Feudal Japan was a period of constant war and fighting. Out of necessity, the Japanese developed a vast array of weaponry was developed for use both by samurai and ninja.

Katana – Long Sword

The katana is a curved, single-edged sword traditionally used by all samurai. The sword was deemed to be “the soul of the samurai”.

The long blade (average length: 70cm) was used for open combat and was swung in a slashing movement that sliced at the enemy and severed limbs.

The long sword was made of high-carbon steel, and so sharp that it could easily cut a man in two, even through their armour.

Wakizashi – Short Sword

The wakizashi (meaning ‘side arm’) is a Japanese sword with a blade between 30 and 60 cm.

The shorter blade was more suited for stabbing, close quarters combat, decapitating defeated opponents, and seppuku, a form of ritual suicide.

The two swords together were called the daisho and represented the social power and personal honour of the samurai.

Bokken – Wooden Sword

A bokken is a wooden Japanese sword used for training, usually the size and shape of a normal katana.

Bokken are lethal weapons in themselves and Miyamoto Musashi was infamous for fighting fully armed foes with only one or two bokken.

Yumi and Ya - Bow and Arrow

The bow and arrow was the most effective long range weapon available during Japanese feudal times until the introduction of guns.

The yumi and ya was the samurai’s original weapon of choice before the sword. Samurai had to learn to fire one proficiently standing, kneeling and mounted on horseback.

The yumi (Japanese bow) is exceptionally tall standing over two meters, surpassing the height of the archer (kyudoka), and is traditionally made of bamboo, wood and leather. Ya (arrow) shafts are made of bamboo, with either eagle or hawk feathers.

Tanto - Knife

The tanto is a single or double-edged knife with a blade length between 15 and 30 cm, designed mainly as a stabbing weapon.

The tanto was a favorite weapon of the ninja, because of its lightness and utility. The ninja also used the tanto to pry open doors, dig holes or small ditches, or they threw it like a shuriken.

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© Chris Bradford 2021