Siege of Hara, 1637-1638 (Japan)

The siege of Hara was the main action in the Shimabara Rebellion. After failing to capture key enemy strongholds the mainly Christian rebels fled to the castle of Hara. Despite the poor state of repair and old design of the castle initial assaults using catapults, tunnelling and ninja under the command of Itakura Shigemasa failed to capture the fortress. The Shogun then sent Matsudaira Nobutsuna to take the castle and put down the rebellion. He did little better and in desperation had a passing Dutch ship bombard the castle doing considerable damage. This was only the second time in Japanese history that a Western power had interfered in Samurai politics and the use of foreigners brought shame on the besiegers and Shogun Tokugawa's army. By April 1638 the garrison was running out of food and supplies and had been forced into eating barley and seaweed scraped off the rocks near the castle at low tide. The state of the garrison was revealed when the defenders sent out a raid which was defeated, the bodies of the dead showed that the defenders were starving. Encouraged by this the attackers launched a huge assault on the walls. The castle fell and all inside were killed including women and children who fought to the death along with the garrison.
A Book of Five Rings, Miyamoto Musashi. Translated by Victor Harris. An excellent and fascinating short book and a must have for any serious student of Samurai history. The book has an excellent historical introduction and the section on the life of the author is as good as the book itself. The focus of book is the way of the warrior, especially the swordsman and has much thought provoking text for the careful and diligent reader. Detailed footnotes add to the translation and the text is very interesting for any interested in Kendo or the martial arts, mixing philosophy with strategy, giving a real insight into the life and beliefs of a samurai.
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How to cite this article: Dugdale-Pointon, TDP. (29 April 2002), Siege of Hara, 1637-1638, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_hara.html

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