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Out of all the samurai weapons, but the japanese katana is the weapon that has come to represent the samurai the best. Bushido (The Way of the Warrior) states that the katana is the soul of the samurai, and sometimes a warrior is depicted as completely dependent on it in combat. The katana was so valuable that they were usually given names and regarded as part of the living.

The wakizashi was a samurai’s “honor weapon” and was supposedly with him all the time. A samurai would sleep with the wakizashi under his pillow. When he would enter a house and had to leave his main weapons outside, he would take his wakizashi with him.

The tanto, a small knife or dagger, was sometimes worn with or in place of the wakizashi in a daisho. The tanto or the wakizashi was used to perform seppuku, a form of ritual suicide by disembowelment. In modern times, these swords are sold together as a samurai sword set.

Famous samurai swords

Some well-known samurai swords are:

Ashikaga Yoshiteru’s sword, nicknamed Daihannya (Great Wisdom Personified), made by Osafune Nagamitsu. Kokuho (National Treasure). It has had several owners, some of them being Miyoshi Yoshitsugu, Miyoshi Chokei, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Oda Nubunaga, Okudaira Nobumasa and the Matsudaira clan.

Kuroda “Josui” Yoshitaka’s sword, made by Hasebe Kunishige. Kokuho. It was one of Oda Nobunaga’s favorite handmade samurai swords.

Emperor Meiji’s (favorite) sword, made by Ayanokoji Sadatoshi. Kokuho.

Oda Nobunaga’s sword, nicknamed Okadagiri, made by Ichimonji Yoshifusa. It was used by Oda Nobunaga’s son Oda Nobuo against Okada Sukesaburo in the Battle of Nagakute.

Other weapons

The samurai also utilized the yumi (longbow), an asymmetric composite bow made from wood, bamboo, rattan and leather. It retained its importance in the Japanese military even after the introduction of firearms during the Sengoku period. On foot, it was normally used behind a tedate (a large and movable bamboo wall). It could also be used from horseback due to its asymmetric shape.

The yari (spear) also became popular in the 15th century. It took the place of the naginata on the battlefield as combats became more dependent on foot troops wearing thick samurai armor.

In the latter half of the 16th century, the teppo or arquebus was introduced in Japan through Portuguese trade. Because the teppo was easy to use and very effective, several samurai saw it as an insult to tradition. Shortly after their introduction, teppo became mass produced, and by the end of the 16th century, there were more firearms in Japan than in any European country. In many ways, the teppo was a sharp contrast to the valor of samurai.

In the 1570s cannons became a common sight in samurai arsenal. They were usually mounted in castles or on ships, and were more often used against personnel rather than castle walls or the like. The first popular cannon in Japan were swivel-breech loaders dubbed kunikuzushi (province destroyers).

Staff weapons such as bo and jo were also sometimes used by the japanese samurai.