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The Way of the Gun: Get Involved



Hōjutsu is the way of the gun.  The word in Japanese is made up of two kanji: 砲 and 術, which mean "gunnery" and "technique" respectivley.  Largely unheard of outside of Japan, the martial art uses feudal era techniques and weapons.
Explore this page to get an overview of the guns, equipment and gunners of the Matsumoto Castle Gun Corps.


There were different types of matchlock.  The names of these guns changed, depending on the size of the gun and the intended battlefield role.

Tanzutsu - Matchlock pistol

Bajouzutsu - Carbine, or literraly 'cavalry gun'

Banzutsu - Numbered gun, or infantry gun

Chuzutsu - Medium barrel gun

Zamazutsu - Wall gun or loop hole gun

Samuraizutsu - Custom made samurai gun

Ozutsu - Large calibre gun, or hand cannon

Torizutsu - Bird hunting gun, small game hunting gun

(sometimes used without bullets - to scare animals)


Just like modern firearms, the matchlocks have several major components that make up the weapon.  Here are some of the major parts:

Tsutsu (zutsu) - Barrel

Dai - Stock

Hibasami - Serpentine, hammer arm

Hibuta - Pan cover

Hizara - Flash pan, pan tray

Meate - Sight

Bisen - Breech plug

Hikigane - Trigger

Anzengane - Trigger guard


Karuka – Ramrod
Monme - Caliber
Hinawa - Matchcord
Koyaku - Priming powder
Kayaku - Gunpowder
Doran - Waist box, ammunition box
Tama - Bullet
Muneate - Chest protector
Dougu - Tools


Did the samurai use guns?

Yes. It was not only the infantry that used firearms, but the samurai as well.
Samurai were expected to provide their own armour and weapons, and amongst those weapons are some finely decorated and large calibre guns.

The Matsumoto Castle Gun Corps continues to use and research guns that were owned by samurai gunners, from the Japanese feudal era.

Did the samurai think guns were dishonourable?

No. Although there is a popular misconception around this, there is no evidence to suggest samurai thought the use of guns was dishonourable.

In fact, samurai as the ruling caste of Japan dictated the way that their armies and servants fought. It was the samurai that ordered tens of thousands of guns into production and it was the samurai that trained and commanded units of gunners, on the battlefield.

Many samurai actively pursued studies of firearms, and really just viewed it as a "martial arts" weapon, alongside the spear, bow, sword, etc. Further proof of this is the Satsuma rebellion; while the movie "The Last Samurai" portrays this as a traditionalist movement and shows the rebels refusing to use guns, this is not the case at all. In fact one of the first targets these rebels went after was a military warehouse to acquire more modern firearms.

Watch this short video to find out more.

Were these guns easy to use?

Generally speaking the guns are simple to use. In the same way that basic combat skills in all infantry weapons were. Ashigaru, or the infantry were often equipped with weapons that did not need years of training to be proficient. This is because as a militia (during the Warring States Era, at least), these merchants, artisans and farmers were conscripted for service - and not professional soldiers. They were expected to be able to use more than one type of weapon. But it was firearms that were the most lethal type of weapon, at that time.

However as soldiers they were not just expected to ‘pull the trigger’. Most of an ashigaru’s time is spent away from the battlefield; battles lasting hours or perhaps days and the build up to the battle lasting weeks, months and even years. As such all of the infantry were also expected to also;

  • Undertake camp construction

  • Reap rice fields

  • Conduct patrols

  • Conduct guard duties

  • Secure camp areas or villages

  • Inspection duties

  • Luggage and supply duties

  • Help samurai in all cases

The training of an ashigaru was therefore not reduced by the introduction of firearms.

When did guns arrive in Japan?

‘Guns’ existed in Japan since around the mid 1200’s in the form of hand cannons. However, the introduction of firearms with a mechanism for shooting the weapon was 1543.

There is some documentation to suggest that these ‘western style’ guns may have arrived before this time via pirates and south Chinese traders.

However with the arrival of matchlock guns on Tanegashima island in 1543, the capacity to reproduce and make new guns also arrived.

Did guns change the way battles were fought?

Yes. New tactics and ways to achieve success on the battlefield come with the introduction of any new kind of warfare.


Support the Matsumoto Castle Gun Corps

It is free to support the Matsumoto Castle Gun Corps.  Just follow our social media links at the top of the page and be sure to follow, subscribe and like our content.

Every click creates a better online presence for our team.  We enjoy hearing from our friends and followers from around the globe.

So get involved with samurai culture by checking out our social media and website!

Unfortunately we are unable to take on any new gunners at present.  Check back in the future of follow or posts on social media to find out when we are recruiting next.

The Way of the Gun: Welcome
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