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Home > Part 9
Japanese Archery and Archers
by E. Gilbertson
Part 9 of 12

A very remarkable arrow-head, that would naturally be taken for a spear-head, were it detached from the shaft, is that which belonged to Toshihito Shogun. It has a blade 9 3/4 inches long and 7/8 of an inch broad, crossed at its lower part by another one curved, 8 1/2 inches long, both of them with sharp edges. The tang is 1 foot 7 inches long, and the shaft of the arrow 3 feet 4 inches, with a diameter of only 1/2 an inch [Plate IV., c]. It may be useful to state that we not infrequently meet with arrow-heads that are confounded with spear-heads, and so denominated-a mistake doubtless arising from their size, the head last described being very similar both in shape and size, though much lighter, to a spear-head in my possession.

Besides the type of arrow named above, there are several others that are not used in war, such as the tsunoki-ya, an arrow tipped with bone or hard wood; the mato-ya and the sasi-ya, blunt arrows with heads of wood, used for target practice. The kuri-ya was an arrow made from a peculiar bamboo from Mount Koyasan, having a wooden head, and fletched with wild ducks' feathers; it was used like the preceding, for shooting at marks or targets at a distance of 60 ken, or rather more than 100 yards.

Among the later arrow-heads we find many pierced and saw-cut [Plate IV., h]. A pattern largely used for the willow-leaf arrows is a sakura flower, or two of them superposed [Plate VI.]. But besides this, we find sentences or words left solid, the rest of the metal being cut away, such as "Hachiman dai Bosatsu;" "Rio," a Dragon ; " Atagoyama," the hill near Kioto; "Baichiku," Plum and Bamboo; " Kwa, Cho," flowers and birds, etc. [Plate VI.].

Although steel arrow-heads are by no means scarce both in Europe and America, I have met with no descriptions of bows or arrows in any collection, and no one seems to have given much attention to the subject Almost the only available sources of information that I know of are the illustrations of the contents of the temple treasuries, which have fortunately been made by careful and competent artists, and are accompanied by much useful detail. Not only have the bows and arrows of the Japanese a peculiar character which gives them a special interest, but many of the quivers are of a style and shape so utterly different from any others with which we are acquainted, that it is somewhat surprising that none, excepting the most common of them, seemed to have reached Europe. This neglect of the subject appears to me all the more regrettable because, unless carefully preserved, these weapons, from the very material of which they are made, the arrow-heads excepted, will, before many years have passed, disappear altogether.

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