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Home > Books > A Study of Bows and Arrows > Japanese Bows
Bows

Japanese Bows

A Japanese archer, Mr. H. Shimizu, of San Francisco, gave me the opportunity to shoot one of his target bows (pl. 7). It was the usual composite, reflexed bow of his people. Its length was approximately 7 feet 4 inches and it measured approximately 1 inch square at the hand­grip, which is situated at some distance below the center. It seems that the Japanese gauge the strength of their bows by the diameter at the handle. The cross-section of a limb is practically quadrilateral.

The bow under trial was of medium strength. It weighed 48 pounds when drawn 28 inches though it was capable of being drawn 34 inches or more. It cast the Japanese target arrow that was employed by Mr. Shimizu, drawn to its full length—32 inches—a distance of 156 yards. Ishi's flight arrow, drawn 29 inches, made a distance of 182 yards. Mr. Shimizu was not able to better these distances. He had several weaker bows, weighing about 35 pounds, which were not tried for their cast. I was unable to obtain a strong Japanese military bow. Doubtless it is an excellent weapon.

Mr. Shimizu gave me a short section of a bow which he had sawed in two. It was composed of five pieces of wood, the three in the center being respectively mulberry, bamboo, mulberry, while the belly and back were thin strips of bamboo. These were glued together and bound at intervals with rattan or bamboo ribbon.

The string was most excellently made of twisted hemp fiber, sized with some sort of glue or starch, and served at the loops with red silk ribbons. Although about ⅛ of an inch in diameter, which is the size of an English bow string, this Japanese string was not strong enough to stand the strain of a 50-pound English longbow, but promptly broke when used.

The Japanese target arrows are of bamboo, 34 inches in length, ⅜ in diameter, nicely feathered with fish hawk feathers, and have a very true flight. The nock is an inserted plug of some hard white wood resembling box­wood, while the pile or point is a short conical iron cap. Their weight is 448 grains.

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