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Japanese Weapons – The Ultimate Power Of Japanese Warriors!

Japan is one of the most influential countries in the world in terms of economics, international politics and military strength. In fact, it is one of the world leaders when it comes to armed forces. Though Japan does not necessarily has the largest military, it definitely has has one of the biggest military budgets in the world with modern military weapons. Even back in the ancient days, Japan has long known for its compact yet effective weapons. To let you have a closer look into the power of the land of the rising sun, in today’s Things to do guide, we will provide you some information about Japanese weapons. Let’s check it out!

Japanese Weapons – The Ultimate Power Of Japanese Warriors!

1. Samurai Swords And Blades

1.1. Katana

The most popular ancient Japanese weapon is no doubt the Katana sword. It is a single-edged sword that represents the power and spirit of the Samurai. (“Samurai” refers to powerful warriors in feudal Japan. They have the highest ranking social caste of the Edo Period). In the past, only the Samurai class is allowed to use Katana. It is a unique and ultimate symbol of the Samurai tradition.

Katana is quite long but has a curved, slender, single-edged blade that allows the fighter to pull the sword out of its sheath and slash in just a blink of an eye. The blade’s length is roughly between 70 – 73 cm (over 2 shaku in Japanese measurement). Compared with the Western long swords, the Katana is lighter, shorter and has the advantage of its durability, sharpness and superiority in speed. However, while being amazingly sharp, it broke frequently.

japanese weapons

The most popular ancient Japanese weapon is no doubt the Katana sword.

You can see how powerful Katana is and the process to make it in the link below:

1.2. Tanto

Next is Tanto. Similar to Katana, Tanto has been around for more than a thousand years. There are many things that a Samurai always carries with him and the Tanto sword is an inseparable object representing the martial spirit and pride of the warrior. It is a compact yet very dangerous weapon of Japanese ancient warriors. The tanto knife has a high point with a flat blade, leading to an extremely strong point with the length is about 15 – 30 cm. It is frequently used in close combat with enemies or during a ritual suicide (Seppuku).  Since the main purpose of this ritual is to protect the honor of the samurai, those who do not belong to the samurai class will never perform or be ordered to perform this ritual.

Japanese weapons

Tanto sword is an inseparable object representing the martial spirit and pride of the warrior.

You can check the process of making Tanto in the link below:

1.3. Wakizashi

Wakizashi is also one of the most powerful ancient japanese weapons that represent the Samurai. It appeared in the 15th century. It has a blade that is between 30 and 60 cm long. For one which has the same length as Katana, it is called O-wakizashi. For one with length equal to Tanto (short blade), it is called KO-wakizashi.

Samurai normally wear the sword on the left hip. When Wakizashi and Katana are together, the Japanese call them “Daisho”. Not only is a supporting weapon for the Katana, Wakizashi is a special equipment to decapitate enemies. Not only that, similar to Tanto, Wakizashi is also associated with a famous ritual of the Samurai, Seppuku.

The Samurai showed their respect to Wakizashi by never leaving the sword behind. When Samurai enter someone’s house or the palace, they leave the Katana at the door and only bring Wakizashi in.

Japanese weapons

The Samurai showed their respect to Wakizashi by never leaving the sword behind.

1.4. Odachi

Odachi or ōdachi, nodachi is a traditional Japanese sword style, used by samurai during feudal times. The blades are usually about 100 cm long, with some notable blades that can reach up to 2 m long. Ancient Japanese people were generally modest in height, so a sword that is longer than 100 cm is not really suitable in melee combat. In fact,  Odachi is frequently used by cavalry.

Japanese weapons

The blades are usually about 100 cm long, with some notable blades can reach up to 2 m long.

1.5. Tachi

The tachi sword is a traditionally crafted Japanese sword dating back to the Kotō period (900-1596), and is a design that preceded the katana.

The structure of Tachi and Katana are quite similar. The biggest difference is that Tachi is longer and heavier than the Katana. And Samurai wear the katana with its cutting-edge facing down while they wear the katana with its blade facing up. Another difference is that Tachi has 2 ears that resemble a handle called Ashi. The name is also a point to distinguish, many documents call Tachi Ko-Dachi (because Tachi is shorter than No-Dachi).

You can see clearly the differences among these swords in the pictures below:

         Read more:

2. Kusarigama

Another impressive traditional Japanese weapon is Kusarigama. The kusarigama (Japanese: 鎖鎌, lit. “chain-sickle”) consists of a kama (the Japanese equivalent of a sickle) on a kusari-fundo – a type of metal chain (kusari) with a heavy iron weight (fundo). It first appeared in the Muromachi period.

In comparison with swords, Kusarigama is a weaker weapon.  It has a fatal weakness: Kusarigama requires time to “warm-up”. To be ready to strike, Kusarigama had to reach the maximum rotation speed of the chain to make the opponent wary. After each hit, Kusarigama will need time to “restart” before giving the next attack. This is the factor that makes the Kusarigama unable to become an all-round weapon. Regarding the ability to fight on the battlefield, the Kusarigama may not be the perfect weapon. But in normal combat, Kusarigama is quite effective. It has an important role in the history of Japanese martial arts.

Japanese weapons

Kusaraga is one of the most important Japanese weapons

3. Yumi

When talking about Japanese weapons, bows and arrows are definitely on top of the list. The combination of Japanese bows and arrows are Yumi. They were one of the earliest weapons born of the Samurai, even before the Katana. Historically, these weapons were made of wood and pressed bamboo for long-term use. One notable thing about Yumi is that the bow is exceptionally tall in comparison with bows from other countries. Its length is about two meters and typically surpasses the height of the archer.

If you are a fan of the famous manga Inuyasha, you are surely no longer unfamiliar with Yumi. This weapon is powerful and effective in battle.

Japanese weapons

Yumi is exceptionally high.

Japanese weapons

A character from Inuyasha manga uses Yumi to fight.

4. Shuriken

Besides Samurai, Ninja also played an important role in Japanese ancient history. They come like a breeze. They disappeared like smoke. Ninja – super dark warrior is always the fear of any Japanese lord every night. Not only posses excellent fighting skills, Ninjia also have some of the most fascinating Japanese weapons. The most popular one is definitely Shuriken.

Shuriken is a small weapon with a sharp blade. Ninja use them to poke or throw. There are 50 different types of shuriken with two main groups: “flat” and “stick form”. Among them, the most common type is the star-shaped darts. Western people usually call them throwing stars or ninja stars. Thanks to its small, light and easy-to-use features, Shuriken is one of the most effective weapons of Ninja. In fact, it is considered the symbol of Ninja.

Japanese weapons

There are 50 different types of shuriken with two main groups: “flat” and “stick form”

Japanese weapons

Shuriken appeared in the famous manga Naruto.

5. Tessen

Tessen is a Japanese type of combat fan. It is designed for fighter use on battlefields or in case of a surprise attack. In addition, Samurai use them to give signal. The commander will raise or lower the fan in different ways to give orders to soldiers.

This fan comes in a variety of sizes, materials, shapes and uses. There are 2 types of Tessen. The first is a real fan, consisting of a wooden or metal frame. The second type is a wide, hard wooden fan that Sumos often use today.

Japanese weapons

Tessen is quite rare and not really effective in battle in comparison with other Japanese weapons

6. Tanegashima

Tanegashima is a type of fun that was introduced to Japan in 1543, through the Portuguese. It is probably the most powerful and common weapon of Japanese people in the past. Both the samurai class and the infantry (ashigaru) use Tanegashima. In just the first few years since its appearance, the tanegashima made a great transformation in Japan’s military history.

7. Yari

Yari is one of the traditional Japanese bladed weapons that takes the form of a spear – or more precisely a straight-edged spear. It is a popular weapon on Japanese battlefields in the past

Hoko Yari first appeared in the Nara period (710-794), originating from China. But it was not until 1334 that Yari appeared on written documents, and it took another seven decades ( 1400) until this weapon really became popular.

This weapon is very long and straight (from a few tens of cm to 1m), with high strength. They come in different lengths and shapes. Yari’s hilt (Nakago) is very long. Japanese people insert the hilt into the wooden body (Nagaye) through a hole. Then attach them tightly to the protruding branches. Nagaye (body) does not have specific standards for length and material. Most of it is made of hardwood covered with bamboo, reinforced with iron rings, metal inlays or gemstones.

8. Naginata

Naginata (な ぎ な た) is a long cane with a sharp curved blade at its tip. It was originally used by the Samurai, as well as Ashigaru (infantry soldier) and Sōhei (martial artist).

A Naginata consists of a wooden shaft with a curved blade on top; It is similar to the Chinese Swordsman or the European Blade. Naginata blades usually have a length of 30 to 60 meters and are similar to traditional Japanese Nihonto. It is removable for cleaning or replacement. The handle of Naginata (Nagaye) is made of wood with a length of 120 cm to 240 cm and is oval in shape.  Finally, people use iron to cover the end of the grip

In the ancient time, it is an iconic weapon of female warrior belonging to the Japanese nobility. Although they do not fight on the battlefield like real soldiers, the female Samurai are also responsible for protecting their home when their husband and father go to battle.

Japanese weapons

In the ancient time, it is an iconic weapon of female warrior belonging to the Japanese nobility.

9. Nunchaku

The nunchaku is a famous Jweapon. People around the world probably know about it thanks to the world martial arts legend – Bruce Lee of China. However, the nunchaku’s origin is actually in Okinawa, Japan. In fact, Samurai also commonly use Nunchaku in combat. The Nunchaku consists of two iron bars, connecting by a chain in the middle. Due to its compact structure, people can easily hide and transport Nunchaku secretly. Nunchaku’s applications for combat are:

  • Defend your body and counteract enemy attacks.
  • Used as a secret weapon to kill an opponent.
  • Deals damage to enemies at ranges of several tens of meters.

Japanese weapons

10. Fukiyu

Another powerful Japanese weapons in the list is Fukiyu. The poisonous arrows from Fukiya are a dangerous and unpredictable weapon. People use paper in a tubular shape or a funnel and inside contain small arrows or poisoned aluminum needles to make Fukiyu.

Samurai will find a chance to reach a target at close range and suddenly launch a target on the enemy’s weakness, then quietly withdrawn without leaving a clue. Because of that, Japanese people also call Fukiya the “silent killer”, able to force the opponent to die unexpectedly. In addition, the Samurai also use it to disperse the opponent’s focus to kill them with other weapons.

Japanese weapons

Fukiya is simple but very dangerous.

FAQ

What are some Japanese weapons?

Some of the most popular Japanese weapons are Japanese swords (Katana, Tanto, Wakizashi), Japanese bows and arrows (Yumi), guns and Shuriken. Besides, there are many other kinds of weapons which are waiting for you to discover. If you are a fan of manga, we recommend you to read Naruto and Inuyasha. These mangas will provide you a closer look into Japanese traditional weapons.

What weapons do ONI use?

Oni use Kanabo in battle. It is a large wooden club with metal studs or spikes, extremely dangerous and effective to combat with enemies.

Japanese weapons

What weapons did samurai use?

Samurais use a high range of weapons. While Katana still remains as the symbol of Samurai tradition, Samurai intends to use guns more frequently as time passes by.

What are the 3 samurai swords called?

The 3 most notable samurai swords probably are Katana, Wakizashi and Tanto.

Conclusion

So that is the end of our tour today. As you can see, Japanese weapons are very diversified and have an interesting history. Even nowadays, they continue presenting in our modern life as an important part of material arts. In fact, there are many classes around the world to teach people how to use Japanese weapons. If you are keen on 1 of these weapons, you may consider to sign up for a club or a professional training class.

Hopefully, you found our blog useful. If you have any other concerns or questions, please feel free to leave your comment in the section below.

About Yuu Sato

Yuu Hiasa has been working in hospitality industry since 2003. In the past, he used to work as a tour guide and now he is running his business of supplying comfortable accommodations in Japan. Thanks to this experience and his passion for writing blog, the articles by him provides awesome tips and things to do when you are traveling in the country of cherry blossoms.