In Ghost of Tsushima, the Mongols are definitely the bad guys. Ghost of Tsushima is made by Washington-based studio Sucker Punch Productions, its first new PlayStation 4 game in six years.
Ghost of Tsushima takes players to 13th-century feudal Japan, transporting them to a time when the legendary samurai fought to protect the country from Mongol invaders. Specifically, the game takes place in 1274 during the invasion of Tsushima Island, a real historical event that would mark the start of a Mongol campaign against Japan.
At the centre of the real invasion of Tsushima Island in 1274 was Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, the famous first emperor of the Mongol Empire. Kublai Khan was the fifth emperor of the Mongols, whom he ruled from 1260 to 1294. By the time that Kublai Khan decided to invade Japan in an effort to expand his territory further, the Mongol Empire already stretched across most of Asia and parts of Europe. It was the largest contiguous land empire in history, although the British Empire remains the largest empire in history in terms of maximum land area.
In 1266, Kublai Khan sent emissaries to Japan with a letter of invitation to join the Mongol Empire as “nobody would wish to resort to arms.” After Japan rejected the invitation, Kublai Khan dispatched several more emissaries between 1268 and 1272, all the while building up his army and preparing his naval fleet to take Japan by force.
Kublai Khan’s first target was Tsushima Island, which is located between Korea and Japan. At the time, the Mongol Empire ruled the Korean Peninsula, making it the perfect launching point for the attack on Japan. Ghost of Tsushima shows us an alternate version of what happened when the Mongol army landed in Tsushima on Oct. 5, 1274, led by the merciless Khotun Khan, a fictional character who seems to be a stand-in for Kublai Khan.
Unlike the events of the game, which sees Jin eventually push back the invaders and kill Khotun Khan, the real-life Mongol Empire completely slaughtered Tsushima’s forces, defeating the samurai led by the island’s governor, Sō Sukekuni, who may have inspired Lord Shimura in the game. The Great Khan’s conquest of the island was so complete that there was little uprising as the invaders moved on to Iki Island and then Kyushu, which is the main southern Japanese island.
According to historical accounts from that time, the Mongol army was only pushed back after landing on Kyushu’s Hakata Bay, where they faced fierce opposition from the samurai forces tasked with defending the island. Ultimately, the Mongol generals decided to retreat from the island.
It was during this retreat in November 1274 that a typhoon is said to have struck the Mongol fleet and almost completely decimated the invasion force. This storm was believed by the Japanese to be a “divine wind” – or ‘Kamikaze’ – sent to protect the country from the Mongols. At the time, some believed the “divine wind” was created by the Shinto god of lightning, thunder, and storm Raijin.