Were crossbows used in any significant way by the Japanese? If so, what period and how were they fielded?
I found some very brief references:
Jonathan Clements' "A Brief History of the Samurai" mentions an isolated late use. Post AD1000, iirc, but the index doesn't help me find the relevant section in the book. Could also be formulaic copying of earlier texts. I think you can safely ignore them after the end of the 9th century.
The Chinese varieties were well known in Japan and appear in dictionaries under the names 'oyumi' or 'teppo yumi'. Those preserved in Nagoya belonged to Tokugawa Mitsutomo (1625 - 1700), whilst the Metropolitan Museum's one has a partial signature '… Kunitaka'. One of the Nagoya ones has an alternative string and a half barrel that can be fitted to convert it into a pellet-bow. (See my article in the Royal Armouries Yearbook, Vol 3. 1998).
Actually, I can say Japanese ( being happening to be native Japanese well, ) did not use the crossbows almost at all throughout its entire history except for shortly before 10th century. ( I am sorry this is Japanese and Wiki site )
According to the above source, along with the increase of Samurai's gradual role throughout Japan ( up until, say, at least 6-7 century, even the northern part of Japan was not ruled by the central dynasty. ), the crossbows became not to be used by them due to the difficulties of the maintenance of them as well as the management, whereas long bows are comprably light and easy to maintain, so that after 10th century, it looks the crossbows completely disappeared. We can guess such a consequence by considering the size of Japan, I think. ( almost equal to California and Japan is a mountain-full country. )
So while crossbows were used widespreadly used in China, which is enormously large, on the other hand, Japan is tiny and there are many hills and mountains so that I or we can guess the Samurais preferred much lighter weapons than heavy ones such as crossbows.
By the way, I am wondering the phrase in your question.
What is teppo yumi? Teppo means rifles, whereas yumi is a long ( or rather shorter ) bow. So that personally I guess the writer should have inserted a comma as Teppo, Umi ( Rifles, Bows ( We called the crossbows "DO".))
And regarding Oyumi ( I have no idea what that means ), since Mitsutomo Tokugawa lived in peacuful era ( the final battle ended in 1615 ), so that it may be possible he invented or imported from China the crossbow.
I like reading books about the warring era in Japan too, but I have neer ever heard even there was a battalion or an unit comprised only of the crossbowers for 30 years. ( Although there were many units comprised only of bow users before the rifles were imported and widespread. )
Per the request by Courtny Cotten at the comment line, I would like to show you 4 pictures of wars during war era.
Nagashino War : Nobunaga Oda vs Takeda family, 1575.
Can you see any crossbowmen groups? No, only what I can see are Spearmen, Rifle units, Horsemen group. ( Please note after the import of Teppo, bowmen became less and less important. ( But you can find one bowman at around down left and 2 bowmen at around the center ( between rifle groups ( Kindly check with due attention )))
2. Sekigahara War : Ieyasu Tokugawa vs Toyotomi subordinates AD1600
Same. Can you find anyone?
Kindly refer to the below 2 so that you can see clearly from earlier dates Samurais used bows as their main weapon ( before Teppo came ):
3 Ounin War Many warlords vs many worlords. 1467-1477
You can find bowmen but not crossbowmen.
4 Paited late 13th century, about his ( as a symbol of the Samurai's ( actually drawn by himself ) great play defending Japan from Chinese ( Mongolian ) Invasion 1274 or 1281
Thank you. Please have good days.
The O-Yumi, a large crossbow essentially acting as a siege weapon was used, but the typical crossbow itself was eschewed; the samurai did not like the crossbows as much as their Yumi, which were also considered spiritual tools. Additionally, there were complaints about the issues in training soldiers to use the crossbows and technological issues present in crossbows, such as difficulties in loading while on the move, and
In addition, there Japanese would have encountered serious technological problems producing crossbows. The main difficulty would have been one of available materials: the same limited choices of construction materials that determined the development of the distinctive Japanese longbow would have complicated the design and manufacture of hand-crossbows as well. Crossbows, Karl Friday
It would seem, therefore, that early medieval warriors lacked interest in using hand-crossbows, and that this indifference toward hand-held crossbows predated the bushi, having been shared by the ritsuryo military apparatus as well. This apathy is easy to fathom, when one considers the technological benefits and limitations of the weapon.Crossbows, Karl Friday
Bow and arrow
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Bow and arrow, a weapon consisting of a stave made of wood or other elastic material, bent and held in tension by a string. The arrow, a thin wooden shaft with a feathered tail, is fitted to the string by a notch in the end of the shaft and is drawn back until sufficient tension is produced in the bow so that when released it will propel the arrow. Arrowheads have been made of shaped flint, stone, metal, and other hard materials.
The origins of the bow and arrow are prehistoric bone arrow points dating to 61,000 years ago have been found at Sibudu Cave in South Africa. The bow served as a primary military weapon from ancient times through the Middle Ages in the Mediterranean world and Europe and for an even longer period in China, Japan, and on the Eurasian steppes. In the climax of Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus’s prowess with the bow is decisive in his combat with Penelope’s suitors. In the Old Testament, Ahab’s death is the result of an enemy arrow that “struck the king of Israel between the joints of harness.”
The armoured infantry of Greece and Rome generally disdained the bow but were nevertheless often beset by skillful enemy archers, especially those mounted on horseback. The Huns, Seljuq Turks, Mongols, and other peoples of the Eurasian steppes were particularly effective mounted archers, wielding powerful composite recurved bows made of thin laths of wood stiffened at the rear with strips of horn and strengthened at the front with glued-on layers of cattle sinew. Incredibly powerful, these were the most formidable missile weapons of mounted combat until the revolving pistol. In Europe it was the development of the crossbow, which had been known in ancient times but was perfected in the Middle Ages, and the English longbow, introduced to European battlefields in the 14th century, that made the arrow a formidable battlefield missile. The longbow, which seems to have originated in Wales, was as tall as a man and the arrow about half that length, the famous cloth-yard shaft. The bow was held with outstretched arm and the arrow drawn back to the bowman’s ear. An English archer could shoot six aimed shots a minute, and his effective range was about 200 yards, though an arrow could go twice as far in the right hands. The crossbow, in contrast, did not require the same physique or training. The crossbow consisted of a short bow mounted horizontally on a stock or tiller, with a sear and trigger to hold the string in drawn position, to be released on demand. Less accurate than the longbow or composite bow in skilled hands, crossbows were highly effective at short and medium range.
For many cultures, the bow’s importance in warfare has been secondary to its value as a hunting weapon. The North American Indians, the Eskimo, many African peoples, and others used either the regular bow or the crossbow in both hunting and war. Some ancient Japanese wooden bows are 8 feet (2.44 metres) in length the Japanese also made smaller bows of horn or whalebone. Japanese bows and quivers (for holding the arrows) were often elaborately decorated and signed by the craftsman. The natives of the Andaman Islands, between the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, produced very large and broad bows. African bow makers generally produced small bows, partly because ranges in the African jungle were usually short. The Eskimo used composite bows of wood and bone backed by sinew, similar to most bows made in Asia. The American Indians’ bows were made either of wood or of wood backed by sinew. Bows have also been made of compositions of several materials, such as wood and horn or wood and metal. Modern composite bows are made of laminated wood, plastic, or fibreglass. Cable and pulleys on the modern compound bow increase accuracy and power. Many sport hunters prefer the bow to firearms others hunt with both weapons.
The string, too, may be made of a variety of materials, the requisite being toughness. Bowstrings have exhibited an enormous range of variation in materials. The English longbow of the Middle Ages usually had a string of linen or hemp, but Turkish and Arab bows were strung with silk and mohair. Rattan, bamboo, vegetable fibre, and animal sinew or hide have served in many parts of the world.
Arrows have exhibited even greater variations. Usually the shaft is a single piece, but often two different materials, such as wood and metal, are combined the arrowhead—of metal, stone, bone, or shell—may be affixed by socketing, cementing, or both. Fletches of feathers or of substitutes (leaf, pieces of leather or fur) are nearly always used to stabilize the arrow in flight arrows with heavy foreshafts, however, may be unfeathered. See also archery.
This article was most recently revised and updated by Amy Tikkanen, Corrections Manager.
Additional archaeological evidence shows that crossbow technology was widespread in China during the late Spring and Autumn Period. For example, a mid-5th century BCE grave from the State of Chu (Hubei Province) yielded bronze crossbow bolts, and a tomb burial in Saobatang, Hunan Province from the mid-4th century BCE also contained a bronze crossbow. Some of the Terracotta Warriors buried along with Qin Shi Huangdi (260-210 BCE) carry crossbows. The first known repeating crossbow was discovered in another 4th century BCE tomb in Qinjiazui, Hubei Province.
Archers in Ancient Chinese Warfare
The bow was the most common weapon in ancient Chinese warfare and the skill of using it was the most esteemed martial art for millennia. Archers were used as infantry, chariot riders, and cavalry over the centuries, and while the weapon's importance was challenged by the crossbow and sword, it remained a vital component of a commander's battlefield strategy, especially in the opening moves, retreat, and in the defence of cities.
Development & Associations
The bow was always an integral facet of Chinese culture, and the invention of the weapon was credited to one of two legendary cultural heroes depending on the source: the Yellow Emperor or Emperor Yi. Hunting with bows, however, dates back to prehistory with the first archaeological evidence from the Neolithic period. Hunting and firing from horseback was a common practice amongst the aristocracy in China, perhaps even during the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 - 1046 BCE) and more certainly from the 5th century BCE onwards. The Shang, significantly, bestowed the title of “Archer-Lord” on the leaders of subjugated tribes, which is just one indicator of the high esteem the bow was held in ancient China, much as the sword was in western Europe. Archery competitions had also been a part of religious ceremonies and festivals held at the royal palace so that it is no surprise that the bow and arrow would one day make an appearance on the battlefield.
A symbol, then, of rulership and nobility, skill with the bow was expected to be displayed in various archery competitions. Warriors, senior officials and administrators had to prove their ability at archery, which was also thought to reveal the person's moral character. Nor were one's skills permitted to become rusty as junior army officers were required to pass an archery test each year.
In the Zhou dynasty (1046-256 BCE), and probably too in the preceding Shang dynasty, ornate bows with gold and jade additions, along with a matching 100 arrows, were given as a reward for military prowess on the battlefield or as a way for a ruler to confer an honour on a certain individual. By the Spring and Autumn period (722-479 BCE) there were two types of such honours: a red bow with 100 arrows and a black bow with 1,000 arrows.
It is also interesting to note that arrows were frequently placed in tombs, symbolic of their importance to the deceased in the next life. By the 6th century BCE, Confucius helped further embed archery in the national psyche by insisting it was one of the six essential arts of self-cultivation. Finally, Chinese literature abounds with stirring tales of archers pulling off impossible shots such as killing opponents with each rapidly fired shot, penetrating several layers of an enemy's armour, or just a few archers miraculously holding off a much larger infantry force.
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Materials & Design
Designs of both bow and arrow varied over time and geographical location. The simplest bows were made of wood or horn (water buffalo was preferred) while composite bows already appeared from the Shang period onwards - that is bows made from up to eight pieces such as separate strips of bamboo glued together or bound using silk. Different woods used (often in the same bow) included silkwood thorn, wild mulberry, orange wood, and quince. All of these woods, bamboo, and horn were carefully selected and combined for their compression or elastic properties to give the maximum firing power. Glues were made from vegetable or animal matter, and later, fish glue was found to be the best. Animal sinew or tendon was used to cover the finished bow and increase its elasticity. The final stage was to cover the bow in lacquer which protected it from moisture. The string of the bow was likely made from twisted fibres of silk, leather or plant material, especially bamboo.
The recurved form of bow, which curved out symmetrically from the central handgrip, was already in use in the Shang period, too. Shang bows measured some 1.2 m (42 inches) in length, but later periods saw both smaller and larger versions (up to 1.65 m) used. Sometimes there were different sizes all available at the same time, and the decision as to which to use was based on the physique of the archer: the taller the man, the longer the bow. The arrows used with them had reed, cane, or bamboo shafts sometimes wood was used, but they required much more work to produce. Arrows for the larger bows would have measured around 85 cm in length and had a diameter of around 1 cm. Feather (geese or duck), wood, or paper vanes were added to give extra stability in the arrow's trajectory they typically measured 10 to 15 cm in length and were 2 cm high. An archer usually carried a minimum quiver of ten arrows when in battle.
Arrowheads were made first from stone (e.g. flints and obsidian), shell or bone, then bronze or copper and, finally, iron, but bone was a popular choice even in later times, being light and easy to carve. Those bronze arrowheads which survive from the Shang dynasty are around 9.5 cm long, have a long narrow shape tapering gradually to a point and a raised central spine which becomes thinner towards the edges either side. By the Zhou Period, arrowhead design had changed, probably influenced by developments in crossbow bolts, and they now were made shorter with a prominent central ridge to aid accuracy or with a third edge. The double projection at the back of the head which makes extraction more difficult is now more common, too. There is much debate on the penetrating power of arrows into the armour worn by soldiers, but when the latter was only made from leather, before metal plating was added in the Warring States period (c. 481-221 BCE), there are plenty of skeletal remains which show bones with deep wounds from arrows.
If the information we have on archery competitions relates to the battlefield, then it seems that an archer was expected to hit an opponent from a distance of at least some 76 metres (250 ft) and probably double that. The historian R. D. Sawyer makes the following comments regarding accuracy:
Exceptionally skilled archers could reputedly hit a flying bird at 200 paces, and superlative archers such as Yang Yu-chi in the Spring and Autumn period reportedly could hit a willow branch at 100 paces, giving rise to the phrase “penetrating a willow at a hundred paces” becoming praise for any extraordinary skill. (Sawyer, 2011, 311).
To what degree the ordinary archer on the battlefield could emulate these feats is unknown, but the Chinese did believe the skill could be acquired through practice, and so there were many training schools for archery, regarded as it was an essential skill for gentlemen for much of China's history.
Use in Warfare
The chariot was used on the battlefield from around 1250 BCE in Chinese warfare, and one of the riders was invariably an archer. Standing usually on the left side, he shared the cab with a driver and sometimes also a spear or halberd bearer. Infantry also carried a bow, as well as a spear and or halberd. The need for a great number of weapons and the lengthy time of manufacture meant that bows and arrowheads were manufactured on large scale by state-sponsored specialised workshops, even as early as the Shang dynasty. This was certainly so by the 7th century BCE when the battlefields of China first began to see massed volleys of arrows being fired in a single moment. Records of city arsenals show that at any one time tens of thousands of bows and millions of arrows were stored up for future use.
Archers were used as cavalry from the 4th-3rd century BCE onwards. The bow remained a popular infantry weapon, though, with the traditional squad of five consisting of three spearmen and two archers. Whether on horse or on foot, archers were typically stationed to protect the flanks of the infantry armed with spears and halberds. Cavalry riders were expected to shoot while at full gallop, no mean feat considering the primitive nature of saddles - usually only a rolled blanket - and with the arrival of stirrups only from the Han period (206 BCE - 220 CE). For this reason, many dynasties simply recruited experienced riders from neighbouring states a policy which continued into the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 CE) and even later.
Archers typically opened the proceedings in a battle with the hope that a volley of arrows would deplete and soften up an opposing force before the more heavily armed infantry soldiers entered the fray. The bow was also seen as a great defensive weapon, notably when a city was under siege.
With the introduction of the crossbow into Chinese warfare from the Warring States period (481-221 BCE), the bow had a new challenger for the weapon of choice. The armies of the Han were particularly noted for their skills with the crossbow which could fire a bolt further and with much greater penetration than an arrow fired from a bow. However, by the Tang dynasty (618-907 BCE) the traditional archer made a comeback, this time armed with an even more powerful composite bow than previously. Armies of the period, according to contemporary military treatises, fielded a ratio of bowmen to crossbowmen of 5:1. By the Song dynasty (960-1279 CE) the crossbow returned to favour as repeating models could now fire bolts every few seconds and fire them longer distances and more accurately than before. Nevertheless, the bow would remain an important weapon in Chinese armies right through the medieval period and into the 19th century CE.
Medieval Japanese Archery (Bow and Arrow)
In the early Medieval period, all samurai were well-trained in war, including in the art of archery. Kyudo, which means “the way of the bow”, was surprisingly popular during the early years. The most common word for this today, kyujutsu (“technique of the bow”), was used to describe archery in the age of the samurai. Samurai had extensive archery training until they could shoot without thinking. They also learned how to shoot with proper breathing and became accurate in shooting while riding a horse.
Common samurai bows were from 5 to 8 feet (1.5-2.4 meters) long, with 2/3 of the bow located above the hand grip. Japanese wooden bows were usually long enough to have the power to launch arrows while staying flexible and durable at the same time.
From the Kamakura period on, bows were made in layers employing bamboo slats. The core was made of stiff wood combined with laminated pieces of bamboo for added strength and flexibility.
Japanese arrow stand with a pair of Yumi bows. (Rama/ CC BY SA 2.0 )
There are lots of different kinds of arrows and arrowheads. These vary based on function and desired point of contact. During this era, most samurai used arrows between 34 – 38 inches (86 to 96 cm) in length. Arrow shafts were made of shaved bamboo (bamboo without the outer bark and joint nodes). It was straightened and softened by placing it in hot sand.
In the early Medieval period, arrow shafts were carried in quivers called ebira , which resemble a woven chair. These were worn on the hip and made from pieces of woven wood. Later, quivers were called utsubo, and were made with more elaborate wood, covered in fur, and worn across the back.
Were crossbows used by the Japanese? - History
The Firearm and Sword Control Law in Japan has the country’s specific laws about different weapons, but so far crossbows have fallen under the radar. While they might seem more like something in an isekai or video game than in modern Japan, some crimes have been committed using them in the island nation.
Japan’s National Police Agency reports that crossbows (or their cousins, bowguns) have been used in almost forty reported crimes during the decade 2010 to 2020, and then in 16 of those crimes they were used either for attempted murder or outright murder.
Japan’s House of Representatives wants to change the laws so that, in the future, if you want to own a crossbow, you have to be at least 18 and take safety classes. Then you can get a permit to own one.
Isekai and video game characters can still have all the crossbows they want.
Budget proposal prioritizes pay increase, quality of life, modernization
Posted On April 29, 2020 15:48:29
With soldiers increasingly being asked to shoulder heavier workloads, the Army hopes to compensate them for their efforts with a 3.1 percent pay raise.
The Army’s $182.3 billion budget proposal for fiscal year 2020 includes the highest pay increase for soldiers in a decade. Additionally, the service plans to raise basic housing allowances by 3.2 percent and basic subsistence allowances by 2.4 percent.
After launching a new recruiting initiative this year, the Army is aiming for a modest end-strength target next year, hoping to have 480,000 active-duty soldiers, 336,000 National Guard members and 189,500 reservists by 2020.
While much of the Army’s fiscal year 2020 budget focus has centered on modernization efforts, Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy and Lt. Gen. Thomas Horlander, the military deputy for Financial Management and Comptroller, discussed the importance of readiness and quality of life during a budget briefing at the Pentagon March 12, 2019.
“Readiness will continue to be the number-one priority for the Army,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy said two-thirds of the Army’s brigade combat teams are at their “highest state of readiness.” Army leaders have asked for steady and consistent funding to supplement its readiness efforts, which helped support 32 combat training center rotations this year.
Under Secretary of the Army Ryan D. McCarthy.
“Because of the consistent funding that we’ve gotten at a higher level here over the last couple of years, [it] has really allowed us to make some readiness gains,” Horlander said.
To meet its readiness goals, the Army proposes to increase its operations and maintenance budget to .6 billion. The plan covers an increase to infantry one-station unit training from 14 to 22 weeks. It will also provide funding to train 58 brigade combat teams, six security force assistance brigades and 11 combat aviation brigades. The service additionally plans to increase spending for flight crew hours for both active-duty and National Guard members.
The operations budget funds multi-lateral exercises in the Pacific region and in Europe to help bolster partnerships with allies, a crucial element identified in the National Defense Strategy.
“There are a lot of efforts to strengthen the partnerships with our allies,” Horlander said.
The service has prioritized improving housing standards, as senior leaders have visited post housing at different installations in recent months. The Army is asking for an additional 0 million for the restoration and modernization of soldiers’ barracks and installation facilities. Some funding will go toward three new housing projects, Horlander said.
The Army is seeking billion for its research, development and acquisition funding that will go toward newer weapons systems.
Capt. Bryson McElyea fires the M16 rifle.
(U.S. Army photo by Visual Information Specialist Gertrud Zach)
The Army will cut funding from certain weapons platforms and legacy systems will be cut to funnel more funding toward the Army’s modernization efforts. McCarthy said that 93 programs were eliminated and an additional 93 will be reduced or delayed beginning in fiscal year 2020 to fiscal 2024.
“These choices were complex and difficult. At times people will focus in on … winners and losers,” McCarthy said. “But what we look at is the choices we had to make from a modernization standpoint to be the Army that we need by 2028.
While the Army will shift its focus from legacy programs, McCarthy said that some of the platforms will still be needed. Those programs will be gradually enhanced to bridge the gap between newer and older weapons systems.
The Army’s FY20 budget request now awaits approval from Congress.
This article originally appeared on United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.
More on We are the Mighty
Were crossbows used by the Japanese? - History
Crossbows were in use in China by the fifth century BCE and quickly became an important element in the warfare of the Warring States period. Where other bows rely on the strength of the archer, the crossbow has a mechanical trigger, so that many releases could be made without tiring the crossbowman. The Chinese development of the crossbow depended on bronze technology advanced enough to allow manufacture of accurately machined trigger-mechanisms. Early crossbows were portable and mostly operated by one archer. They became popular for the defense of royal entourages and for hunting the later multiple-firing crossbows were intended for military campaigns.
Crossbows were also used in the West. They were known to the ancient Greeks and Romans, and by medieval times in Europe, the crossbow had evolved into a powerful weapon capable of penetrating armor. Chinese crossbows could pierce several layers of iron armor, but in China, where the defense and attack of walled cities was the primary focus of military campaigns, the crossbow was valued for its ability to deliver volleys of bolts even more than for its power to penetrate.
Crossbows remained one of the major weapons in Song times. In the eleventh century, Shen Gua argued that the crossbow is to the Chinese what the horse was to the Khitan -- the asset that gave them their advantage. In field battles against foreign cavalry, the Chinese infantry would have a row of pikemen with shields, rows of archers, and a row of crossbowmen. When the cavalry approached, the crossbowmen would shoot first above the crouching pikemen and bowmen. The pikemen and archers would shield the slower-firing crossbowmen, who, however, could inflict more damage.
Below is a schematic drawing of the bronze trigger mechanism, including both an assembled one and the component parts.
From the diagrams, can you see how this mechanism would have worked?
The scene on the left shows a famous story from The Romance of the Three Kingdoms . The Shu strategist, Zhuge Liang, successively "borrowed" 100,000 arrows from the rival state, Wu. With his arrows in short supply, he covered the Shu boats with hay, so that the arrows from Wu would stick and could be collected later.
Illustration from The Romance of the Three
Although the crossbow was a very effective weapon, using one took training. Below are two crossbows that are armed in different ways.
On the left, notice the loop hanging from the armed bow. By inserting his foot into the loop, the soldier could pull down the bow as he pulled up on the string until it caught in the trigger mechanism.
On the right, the soldier uses a "belt-claw," which hooks onto the bowstring so he can pull it back into the trigger mechanism while pushing the bow away with his feet.
Why would one method be preferred to another?
To the left is a triple crossbow from the Song period. It would have taken as many as 20 men to operate and had an effective range up to 125 yards. The heaviest one was said to take 100 men to operate and had a range of 175 yards.
Why would a composite crossbow requiring 100 men's strength but only having a range of 175 yards make sense if the one using 20 men's strength had a range of 125 yards?
How could the effectiveness of bows be further increased?
From very early times, soldiers wore armor and used shields to protect themselves from arrows. Horses, which were more important than ever when the Song was coping with the Jin and Yuan, were also armored.
Note the elaborate armor worn by the two generals below. Armor was often made from the hide of a rhinoceros and then lacquered. So many rhinoceros were slaughtered for this purpose that the animal was largely wiped out in China and rhinoceros hide had to be imported.
General with armor and shield source
As in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, military equipment was often embellished in ways that served no utilitarian functions.
What can you infer from the style and craftsmanship of the armor, shields, and quivers shown below?
Below are diagrams of the front and back of a shield (left) and armor for horses (right). The face on the shield depicts a demon king.
The Culture & Weapons of a Samurai Warrior
The culture of a Samurai warrior revol ved around the concept of the Bushido – the Way of a Warrior . Their primary tenets are honor and freedom from the fear of death. In the past, the Samurai had the right to legally cut down anyone who dishonored him.
Since the Samurai were individuals who were instilled with the spirit of Bushido, they fought without fear, and died honorably instead of surrendering upon defeat. Out of the disregard for the idea of death came the tradition of Seppuku. Defeated warriors or those humiliated government officials, committed suicide with honor by going through a process of disemboweling themselves using a short sword, usually a Wakizashi.
The earliest Samurai were archers who usually fought on foot or on horseback. They utilized longbows called the Yumi but was still proficient with swords just as well. The use of swords was done in close combat and mainly for finishing off their wounded opponents.
Afte r the invasion of the Mongols in 1272 and 1281, the Samurai began improving their long curved Tachi swords. Naginata, Yari and spears were also used but was further adopted in the 14th Century. The Samurai used to wear two swords at early time, the Tachi and the Tanto.
However, at the end of the 14th Century, the Katana was introduced and the concept of wearing two swords known as Daisho has changed to the Katana and Wakizashi . Those were eventually banned from use in the late 16th centu ry.
The Katana – A Trusted Blade and Soul of the Warrior
The most prominent and vital weapon of the Japanese warriors was the Katana sword. The Katana was one of th e deadliest Samurai weapons that were introduced from oriental cultures. The Katana origins still remain unclear.
Studies have proven that during the Edo Period, the government established an official department for Tameshigiri or sword testing . This was to ensure that all swords were made with quality and were ready to use for battle. Through this test, a swordsman would try out his new Katana by slicing through the bodies of criminals. The results were also carved on the blade which added to the sword value.
Sometime in the past, the Katana was a status symbol. Only the members of the Samurai class had the privilege to wield this sword. the Katana was considered as an extension of a Samurai soul, so those who did not belong to the said class and were caught carrying a Katana were instantly put to death. The warriors treated their blade as a sacred piece and used only when absolutely necessary.
When it comes to maintaining the sword’s beauty, polishing the Katana was also a lengthier process than forging a blade. A lot of people are unaware of this, but sword polishing is also a highly essential part of creating a sword. This revealed the Katana’s true quality and made the steel’s grain and hamon line more visible.
A Vital Auxiliary Blade – The Wakizashi
The Wakizashi is a shorter sword than the Katana and was used as its companion. The warrior used this sword when battling in small spaces since the katana was too long for combat in areas with low ceilings and in close quarters. Other types of short swords included the Chisa Katana and Yoroi Toshi.
The Wakizash i was an auxiliary or backup weapon that wa s also used for beheading a defeated enemy. It was sometimes used to commit ritualistic suicide called Seppuku.
When it comes to its exterior, the Wakizashi featured a slightly arched blade. It came with a square-shaped Tsuba that was intricately decorated with classic themes. The Wakizashi is more richly decorated compared to the Katana. This is because the smaller sword was rarely used compared to the Katana.
The Little Deadly Piece – A Tanto
The Tanto was not the Samurai primary war weapon since it hardly had any use against spears and swords. However, it did prove to be very efficient in penetrating armor.
A Tanto was a weapon featuring a single-edged and curved blade. This was designed specifically for soft targets and was one of the Samurai weapons. The Tanto was highly effective for close-range fighting since its blade can measure from six to twelve inches long. Just like with most knives, the samurai used the Tanto for both stabbing and slashing.
This blade first appeared between the years 794 and 1185. It was a standard weapon without any artistic qualities since it was a practical piece created out of need. Between 1185 and 1333, more artistic and highly improved quality Tanto were created.
Interestingly, when the fighting commenced from 1336 to 1573, the Tanto was further improved for fighting purposes. This caused its artistic appeal to slowly decline. Because of the Tanto’s mass production during the said period, the blade became narrower. This was to lessen the use of materials to be able to produce more blades.
Durable and equipped with a simplistic firing mechanism, crossbows make for ideal weapons. Hunters and archery enthusiasts find these relatively silent weapons to be highly useful. Before purchasing a crossbow, become familiar with the different types and find the one that best suits your needs.
What are the different types available?
There are many different kinds of crossbows available, and each one has its own unique characteristics and benefits:
- Rifle - The benefit of a rifle type can be inferred from its name. Like a rifle, this weapon can be used for accurate, long-distance shooting. Multiple customizations, including sights, can work with this crossbow iteration. If you can provide the necessary strength to pull the bow back, this type can shoot bolts from afar.
- Recurve - If you want something that isn’t that complicated, the recurve type is an excellent choice. Featuring adjustable draw weights and easily maintained, this weapon is more silent than most. It’s popular among hunting enthusiasts and survivalists alike for its rugged reliability and lack of prey-alerting, noisy components.
- Pistol - Like a standard handgun, the pistol variant is a compact device that is easily carried. Unlike its larger brethren, this weapon requires less strength to cock and fire a bolt. It’s ideal for archery enthusiasts with less strength, and for hunting smaller animals like squirrels.
- Repeating - The repeating variant is a good choice for those seeking something that can fire rapidly. A simplified mechanism allows one-handed loading, stringing, and shooting. This enables the wielder of the repeating type to fire quickly without having to reload constantly.
- Bullet - As the name suggests, this variant can be loaded with slug-like projectiles that are similar to bullets. A string must still be cocked to fire, but this kind does not fire the standard arrow or bolt of other types.
- Compound - The compound type utilizes a pulley, or cam, system that makes it easier to hold a drawn string longer. The effect of the draw weight is mitigated by this system. This makes it a common choice among hunters that need to hold an arrow for a minute before firing.
How can I use a crossbow?
Crossbows are excellent weapons for hunting deer, elk, rabbits, and other animals. The arrows or bolts used as ammunition can often be reused, unlike the bullets in hunting rifles. In addition, as opposed to a firearm, the crossbow is relatively silent. Though some types are quieter than others, they’re all still quieter than a gunshot. This means that a shot can be missed with this weapon without spooking prey for miles around.
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The oldest bow in the world
It lies quietly in a glass case on the ground floor of the National Museum of Denmark in the centre of Copenhagen, just a couple of hundred yards from the Christianborg Palace where the World Archery Championships were held in July 2015.
In four pieces, it’s 64 inches long and a glowing, deep brown colour, resting next to a wooden paddle and a skeleton of a prehistoric horse.
It is known as the Holmegaard bow, and it’s one of several bows found during WW2 in the peat bogs of Denmark. At first glance, it’s not the most incredible sight in the world, for something so important to history. The small sign on the wall doesn’t really do it much justice, and there are hundreds of other things to draw the eye in the ‘Prehistory’ section and all over this interesting museum.
Because this is the oldest bow in the world. Or rather, it’s the oldest complete bow, and the oldest existing bow we know about, and the oldest thing that is unquestionably a bow. As a piece of technology, it’s striking how modern it looks – elegant and symmetrical. The second bow found is even longer (170cm / 66in), and there are fragments of more.
It is dated to around 7000 years BC, in the Mesolithic period. This date is not particularly in question, but it was based upon the layers it was found in. The heavy formaldehyde preservative it was treated with after its removal from the safe, oxygen-free confines of the bog has hindered any further attempts at chemical or carbon dating.
Bows and arrows obviously existed for many thousands of years before the Holmegaard bow, but this piece of dark elm is the ‘stop date’. No one knows exactly when bow and arrow technology was first invented. Some scientists believe it was invented closer to 70,000 years ago, which would put it towards the tail end of the Paleolithic.
I spoke to research fellow Lasse Sorenson after my visit: “The bow was found in 1944, during the second world war. There was a shortage of coal, and people started digging up the peat bogs on the island of Zealand for fuel.”
“These bows were made and used by people of the Maglemose culture. They were sophisticated nomadic hunters who had jewellery, domesticated dogs and decorated dugout canoes.”
“But they have found triangular worked flints which are almost certainly arrowheads from the Solutrean period in Europe, over 20,000 years ago.”
“So this was a piece of technology that had probably already gone through thousands of iterations already. It’s really a very sophisticated machine.”
Many bowyers have produced reproductions of the Holmegaard bow, and it is regarded as one of the classic European wooden self bows of antiquity along with the Mollegabet and Meare Heath bows. It has a characteristic design with wide, tapering limbs and a cutaway handle, which Sorenson believes would have been wrapped in leather. It is an efficient weapon even today.
“At the time Denmark and much of the rest of northern Europe would have been covered in dense forest. There would have been plenty of large animals: aurochs, red deer, wild boar, fish. It would have been a good place to hunt.”
The bow communicates across the millennia. It tells us, in an almost mystical way, something about what people were thinking. The culture that built the Holmegaard bow was contemporary with and archeologically related to a site in Britain – then still just about connected to mainland Europe by a land bridge – known as Star Carr. This site is most famous for the extraordinary headdresses made out of red deer skulls, one of which I photographed in Cambridge earlier this year.
Whoever the craftsmen who built the Holmegaard bow were, they were likely part of a culture who bound hunting, religion and magical thinking together in ways that it is almost impossible to imagine now. The bow, and possibly the bowyer, may have been a source of great power and infused with a deep magic, as humans stumbled into the Holocene. Nothing would ever be the same again.