continuation of the chapter "THE MAJOR MARTIAL ARTS: The Art of Archery":

Even when warfare evolved from clashes between clans into full-scale battles between major armies, foot soldiers still were called upon to release the concentrated power of their volleys of arrows against opposing forces. Moreover, because of the excellence of theor art, archers were assigned a position of privilege among the combined troops, a position which they retained long after the fifteenth century, when the strategic importance of the bow and arrow on the battlefield had declined substantially. Even as recently as the eighteenth century, "etiquette ordered that the archers should be placed at the left, the musketeers at the right, and the battle was formally opened by a shower of arrows" (Eliza Skidmore "The Japanese Yano-ne" from "Transactions and Proceedings of the Japan Society, vol.6". London: 1901-04). Gilbertson thought tha this art, like so many others, probably came to Japan from China:

"We frequently find archers represented on metal works, especially in Chinese costume, the subjects being derived from Chinese history. One of the most common of these is connected with the famous Chinese archer Yoyuki, whom [the Japanese] called the Shogun of Divine Archery. He is reported to have brought down a goose that was flying abode a cloud, and therefore invisible, his aim being directly solely by the cry of the bird" (Edward Gilbertson "Japanese Archery and archers" from "Transactions and Proceedings of the Japan Society, vol.4". London: 1895-98 )

Another theory in the doctrine of bujutsu links the beginning of this art to hunting (and, therefore, to the nomad tribes who inhabited the northern regions of Asia), and eventually to the Ainu, those white aborigines who were slowly pushed back into the Northern lands of Hokkaido (where they dwell even today) by the expanding Japanese culture of the south. The Ainu were recognized in early records of Japanese history as being skillful archers, both in hunting and warfare. Their bows, made of that particular wood (ouruma) which resembles yew (Edward Greey "The Bear-Worshipers of Yedo". Boston: Lee & Shepard, 1884), their arrows, with characteristic feathers (otsuba), and their flat quivers (ika) of well-carved willow are still precious specimens of a disappearing but once hightly developed craft.

Skilled makers of bows had placed an impressive variety of the basis design at the bushi's disposal. The bow came in all sizes and shapes and could be used for a variety of purposes related to warfare, hunting, ritual, or sport. The Japanese had even developed and perfected the crossbow, some of which "used in the old fortresses had bows 12 feet long and a foot in circumference. They also used smaller ones shot from the shoulder" (George Cameron Stone "A Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor". New-York: Jack Brussel Publisher, 1961). Specimens of the first type were called o-yumi, and bows of the second type, often found in museum collections, were known as teppo-yumi. In the latter category, the bow was about as long as the stock, which was made of bone or whalebone, often lavishly decorated. More difficult to locate are samples of the repeating crossbow (dokyu), which some authors link to Chinese models such as the chu-ko-no (Stone). A short bow was also available, in styles ranging from the highly maneuverable hankyu, which was used in battle, to the equally accurate yokyu used for amusement or the bow used for hunting, the suzume-yumi. The short bow (azusa-yumi) was also used by sorcerers in their incantations (Stone). A martial classic, the Buki Niyaku, describes and illustrates "five kind of bows: the maru-ki, or roundwood bow; the shige-no-yumi, or bow wound round with rattan; the bankyu and hankyu, similar bows but of smaller size; and the hoko-yumi, the Tartar-shaped bow" (Gilbertson).

It was bushi's proficiency in the use of one certain bow, however, that caused Chinese historians to call the Japanese "the people of the longbow." This was the war bow par excellence, the daikyu, used by warriors on horseback (uma-yumi) or on foot. It had a length ranging anywhere from seven feet four inches to eight feet; in ancient times, there were some that were nine feet long. In size, this particular bow seems to have been adopted on a wide scale by only one other people – the Soriono Indians of eastern Bolivia, studied by Holmberg, who has called them "the nomads of the long bow." The power (go) required even to bend such a bow must have been considerable. As Harrison indicated in his reminiscences, certain specimens of these bows that belonged to a member of the old, pre-Meiji buke "were so strong that I could hardly bend them at all, not to speak of using them with any hope of making a bull's eye, albeit the proprietor could handle them with comparative ease" (E.J. Harrison "The Fighting Spirit of Japan". London: W.Foulsham & Co., undated. Distributed in the U.S.A. by the Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., 419 Park Ave. So., New York). These bows were made of several lengths of wood (usually selected qualities of bamboo) glued together, with a characteristic bend near the end, called the shoulder (kata), which the bowstring (tsuru, tsura, tsurao) touched for a little distance. Interestingly enough, "this portion was faced with metal, and called the otokane; the bowstring striking against it when shooting produced a sound, often used for signalling. When the Mikado required water for washing in the morning, three of his attendants made a signal to that effect by twanging their bows" (Gilbertson). The bowstrings were made by skilled specialists (tsura-sachi) from long fibers of hemp, sinews, or silk (silk being used generally for ceremonial bows). The strings came in many qualities, ranging from the hard, strong bowstrings of war bows to the soft and elastic bowstrings (kusune) used for hunting and sports as well as war. Spare bowstrings were always carried in the quiver or in a special reed or leather basket (tsuru-maki), often lavishly decorated. There were, as Gilbertson tells us, "many kinds of quivers (yebira): some for war, others for the chase, besides more ornamental ones such as those worn by the zuijin or palace guards, in which the arrows were spread out behind their backs (somewhat like the tail of a peacock). These decorated quivers were called heikoroku" (Gilbertson).

Beginning with ancient models, such as the kachi-yuki, Stone divides all Japanese quivers into two broad categories. The first includes open quivers which kept the arrows apart, thus protecting their feathers and making them easily available to the archer. Fifty arrows could be covered in these open quivers, but they were eventually replaced by lighter, covered containers (yazutsu or yatsubo) in which fewer arrows were carried. These closed quivers, shaped like boxes, kept the arrows well protected from the vagaries of weather, but were rather inconvenient when it was essential to launch the arrows in rapid succession. Nonetheless, although the feathers might have become somewhat ruffled if the arrows were not securely fastened inside, the closed quivers were still considered more convenient by mounted archers because, according to Jonas, the arrows themselves were better protected during hectic rides (often over rough and hazardous terrain) and in all weather, however inclement.

Among the quivers of the second category, the doctrine of archery mentions the large and ancient dohyo-yari; the characteristic utsubo, usually covered with fur; and the strangely shaped tsubo-yamagui. Among the ceremonial quivers, the "most common among those found in temples is something like an armchair with a very high back and short leg, to which the arrows were secured by thongs as in the kari-yebira (hunting quiver). These quivers held from two to three dozen arrows and appear to have stood on the ground; and other quivers worn at the back were conical or quadrangular, often lacquered and decorated" (Gilbertson).

The quivers of the first category, or open type, such as the common kari-ebira, were "little more than a framework of bamboo, very light, to which the arrows were secured by thongs twisted around them" (Gilbertson). These were the quivers used in both hunting and war by bushi on foot, while it is presumed the heavier types were either carried by a higher-ranking bushi on horseback or carried by his attendants.

The fletcher or arrow maker (ya-haki) also offered the bushi a wide assortment of arrows (ya) whose shafts of reed (yagara) came in varying lengths, with heads (yajiri) of every possible shape and material, in accordance with their particular purposes. For example, in target practice, the bushi used blunt arrows (mato-ya) with pear-shaped wooden heads (ki-hoko), which were also used in the celebrated dog hunts (inuoi) and dog shooting (inuoumono) reportedly begun by Emperor Toba in the twelfth century.

Other interesting arrow heads were those supposedly derived from the Chinese whistling arrows (hao-shi, ming-ti) described by Laufer. They had perforated heads shaped like turnips (kabura-ya, hiniki-ya) "through which the air rushes with a whistling sound. Sometimes it is mounted with a steel head projecting from the end" (Stone). The sound (hyago) that was produced by these whistling arrows (hikime, meiteki) was particularly shrill and clear, making them very useful for signaling. With certain modifications they could also be used as rockets or fire arrows (hi-ya) against enemy fortifications.

Steel of the highest temper, was the chief material used for both hunting and war arrow heads, but no one has, as yet, classified them all because of the variety of shapes and sizes devised by generations of ya-haki. Their main divisions, as Gilbertson pointed out, seem to have been "the yanagi-ba or willow-leaf arrows; the togari-ya or pointed arrows; the karimata, bifurcated or two-pointed arrows; and the watakushi, flesh-tearer or barbed arrows. These were, however, subdivided into numerous forms" (Gilbertson). Photographs or drawings of these arrowheads available in public and private collections today give only a general idea of the tremendous variety of these arrowheads – each of which, in the highly specialized world of feudal Japan, had a specific purpose. The fact that pointed arrowheads that were skillfully designed could pierce even iron and steel plates was demonstrated, on the one hand, by the comparative ease with which an imperial archer once skewered a Korean shield sent as a gift to the emperor, and on the other hand by the composition and structure of the armor worn by the bushi, who had a healthy respect for the deadliness of his foe's arrows.

from the book "Secrets of the Samurai: A Survey of the Martial Arts of Feudal Japan" by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook (Castle Books, 1999)

to be continued...