A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

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A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Zor »

In this scenario a population of some 300 Samurai and 10,000 Japanese peasants and artisans in 1580 are transplanted into what would have be the site of Portland Oregon. Long story short these people were threatened by Oda Norbunaga and decided to follow an nanban Atlas they had across the sea and despite incurring the loss of many of their ships and a fair number of their fellows the rag tag fleet managed to arrive in the New World to start a new life. They have a few horses, cattle, pigs and domestic fowls. The Samurai have their weapons as well as some 123 Tanegashima matchlocks while there is enough basic weaponry (yari, bows and similar) to outfit a thousand ashigaru from the civilians if need be. They've arrived in spring, broken up the ships for building materials for new homes and a set of walls for their town and have managed to bring in their first harvest, though they do have some fishing boats. The people in Japan figured that they all died at sea.

What happens?

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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Zixinus »

Get attacked by the native population (whose language and culture they do not know) and starve because they can't adopt to the new crops?
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Elheru Aran »

Well.

Samurai are professional warriors, and firearms do give them a serious advantage against the natives, as does possessing real armour. They won't die to the natives anytime soon, if they can organize a citizen militia/ashigaru to help them fight off native attacks.

I don't think rice is an option in the Oregon area, but I could be wrong. It's likely the Japanese are going to have to figure out growing the local crops. Fishing is no problem for them, the PNW is pretty good for that from what I understand.

Given enough time (and good fortune), it's possible/probable that they might intermarry with the natives, and Lewis and Clark find a strangely hybridized enclave of Japano-Americans running tea shops in Seattle...
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Ziggy Stardust »

Would they spread the same or similar diseases as the Europeans did? As far as I can recall, contact between Europeans and East Asian cultures never led to any epidemics, since the disease strains people in Europe and Asia were exposed to had been genetically similar for thousands of years, engendering similar resistance patterns. However, the Amerindians were devastated since they hadn't had this history of exposure and resistance to these same diseases. I would imagine such a large sudden arrival of Japanese would start a similar series of terrible epidemics as the RL European arrival did (in fact, historically, the native Ainu populations of Hokkaido were devastated by a smallpox epidemic brought by Japanese settlers).
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Zixinus »

I don't think rice is an option in the Oregon area, but I could be wrong. It's likely the Japanese are going to have to figure out growing the local crops.
Which then depends on whether there is any local crops that can be produced massively in agriculture. I am not familiar with Oregon in particular, but if the locals are hunter-gatherers due to lack of available crops, then the enclave will collapse due to lack of large-scale agriculture supporting greater civilization.
Note though that the Japanese also grew Millet

Though a quick search shows that wild rice does grow in Oregon (although I'm not sure if the it is related to the rice Japanese use).
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Simon_Jester »

They've already managed their first harvest- presumably they're growing crops they can live on.

They would spread disease, but that genie is already out of the bottle by 1580; Hernando de Soto introduced European diseases to North America decades earlier and they were already ricocheting around the continent by this time.

The biggest limiting factor here is that there aren't going to be any waves of followup colonists. A population of ten thousand artisans isn't really enough to run a shipyard and build ships for reliable trans-Pacific crossings, I would think. So the Japanese settler population will tend to blend into the local population.

This is in contrast to the English settlements that sprang up on the opposite side of the continent from 1607 onward, which were being constantly reinforced by floods of Englishmen fleeing political oppression, selling themselves into indentured servitude, or being sentenced to transportation overseas for criminal offenses. The growing population of new settlers seeking more land and resources drove constant friction with the natives and made it nearly impossible for native tribes to maintain a grip on their own territory. Any time a border was drawn between English and native territory, within ten or twenty years at most a new generation of Englishmen would show up and want to settle on the 'virgin land' belonging to the natives.
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Me2005 »

As a PNW native, I can tell you these things:
Apples are grown in Washington; all of the apples. 60% of those consumed in the US are produced here. Oregon has a largely similar climate, and should be supportive to many crops with a maritime temperate climate generally warmer than Washington's. Here's an economic summary of produce in Oregon. Of course, the crops they'll need to grow are the ones they've taken with them and the ones that are available locally, and I don't know what those are off hand.

Oregon is about 2/3rds the size of all of Japan. What is now I-5 runs right through a heavily forested valley between the coastal mountains and the Cascade range about 125 miles wide along the coastal edge of the state. The climate in the western side of the state should be largely familiar to them.

I'm a bit confused about how these Japanese decided to land as far inland as Portland, which is about 90 miles up river from the coast. Apparently settlers in the 1800's knew the region as being cleared, so maybe it was the first open land they encountered; it wouldn't surprise me to find out it was that heavily forested. I've marched through the dense ancient forests in the Olympic Peninsula; even on old trails you are moving quick doing a mile an hour or so.

The area is inhabited by Chinook tribes. IIRC from local history, the tribes in this region are more peaceful than those elsewhere.

At the time, they may struggle getting started, but once established these settlers should have no trouble. Depending on the season they arrive, there may be fish runs large enough to support the entire colony until they can start farms.
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Zixinus »

If they have agriculture and metalworking, they will have a significant advantage over the natives. They can easily end up as the dominant culture in the region, perhaps establishing a kingdom in a few generations. If they know how to make gunpower and flintlocks, they may create a small kingdom that would actually make a real stand against European colonists.
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Zor »

Zixinus wrote:If they have agriculture and metalworking, they will have a significant advantage over the natives. They can easily end up as the dominant culture in the region, perhaps establishing a kingdom in a few generations. If they know how to make gunpower and flintlocks, they may create a small kingdom that would actually make a real stand against European colonists.
As mentioned in the OP they have firearms that can match anything the Europeans have and as well as powder.
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Purple »

The real problem here is that those 10300 people are all there is. There are no reinforcements coming. No support. No nothing. Even if they can somehow grow and develop and raise their population 10 fold thats still going to be insignificant should a western power ever take a dim view of them.
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Simon_Jester »

What I think you're overlooking, Purple, is that a large enclave of technologically advanced people in a fertile area are likely to mingle with the native populations, interbreeding and teaching them iron-working and other technology. No Western power is due to explore this region seriously for about 200 to 250 years. Once the first wave of epidemics dies down, this provides time for a reasonably strong power bloc to emerge, one which is a hybrid of Japanese and native culture, but armed with iron working and, possibly, the knowledge of gunpowder. The combined population of the hybrid culture will be much greater, and it will have had more time to establish itself.

Logistical constraints will likely stop anyone from casually brushing the settlers aside (there is no way to get massive numbers of troops and colonists there in a hurry) even into the mid-19th century. The US might try to conquer them some time shortly before or shortly after the American Civil War, or they might simply make peace with them. Hard to say.

Unless of course the Japanese are so racist that they antagonize the natives and generally avoid contact with them, in which case their enclave will wither away and perish. I suppose that's possible.
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Purple »

I just do not see them ever growing large and strong enough to oppose america in the 19th century and beyond. A Mexican-American war but with these guys instead of Mexico has the potential to exterminate them easily. So I do not really see them retaining independence into the modern age. That's all.
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Elheru Aran »

Extermination is a bit strong.

Consider: A decent proportion of these guys are professional warriors, from a period of near constant warfare. They're highly experienced soldiers, in armour nearly equivalent to European full plate, with firearms. They're going up against natives who aren't very far removed from the Stone Age. Not to mention that they're probably bringing whatever STD's and communicable illnesses they have laying around in Japan. There's no way they can't fail to secure a decent slice of land.

Now, making sure they hold on to that land is perhaps another matter. The OP does not specify if they bring Japanese women or not, but I think we can assume there are some. They won't be unfamiliar with the concept of making alliances via marriage, and may well attempt to do so with the natives once they've established their foothold.

As far as colonization went, the Spanish attempted to claim the entire west coast of North America in the late 1600s, but they had no de facto control of much above California. It wasn't until the late 1700s that someone else tried to take it, the British, but again there was no de facto control-- it was all on paper, mostly. There were some very occasional ships that would sail along the PNW coast, but most of the Spanish went westward from Mexico or California towards the Philippines, and the Russians never got very far east. There was almost no land exploration, other than the very occasional trapper or hunter, until the Lewis and Clark expedition in the early 1800s. Even after that, you only had the occasional explorer and some missionaries, many of whom got bloodily killed by the Native Americans. Real emigration in quantity wasn't happening until the mid-1800s.

So the real question is, can the Japanese immigrants in 1580 build a military tradition and maintain their civilization and technological level, and survive, nay prosper, until the early 1800s at least?

I don't think you're looking at a Mexican War situation; that was essentially US territorial aggression using the specter of an old enemy as a pretext. The US in the early 1800s was a very puny nation, to say the least, and encountering a well rooted (older than them as a matter of fact) Asian civilization on their west coast would have set them back on their heels.
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Simon_Jester »

The Spanish may well not even know the Japanese are there for decades or even centuries. The British, likewise.

As to the Mexican War scenario... Well. Basically, a nation descended from Japanese and Pacific Northwest Indian tribes, that can make their own guns, would almost certainly resist conquest. If the hybrid nation manages to "fill up" the areas that historically attracted American colonists (i.e. the Willamette Valley) then there will be no equivalent of Texas to serve as a flashpoint for conflict. However, that may not happen, in which case opportunistic Anglos will move into Oregon. If they are treated less than perfectly and given less than total ability to do as they please, war is very possible even prior to the Civil War.

After the Civil War, when the West is opened up to colonization more thoroughly as railroads and telegraphs stretch across the Great Plains, conflict is almost inevitable, the only question being what form this conflict will take. I'm not predicting that it will automatically end in the US conquering the region, although that's... alarmingly possible given how vicious the US could get when 'Manifest Destiny' was threatened.
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Elheru Aran »

Yeah. The Japanese have enough colonizers that they could potentially avoid a Jamestown/Roanoke type of colonial failure... but should they suddenly contract some Western virus (and those spread frighteningly fast across the continent), it's possible their numbers could be brought down by that. Frankly it's mostly a matter of how well they could re-establish their technological base. How well provided is the PNW when it comes to iron supplies, or are they going to have to forage further?
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Abacus »

It should be noted that, for a short period of time, that Japanese artisans were able to perfect the matchlock gun to such an extent that they were technically superior to the European variants. But because they did not have much innovation beyond slight improvements to the existing design, they likely wouldn't create anything more advanced. They'd likely try to simply maintain what they have -- meaning that by the time any European expeditions got as far north as Oregon, they're more likely to have better guns.

Also, considering the location (ie Portland, Oregon) you need to look at the natural resources available. In modern times Oregon's most important natural resources are farmland, forests and waters. The only ores that are there in anything approaching the necessity of mining is aluminum. The main source for iron in Japan before and after the Sengoku era was iron sand, or pig-iron. Their metallurgy techniques allowed them to turn what was a poor substitute into something very usable and enduring. Even if they try searching farther afield, there's no decent source for the ore a hundred miles in any direction around Portland.

So you're going to have a settlement of samurai who will eventually have to fall back upon their older weaponry as time goes on, since the matchlocks they have will fall into disrepair and cannot be replaced. As such, again, any European expeditions -- if hostile -- will have the upper hand.

In order to survive and thrive, they'll have to make peace and alliances with the local Amerindian population. This might be a chance for them to indoctrinate the locals into Japanese culture, but it's far more likely that it'll be the samurai and peasants who adjust to the locals.

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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Abacus »

Did I rain upon the parade too much?
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Zor »

Abacus wrote:Did I rain upon the parade too much?
No, even if iron is scarce an unified agrarian society with horses able to manufacture metal weapons would still have an advantage over disorganized neolithic hunter-gatherer tribals. Also if a gun wears out they can take it to a forge and recycle it.

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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Patrick Ogaard »

There actually was an iron industry in the Portland area, until it became uneconomical due to cheaper and better product shipped in from the Great Lakes region. Thus the Oregon Iron Company. Iron ore was available locally, though some of the other necessary materials would require work to procure.

Interesting would be a system using a network of fortified settlements, occupying prime resource locations, especially along the coast and following the rivers inland. If they manage to set up some small scale smelting operations, iron implements are likely to be a big trade item for the first few generations. Also, if the natives manage to weather the new and interesting diseases brought in, and if the Japanese settlers manage to not be rabid xenophobes, adoptions and intermarriage should allow substantial growth of the neo-Japanese population and possibly the development of technologically and agriculturally advanced vassal states.

Of course, a massive collapse of the settlement and absorption of population remnants into the surrounding native populations would be pretty likely, too.
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Abacus »

Ah, that's my bad. I was looking at more recent geological data. I hadn't realized that there was the OIC. The interwebs is saying that there was a deposit of 60,000 short tons (54,000 t) of ore in the area around Oswego, not that far south (only about 10 miles). If they happened upon it, then the Japanese settlers could certainly exploit it more readily than the locals. It would easily supply them with enough iron ore to last for several generations.

Based on (a) my personal research of medieval Japan for the past 14 years of my life and (b) living in Japan, I can adequately say that the settlers are highly likely to be "rabid xenophobes". Transplant the Korean Invasion of 1592 to Portland Oregon and you won't be too far off the mark. The daimyo or council of warriors who oversees the settlement is likely to try and established a civil administration, systematization of social ranks according to the Japanese model, and conduct land surveys. Indigenous Amerindians that did not flee or die from conflict, would likely be given a social status far below that of Japanese peasants.

You could likely expect them to receive similar treatment that Japanese eta (ie burakumin) received [at worst] or perhaps similar to how the indigenous Ainu people of Northern Japan.

Due to population concerns, let's say that at least half of the 10K settlers are women, and assume that of those 5K that are women, ~10% are above the age of 50 and ~10/15% are below the age of 15 (the medieval age of adulthood for most in Japan at the time); that leaves, at most, 3,750+- women who are of age to continue on the Japanese-only population in the interim three to five years. Depending on food growth, protection from the elements, and the advanced medicinal practices to avoid outbreaks of plague or other ailments -- then it's possible that the Japanese wouldn't have to intermarry with the local population (outside of political marriages). The growth would be small, but it would exponentially get larger as time passed. Within a few generations (3+) you could possibly double or triple the original population size. (Disbarring the effects of war, famine, or plague)



SO, with their supply of ore no longer in doubt and advantage in more advanced weaponry above the local indigenous population, it would come down to whether or not they can adequately adjust to the climate, create enough food sources, find and exploit the local resources, and come to terms with the larger local population.

Based on their cultural attitudes, I believe that it's likely that the Japanese would develop a fortress-mentality, self-inflicted in most cases; as they'd be under attack from acting according to their own cultural norms in a new world that has no way of understanding them without the express use of force and subservience. Seeing as how the preferred tactic of Amerindians is often guerrilla in nature, this might cause the settlement to slowly bleed out...

Like you said, Patrick, it's highly likely that they'd be forced to fortify dozens of locations, relying on advanced weaponry, war tactics, and architecture to provide the edge they would need to dominate a wide area.

Also, concerning the arquebus matchlocks -- they were actually relatively easy to produce. In 1549, Oda Nobunaga's father placed an order for 500 of them. In 1553, a little less than four years later, Oda Nobunaga paraded his army before an ally, Saito Dosan, which included all 500 of the guns his father had ordered. Due to the location of Owari and the rising spread of the manufacturing technique, I don't believe it's beyond the measure of belief to say that the local smiths (either in Owari or more likely those in Sakai) built them and did not import them from the Portuguese.

The biggest issue comes from finding a source of gunpowder and lead for bullets. If either can be found in abundance, then their supremacy on the battlefield would be complete.
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Patrick Ogaard »

Hmmm...regardless of how the scenario plays out, the natives look to be about as screwed as they were in the real world, possibly even slightly worse.

I can't claim any great knowledge of Oregon, though I was Oregon-adjacent back when Mt. St. Helens popped her top initially, and for a follow-up eruption. It was just your mention of bog iron that prompted me to plug that into Google along with Oregon, and suddenly I look knowledgeable.

Pragmatism would obviously encourage attempts to assimilate and/or co-opt the locals, but ingrained cultural issues can be pretty intractable, and I am not about to argue otherwise just so Thomas Jefferson can fight ninjas at Monticello. Although that could be cool.

Simple guns are simple. Matchlocks especially so. Given a supply of iron, making the guns should not be a problem (as long as occasional burst barrels and shrieks of pain are ignored). For gunpowder, the necessary carbon is easily provided by charcoal. Saltpeter can be obtained by leaching dung heaps or the soil beneath animal pens, though other sources would probably be necessary eventually. The sticking point would be the sulfur needed. There are apparently some small deposits of sulfur in various parts of Oregon, though finding them would be up to blind chance and keeping a nose open for sulfur springs. Likely someone would eventually try to mount expeditions to the vicinity of Mt. Hood, searching for mineral and hot springs. Whether any of that would be enough, though…

Oregon has lead mines, and thus lead deposits, but apparently not close to Portland, so less effective stone balls, perhaps with patches, might initially be used on poorly protected targets. Well, that, and someone gets to become all unclean and carve spent lead bullets out of cadavers. I have no idea if the Japanese of the time had the technology to produce stone balls using the methods formerly used to produce stone marbles in the Alps, but that would be useful for producing large volumes of appropriately sized balls. Someone relying on carefully sized and laboriously machined stone bullets is not going to head far from re-supply, though.

Of course, unless the refugee fleet thought to bring along a smorgasbord of bamboo varieties specifically for planting purposes, high end bows are going to be hard to make until – or if – the fleet's bowyers manage to adapt to new materials and then spend several years seasoning suitable wood.

The real question is where the purple hair dye and the bamboo mecha suits are going to come from.
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Purple »

One thing to consider is that the Japanese maintained an archery tradition right through the period and used mixed arrow and gun formations right up and through the 17th century. And a Japanese archer with what for them is rudimentary armor and metal tipped arrows is going to be as devastating a foe for the natives as any gun.
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Abacus »

Purple wrote:One thing to consider is that the Japanese maintained an archery tradition right through the period and used mixed arrow and gun formations right up and through the 17th century. And a Japanese archer with what for them is rudimentary armor and metal tipped arrows is going to be as devastating a foe for the natives as any gun.
I'm not quite so sure. The Japanese bow, contrary to it's aesthetics, is not a longbow like the infamous English longbow. It's maximum range was only about 380m and it's effective killing range was 30m -- there is a reason why yabusame, the Japanese art of horse archery, developed to be a rider riding at high speed and firing at a small target at relatively close (sword-swinging) range. Even en masse they weren't effective. The bow can be seen, at best, as a harassing weapon to impede and hopefully cause a charge to falter. The arquebus on the other hand had a far more effective killing range, but to 50m and a maximum range of 500m. Slower reload though, hence the mix of units.

So, I'd be interested to see what the best Amerindian bow could do in competition with the Japanese bow.
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Purple »

I would very much like to see your source for that. Because it sounds insanely dodgy to me. If their bows really were that useless they would not have been used at all.

And either way any effectiveness data you pull out is going to have been assessed based on the assumption that the weapon is going to be shot at someone with period comparable armor. So you can easily multiply the effective range several fold against completely unarmored natives. So even if you are right it's still going to be perfectly quite capable of shooting a completely unarmored local native at a better range than said native can hope to penetrate what ever armor the Japanese archer has.
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Re: A Sengoku era Japanese enclave in Oregon (RAR!)

Post by Abacus »

1) "Samurai, Warfare and the State in Early Medieval Japan" by Karl F. Friday

2) "The First Samurai - The Life and Legend of the Warrior Rebel Taira Masakado" by Karl F. Friday

Both books go, the first in particular, into great detail concerning the weaponry of the early samurai. You should remember, also, that the OP stated that the settlers coming to Portland were from the late 16th century -- a time by which the pole arm and sword were far more in use than the bow.

Also: The Samurai Archives article on Japanese arquebus
Last edited by Abacus on 2016-07-03 11:45am, edited 1 time in total.
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