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#1 Peter Bleed

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Posted 24 July 2016 - 07:13 PM

At the risk or seriously annoying this community, I want to revisit the topic of firearms use during the Edo period. My goal is to present some thoughts I have recently had as a result of a couple of recent acquisitions. This is a hobby, friends, and I happen to have gotten lucky recently in the arena of hinawa-ju. Anybody points me in the direction of some nice Sendai Shinto, and I will drop this topic like a hot rock!

So, .  .   .  a common treatment of Edo period firearms is 1) that the Japanese stayed with “old” technology, 2) out of general rejection of foreign way, and 3) special samurai rejection of guns in favor of sword. All of which 4) was enforced by strong anti-gun policies of the military dictatorship.

                Finding new evidence and  insights that might bear on this topic is tough. But let me try.

Was matchlock technology all that bad?  Western gunsels just assume that whatever was goin’ on in Europe was the “state of the art”, the “cutting edge” and therefore better than whatever precede it. In fact flintlock technology was NOT very good. It was as weather dependent as matchlock technology. A high failure rate was a normal part of Western military operation. And a whole lot of folks stayed with matchlocks well into the mid 19th century.  In south, central, and northern Asia matchlocks survived and were viewed as serious armaments. We need to consider the possibility that matchlocks worked just fine for whatever the Japanese were doing with them.

Was there much firearms use throughout the Edo period?  We know that there were lots of guns made during the Edo period. They were being carried, but were they being used?  There truly was very little civil strife in Japan during the Edo period. There are manuals that document firearms training.  I am impressed at how few Muromachi era guns are known to exist. There were tens of thousands of gun in Japan in1600, but we sure don’t see them today. We see lots of swords from those times. But where are the bangers? Where are the koto guns (yes, yes, I know that is confusing categories, but..)?  One has to wonder if gunnery training, drills, and other maneuvers wore those old firearms out?  Maybe they didn’t give up those guns, they just wore ‘em out!

Did the samurai class rejected foreign ideas and especially guns because they preferred swords?  All those Namban tsuba indicate that Samurai were willing to consider foreign stuff. And when civil strife was developing during the late Edo period there was great interest in acquiring modern firearms. Military academies created at that time had firing ranges. And there are a fair number of photographs of Bakumatsu samurai proudly packing heat. Concealed carry was NOT on their agenda!

 

I think the bottom line – if there is one – is that we need to do a lot more research on Edo period gun usage

Thank you,

Peter


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Peter Bleed

#2 IanB

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Posted 24 July 2016 - 09:02 PM

Peter, Where have all the teppo gone? Might I suggest two possibilities? The daimyo of the Muromachi, whilst happy to enrol the lower ranks as ashigaru to swell their armies, had a bit of a problem with how to arm them. They were provided with a sword of sorts, but to be of real use they needed a primary weapon. The obvious weapon to choose was the yari, which hadn't had a lot of use up until then - and the introduction of yari introduced all sorts of changes to armour. Then along comes the gun that although expensive was devastatingly effective and didn't need years of devoted practice to use. Following Hideyoshi's unification he organised what is called the 'Sword Hunt' but it was really a disarmament of all who were not bushi, and that would include the ashigaru. No doubt most of the guns they had used in battles were returned to their lords but some may have gone home with their guns that were ultimately surrendered. During the Korean invasions that followed, vast numbers of guns went abroad but how many were lost and how many were actually carried back.?

Ian Bottomley



#3 Tengu57

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Posted 25 July 2016 - 04:25 AM

Based on what I have read I always thought that after the early Edo period there was not really any need for the gun or more accurately no need to develop any new technology. After Hideyoshi's invasion of Korea where Japanese gun technology was better than theirs there was no threat of advanced technology from the outside so the status quo was good enough. The government wanted to maintain the technology for gun production and to keep the Daimyo poor so they required Daimyo to subsidize the technology by forcing them to order a certain number of guns each year even though they clearly did not need them. I collect large bore matchlocks which I believe many of the Daimyo or higher level Samurai commissioned to satisfy the need to subsidize the technology as symbols of power and displays of wealth. The armory's were full of standard sized guns or rather enough guns and too many of the standard size guns in the hands of the low level Samurai created a risk of revolt. I have many of the large bore guns with the Meiji period license inscribed on them but never a standard size gun. Maybe they are out there but I have not seen them. This makes me think by the end of the Edo era during the Boshin war that the importation of modern guns forced a rush to the new technology and many of the old standard sized guns were discarded or destroyed because the new technology made them obsolete and they were not as valuable as the large bore guns as art objects. I have never seen a matchlock with a post inscription that it was awarded to a Samurai for an act of valor so maybe they were viewed more as utilitarian objects than an overt representation of the soul of the Bushi ? Just some thoughts.

#4 estcrh

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Posted 25 July 2016 - 09:16 PM

At the risk or seriously annoying this community, I want to revisit the topic of firearms use during the Edo period. My goal is to present some thoughts I have recently had as a result of a couple of recent acquisitions. This is a hobby, friends, and I happen to have gotten lucky recently in the arena of hinawa-ju. Anybody points me in the direction of some nice Sendai Shinto, and I will drop this topic like a hot rock!
So, .  .   .  a common treatment of Edo period firearms is 1) that the Japanese stayed with “old” technology, 2) out of general rejection of foreign way, and 3) special samurai rejection of guns in favor of sword. All of which 4) was enforced by strong anti-gun policies of the military dictatorship.
                Finding new evidence and  insights that might bear on this topic is tough. But let me try.
Was matchlock technology all that bad?  Western gunsels just assume that whatever was goin’ on in Europe was the “state of the art”, the “cutting edge” and therefore better than whatever precede it. In fact flintlock technology was NOT very good. It was as weather dependent as matchlock technology. A high failure rate was a normal part of Western military operation. And a whole lot of folks stayed with matchlocks well into the mid 19th century.  In south, central, and northern Asia matchlocks survived and were viewed as serious armaments. We need to consider the possibility that matchlocks worked just fine for whatever the Japanese were doing with them.
Was there much firearms use throughout the Edo period?  We know that there were lots of guns made during the Edo period. They were being carried, but were they being used?  There truly was very little civil strife in Japan during the Edo period. There are manuals that document firearms training.  I am impressed at how few Muromachi era guns are known to exist. There were tens of thousands of gun in Japan in1600, but we sure don’t see them today. We see lots of swords from those times. But where are the bangers? Where are the koto guns (yes, yes, I know that is confusing categories, but..)?  One has to wonder if gunnery training, drills, and other maneuvers wore those old firearms out?  Maybe they didn’t give up those guns, they just wore ‘em out!
Did the samurai class rejected foreign ideas and especially guns because they preferred swords?  All those Namban tsuba indicate that Samurai were willing to consider foreign stuff. And when civil strife was developing during the late Edo period there was great interest in acquiring modern firearms. Military academies created at that time had firing ranges. And there are a fair number of photographs of Bakumatsu samurai proudly packing heat. Concealed carry was NOT on their agenda!
 
I think the bottom line – if there is one – is that we need to do a lot more research on Edo period gun usage
Thank you,
Peter

Peter, why would anyone be annoyed, this is a forum and people are supposed to discuss things on a forum. As for this statement... "special samurai rejection of guns in favor of sword".....we know that matchlocks were still used for hunting both by commoners and samurai. When you look at other similar cultures from the same time period such as the Ottomans and Indians, they are seen in period illustrations as carrying a wide range of weapons along with firearms.
 
Matchlocks were not a very good personal protection weapon, they were more of a mass use weapon. Unless your opponent was quite far from you, by the time you loaded a matchlock your opponent would have cut your head off. We often expect that the Japanese should have wanted to adopt Western habits just as many other cultures have but the Japanese also felt that their ways were superior. For whatever reason they did not take to carrying firearms with them everywere they went. It is not as if they did not own them, in fact the vast majority of Japanese matchlocks that I have seen are Edo period.
 

By the way, any pictures of your recent good luck?

I happen to have gotten lucky recently in the arena of hinawa-ju



#5 Peter Bleed

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Posted 26 July 2016 - 07:25 PM

Here is a gun that presents problematical insights about Japanese firearms development.

It is nice example of a 10 momme zutsu.

What I find remarkable is the signature. The barrel is signed - - rather proudly it seems

,Mannen Gennen, hachigatsu 

Annaka-han Taihosho Kunitomo Hisashige saku

and

Koko(?) Shimamura  Hirasuke saku

Which I take to mean "Crafted by metal worker Hirsuke Shimamure

(under the the direction of)

The cannon maker of the Annaka domain, Kunitomo Hasashige

in august of 1860.

By 1860 there were lots of "modern" guns in Japan. Annaka was a Tokugawa domain, so one has to ask, "What in the world were these guys thinking?" What was the strategic value of heavy wall guns at this point?

Peter

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#6 Viper6924

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Posted 26 July 2016 - 07:47 PM

The Sonno-Joi (Revere the Emperor, expel the barbarians) reached the high notes during the years around 1860. Many domains didn't want to have anything to do with things western. So a traditionell Japanese matchlock was to prefer over the weapons of barbarians.
The xenophobic followers of the sonno-joi was fanatics with little connection to the real world. So why wouldn't a 10 monme matchlock beat a Snyder?
Interesting gun you have. 1860 is one if the latest dates I've seen on a matchlock. If you got some more closeups, they would be apreciated.

Jan

#7 estcrh

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Posted 26 July 2016 - 09:16 PM

Was matchlock technology all that bad?  Western gunsels just assume that whatever was goin’ on in Europe was the “state of the art”, the “cutting edge” and therefore better than whatever precede it. In fact flintlock technology was NOT very good. It was as weather dependent as matchlock technology. A high failure rate was a normal part of Western military operation. And a whole lot of folks stayed with matchlocks well into the mid 19th century.  In south, central, and northern Asia matchlocks survived and were viewed as serious armaments. We need to consider the possibility that matchlocks worked just fine for whatever the Japanese were doing with them.


There is evidence that the Japanese did have access to information on more advanced (supposedly) European firing mechanisms, why they did not catch on until the mid to late 1800s is a mystery as far as I know, there might be more information about this in Japanese gun circles but you would have to be able to speak Japanese and know the right people etc.
 
Here are a few examples, I do not know when the Japanese first learned about flintlocks, wheellocks and percussion guns but for whatever reason they did not catch on immediately as you would expect if they were so much more advanced than the matchlock.
 
f323c9ffb89243895cd61624b4816851.jpg
e1effedb828a465d16b7aea7290e6c37.jpg
a7b9795fe4181aa00e36899f9b66c2c9.jpg
36827df5c14b3326b55ca64ee4e792cc.jpg
3b371bea31dbfb6115fc808b4cda3165.jpg
26da797f433cfa64b013b8a9e88efc54.jpg

#8 Peter Bleed

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Posted 26 July 2016 - 10:24 PM

Thank you, All!. These are truly some stimulating insights. The basic question I was mulling was about how the Japanese used firearms. Combat between massed units of troops dogmatically trained in team-based volley fire, and supported by with well organized supply trains, could probably do pretty well with matchlocks. Likewise, defense of fixed castles might also do all right with matchlockery. Those points means IMHO that military leaders in Japan saw little reason to change - even as it is clear that they were aware of - and monitoring gun evolution.

Peter


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#9 estcrh

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Posted 29 July 2016 - 09:00 PM

 

By 1860 there were lots of "modern" guns in Japan. Annaka was a Tokugawa domain, so one has to ask, "What in the world were these guys thinking?" What was the strategic value of heavy wall guns at this point?

Peter

Peter, while your gun may have a different story there are a lot of reasons why certain domains did not purchase modern firearms. Funds were a big problem with some domains, foreign traders wanted something of value in exchange for their guns, not an iou. By the mid 1800s many domains were broke but they could always get smiths from their domain to make guns. Some domains were either very small and it was not worth it for them to purchase modern firearms and some domains were far from major trading centers were they would have been able to purchase modern firearms. I am sure there are more reasons, such as just keeping the remaining traditional gun makers employed in the same way sword smiths were kept busy making swords. Of course this all collapsed sometime during the Meiji period, Japan could not get rid of the old style weapons fast enough.






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