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Before the introduction of firearms, the samurai in Japan used most of the forms of weapons that existed anywhere in the world in the pre-gunpowder era. There are only a few main types of weapons that were used in those days and the samurai used all of them. These weapons included:
Bow and arrow. This was the only personal long-distance projectile weapon used in Japan. While European knights were not known for using bows much, the Japanese samurai did use them a great deal.
Side arms. While this term is now used for pistols, it historically meant arms worn on one’s side. The typical side arm of the pre-gunpowder era was the sword. This was the most famous weapon of the samurai. They wore two swords as the sign of their rank. They had a short sword with a blade that was one or two feet long. This was called a wakizashi. Sometimes, a shorter sword called a tanto was used. Then there was the long sword, or katana. This is the quintessential samurai weapon and was known as the samurai’s soul.
Pole arms. These were personal arms that were longer than swords. The two main weapons of this type that were used by samurai were the yari, which was a long spear similar to a pike, and the naginata which was more like a sword mounted on a long pole.
These were the most common pre-gunpowder samurai weapons.
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