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Aspiring Hobby

Hi there,

As the topic states I have bit of questions regarding weapons. You see I am featuring a story of mine in the feudal era of Japan. So I wanted to know what kind of weapons were used during that era as well as the weapons used now?

I am familiar that in the past Katana was used more, but I wanted to know why? What benefits it had and what kind of poetic type or awed description could be given to the one using this?

Whereas for this present era, my MC goes from the future (meaning present) to the past so she will take a few weapons of the future in which gun is the most common option but I don't know the specifics of gun being used or how is it used? Or more of the fact what are the parts of a gun? Though I am not limited to guns only. If anyone can refer weapons which are most commonly used in this present time or more developed form of weapons of the past. The one I can give for example is a hand held Sai. I think they were developed just a century before.

Also the timeline in which my MC travels is from this time to five centuries in the past. So if anyone has any knowledge regarding very ancient type useful in fight weapons would be great. Does anyone know the making of weapons through some basic methods. Like the making of a knife or a bow and arrows?

I know it is regarding weapons but I also wanted to know how to build a fire, I mean if you were out camping then how would you prepare a base for fire. I mean what type of stones are to be collected, what kind of wood is to be needed?


10/5/2012 #1
which era? sengoku jidai or ashikaga shogunate? tanegashima, yumi, yari, katana are ashigaru while nodachi, yumi and yari are arata. there is zambatou. also for shinobi and kunoichi are specialized. naginata are warrior monk and onna bugeisha.
10/5/2012 #2
Aspiring Hobby


I am sorry but could you be a bit more explanatory? I am not much familiar with Japanese terms too much just on the basic level and it is Sengoku Jidai.

10/5/2012 #3
those are the name of weapon and the position which commonly use them. which faction is your main character? takeda DID not use tanegashima. also for their fighting philosophy are influenced by zen, confucius, dao, and sonshi .
10/5/2012 #4

Well, if you're discussing the weapons of feudal Japan, you need to recognize the caste system inherent in the discussion. It's true for feudal European weaponry and armor discussions as well, but slightly more obvious in Japan since the European one had a lot of wealth involved - not all landed nobility could actually afford the full plate that's romanticized in the movies and books though some of the richer merchant class could and there was also the scavengers who would wear "salvaged" armor from the battlefield who might even be low class.

You also need to look at the era associated with the period you want. The feudal period of Japan is generally thought to have occurred from about 1185 to around 1868. That covers the Kamakura period, the Kemmu Restoration, the Muromachi period, the Sengoku period, the Azuchi-Momoyama period, and right up through the Edo or "Tokugawa" period. It's a pretty broad range, but I'd say most popular fiction and films probably work in the Edo period or late feudal Japan. This is the time of the Shogun and daimyo and their soldiers - the samurai.

The swords of Japan in this period are called either shinto or shinshinto depending on if they are from the first half of the period (shinto or new sword) or the second (shinshinto or new new sword). The katana is important - and different from the older long sword style of the "tachi" - because it was carried cutting side up and in a manner that facilitated a quick - and often deadly - drawing motion. The tachi was worn from a belt with the cutting side down - much like a European saber - which, as combat became faster and more close, hindered the speed of the draw. Wearing it cutting style up - or "katana style" - allowed for a much faster draw that could be combined with a slash - hence the development of battōjutsu, or the art of drawing the sword, now referred to, often minus the tameshigiri or cutting techniques, as iaido.

The katana tended towards a maximum length of first about 73 centimeters with a brief period of time at about 60 centimeters. It was often paired with a smaller blade - such as a tanto (short blade similar to a dagger, some theories believe they were often formed from broken katana) or wakizashi (short sword) - in a daishō when carried by samurai, but that was only an honor permitted to samurai. The tachi often had a greater curvature than the more modern katana, but the main way to tell a tachi from a katana was to look at the swordsmith's signature on the nakogo or tang of the sword. The signature or mei is placed on the blade so that it will face out when worn - thus if cutting edge is towards the ground and the mei faces out, it's a tachi, but if it faces towards the sky when it points out, it's a katana.

To be honest though, katana are only one from of nihontō or Japanese sword. There's also the tsurugi or ken - a double edged type of broadsword that fell out of use; the ōdachi or nodachi - great sword, typically about half again as long as a katana, typically used only for ceremony or possibly as a cavalry sword, however the regulations of the Bakufu government during the Edo period caused many to be cut down to the legal size allowed for carried swords; the naginata - a pole weapon which falls under the sword heading due to it, for all extents and purposes, being a sword mounted on a pole, similar to a European glaive; and the yari - a type of spear.

As for guns, if a modern gun was taken back to the Edo period, it would be good for the sum total of the bullets it carried and then be useless as there would be no way to replace the bullets - jacketing, casing, and the smokeless gunpowder used in modern shells wouldn't be available. Also, if it jammed, as modern semi and full auto weapons are wont to do, or broke, it wouldn't be repairable by the smiths of the time. Revolvers would be more reliable but black powder being what it was, I'd avoid guns all together. Maybe consider instead a pistol crossbow as the bolts would be replicable as would most necessary parts.

Sai however are an evolution of a handheld trident. The Okinawan fighting style using the sai was perfected in around 1668 - smack in the beginning of the Edo period - and it likely originated in Indonesia as a chabang. It eventually got to Japan as a jitte with only a single prong used as a truncheon by the police to guard the shogan as swords were not allowed within his presence.

10/5/2012 #5
i don't remember they use crossbow. even their yumi arata heitai preferred yumi kyuudo. perhaps for accuracy? it is the chinese who use crossbow mostly. hence the zhuge nu.
10/5/2012 #6

A few tangential thoughts on research and fidelity.

- The fact that we're doing a 'Connecticut Yankee' means we're going for something other than h*** historical fiction

- Most western fiction (that is not h*** historical, and even some that tried to be) play incredibly fast and loose with Far East weapons

- If you do too much research the key thing to watch out for is to not cram too much of it into the story! A common failing is to try to put all 100% of your research into your fiction. At that point, it becomes a research paper (with a plot.) Figure you'll get at most 10% of it into the story in print. The rest will be in the background.

- The other key failing is to not make it work. Unless you're being paid to write this (and if you are, give me a piece of that action!) this is for fun. If you start dreading the research, write something else.

- Lastly, and this is more a corollary of the third point - don't emphasize the weapons unless that's the whole point of the canon.

10/5/2012 #7
i don't remember they use crossbow. even their yumi arata heitai preferred yumi kyuudo. perhaps for accuracy? it is the chinese who use crossbow mostly. hence the zhuge nu.

The crossbow goes back to the 5th Century BCE Greek gastraphetes in Europe and the Spring and Autumn period (around 8th Century BCE) in China. One of the chief benefits of the crossbow over the bow - especially the modern crossbow - is ease of training. Crossbows are very "point and shoot". You can drop one into an untrained person's hands and they will be capable of killing someone within a certain range. Speed and accuracy increase to some degree as one gains experience with the weapon, but not range. Whereas it takes far longer in comparison to train someone to draw a bow with the proper force to put a shaft through the target despite armor with accuracy with speed and range.

And I suggested it as a modern weapon that would adapt well to being taken back in time, not as a piece that had a proper analog during the time.

10/5/2012 #8
japanese light novel tend to put that research and background detail. it helped the readers
10/5/2012 #9
For specifics of guns being used, I believe that depends on where your character is coming from, and what background they have. Do they have access to military grade weapons or civilian? Will they have a rifle or pistol? An example being if you we're to import US Soldier he'd be using an M16 riffle, where as a Japanese soldier would be using a Howa Type 89. You can go into all sorts of crazy detail when it comes to guns, but overall I don't you'd really need too. If you want to keep it simple, just look up a standard hunting rifle and 9mm pistol, and pick your favorite one based on style points. Those are pretty universal and are available to almost everyone. Hope that's at least a little helpful.
10/5/2012 #10
chun qiu? didnot the crossbow more rampant in zhan guo (warring states)? but the firing mechanism is complex for unexperienced j**. carpenter. they need mohist. why not tanegashima? seeing it is sengoku jidai. of course depend on what clan...
10/5/2012 #11


It's the research that makes the story believable. Trust me, it comes across when the writer doesn't do the research. No matter what the subject is. If you don't want to do the research to actually sound like you know what you're talking about, write something else. Fics where the research is clearly not done tend to end up on rant comms. Now, this isn't intended on a slam on you, just trying to point out that "didn't do the research" is generally not a compliment.


I'm not entirely sure what Mohism has to do with making the simple hook and lever mechanism of a crossbow, perhaps you meant something else? And you'd be amazed what people are capable of creating given a model or plans to work from, even if it's not something they knew how to do previously. Though, to be honest, it looks like you're deliberately not understanding that the crossbow is in reference to modern weaponry, not era-specific weaponry. There does not have to be an analog to the weapon.

10/5/2012 . Edited 10/5/2012 #12
@thelastpen agreed. detailed research is an act to not insult your readers intelligence. worse, the author can be considered as liar, misleading
10/5/2012 #13

Oh, I agree. "Didn't do the research" is most definitely uncomplimentary!

It's a matter of the audience, which in turn is defined by the canon in fanfic. A canon that puts in heavy amounts of research into real-world weapons such as 'men's fiction' (Mack Bolan, Jon Sable, etc.) will laugh uproariously at someone making a rookie mistake. A canon that's heavy into style over substance, such as a lot of the 'mystical ninja' anime, will accept just about anything from any time in any caste, wielded any which way.

Writing always entails research, but in the right areas. As fan fic, we all have to know the canon. "Didn't do the research" in fanfic is as often "you missed this part about the character" as "in the setting, this doesn't do that." Time and energies being finite, the point is to make sure the author is focusing on the right area. Weapons research is fine, but to what degree? What else needs to be examined? Where's the balance?

The second point is to not info-dump, to not write facts for purposes of showing off what was researched. The work has to first be readable - if it's not readable, then all the accuracy in the world won't help it.

10/5/2012 . Edited 10/5/2012 #14

You'd be surprised as to how much research goes into "mystical ninja" eqsue anime/manga. For example, Ranma 1/2? The supernatural, campy, almost invents a trope just by existing martial arts manga and anime series? Is so well researched that the martial arts used can actually be traced back to the very school they originated from by practitioners of the arts. The anime opener kata performed by both of Ranma's forms, Akane, and Genma is Yang-style Taijiquan, form 24. Or Sakura Taisen, which is teampunk supernatural, references the first noble Japanese man to win a Nobel Prize for literature and a villain's back story comes from a very real life arms smuggling scandal.

Info dumping is bad whether it's about your made up country or something that really exists in real life. The point is to learn to use your knowledge of something to craft the story - not bludgeon your readers with a knowledge sledgehammer.

10/5/2012 #15
aBlue Gillespian

Research is essential for any kind of fiction. For example, I'm writing a simple '70s crime drama. You would be surprised at how much research goes into finding out the correct phrases the characters would use in the '70s, the names of street in Manchester, since I've never been to Manchester, now I wish I could move the story to London, I know London so well. Not to mention the places junkies would go, the drugs they would use in the'70s...etc. So 'don't do the research' don't work unless you are writing some of these teenage love stories like '10 things I hate about you.'

10/5/2012 #16
Aspiring Hobby

"Well, if you're discussing the weapons of feudal Japan, you need to recognize the caste system inherent in the discussion."

The period is definitely the Sengoku period ranging from the middle of the fifteenth century to the beginning of the seventeenth. Okay then, the persons included will be from six different categories:

First- A lord. In my story there will be four cardinal lords ruling over Japan thus they are at the highest position.

Second- Generals of the lord, four under every lord.

Third-Foot soldiers. They are further divided into two categories:

1- simple, general army men.

2- elite selected army men/demons who are under specifically work under the lords thus are above the general foot-soldier.

Fourth- Travelers. They are also divided under two categories.

1-Normal ones like nomads.

2-Fighters (freelance) You know the ones who fight a demon/ demon in return for food/shelter.

Fifth: lords who reign over smaller areas having a troop of soldiers of themselves (they are mostly under the lords). They are furthermore divided into many categories, I am not going to go into them. But if you want clarification there I can tell it out.

Sixth: Normal village persons.

Que: What do you think the weapons would they carry? In different categories, each person would carry different ones, right?

- A pistol crossbow won't work, I think it would be hard to carry. Don't you think so?

Que: Can you be a bit more explanatory on the Sai part? I don't get what you have written.

Que: I get that the average gun would be not good for convenience. Say the character uses gun in very dire consequences. I meant to use that way because the world it is set in involves demons with a very high hearing so if he is to use gun then the sound will be echoed a lot out. Now he uses gun very rarely, then is there a gun which is very effecient in long range killing and can be used in a lot of motion? Also what is jacketing and casing?

Que: I am sorry but what is Mohism? I am all confused by wikipedia.

I understand the part of the info dump having read many stories where such was done.

I actually need this information due to a setting in my story. I am not going to bore you out with it.

So if you do not wish to read skip the rest. The setting of the story:

You see I am focusing all out on weaponry because the main character is born with the purpose to defeat the evil so as to say and protect an important artifact. He goes through a time wrap being sent into another dimension of sorts (I am researching that field, so I am not completely sure of what to call that place where he goes in.) or more like within the artifact itself. There he learns all he has to learn to do his duty. As he comes out of the artifact then through a series of events he ends being a servant of the western lord. There he sees a soldier holding a weapon and chastises him, thus leading him to show his skills regarding the weaponry. Furthermore after this he slowly rises from the position of the servant to an army man then an elite army man then a General finally a companion of the lord. Through this all many references of weapons comes including all the classes, many instances of grief ridden people who try to commit suicide, many references of battles which questions his morals, his strength where he has to make do with the weapon he is given.

Hope this clears a bit of confusion. :)

Edited because site ate my paragraphs and bunched it up.

10/5/2012 . Edited 10/5/2012 #17
do you really understand that social caste? because i don't. and what about warrior monk? the ikko ikki sect lived during sengoku jidai. mohism is one of hundred school of thought during zhan guo attributed with unconditional love. the mo zi recorded most of their invention in siege warfare and fortress defense.
10/6/2012 #18
Aspiring Hobby
do you really understand that social caste? because i don't.


I have researched a lot but I couldn't quite get the hang of it so I will scream artistic license there and use the caste system I have devised.

Well I have devised a whole caste system which I think is right. But I need some help there. Can I post it up here or PM you?

Though it is not very intricate or something, just vague!

10/6/2012 . Edited 10/6/2012 #19
Alice, the only advice I can give regarding your caste system is that if you don't understand the way the Japanese social order worked and want to use your made up system, do not claim your fic is set in Japan. Or you will come off as "did no do the research" for that.
10/6/2012 #20
i suggest here. lastpen is better in explanation while i only know few thing. if you asked me about chinese method of warfare i can help a bit. btw try to read eiji yoshikawa's taiko or anime/ln oda nobuna yabou. might help you a bit
10/6/2012 #21
Aspiring Hobby

Oh, sure I won't claim it. Actually I was just going to say so in the starting that the story is not set in Japan, since I am not familiar with it much but I wanted to have some originality in the story that is why weapon research!


10/6/2012 #22
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