Art of Asia
- Edo period, an introduction
- Tea bowl with dragon roundels
- Scenes from The Tale of Genji
- Genji Ukifune
- Dog chasing
- A portrait of St. Francis Xavier and Christianity in Japan
- Ogata Kōrin, Red and White Plum Blossoms
- Hon’ami Kōetsu, Folding Screen mounted with poems
- Archery practice
- The evolution of ukiyo-e and woodblock prints
- Utagawa Kunisada I, Visiting Komachi, from the series Modern Beauties as the Seven Komachi
- Hokusai, Under the Wave off Kanagawa (The Great Wave)
- Beyond the Great Wave — Hokusai at 90
- Hokusai’s printed illustrated books
- Hokusai, Five Beautiful Women
- The Floating World of Edo Japan
- Hunting for fireflies
- Street scene in the pleasure quarter of Edo Japan
- Courtesan playing with a cat
- Courtesans of the South Station
- An introduction to Kabuki theater
- The actor Ichikawa Danzo IV in a Shibaraku role
- Fire procession costume
- Arrival of a Portuguese ship
- Matchlock gun and pistol
- Military camp jacket
- Military leader's fan
- An American ship
- The steamship Powhatan
- Conserving the Gan Ku Tiger scroll painting at the British Museum
Matchlock gun and pistol
How were firearms introduced to Japan?
Guns were introduced to Japan by Portuguese adventurers who were shipwrecked near the shore of Tanegashima, a small island south of Kyushu, in 1543. Matchlock pistols and guns modeled on the imported weapons began to be made in Japan and were an important feature of battles during the 1570s and 1580s.
How did they transform warfare in Japan?
Technically the matchlock is a kind of musket, fired by mechanically touching a lighted fuse to a charge of shot and gunpowder. The matchlock’s effective range was about two hundred meters, and a well-trained soldier would be able to fire four shots per minute at most. But in Japan, where bows and arrows and stone catapults had been the only projectile weapons, firearms revolutionized battle strategy. Long-range fighting came to replace close combat, and infantry superseded cavalry in importance. Oda Nobunaga’s 1575 victory over Takeda Katsuyori in the Battle of Nagashino is said to have depended on firearms fired in volleys by infantrymen against a charging cavalry force.
What do the symbols on the matchlock gun represent?
The matchlock gun has a long octagonal iron barrel with a narrow diameter. It is decorated on the butt of the stock (where the barrel and firing mechanism attach to the gun) with a rabbit, an auspicious animal believed to be a spirit of the moon, where he abides for a thousand years.
Who might have used this weapon?
Officers and foot soldiers both used matchlock guns.
What do the symbols on the matchlock pistol represent?
Samurai could order their family crests (mon) inlaid into or painted on the barrel of a new gun. The pistol’s barrel bears a family crest of golden stars consisting of a large, central circle surrounded by eight smaller circles. Some twenty-four samurai families used the star crest, a symbol of hope and good luck. The pistol’s stock is further embellished with floral scrolls in gold and silver against a black-lacquered background.
Who might have used this weapon?
The matchlock pistol was intended for use by mounted samurai, but pistols proved impractical because the rider had to ignite a piece of cord in the lock, or firing chamber, while at the same time controlling his moving horse. Nonetheless, owning a pistol remained popular as a symbol of a samurai’s power, rank, and wealth.
Want to join the conversation?
- Was there any difference in status between a bow and a firearm? Maybe firearms were considered a "barbaric foreign" weapon or something like this.(2 votes)
- as for the first answer i don't know but for the second one both yes and no. A lot of people, like Oda Nobunaga, really supported the gun while others saw the use of firearms as cowardly and dishonorable.(5 votes)
- I think it is odd that the star crest on the weapon is a symbol of good luck. It is cool though.(1 vote)
- Why did Tokugawa Ieyasu, the Japanese Shogun, grow suspicious of the Portuguese and prefer trade with Europe be conducted through the Dutch?(1 vote)
- So I have a question which was inspired by this article, though it isn’t really about the article itself. I have a Japanese name, but when I’m not in Japan I usually reverse the order of my first and last name to fit the cultural norms of the country. For example, say my name is Jane Smith (no this is NOT my real name), then in Japan I’d be referred to as “Smith Jane”. Here in the article, though, 織田信長(Oda Nobunaga/Nobunaga Oda) is referred to as Oda Nobunaga, and not as Nobunaga Oda. Are historical Japanese figures usually called by the Japanese order of their names?
I haven’t read most of the articles here so this may be explained by a previous article or a video, so if you know this question is a duplicate then please say so, thanks!(1 vote)
- Yes, so his name would be Nobunaga, and Oda is his clan. Similarly, another famous samurai general, Takeda Shingen, was from the Takeda Clan, so in the west, he would be known as Shingen Takeda. Hope that answers your question!(1 vote)