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Military & Japanese Weapons

Military & Japanese Weapons

9 min read

Would you like to know more about the military and the Japanese Weapons? 

You should know that Japan is the 4th military power in the world. It is civilians at the base who have adopted the best military strategy. Self-defense allowed them to deploy great methods!

The alliance of civilians in self-defense mode and the culture of Japanese Temple have allowed Japan to build the strongest military in the world.


Military History

Japan's military history tells of a vast period of war, of strategy that founded its current policy. It is characterized by a long period of clan warfare that was followed by feudal wars that resulted in military governments known as shogunate. Japanese history is distinguished by the fact that the military class with the Shōgun ruled Japan for 676 years from 1192 to 1868 A.D. The Shōgun warriors and samurai were de facto at the top of the Japanese social structure! The sakoku policy closed Japan to foreigners for 212 years and Japan was influenced by the Western Colonial Empire and Western Imperialist powers in Asia. This led to Japanese colonialism and rampant imperialism until Japan's defeat in World War II. Apart from the U.S. occupation after World War II, Japan was never successfully invaded.


In the year 2000, the Constitution was reinterpreted to allow collective self-defense for its allies. Thus, Japan has a long military tradition with extensive militarism. Today, Japan is the 4th most powerful military in the world and holds several strategies that have been adopted in many countries.


A look back at traditional Japanese weapons

The Japanese were the kings of swords to fight and we still see it today with samurai, manga, movies with dragon inscriptions on the katanas or with the decoration.

It's very trendy in Japanese folklore to have weapons as decoration in one's home to spread the deep-rooted culture of the land of the rising sun.

There are different categories of edged weapons such as Japanese swords, short and edged weapons, ranged weapons or Japanese hatchets which represent the tradition of the country as well as kimono.

In almost all collections we see Japanese patterns with often for example on the japanese hoodie, t-shirt, tattoo or other representations of Japanese weapons.

  1. Japanese Swords

Among the Japanese swords, the most famous worldwide is probably the katana, the weapon of choice of the samurai. A katana is a curved sword with a fairly long (over 60 cm) and thin blade with a single edge. It was worn slid at the waist with the edge upwards.

The manufacturing process is complex. The Japanese did not have ore because of the volcanic nature of their island, so they used ferruginous sand. But huge quantities were needed (melting a block of steel requires to pour nearly 8 tons of this sand in a furnace and 13 tons of charcoal which takes about 3 days.

Then two weeks of hammering (to evenly distribute the carbon), stretching and bending before soaking the blade in cold water to harden it. Then polishing by a specialized craftsman with stones of decreasing grain (first granite, then sandstone and finally limestone), which took about 10 days. Finally to reveal the cutting edge a very fine stone along the wire. A sword must have been so sharp that, placed in the current of a stream, it cut in half a water lily passing over it. Famous craftsmen only made about ten blades a year. The sword soon became Japan's most famous export product.


The katana was used for several purposes: as a waist weapon (used for its sharpness), as a estoc weapon (used for its point) or as a ceremonial weapon (symbolic). During the Muromachi period, its production was the most important and so many famous blacksmiths became known for their legendary katanas.

A quality Katana had to be strong enough to pass through seven bodies stacked on top of each other.


Another type of sword is the Tsurugi which is a double-edged sword that was mainly forged during the Bronze Age in Japan. The term was used for short straight-bladed swords of this type. It is a very ancient sword form and was little used in the centuries that followed.


The most famous example of a Tsurugi is clearly the Kusanagi no Tsurugi, one of the three sacred treasures of Japan, still used today for the sacrament of the Japanese emperor. Indeed, this sword symbolizes the link between the goddess Amaterasu (solar goddess) and the imperial dynasty.



  1. Short Weapons

The Tanto is a Japanese knife of less than 30 cm. It was used by samurai as a piercing blade or even by female fighters. There are two main types: the hamidachi (with a small guard) and the aikuchi (no guard, fish skin handle).


These knives were also used to perform the ritual act of suicide, the Jigai (carotid section). Overall, they are the equivalent of our knives or daggers, but with a Japanese touch and a splendid sheath!

There is also the Kodachi is a small Japanese sword that can be compared to the Tanto. In reality, it is the ancestor of the Wakizashi with which it is often confused: the Kodachi dates from the Heian era while the other only appears during the Muromachi era.


Its shape is a little closer to the Tachi and therefore it is thinner and more curved than the Wakizashi. The Kodachi measures between 40 and 65 cm long, so it is placed between the Wakizashi and the Tanto in terms of size. It is often used in pairs in close combat or for assassinations.


  1. Remote weapons

Firstly, the Yumi is a Japanese bow. It was not only used by ninjas but was a definite advantage for the shadow warrior. It was less used than the Kunai, a short dagger in the shape of a point which was as much a tool as a weapon. Ninjas could also use a ninja sword, which was shorter and handier than a katana.


Among the many throwing weapons of the ninja, the most famous is undoubtedly the Shuriken, a metal star that could be thrown at opponents and coated with poison. Among the forms of Shuriken, the star is called the Shaken. Another effective weapon of the ninja was the Senbon, a set of metal needles that could be thrown and coated with poison!

The fan is a traditional Japanese object that was used a lot during hot weather but also as a formidable weapon used by the Geisha.

The Tessen is a Japanese fan-shaped edged weapon which is either a functional fan, made up of blades linked together and foldable (which has the advantage of being able to sharpen the blades so as to make the weapon sharp), or a steel block (sometimes containing a knife inside) which has the shape of a folded fan and is used to strike and parry.


Samurai often used tessen as a defensive weapon in the palaces of the daimyos or shoguns who often forbade the carrying of a sword or knife in their homes. On the other hand, a small-sized weapon is logically much more practical to use in a restricted environment, such as in a corridor or a room of a castle.

 Available in two main versions, the tessen is an iron fan weighing about 1 kg that could either house a small knife inside or be sharpened on its (iron) canvas to become an edged weapon. It is nowadays a collector's item, but one can see it in the great Japanese movies.

 Another remote weapon very well known in the world of movies is manga: The Shuriken.

Widely known as ninja stars although they come in different shapes and sizes.  This ninja accessory and japanese weapon has several points.Composed of a star with 4 branches for a diameter of about 10 centimeters, it could be thrown more than 10 meters with a sharp blow of the wrist.

These are sharp and effective small arms used by the great samurai.

To finish in beauty in the section of remote weapons, Nunchaku is the flagship weapon, famous and known all over the world.

It is necessary to know that at the base this weapon was used to beat the grains easily but it quickly became a weapon of the combat sport experts!



Built by connecting two sticks to a rope or a chain, the nunchaku is swung around the body to defend or attack. The actor and martial arts master Bruce Lee was a real expert with this weapon but also more funny like Kung fu panda.


  1. Japanese hatchet

Ono is a Japanese term for an axe or hatchet. Thus, it designates a wide variety of weapons and tools that share the same overall structure. Initially, it was used as a tool for cutting wood, but then it was discovered to have very interesting properties in combat.


The Masakari is a heavy combat axe that weighs about 4 kg and measures about 120 cm. Obviously used in hand-to-hand combat, it was handled mainly by warrior monks called Yamabushi whose weaponry varied significantly from that of the classical Bushi.


The blade was made of a heavy metal and very sharp on one side and a point on the other side to pass through the armor. Heavy and of negligible range, they were of little use on the battlefield against a spear, but could still inflict great damage.


The Sun Tzu strategy

To enter the world of Harajuku you need to know the story of Sun Tzu which is parfoit represented on Japanese kimono and jewelry.

This former teacher had defeated great military superpower such as France or the Commander had graduated from different military schools and was very well known in the war milieu.



Sun Tzu had a different view of him which allowed him to step out of the frame and exploit his full potential.

He is most famous as the author of the oldest known work of military strategy: The Art of War. The main idea of his work is that the objective of war is to force the enemy to give up the fight, even without combat, through cunning, espionage, great mobility and adaptation to the opponent's strategy. All these means must be employed to ensure victory at the lowest cost (human, material).

 The ideas of The Art of War have been taken up and adapted by various authors for strategy and especially corporate strategy. In a broader sense, The Art of War can be interpreted as a method of conflict resolution.

He was worse than the demon Hannya for the opponents since his calm, his reflection allowed him to overthrow great recognized people.

The end of the war in Japan...

The end of the war in Japan took place in 1945, as you all know. At least, I hope so. If not, I cry for you.

 Of course, Japan and its people had to face many traumas, caused by the number of dead, the material damage, but especially the two atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.


Japan had the need to recover, to take stock of these disasters, and the artistic community was very concerned, just like everyone else. World War II decimated a large part of the Japanese population, and of course many artists. Thus, we note the tragic disappearance of a whole wave of students in the fine arts who were supposed to be the new generation of artists of the time. There were also those taken prisoner in Soviet concentration camps, the seriously wounded, or simply those who disappeared without a trace. Here is a small but not complete list of the famous deceased (in pictures), artists that you will find in more or less specialized books on Japanese art of the time. Unfortunately, as there are not many reproductions on the internet, I can't guarantee the quality of the images in this article. It is also necessary to take into account that the artists were in great material difficulties at the time. Well yes, when all his income is dedicated to his survival, difficult to buy material. So they repainted on old canvases, wood, salvaged materials, old paper... And that was when your workshop had not been destroyed by the bombings...

After surrendering, Japan was placed under American administration, and under the authority of General Douglas McArthur.

The Americans, of course, had intentions in coming to Japan, the two main ones being to avoid Soviet expansion and to promote democracy. Thus, it was demanded that all images or traces of the war years be removed, so as not to allow nationalist or anti-American sentiment to spread.

The post-war period is not always a time for rejoicing. In one or two weeks, we will talk about the redesign of structures, and the redefinition of the Japanese artistic object, with the group Jikken Kobo.

 The war in Japan caused a lot of death but really showed the potential of this country. It is thanks to their creativity and their variety of traditional weapons that they became overpowering in the military!