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  • Writer's pictureMatt Okuhara

Guns and Samurai

Did the samurai think guns were dishonourable?

There is an ongoing misconception that the samurai either did not use guns, or thought that they were dishonourable. Partly this belief is born out of popular media but also a misunderstanding of Japanese history and feudal warfare.

As the ruling caste and military elite of feudal Japan, the samurai were not only the leaders and commanders of the warring armies; they were also the instructors; the diplomats and the politicians.

During the Sengoku Jidai the introduction of firearms in 1543 revolutionised warfare on Japanese battlefields. Conversely the current iteration of Bushido came around 1603 - once the country was unified and a full sixty years after the arrival of western style guns to Japan.

The samurai, ordered tens of thousands of guns into production for the ashigaru and had fine custom matchlocks crafted for themselves. They trained the infantry in hōjutsu (the way of the gun) and commanded them in battle. Often the samurai would be expected to take on the most dangerous and difficult objectives, where courage and skill were as vital as the weapons they carried.

Teppo, or hinawaju as these guns are also

known as, continued to be a part of military stockpiles for generations during the Tokugawa Era - until the samurai era ended during the Meiji Restoration.

Many of these weapons from the past can be found in Japan still; from the mass produced guns of the infantry to the finely crafted guns of the samurai. Matsumoto Castle in Nagano Prefecture is the home of one of Japan’s most significant firearm museums…

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