Yari is the term for one of the traditionally made Japanese blades (nihonto) in the form of a spear, or more specifically, the straight-headed spear. The martial art of wielding the yari is called sojutsu.
Early yari are believed to have been derived from Chinese spears, the hoko yari are thought to be from the Nara period (710-794), and while they were present in early Japan’s history, the term yari appeared for the first time in written sources in 1334 but this type of spear did not become popular until the late 1400s.
The original warfare of the bushi was not a thing for “commoners”; it was a ritualized combat usually between two warriors who would challenge each other via horseback archery and sword duels. However, the attempted Mongol invasions of Japan in 1274 and 1281 changed Japanese weaponry and warfare.
Yari were characterized by a straight blade that could be anywhere from several centimeters, to 3 feet or more in length. The blades were made of the same steel (tamahagane) that traditional Japanese swords and arrow heads were forged with, and were very durable. Throughout history many variations of the straight yari blade were produced, often with protrusions on a central blade.
Yari blades (points) often had an extremely long tang (nakago); typically the nagako would be longer than the sharpened portion of the blade. The nakago protruded into a re-enforced hollow portion of the handle (tachiuchi or tachiuke) resulting in a very stiff shaft making it nearly impossible for the blade to fall or break off.
The shaft (nagaye or ebu) came in many different lengths, widths and shapes; made of hardwood and covered in lacquered bamboo strips, these came in oval, round, or polygonal cross section. These in turn were often wrapped in metal rings or wire (dogane), and affixed with a metal pommel (ishizuki) on the butt end.
Yari shafts were often decorated with inlays of metal or semiprecious materials such as brass pins, lacquer, or flakes of pearl. A sheath (saya) was also part of a complete yari. Various types of yari points or blades existed.
The most common blade was a straight, flat, design that resembles a straight-bladed double edged dagger. This type of blade could cut as well as stab and was sharpened like a razor edge. Though yari is a catchall for spear, it is usually distinguished between kama yari, which have additional horizontal blades, and simple su yari (choku-so) or straight spears.
Japanese Officer’s Sword
Japanese officer’s sword featuring openwork cast sword guard, while the sheath has scroll work. The weapon measures 90cm in length.
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