better for these non-historical match-ups?

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP31 Oct 2017 7:29 a.m. PST

There is no way to intelligently answer that question. Armies are not teleported to a battlefield: they clash at specific points on their border--which, you notice, these two didn't have. When major forces clash, they've heard about each other--probably have had smaller preliminary engagements--and have adjusted weapons and tactics based on that information. Skirmishes at the fringes of empires--which, again, can't happen here--involve very different forces than the core armies. Japan and Russia butt heads a little in early 19th Century Siberia, but no one on either side much resembles a 19th Century army list.
If you want to imagine a clash between armies which could not possibly have met and who probably never heard of each other, I'd say buy yourself a monster manual and figure out how Japanese dragons rank against Djinn.

The rant is ended. Go in peace.

earlofwessex31 Oct 2017 8:57 a.m. PST

I have an instinct to thank you for your contribution, but that would be false. You didn't make a contribution, you saw the question, didn't like it, decided to take a dump on it, and finished with "Go in peace." I understand that there are people who are very logical and like things to make sense. They find counterfactual speculation nonsensical and irritating. You seem to be among their number. I do value and understand people like this, since I it describes my son. However, in this case your opinion is just not welcome. This question is not for you, so please just shake your head at my silliness (and that of the many people who like this kind of speculation) and go on to something else next time.

Not only that, I actually disagree with you. It is possible to answer the question intelligently. What is not possible is to answer the question finally without actual historical precedent. There exists the theoretical world in which aliens bring them together and therefore we can speculate about the result of this encounter in this possible world. You may not value this, but many of us do.

GurKhan31 Oct 2017 9:50 a.m. PST

Skirmishes at the fringes of empires--which, again, can't happen here

Almost, though. The Acehnese (Sumatran) army that attacked Portuguese Malacca in 1568 was apparently assisted by Ottoman guns and gunners. And Japanese mercenaries were serving in defence of Malacca by 1603; unfortunately, I have seen no indication that any were there as early as 1568.

The Ottoman presence in the Indian Ocean is an interesting little sideshow of history.

earlofwessex31 Oct 2017 10:07 a.m. PST

Now I would edit my above comment to be less harsh. It was an overreaction and I apologize to you, Robert.

mghFond31 Oct 2017 12:11 p.m. PST

Personally I don't see anything wrong with a what-if question like you posed. It's all theoretical but what's wrong with that?

That said it is a hard one to come up with a good analysis because not just troop quality would come into play but also leadership on the battlefield the day of the fight, the weather, the terrain could be huge – I'm thinking the Ottomans with their cavalry would prefer open plains – and of course numbers always play a role.

robert piepenbrink Supporting Member of TMP31 Oct 2017 12:29 p.m. PST

No problem Earl. And I may owe you one. I went back and forth between "submit" and "delete" for some time, and maybe I should have just minded my own business.

Good luck with the project.

Stoppage31 Oct 2017 1:12 p.m. PST

Lovely idea. Ottomans smash through the Pershians, subdue the Moghuls and are Masters of the Raj. Meanwhile the Japanese cut their way up out of Chosen, across Northern China and somehow boil out of the Burmese hills into Bengal.

Ottoman chained gun fortifications, Janissaries, Kapikulu, with massed vassal foot and cavalry versus Mounted Samurai, Japanese artillery with their vassal (Koreans, Chinese, Burmese, Tibetans, et al) foot and horse.

Let battle commence!

evilgong31 Oct 2017 8:32 p.m. PST

I have seen this match as a DBr comp game. I wasn't one of the players so can't tell you the final outcome.

On paper the side that could get its cavalry onto the others infantry might win.

The Ottoman heavy guns and light cavalry might allow them to control the pace of such a battle.

The Japanese massed infantry might just absorb whatever the Turks could throw at them.


David F Brown

Puster Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Nov 2017 3:19 a.m. PST

The question makes as much sense as many others – its just hard to put an answer to that, as both opponents are totally unable to fight each other with the armies they usually field. In addition, the Osmans of 1615 are imho well behind in abilites to those of the era of Suleyman – due to internal changes. A most proper comparison would be those between the armies of the Long Turkish war and the Imjin wars – arguably the era where the Japanese military abilites was at its height (on the field, not on the sea). The main difference is certainly the number and quality of the cavalry vs the infantry.
As fictual engagements like these can happen on the tabletop any time (FOGR, DBR, Impetus) the question is not as useless as some may claim, if not exactly of historical relevance.
So what is your particular interest: a set battle of the main armies, a campaign in foreign countres (as the invasion of Austria or Persia for the Osmans, or Koreas for the Japanes) or a fictual war between neighbouring countries? Or just a comparison between the style of warfare (campaigns, army composition)?

earlofwessex05 Nov 2017 11:07 a.m. PST

I was mainly interested in a comparison of the styles of warfare. I wonder what each would have made of the other. I tend to think of the Ottomans as more sophisticated, since they had experience against a wider variety of opponents, but I'm not well-informed about the Japanese in this era. I particularly would like to know what a cavalry clash would have looked like.

I reconsidered my original idea and thought that perhaps if the Japanese force that invaded Korea in 1592 was a better Japanese force to use, since it was experienced and armed with the most modern weapons Japan had. However, were their arquebusiers up to Western or Ottoman standards? I would be happy to consider your suggestion of the Long Turkish war vs Imjin war Japanese.

Normally, I am better informed on this kind of question before I raise the topic, but I just don't have any books on this, and no library to borrow from, so I thought I'd see if anyone else finds the question interesting (and actually knows something about it).

Puster Sponsoring Member of TMP05 Nov 2017 4:45 p.m. PST

The Ottomans certainly faced a larger array of enemies, with the European Christian forces (Habsburg Spain and Habsburg Imperials) being the main enemy in the West and the Persians in the East, but fighting all around their extensive empire. The majority of the campaings probably ended up in siege warfare, especially the long Turkish war. A main feature of their warfare was the devastation of the opponents economy by light or irregular cavalry, even when in 1600 the large organized Akincis were history – this style of warfare was less common in Japan, were both territory and cultural background were different – events like depopulating large areas rarely made sense in Japanese warfare. In military aspects imho the main difference is that the Ottomans rely far more on cavalry – to control the area – and on artillery to take fortresses – then the Japanese.
If these countries had been neighbours engaged in war I would put my money on the Ottomans – for sheer stamina in waging war.

earlofwessex06 Nov 2017 5:35 a.m. PST

That's helpful. Thanks for your input. It also gives me some direction as I research to the extent that I am currently able.

Puster Sponsoring Member of TMP12 Nov 2017 3:11 p.m. PST

Lovely idea. Ottomans smash through the Pershians, subdue the Moghuls and are Masters of the Raj. Meanwhile the Japanese cut their way up out of Chosen, across Northern China and somehow boil out of the Burmese hills into Bengal.

Actually thinking about it a bit this scenario is far less unlikely then it sounds in the first reading.

If the Ottomans had concentrated on keeping control of the Indian Sea when the Portugese first showed up, they might have expanded eastwards way more forcefully then the Portugese did not as far, perhaps, lacking a tradition of far reaching naval expeditions, but more diligent using their landforce, their methods of using subdued people to provide manpower and the (then existing) ability to outflank resistance via sea. Mogul India might well have become Ottoman India.

On the other side, Hideyoshi persued plans to conquer China – with Korea just being in the way, and to my knowledge of the Imjin war it was a pretty close affair, with just the tiny part of the Korean navy making all of the difference. Let Yi Sun-sin fall prey to a court intrigue before he can save the day, and Japan first takes Korea and then there is not much that can stop a determined effort going for the Chinese capital. Any field force the Ming could have assembled would imho not stand up to a Japanese invasion army. Once in control of the Emperor they could taken over the whole of China, then subduing uprisings and use the resources for more expansin. Nippon China, instead of Manchu.

With just two critical points changed, the timeline seeing Japanese and Ottoman led forces battling it out in the early 17th century in India is at least possible. These armies would certainly differ from what both field closer at home, though.

Stoppage17 Nov 2017 3:48 p.m. PST


This is an imagi-nations thing.

The elephant in the room is the culture – you can see the Osman-style appealing – tribute to the Porte and do your own thing (with support) – and vassals forthcoming; however, Bushido? That'd take centuries of inculcation of the subject nations to take hold and make useful vassals.

Puster Sponsoring Member of TMP20 Nov 2017 4:11 p.m. PST

Bushido would no more become a thing of Chinese culture then the Manchu or previously the Mongol ways. A toppling of the Ming and takeover by Hideyoshi around 1600 would result in a China that would have a Japanese aristocracy – for a decade or five, and then it would be fully Chinese again. Just as it happened to the Manchu. During this time, however, the Japanese could have created and used their Chinese resources in ways that are at least fun to imagine. Merging both cultures could be either hell on earth – in a scenario not unlike the prelude to WW2 – or precede the way that Britain was able to use India as a powerhouse, and create a Dragon to be reckoned with. A Japanese-Chinese expedition to northern India is imho less unlikely then the Portugese takeover of Goa and Malakka a century before.

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