Unknown Arms – An Arsenal of the Forgotten Ancient Samurai Weapons in History

Samurai Weapons

The Samurai and his sword were inseparable. With that, the sword was often considered as the soul of the warrior. This is the reason why some people treat the Samurai and his Katana as synonymous terms.

Though the Katana is the Samurai warrior’s primary weapon, they also used a variety of other tools in battle. These warriors underwent training to be aware of their surroundings at all times. They also took notice of the changing environment on a daily basis.

Every Samurai warrior believed that being fully prepared to defend himself was vital. This is because the danger is unpredictable. He was always ready to fight at all times, so he had to use other tools aside from swords.

The Samurai and Chonin classes of feudal Japan relied on other improvised weapons. These functioned as alternatives for their swords. Aside from unpredictable defense, they also used this for unforeseen events.

How did Daily Tools become Deadly?

Everyday objects had simple functions, and the Samurai found ways to use these creatively. Most of these were tools for daily activities, but the Samurai used them for self-defense.

The daily tools that the Samurai used included brush cases, pipe cases, ink, utensils, and more. Aside from the Samurai, merchants and artisans carried these for self-defense as well. They kept these tools in their Obi to keep them concealed. Here are the unknown arms of the Samurai:

The Kogatana and Kozuka

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Kogatana refers to a small utility blade. The Samurai often carried this in a tiny slot close to the top of a Wakizashi or Tanto Saya. One of the blade’s sides is polished flat while the other has a sharp edge. Its Tang is small and was in its handle, which was the Kozuka.

The Samurai utilized the Kogatana as a small dagger or knife for basic purposes. It was also an alternative to throwing knives or the Shuriken. This was for distracting or blinding attackers in combat.

What was in the Second Slot of the Tanto and Wakizashi Saya?

Source: Wikimedia Commons

The Kogai was a skewer with a blunted tip. It usually had a slot in the Saya of the Wakizashi or Tanto. Some people believe that the Kogai was for thrusting through an opponent’s ear. This was after decapitating them and letting everyone know who won the battle.

Kabutowari – the Destroyer of Skulls and Helmets

The Kabutowari was another unknown sidearm of the Samurai warrior. It looks like the Jitte and its blade can split an opponent’s helmet in two. Usually, its length was 35 centimeters, but significant versions were around 45 centimeters. There were also two types of Kabutowari: the truncheon type and the dirk type.

The truncheon type was blunt, cast iron or forged, and it resembled a Jitte or a Tekkan. Like the dirk type, it had a basic shape, but since it was blunt, it was not for stabbing.

The dirk type, on the other hand, was forged with a sharp point like that of a dirk. It could be for parrying an enemy’s sword to hook the cords of armor or helmet. For the sharp points, this was for piercing weak and unprotected areas of an enemy’s armor. Its blade was curved, tapered steel or square iron bar featuring a hook on the back edge.

Like the Jitte, the dirk type can be used by parrying and catching a blade with its hook. Sometimes, the wielder would mount this type of Kabutowari like a Tanto with Koshirae.

The Yatate – How can a Writing Tool be a Weapon?

Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the Edo Period, the Yatate was a writing tool that resembled a dipper. It had a long, sleek, and hollow handle, as well as a larger ink retainer.  In the handle, a brush or a small knife can be stored in it.

Although not well documented, the Samurai passed the Yatate on to merchants and commoners. This was evident in woodblock prints that showed commoners carrying the tool. Since only the Samurai had the privilege to carry swords, the Yatate might have become the commoner’s weapon of self-defense.

Commoners attached the Yatate to their Kimono Obi using a decorative button or a cord. It was more common to see it under the sash.

Jitte or Jutte?

The Jitte is also known as the Jutte. It is a steel rod with a handle and one or two hooks along the blade’s edge. The Samurai used this to catch a felon’s sword to disarm and take him alive.

Officers used the Jutte by fitting this with a tassel and cord. The cords’ colors varied based on an officer’s rank. When a policeman was arresting a criminal, he had the permission to attach an arresting route called the Torinawa to the Jutte.

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The Kanabo

The Kanabo was a war club that was usually made of metal. Other versions are made of iron or wood. It had studs or spikes for the Samurai warrior to destroy their enemies’ warhorses and armors. It was a heavy weapon that required mastery of strength and balance.

This weapon came in all shapes and sizes. The largest ones were life-sized, while the smallest ones having the length of a forearm. For its shape, it resembled a baseball bat, with a thick and heavy tapering towards its slender handle. The shaft cross-section could be polygonal or round.

Kusari Fundo

The Kusari Fundo resembled the Kusarigama of the Shinobi. It featured a short-chain measuring 2 to 3 feet, with a steel weight on one or both ends. To counter longsword techniques without another sword, a Samurai warrior used the Kusari Fundo. This weapon was easy to create and conceal.

The Kusari Fundo had no set rules on its construction. The sizes of the chain and weight varied. It was also known as the Manriki Gusari which translates to “ten thousand power chain”.


Photo Credits: Wikimedia Commons

During the Edo period, the Samurai and Chonin class members commonly used the Kiseru. This was a tobacco pipe that they often carried in its case which was the Kiseruzutsu. The common materials used for its case include leather, wood, animal horn, bamboo, or woven straw.

In feudal Japan, the Kiseru were made of precious metals. It featured intricate designs that symbolized a high social status. Those with metal ends and hard rods were stabbing and thrusting weapons for self-defense.

The mouthpiece and bowl were often made of metal. In between these were a tubular shaft of bamboo or wood that stretched in between. Since each Kiseru was a rod that featured metal ends, the longer ones could be carried as weapons. A lot of Kiseru also had elaborate designs that skilled artisans engraved. This also showed the owner’s status symbol.

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