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Japanese Weapons: Defense and combat

When it comes to Japanese weapons, most envision a warrior or samurai with a sword and not just any sword, but the world-renowned Japanese katana – a curved blade engineered for fighting with supreme efficiency. However, Japan’s ancient warriors also took to lesser-known weaponry that was possibly more interesting. Let’s take a look at some of Japan’s unique weapons from years gone by.

The Katana

Japanese weapons are incredibly unique, with the Katana being one of Japan’s most famous. Japanese weapons are typically made by highly trained and skilled blacksmiths, and the Katana is no exception. Japanese blacksmiths’ method of repeatedly heating and folding the steel made the Katana’s sharpness and strength unique amongst the world’s swords. known for its strength and sharpness, the Katana earned the reputation as the soul of the samurai, a reputation that lasted long after the samurai abandoned Japanese weapons for the pen in a focus on education.

Fans of War

In ancient Japan, fans weren’t just implements intended to provide relief from summer’s heat and humidity but were traditional Japanese weapons. War fans varied in size, materials, shape, and use. One of the most significant uses was as a signalling device. These signalling fans came in two varieties; a fan that has wood or metal ribs with lacquered paper attached, and a metal outer cover or a solid open fan made from metal and or wood.
Traditionally, the commander would raise or lower his fan and point in different ways to issue commands to Japanese soldiers. War fans could also be used as Japanese weapons, with the art of fighting with war fans being known as tessenjutsu.

Kiseru Battle Pipes

Kiseru is a Japanese weapon derived from a smoking pipe traditionally used for smoking a small serving of kizami, a finely shredded tobacco product. During the Edo period, Japanese weapons were frequently used as objects for flaunting financial status. Since the general population were prohibited from carrying sharper Japanese weapons, an elaborate Kiseru carried slung from the waist often served the purpose. Although not all were designed for fighting, a glance at pipe’s size and weight might give away its user’s intent.


Although the Manriki-Kusari gained fame as a ninja weapon, police officers actually adopted these Japanese weapons to disarm and capture criminals. The collapsible chain could be rolled up, concealed and easily transported. When it comes to Japanese weapons, the  Manriki-Kusari served many functions; it could be used for climbing, restraining an enemy, and could be wrapped around body parts for extra protection.


As the original samurai weapon, the Japanese bow has a long and bespoke history. Isolation from other cultures allowed Japan to develop its own unique archery tools and techniques, amongst other Japanese weapons. Japan’s oldest hunting and ceremonial bows date back to 10,000 BCE and, without the wood binding technology of other countries, Japan was able to develop very long wooden bows, some over 2.5 meters, to maximize their power.


The Fukiya is one of many Japanese weapons that is associated with ninjas, as depicted in 17th-century ninja scrolls. These blow-darts made little noise, were easy to transport and could double as flutes, pipes, or breathing straws. Where materials were limited, bamboo or paper would be used as substitutes. Poisoning the darts made these Japanese weapons extra effective against the enemy. Today, Fukiya has evolved into an international sport, similar to archery.


Widely known as throwing, ninja, or Chinese stars, these traditional Japanese weapons are known most commonly as hand-hidden blades.  The art of wielding the shuriken is known as shurikenjutsu and was taught as a minor part of the martial arts curriculum of many famous schools. Although they come in various shapes and sizes, the classic throwing star with multiple points spun in flight is smaller and more manageable and therefore required less skill to throw than long throwing knives or other Japanese weapons.
At Atelier Japan, our makers have stood the stead of time, prevailing among huge global disturbances and remaining unwilling to go backwards. Our makers have taken care and time to create authentic Japanese fans, pottery, tea and silverware from authentic materials for you to enjoy. Browse the Atelier Japan website to discover our unique collections.