Hojutsu: An Introduction to Japanese Gunnery
Even though firearms had been introduced in Japan from China as early as the 13th century, these were rather primitive and pretty impractical on the battlefield as they consisted of nothing more than a metal tube that was either mounted or hand-held. It took the arrival of the Portuguese in 1543, the first Europeans ever to land in Japan, to bring a significant improvement to these weapons. This technological change would trigger radical changes in the way warfare was conducted and it can be argued that the whole history of Japan was changed because of the advantage that these new weapons provided to those who equipped their armed forces with them. This led the way to firearms frenzy and the development of a whole range of techniques, formalized within the discipline of Hojustu in order to improve their effectiveness.
Although many traditional warriors were more than reluctant, even disdainful at the idea of using firearms, they eventually came to the realization that these had to be adopted, particularly following events such as the Nagashina battle which in 1575 saw an army of peasant with firearms crushing the well trained Samurai forces of Takeda Katsuyori. The new weapon was named Tanegashima and it was of course adapted from the Portuguese matchlocks that were introduced in 1543. The set of skills required to efficiently operate these new weapons were taught systematically in the koryu Hojustu (砲術), very much in the same way as other more ancient, empty-handed or armed koryu. As always, several schools and styles have branched out over the years and many groups in Japan are now practicing the ancestral techniques developed over 400 years ago. Two of these schools, the Morishige ryu founded by Morishige Yukie Subeyoshi (1759 – 1816) and currently led by Shimazu Kenji Sensei and the Kawaohegan Hinawajyuu Teppoutai Hozonkai headed by Terada Zusyokonosuke offered a demonstration in September 2011 at Tokyo’s Yasukuni-jinja.
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