Japanese Arrows – Arrowhead Pride

Japanese Arrows are better known simply as Ya. These are arrows used in Kyudo or Japanese archery. These are the same Japanese arrowheads used by Samurai during Feudal Japan. Japanese arrows are a few meters longer than its Western counterpart. This is because Japanese bows are drawn in greater length as well. In terms of inches, Ya is in between 34 to 38 inches long. Traditional Japanese arrowheads are made from natural materials like fire hardened shaft and steel arrowhead while modern ones are made out of aluminum. Traditionally speaking most of these arrowheads are made of special species of bamboo known as Yadake and fletched with feathers from the wings of huge birds of prey. Even if the bamboo arrows are still preferred the fletching today used turkey, swan and other commercial kinds of bird’s wings. Durable aluminum shafts are used in high schools or clubs for novice practitioners.

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Japanese arrows that curved to the left are known as Haya or first arrows while those that curved to the right are second arrows and are known as Otoya. Each of these has its purpose because Haya rotates clockwise while Otoya rotates counter clockwise. War arrows are referred to as Soya or Seisen. However, arrows for fighting are referred to as Shuraya whereas those used in the battlefield are referred to Senjonoya. As for the parts of these arrows here they are: No is made out of bamboo that has different shapes. Typically these are from the Kanto area of Japan since it has a moderate climate. Fletching refers to the outermost tail feathers of large birds of prey. Nock or Hazu are made from goat or deer horn. These have bamboo nocks. Arrowheads are made for target practice with a cone shape iron tip.

Different Types of Japanese Arrowheads

  • Togari-Ya. These are pointed war arrows that have lance shaped head which are fitted like that of a soya
  • Kaburaya. The name given was derived from the shape of the turnip however; this arrow has either bell shape or ball shape head. The shape causes a whistling or wailing sound when it is shot. Points from wild goose are used for this arrowheads
  • Karimata. This is referred to as Rope cutter. However, this is used for hunting and not for battle. The name refers most likely to its ability to cut ropes
  • Watakuri. This is a sub class of Togari-Ya with a spear shaped head and come with long sharp barbs. This is often use to mete out blood in exchange for vengeance
  • Yanagi-Ba. This has elaborate saw cut patterns. This type was used during the Momoya period until the relatively peaceful Edo period
  • Hitokoshi No Soya. This is a set of twenty five or sixteen war arrows which the archer carries in Japanese bows. Each of the quiver carries top (uwasashi) and middle arrows (nakasashi)

Japanese Arrows Used For Target Practice and Competition

  • Tsunogi. This was the name given for practice arrows used to shoot at straw bale targets. The head was made of horn
  • Batsunogi. This is the name of an arrow that is without feathers. This is the ancestor of the modern day Japanese arrow
  • Matoya. This is the historic arrow for shooting. This had a natural color shaft but, later on was burned black or brown
  • Sashiya. These are piercing arrows. This is the best kind for shooting. The heads were made of wood

Arrows Used for Hunting and Sports

  • Jindo. This means head of god. This is use to hunt dog
  • Karimata. This was a hunting arrow with a forked point. This has thick ball shaped wrapping on its head
  • Kurikuya. This is use for hunting waterfowl as evidence by the bulge that was hollowed out inside. This has the ability to float in water. Small forked heads distinguishes this from other Japanese arrows use to hunt or in sports
  • Noya. This is also referred to as Shishiya. This resembles war arrows although this is used for bear and stag hunting
  • Shime. This is referred to as Naruya. This looks similar to Jindo. However, this one is used to stun animals and not to kill it

How to Care for Japanese Arrowheads

Since these Japanese arrows are made of bamboo it can be easily damage when expose to excessively dry conditions. A special kind of oil is use and rubbed periodically through these arrows to protect it. These are either oil of walnut or camellia. Walnut oils are safe to use for wood even if it is really use for cooking. It is also for this reason why this is safe to use on arrowheads. Camellia oil on the other hand comes from tea. This is deep penetrating oil. The feathers can be lightly steamed back to shape. This process will loosen the binding agent that sometimes makes the feathers stick to each other. The metal parts which are actually seen on the points of the arrows may rust if these are not use regularly. Rust can easily be removed using fine grain sandpaper. Broken arrows can still be repaired by someone who is well-skilled as an arrow maker. The standard arrows use by novices must not be repaired because the cost of having this repaired outweighs the cost of repair. Novices would be better off purchasing new arrows.

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Still, there are special types of arrow like Hikimenoya which has an egg shaped bulge. Just like one of the major types of arrows this one allows air to enter the head producing a screeching sound. Hiya is known as flame or fire arrow. This was use to destroy fortresses and castles during the clan war of Genji. Still, Japan is not just known for its famous Japanese bows but, poisonous arrows. These are dokuya which is smeared with the juice of the monk’s hood plant while totokinoya has a poisonous feather shaft. However, following the code of Bushido, these poisoned weapons are considered as dishonorable. Ninja are known for using poisonous arrows and they are not considered as honorable fighters. This only proves that there is more than meets the eye when it comes to Japanese Bows and arrows.