List of Samurai Weapons and Their Uses
When the word samurai warrior is mentioned what comes to mind is an iconic warrior with a cool helmet, armor, and his trustworthy Katana. When thinking about the samurai in the battlefield there are other various weapons that he used to fight his enemies and droves of opponents. Japan’s ancient warrior are garbed with the finest armor and maybe garbed with the best weapons and some less known ones. Samurai carries his swords but, in some cases he has somebody who follows him to carry his weapons during war. Just as his weapons are important protection against his opponents, he needs to be protected from getting hurt in battle. The armor enters the picture has a lightweight and brightly painted protection. A complete set of armor will guard his vulnerable body parts. Who would want to expose body parts in the heat of battle?
Samurai and His Armor
Armor in Japan can trace its history as early as the 4th century. The Japanese armor has gone through evolution since it was first introduce in the battlefield and as a tool of warfare. The Japanese armor has evolve from the armor used in ancient China and Korea. The more popular of armor worn by the samurai is referred to as dou or do. Leather and lacquer were combined to weather proof the armor. By the end of the Heian period, the Japanese cuirass is distinctly samurai. Leather and iron scales were used to construct armors. The scales were connected by the silk lace. When Japan began trading with Europe in the 16th century, the Japanese armor was once again modified to combined domestic armor with that of their European counterpart. This provided a better protection against matchlock muskets or Tanegashima. Later on, bullet resistant armors were developed which gives the samurai the freedom to move despite carrying firearms.
After the Sengoku period ended and Japan was united, peace came to Japan during the Edo period. The samurai continued to use the plate and lamellar armor as a form of status symbol however, those that were used for battles was no longer needed. Even if Edo period was generally peaceful still, there is a need for lightweight and portable armors that can hid some weapons for personal protection. Armors evolved once again that is worn like a jacket under ordinary clothing. Samurai warriors during the Edo period who were in charge of internal security wore chain armor; shin, arm and forearm protectors as well. Armor was used until the end of the samurai era during the Meiji period. The last time that the samurai used armor was during the Satsuma Rebellion.
Samurai Weapons and Its Purpose
- Daisho. The samurai is known for his short and long sword or wakizashi and katana. Only the samurai were allowed to carry these swords. The katana is the soul of the samurai; has a blade length of greater than 60 cm or 23.5 inches on average. The length of the wakizashi is between one shaku to two shaku which is from 30.3 cm to 60.6 cm.
- The jitte or jutte. This is a specialized weapon that was used by police in Edo period and the samurai. This weapon has a small pointed blade attached to the tsuka and hidden in the boshin. It has a length of 12 to more than 24 inches with an average of 18 inches long. Its primary purpose was to bludgeon people
- Utility Spikes and knives. Some samurai swords have thin spikes on one side of the scabbard while the other side has a small knife. The small knife is hidden in the hilt. The spike is used to pierce an opponent’s ear of a decapitated head. After that a tag is added to write the name of the victim on it. The spike is also used to push the tongue of the victim back since they consider a protruding sight a ghastly sight to behold
- Polearms. Those are mostly known as Yari and Naginata. There are several variations of the polearms. This polearm can be from 6 inches to more than 2 feet in blade length. The average blade is about 15 inches long. The Naginata has a wooden pole with a curved single blade at the end of the weapon
- Sickle and Chain. The sickle has curved blade that can cut grass and plants however, warriors in Japan have modified and attached a chain to the shaft. They spun this around to keep their enemies in check. At times the samurai uses this weapon to trap an enemy
- Hiya Taihou. These are rocket launchers inspired by Portuguese firearms. These are mini cannons that are made of thick wooden shafts and metal tops
- Iron Beaked Staff. Since houses in Japan are made of wood, when fire devastated towns and cities, they need to tear down doors. This work was not relegated only to firemen but, to all classes from samurai to commoners. This staff has a heavy iron head that has a beak like shape. At times high end versions has the samurai family crest on it
There are some simple weapons that are used like ropes. This is intended to keep the captured enemy alive for interrogation. This is no ordinary rope though, since it has a sharp iron hook on one end. The hook can be hooked into the ear, cheek or the hand of the opponent to restrict his movements. The overall various Japanese weapons can inspire the imagination and even spark an interest in how Japan fought their ancient battles. This only proves that weapons evolved depending on the period that it is used for. For peaceful periods in Feudal Japan, these weapons served its purpose for defense and protection while traveling or when attacked by enemies. Otherwise, these are used in ceremonies and as a part of samurai’s status symbol as Japan’s warrior class. Some weapons are more popular than others thanks to modern culture and the different schools that emerge in today’s Japan. Some weapons are made to be part of a collector’s arsenal as part of his dream to be part of Samurai culture and Japan’s past.