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Data And Details On Teppo Needed

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#1 Ford Hallam

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Posted 30 December 2016 - 07:00 PM

Greetings Denizens of the gun club :-)



As part of my ongoing metals and alloy research I'm trying to develop an accurate picture of the introduction of brass in to Japan and an idea of the sort of volume that might have been imported or made locally.


From what I can gather much of the early brass used in Japan would appear to have gone into the manufacture of Teppo and the like.


What I'm interested in at this stage is any texts that might present historically verifiable data about the numbers and types of weapons made, where and when. The number of gunners, for example, at specific battles whose dates we reliably know. I'm familiar with the origins and early development from Portuguese examples etc.


So I'd be most grateful to receive guidance and advice from those of you gentlemen who are far more familiar and well versed in this subject than myself.


Thank you


Ford Hallam



#2 SteveM


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Posted 31 December 2016 - 12:08 AM

Did a quick search: In the Reimeikan in Kagoshima there is a history of gun production in Satsuma-han dating from 1601 written by Nanpō Bunshi, and it apparently has details of gun manufacturing in the 16th century. I think this is the primary source for much of our information on Portuguese weapons. The article below says that after buying 2 guns from the Portuguese, Tanegashima Toki was instructed to learn how to produce the weapons, and he succeeded in producing gunpowder and rifle barrels, but failed to produce the necessary screws. It took another year and another foreign ship to transmit the method for manufacturing screws, but in 1544 they were able to produce a few tens of guns. From there, the center of gun production moved to the Kinki area, and by the time the forces of Ishiyama Honganji battled Oda Nobunaga in 1570, they employed 8000 guns.  


Anyway, this history of gun production might have the details you want. The above was just taken from some random gun enthusiast's site in Japan. 




I guess the question of brass manufacture is really a question of zinc mining and/or importation, and the lack of a significant zinc supply in Japan seems to have retarded the Japanese development of brass. Wikipedia and other sources say that brass production (亜鉛, or 真鍮) by the Japanese followed their encounter with the Portuguese, although there is one article that notes the presence of zinc was discovered in the gold ink of a 12th century buddhist sutra scroll.


Other than this (apparently) minor amount, zinc seems to have been more or less overlooked/unknown in both China and Japan, until its production in China in the 16th century, after being imported from India. 



Anyway, if you are looking for primary sources on gun production, I think the Reimeikan is one source. 

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#3 Ford Hallam

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Posted 31 December 2016 - 02:44 PM

Thanks so much Steve, from the look of what you've provided I think I'll be able to garner exactly what I need.


You're quite right regarding the apparent scarcity of zinc in Japan. In fact there were sufficient deposits of the ore but as they are not the same types as those found in China they weren't identified as such until the late 19th century, and then by an American geologist called Lyman. In the 17th and 18th centuries literally tons of distilled/refined metallic zinc was imported from China in to Japan and was one of the major imports of that period.

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#4 Peter Bleed

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Posted 01 January 2017 - 12:23 AM


Thank you for opening an interesting conversation. I look forward to learning a great deal. The old saw we all heard that the brass embellishments on "Onin/Heianjo" tsuba were created with repurposed Chinese coins never struck me as reasonable. But I also just can't believe that brass came to Japan along with firearms. I just have to believe that the whole situation was more complex.

I have little 'data to contribute to this discussion, but I checked Kobayashi Ushisaburo's 1922 "Military Industries of Japan" which offers lots of historical details about the modern growth of the Japanese arms industries . .  and Japan's 'military/industrial complex".  Now obviously, this is not historical period you are directly asking about, but I you may find the following quote of interest.

" From ancient times zinc ore has been commonly found in combination of copper and lead ores, but it was not much sought after  for the sole reason that its presence was detrimental to the refining of copper and lead. When, as a result of  the Russo-Japanese War, there came about a large demand in Japan for zinc, but no way was available to get this stuff in consequence of the disregard of the metal in the past. In the 38th year of  Meiji (1905), recourse was had to the exporting of zinc ore to foreign countries  in order to import it after being refined there; and since then  a large amount of the ore has been exported annually…”

This volume also has data on the cost of imports during the early Meiji era. It looks to me like Japan was spending a LOT of dough importing zinc.. Zince was being paid for at the same level as copper and lead, and tin.

Again, I think this is a great topic and I hope you will keep pushing it ahead.


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#5 IanB


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Posted 01 January 2017 - 02:15 PM


Whilst cataloguing a number of mail and plate coats bought by the Royal Armouries I was intrigued by the fact that the plates were polished on the inside (most armour being left rough from the hammer) and that some plates showed areas of grey deposit around the attached fastenings. Knowing that these armours were sewn to padded undergarments, and were covered with rich textiles on the outside, I concluded these deposits were the remnants of tinning on the surfaces of the plates to prevent rusting. As a check, they were examined by XRF and to everyone's surprise the coating turned out to zinc, Not only that, but that the mail was also originally coated with zinc. There then arose the question of when this galvanising was done. The earliest known European use of zinc for this purpose was in 1786 when it was used on iron saucepans (Day,J. and Tylecoat r.f. 1991 The Industrial Revolution in Metals.  London, The Institute of Metals.). However, it would seem that zinc had been isolated in India by the 12th century ( Craddock P.T. (ed) 1998  2000 years of zinc and brass. British Museum Occasional Paper) and that the metal was being exported to Europe at least as early as 1620.


These armours had been originally trophies from Bikanir and had been captured in the 1680's at the siege of Adoni in the Deccan by Anup Singh one of Emperor Aurangzeb's generals, as attested by inscriptions on some. Other, older inscriptions have so-far resisted translation being written in a language that has yet to be identified.  Many showed damage that in some cases had been repaired, implying they had seen considerable used before being captured. It is difficult to estimate just when they were made, but around 1600 would seem reasonable. The quality of the mail in some of these armours was of the very highest quality with alternate rows of links being welded or riveted. Very cleverly the plates were fastened to the mail by links flattened at the joint but not riveted so that they could be easily removed for repair of re-coating with zinc. How they were coated is conjecture but dipping the cleaned metal in molten zinc and then beating them to remove excess zinc as they were withdrawn from the coating bath seems most likely.

Ian Bottomley

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