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The Japanese are primarily an offensive civilization geared towards infantry. The Japanese work well on land maps but fare much better on maps with large bodies of water since it is the only type of map where their bonus on Fishing Ships can be used effectively.


Their infantry attack faster than those of other civilizations giving their infantry an edge in large battles. The Japanese unique unit is the Samurai, a formidable infantry unit that has a fast attack and attack bonus versus other unique units. This is a big advantage in the late game when most civilizations rely heavily on their unique units. Civilizations that rely on infantry units will also be at a disadvantage against the Japanese due to the faster attack speed of Japanese infantry. They also have an effective navy, with fishing ships gaining extra hit points and their Galleons gaining more line of sight. They lack the Heavy Demolition Ship, but this does not need be a negative since the resources would be better spent on Galleons or Fishing Ships. The Japanese also have full archer technologies and all monk technologies, except Heresy. They are decent at trash wars, as their Halberdiers and Elite Skirmishers can be fully upgraded and their Light Cavalry can be fortified with Bloodlines.


In contrast to their infantry they have fairly weak cavalry, missing the Paladin and Hussar upgrades and the final armor upgrade. This is in addition to not having the Camel Rider. They also lack the Bloodlines upgrade (Until The Forgotten), putting them at a disadvantage in cavalry battles. The fact that their Spearmen have a faster attack and can kill cavalry units even faster than normal somewhat makes up for this but they still lack the speed of the Camel so are less effective when chasing fleeing cavalry. They lack a lot of late-game economic technologies: Gold Shaft Mining (which was added for them in The Forgotten), Stone Shaft Mining, Guilds and Crop Rotation. Their siege weapons are also average since they lack the Siege Onager and Siege Ram. Although their unique unit is good against most unique units, it can still be defeated by Longbowmen, Cataphracts, and Mangudai.


Japanese are a rare mix: An offensive civilization with a strong early economy. They have one of the strongest Feudal Age rushes (flushes) in the game as a result of their infantry attack speed bonus in the Feudal Age. The wood saved from a Mill, Mining Camp and Lumber Camp totals to enough for an effectively free Dock. With this dock, they are able to make powered-up Fishing Ships, even while advancing to the Feudal Age. This gives their economy a large boost to produce extra troops in a flush.

However, just because Japanese have a good flush doesn't mean they need to use it. They also have a strong Castle Age and even Imperial Age. Arguably the best Champions in the game (with the possible exception of Aztecs, or Vikings if they're being used for cannon-fodder, or the Slavs), powerful Samurai, powered-up Trebuchets, and a strong navy allows them to hold their own even into the Imperial Age. Whenever possible, a Japanese player must use Fishing Ships to boost his economy.

A fishing boom Fast Imperial often benefits the Japanese in team games where they have time to build up. Then the Japanese must train primarily Champions, Halberdiers, Samurai and Arbalesters depending on the situation. Champions are general force units, cheap and powerful. Halberdiers easily ward off cavalry, and require no gold. Samurai keep away melee-based Unique Units, with the exception of the Cataphract. Teutonic Knights can deal with Samurai to an extent, but are not cost effective in the least. Arbalesters provide range support for melee units. Japanese Trebuchets are also among the best in the game, firing significantly faster, and packing and unpacking in an extremely short period of time.

The Japanese should almost always take over the sea so as to reap the full benefits of their Fishing Ships. Fishing Ships can even be used as cannon-fodder if the opponent forgets to aim his weapons himself, as they cost no gold and are reasonably well-armored, and have nothing to do after they finish fishing.

One of the possible strategies for the Japanese is an early-Imperial Keep rush. Upgraded Keeps with Yasama provide very high damage and garrison for forward Villagers and units. Towers play both archer and anti-archer roles while they require no population reserve. They can be easily defended from cavalry and siege with excellent Japanese infantry and Trebuchets.

Defensively, Japanese are more or less average. Their Trebuchets do work excellently in conjunction with Castles when defending.

Strategy changes in The Forgotten[]

The new Japanese Castle Age tech Yasama allows their towers to fire extra arrows, giving them an offensive edge. However, the benefit of this advantage is minimal, as the Japanese still lack Architecture, Heated Shot and Bombard Towers. That being said, the Yasama allows the Japanese to do a tower rush strategy, as the towers firing extra arrows combined with Arbalesters or Hand Cannoneers garrisoned in the towers with Trebuchets or Capped Rams can add a lot of pressure in the enemy player. The Japanese now also have access to Bloodlines, improving their cavalry and giving them access to fully upgraded knights in the Castle Age as well full Heavy Cavalry Archer upgrades. Their new ability to research Gold Shaft Mining slightly improves their economy as well.

Strategy changes in The African Kingdoms[]

The cost of Yasama has been slightly reduced, allowing the Japanese to effectively forward towers earlier. The introduction of the Arrowslits technology further improves the power of Japanese towers, allowing fully upgraded towers to decimate all but the most heavily armored enemies. The introduction of the Arson technology allows Japanese infantry to inflict even more damage to buildings, and combined with their natural bonus against buildings and the Japanese increase in attack speed, turns their Champions into human siege weapons.

Strategy changes in the Definitive Edition[]

As Fish Traps can now be reseeded and queued automatically, considering the work rate of their Fishing Ships, they can now prefer them over farms in almost all games where they can find a body of water, since now they would not need to manually replace them. As all civilizations (except Goths) now have Supplies as the new technology for infantry, their Feudal Age Infantry Rush is more deadly. Also, their Champions will be cheaper in the later stages of the game. Trebuchets missiles also now deal damage while packing or getting destroyed, so it resolves one of the main micromanagement problems Japanese Trebuchets with Kataparuto had in previous versions of the game.

Strategy changes in Dawn of the Dukes[]

In update 56005 the Samurai in castle age got the attack increased from 8 to 10 and the HP from 60 to 70, and the Elite upgrade cheaper at 750 food and 650 gold, so the unit is easier to field when is needed.


As an infantry civilization, the Japanese benefits greatly from team bonuses that improve infantry, like the Goths (more production speed for the Barracks), Incas (+2 Line of Sight for the Spearmen line and Skirmishers) and the Italians (enables them to create the Condottiero at the Barracks). Alternatively, a Berber ally also brings in a pair of useful gifts: Genitours (with Bloodlines upgrade and a complete set of archer-related improvements) for warding off enemy archers and Pikemen, and Kasbah upgrade for enhancing Japanese Castles, making them to produce Samurai and Trebuchets (with Kataparuto upgrade) in a shorter period. From the Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition, Tatar allies also allow fully-teched Japanese cavalry archers to have extra line of sight, while free Elite Kipchaks from Cuman allies via Cuman Mercenaries bring extra measures to improve firepower and mobility of the infantry-oriented Japanese armed forces, albeit in limited numbers (5 per Castle).

Also, as a Civilization that has several naval bonuses, including their team bonus, the Japanese makes great synergy with other naval civilizations, such as the Byzantines, Vikings, Saracens, Berbers, Italians, Portuguese,Malay, Sicilians and Dravidians. With their own self-regenerating exclusive ability, the Bengali navy also receives even more advantages from the Japanese team bonus.

Even in terms of gunpowder units, both the Japanese and the Vietnamese received the component the other party really need, apart from the fact the former received adequate info for their infantry rushes, plus Imperial Skirmishers and fire support from Bombard Cannons to screen Samurai and other infantry from enemy archers while the latter receive vigilant, well-scouting Galleys, plus combined-arm support from the former's superb navy, infantry with Samurai as the core, Hand Cannoneers and Trebuchets with the Kataparuto upgrade.

Compared advantages and disadvantages[]

Advantages vs other civilizations[]

  • The Samurai being an infantry that haves bonus against unique units can negate the use of them to civilizations that have melee attack or slow moving unique units, and ranged unique units with low accuracy like, Persian War Elephant (in equal resources), Magyar Huszar, Goth Huskarl, Hunnic Tarkans, Celtic Woad Raiders, Slav Boyar, Portuguese Organ Gun, Ethiopian Shotel Warrior, Genitours, Condottiero, etc. However they are arguably in tie against Jaguar Warriors, Teutonic Knights and Lithuanian Leitis due to various reasons, and have several disadvantages against some ranged unique units and the Cataphract (see in disadvantages). Samurai also counters Eagle Warriors. Samurai are also a great counter against the Bulgarian Konnik, as it deal bonus damage against both the mounted and dismounted version of the unit; and the Bengali Ratha in both modes.
  • Being a civilization with good infantry and good early and mid game, able to perform a good infantry rush they can defeat civilizations that fare otherwise in open maps like Arabia, Civilizations like Portuguese, Turks and Khmer will struggle against an early Japanese raid in the Feudal Age.
  • Regarding the naval warfare they are in advantage against civilizations that have poor early game navy as their galleys have better Line of sight and can raid effectively enemy fishing ships, Even the navy of civilizations like Malays, Koreans and Vikings may have trouble against an early Japanese galley raid as their counters to that only comes until Castle Age for most of these civilizations, at the same time their fishing ships have better Hp and armor so early naval raiding civilizations such as Vikings have a harder time against Japanese.
  • Defensively they have an advantage against civilizations with mediocre siege workshop or proper anti-building units thanks to the Yasama Technology (without considering the Trebuchets which every civilization have access to). these includes Britons, and Magyars (of course once they get to Imperial this advantage is no longer a problem for them)
  • Defensively at Imperial Age they have a huge edge over civilizations with no Bombard Cannons and no further improvements to their Trebuchets (as most civilizations), as their Unique technology Kataparuto enables Trebuchets to Pack and unpack faster, enabling for them to have the first hit in trebuchet encounters.
  • As their infantry attacks at a faster rate both barracks units are astonishingly good counters to both trash units and cavalry even civilizations with good cavalry and trash units may have a hard time against Japanese like the Magyars for example. Also the quality of their infantry enables them to counter the infantry of other prominent infantry civilizations like the Goths, who relies most in quantity, the Celts who relies more on movement speed, and the Vikings who relies more in hp and tankiness.

Disadvantages vs other civilizations[]

  • Despite the Samurai being a good counter for most of the unique units, there are several unique units that can overturn them - Unique cavalry archers (like the Mongol Mangudai, the Cuman Kipchak, and the Berber Camel archer) the Saracen Mameluke and the Malian Gbeto may hit-and-run them, Cataphracts have attack bonus vs infantry while at the same time having trample damage after Logistics, some archer unique units if properly micromanaged can mow down the Samurai especially Mayan plumed Archers and Incan Slingers. War Elephants have considerably better stats and can slaughter Samurai, but will take considerable damage in the process. Though having an advantage against the Lithuanian Leitis normally, Leitis will outperform Samurai if the Lithuanian player picks up at least four Relics.
  • Being highly reliant on infantry in land maps, civilizations with gunpowder and particularly civilizations with Hand Cannoneers can be very unpleasant to Japanese, these includes Spanish, Portuguese and Turks. This is especially noticeable in closed maps like Black forest as those opponents manage to wall up and survive until Imperial Age when they get their gunpowder.
  • Aside of the previous analysis in the drawbacks Samurai have, Japanese regular barracks infantry is still vulnerable to contingents of Aztec Jaguar Warriors, Mayan Plumed Archers, Incan Slingers and Byzantine Cataphracts. the four of which have attack bonuses vs infantry.
  • Civilizations with good archers and cavalry archers may be problematic for the Japanese as they can also mow down Japanese infantry units aside from the Samurai. These include, Ethiopians, Mongols, Britons, Mayans, Vietnamese, Tatars, Cumans, and Chinese, for example.
  • Despite their Galleys getting more LOS and having better working fishing ships that boost their economy, the Japanese may be at a disadvantage in mid - late game naval encounters, as several other civilizations have bonuses that furthers benefit their navy (Portuguese, Vikings, Malay, Byzantines, Spanish and Koreans).

Situational advantages[]

  • In water maps with dense banks of fish they get an advantage as their fishing ships are better.
  • In the map " Water Nomad" from the "Rise of the Rajas" expansion, they technically start ahead over their rivals as in this map players start with 7 villagers and 6 fishing ships (which in Japanese case they work faster and are bulkier).
  • In Fortress map, where players start with pre-deployed walls and towers, their Yasama technology gives them an edge defensively. Also, all players start with a Barracks, making it easier to start creating an infantry army. The Yasama Technology, as well as Kataparuto, can also give Japanese an advantage in "King of the Hill" and "Defend the Wonder" game modes.