Y Llwynog (yllwynog) wrote in kyudou,
Y Llwynog

Types of arrows:


War arrows were often called soya or seisen, but also shuraya (arrow for the fighting ground) or senjonoya (arrow for the battlefield). These had a black lacquer bamboo shaft and a grooved end (yohazu), were usually fitted with falcon feathers, and had a lacquer-coated wrapping on the end of the shaft, the netamaki. The arrowheads were mostly spear-shaped.

A hitokoshi no soya was a set of twenty-five, twenty, or sixteen war arrows, which the archer carried with him in a quiver. Every quiver with more than twenty arrows contained the so-called uwasashi (top arrow) and nakasashi (middle arrow). The uwasashi had the form of a kaburaya, the nakasashi that of a togariya.

Togariya was a war arrow with a lance-shaped head, which was fitted out like the soya.

Watakuri, the gut ripper, was a kind of togariya with a spear-shaped head, which was provided with long sharp barbs. This arrow is said to have been the arrow of choice for blood vengeance.

Kaburaya (from kabura = turnip) is an arrow with a bell-shaped or ball-shaped head made out of hard wood or horn. The holes made on the heads of these arrows caused the arrows to give out a whistling, wailing sound when shot. These whistling heads had points in the form of karimata or ganmata attached to them, iron points in the form of the foot of a wild goose, although sometimes other kinds of points were used.


Tsunogi was the name for a practice arrow used to shoot at straw-bale targets. It had an attached nock; the head was commonly made of horn.

Botsunogi was the name of an arrow that was a tsunogi without feathers. It is more or less the ancestor of the arrow used nowadays to shoot at makiwara.

Matoya, the historic arrow for target shooting, initially had a natural-colored shaft but later was burned brown or black, or else was colored black, brown, or red by lacquering. The attached nock was fastened on with a wrapping of paper fibers. For fletching, eagle feathers (maha = genuine feather) or feathers of other birds were used, but never feathers of the hawk, stork, or eagle owl. Originally the feathers were fastened on with bark wrappings, later also with wrappings of paper fiber. The point was formed of an arrowhead (itazuki) that was fashioned of paper wrapping on the end of the shaft. A thin metal cap was fitted over this point.

The form and structure of the mato arrow has remained the same up to the present day. The only differences are that silk thread is used to fasten the feathers on, and the metal point is now placed directly on the bamboo shaft.

Sashiya (piercing arrows) and kururiya were two arrow types preferred for shooting long distance. The shafts and the fletching were kept relatively simple. The heads were made of wood.


Noya (also called shishiya) was a hunting arrow that was very similar to the war arrow; it was the arrow of choice for bear and stag hunting.

Karimata was a hunting arrow with a forked iron point, a kind of kaburaya with thick, ball-shaped wrapping on the head.

Kururiya was an arrow that had a kabura or bulge that was hollowed out inside so that, when used for hunting waterfowl, the arrow would float on water. Small forked iron heads were used.

Jindo is literally translated as "head of a god". This was an arrow that ended in a kabura. The types principally used for hunting dog were kazujindo (multiple jindo) and hitotejindo (simple jindo). Attached heads are rare on these arrows. The feathers were often attached to the shaft in their natural form.

Shime (also called naruya) is an arrow that resembles the jindo, which is supposed to have been used for hunting stag, not to kill the animal but rather to stun it.


Hikimenoya (toad-eye arrow) has an egg-shaped bulge roughly 10 to 20 centimeters in length made from bamboo or horn and has several holes in the head. As air enters the head during the shot, the holes produce, as with the kabura, a whistling, screeching noise. The inuoi hikime was used for dog hunting, the kasakake hikime as a signal in competitions, and the sanya no hikime to drive awat evil spirits.

Hiya (fire or flame arrow) was used as early as the twelfth century during the clan war of the Genji against the Heike to destroy fortressed and castles. The hiya is said to have had a kabura that was filled with inflammable material. The shaft was made of iron, which was wrapped with easily inflammable fabric; the arrow was often given stability through the use of wooden "feathers", which were also impregnated with inflammable substances (oil, ignition powder, tar). The hiya was shot not only by archers but also by crossbow-like catapults, whose range is said to have been about 270 meters.

Two types of poison arrows were known in Japan: (1) dokuya, the head of which was smeared with the juice of the monk's hood plant; and (2) totokinoya, an arrow with a poisoned feather shaft.

In the literature the Japanese mention that they themselves never used these arrows, but this type of arrow was utilized by "foreigners". According to the code of bushido, poisoned weapons were considered dishonorable. However, a special the ninja demonstrably also used poison as a means in fighting.

from the book "KYUDO: The Way of the Bow" by Feliks Hoff, translated by Sherab Chödzin Kohn (Shambala, 2002)
Tags: arrow types, f.hoff
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