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Weapons and Armor Used by Japanese Samurai Warriors

August 15, 2017

Weapons and Armor Used by Japanese Samurai Warriors

Samurai warriors, also referred to as bushi or buke, were among the most revered class of warriors in feudal Japan. Statistics show that only one in 10 of Japan's population were given this honor. While samurai warriors performed a variety of tasks, they were most recognized for their exceptional swordsmanship and fighting skills. Today, we're going to take a closer look at some of the weapons and armor used by Japanese samurai warriors.


Prior to Japan's Sengoku period ( 467 to 1567), the yumi proved instrumental in giving samurai warriors the upper hand on the battlefield. Measuring roughly two meters tall, this weapon was a very large longbow that warriors used for ranged attacks. It was typically made of bamboo, with hemp or similar fibers used for the string. It is said that a well-made and maintained yumi can last generations.


Perhaps the most popular sword used by samurai warriors in feudal Japan is the katana. This single-edged, curved bladed sword was superior to those used by opposing armies. Because they were constructed with high-carbon tamahagane steel and made using differential heat treatment, katanas were a highly effective weapon for samurai warriors in feudal Japan.


Samurai warriors typically carried both a long sword and a short sword. This combination was referred to as daisho, and only samurai warriors were given the honor of wearing it. Normally, a typical combination included the katana or uchigatana along with the tachi. The tachi typically measured 27 9/16 to 31 1/2 inches and featured a curved blade with a smaller point. Unlike the katana and uchigatana, however, the tachi was worn with the cutting edge facing down.


In addition to swords, samurai warriors also used bladed pole weapons, including the yari. Derived from Chinese spears, the yari is a straight-headed spear with one or more spearheads. The spearheads used in its construction was typically made of the same high-carbon tamahagane steel as the katana. Many samurai warriors preferred the yari over katanas and other swords when used against cavalry and armored foes. The yari was such a popular weapon, in fact, that the term sojutsu was used to describe the art of wielding it.


You might be surprised to learn that samurai warriors used cannons as well. Of course, this didn't happen until the 1500s, during which they were used against both structures and enemy personnel.


For armor, samurai warriors typically wore yoroi, which was a type of body armor made of individual scales ( kozane). Some of the scales were made of leather, whereas others were made of iron. Once bound together, it create a strong and effective armor type that could withstand common attacks.

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