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Japanese Archery and Archers
by E. Gilbertson
Part 12 of 12

One advantage of papers such as this was that it stirred up collectors to study more closely their possessions, and to elicit more knowledge from them.

With regard to arrow-heads, he was ashamed to say that he had put away the few which he possessed, and had not carefully examined them until a few days ago.

The following points then occurred to him.

The ornament, except where it is a monogrammatic text, is almost exclusively derived from the floral or vegetable kingdom, twenty-one out of twenty-seven of his pieces bring thus decorated.

Of these twenty-one more than half had the king of flowers, the sakura (cherry), in one form or another. Besides this there was the umé (plum), trefoil, gourd, and the beautiful form of the arrow-head rush (sagittaria sagittifolia) utilized in its natural form in Japan, whereas here it only derives its name from its resemblance to an arrow. It is as common a river-side flower in Japan as in England, where within the memory of man it has been found between Westminster and London Bridges. In Japan this vulgarity has not prevented its being taken as the crest of no less than seven noble families, some, such as the Mori and Mizimo, dating back many centuries.

One form of ornament Mr. HUISH believed that he had unravelled the meaning of from his survey, and that was the heart shape, which is so frequently found upon the scabbards of swords and other articles, and which had been deemed by French authorities to be of Buddhistic origin. From its conjunction on these arrow-heads with the cherry, and its resemblance in form, it might very probably be an adaptation of one of the petals of that flower, which it must be remembered is regarded in Japan not only as the national flower, but the king of the floral kingdom. Instances of its use will be found in Plate VIII., which represent some of those in the speaker's collection, in which the heart-shaped ornament occurs.

One can ever examine any old piece of Japanese workmanship, without being struck by its thoroughness, and this is again exemplified in these arrow-heads, some of which have the maker's name damascened in gold upon the tang where it could never be seen once it was mounted.

Mr. HARDING SMITH, Member of Council, asked whether the large, highly decorated arrow-heads were ever used as ex-votos* as well as being employed for ceremonial or processional purposes. He asked this because he had a large arrow-head in his possession pierced and cut with the prayer formula of the Nichiren Buddhists, "Namu-mio-horen-ge-kio," which meant, he believed, "Salutation to the Lotus of the sacred Law." There did not appear to be anything very warlike about these words. Of course with regard to those inscribed with the name of Hachiman, it was different, he was the god of war, and his name was often used on weapons in the same manner as that of Fudo.

In reply to Mr. Harding Smith the CHAIRMAN said that he was not aware that the highly elaborate arrow-heads were ever used as ex-votos or carried in processions. Perhaps Mr. Gilbertson would be able to furnish the required information.

In reply to Mr. Stannus the CHAIRMAN said that the advantage of the peculiar Japanese method of discharging from the lower part of the long bow was undoubtedly for the facility it afforded for the bowman to crouch behind the shield he carried into battle. The non-use of poisoned arrows was probably, as Mr. Stannus suggested, the indisposition of a brave people to adopt so unsportsmanlike a mode of destroying an enemy.