Tokyobling's Blog

Kawagoe Tanegashima Matchlock Muskets

Posted in Japanese Traditions, People, Places by tokyobling on April 28, 2013

More photos of the Kawagoe warriors from yesterday’s post. There’s quite a few reenactment groups around Japan focusing on the late 16th century wars, and this group is one of the biggest in the Tokyo area. In 1543 a gang of Portuguese adventurers ran a chinese ship aground on the southern Japanese island of Tanegashima. Not counting the fact that Europeans had almost never been seen before, these men carried with them a new kind of weapon, the matchlock musket, and two of these were sold to the Japanese. Within a few years they had figured out how to make them in vast numbers, apparently over 300 000 were produced within the first decade. These became known as tanegashima, after the island where they had been introduced. They are still quite common as antiques and I sometimes see them in the better antique shops around Tokyo, as they were produced right up until the mid-19th century. These muskets take quite a few seconds to load and prime even for experienced soldiers, so for these safety conscious reenactors it took even longer. As they followed the orders of the commander in the red mask, we were warned that it would be very loud. I had never heard two dozen tanegashima being fired at the same time but it was so loud it felt like someone had stepped up to me and punched me in the head. I flinched every time! All combined, the smoke, the sound, the smell, it was quite an impressive show! I can imagine how the largest battles must have looked, with low laying fields clouded in the thick smoke as thousands and thousands of these were fired through hour long battles. In the fourth photo you can see sparks flying from the weapon of the musketman off the right end of the photo, and in photo seven you can see just how bad visibility is after only two shots per musket!

I still have a few more of these photos to show, probably the best one is to come!










4 Responses

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  1. yoshizen said, on April 28, 2013 at 8:38 am

    Nice interesting photos.
    To light-up the match-cord, did they used flint-stone
    or modern cigarette-lighter ? —- have you seen ?


    • tokyobling said, on April 28, 2013 at 9:39 am

      The match-cord was already lit when they came marching up, so I didn’t see the actual lighting method. Would be interesting though! Thank you for the kind comment!


  2. schedim said, on April 28, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Matchlocks are REAL guns, they are alive in a way that other guns arn’t..,


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