Varieties & Other Forms





Histroy and Now

Other Articles

The Varieties of Japanese Matchlocks

Of the 320 years matchlock guns were used in Japan only the first 50 years saw quite active use. After 50 years the matchlocks were weapons which were not used on the battlefield but which became symbols of power. There were many shooting schools and districts that produced matchlocks, which became an art form with many variations in physical characteristics and which became the signatures of the various smiths and districts. There are distinct differences in the guns produced by the various schools and districts.

Satsuma Tsutsu
Satuma was the lord of Shimazu, which is located at the southern part of Kyusu island and which faces Tannegashima island. The guns made there preserved the style of guns which were brought to Japan for the first time , in 1543. The standard Satsuma tsutsu, as these matchlocks are called, is about three feet and several inches; They have the caliber of 6 Monme and they have very small locks.
Hizen Tsutsu
Hizen was the lord of Arima, located next to Nagasaki on Kyushu island, and Nagasaki was the only port open to other countries during Edo Period. The Hizen tsutsu are heavy guns characterized by stocks painted with red lacquer.
Bizen Tsutsu
Bizen is the country which faces the Inland Sea, and it is famous for producing good swords. The matchlocks made there have very characteristic iron locks and large black stocks without trigger guards.
Tosa Tsutsu
Tosa is on Shikoku island and it faces the Pacific Ocean; the lord of this country was Yamanouchi. The locks of this matchlock are fixed into the stock by vertical pins.
Choushu Tsutsu
Choushu is at the far end of the main island Honshu, and it was a country of Activists in the Meiji Restoration. The matchlocks made there have short stocks which do not cover the barrel fully.
Awa Tsutsu
Awa was the country of lord Hatisuka on Shikoku Island, and it faces towards Osaka. The matchlocks made there have big, long, and heavy barrels, but their calibers are rather small - 1/5 Monme. The barrels are set deeply in reddish stocks.
Kishu Tepou
Kishu is a peninsula in the central part of Japan to which Tanegashima had good access by the Black Stream. It is said when Europeans brought the guns to Tanegashima, the lord was only sixteen years old when he purchased them. Just after that some Kishu merchants went there and brought them to Kishu.
The Christian missionaries reported that in the 1570's there were several large groups of warriors with many guns hired from there. The matchlocks made there are slender and light in weight, and their lock parts are square-shaped.
Sakai Tsutsu
Sakai is a city next to Osaka on Honshu island and before Japan closed the country in the early seventeenth century it was famous for both industry and commerce. Sakai produced a lot of guns . Most of them are inscribed with this information : " Live in Sakai," followed by a family name and the name of the gunsmith. There are many styles of matchlocks from Sakai, and many are decorated.
Kuitomo Tetsupou
Kunitomo was a town of gunsmiths where the Tokugawa Shougun ordered their guns in the late sixteen century. The town is located in the central part of Honshu island beside Lake Biwa. The matchlocks made at Kunitomo and at Sakai comprise almost half of the matchlocks made in Japan. There are many kinds of Kunitomo guns, and most are practical styles. One of the three Shogun families ruled this place.
Hino TsuTsu
Hino-made matchlocks have physical characteristics similar to those made at Kunitomo, which is not far from Hino. There is a rumor that Hino guns were cheaply made, but there is no evidence to confirm this rumor.
Mino Tetsupo
The matchlocks made at Mino are heavy and appear to be very durable. Mino is also famous for the Seki swords.
Tsushiura's Seki School
There used to be many shooting schools in Japan but this is not so today. One such school which is very well preserved is Seki School in Tsuchiura city, a small lord's territory directly east of Edo , now Tokyo. There remain several huge antique cannon, which, upon occasion, are fired. Mr. Seki, who is eleventh generation of the master, has many documents and equipment of the Seki School.
Numbered Guns in the Northeast Part of Honshu
In this region are popular standard guns which are slightly longer than three feet, but which have larger calibers of 4/5- 5 Monme. Some of the guns have numbers, and the parts are also numbered, so they are called "Bantutu," or "numbered guns." These guns are simple and practical.
Yonezawa Tetsupo
Yonezawa was a poor country in northeastern Japan ruled by lord Uesugi, but the matchlocks made there were impressive. They are mostly Jyu(10) Monme guns with dark colored stocks and iron locks with big trigger guards.
Sendai Tsutsu
Sendai, ruled by lord Date who sent missionaries to Mexico in the early seventeenth century before Japan closed the country, is one of the biggest countries , and matchlocks made there were simple but very durable. Usually they have only two pins to hold the barrels to the stocks. Many sizes of these guns exists, but they all have the same physical characteristics.
Other Forms
Tantutu (pistols)
Matchlock pistols all have very straight grips which are difficult to hold. To open the pan cover on a pistol the left hand is also required. Pistols were not regarded as reasonable weapons so the number of pistols is not large. A strong arm was needed to manage the straight grip.
Bajoututu (Carbines)
"Bajou" meant "horseback" and hence the Bajoututu was a matchlock designed to be fired from horseback. These guns were longer than the Tantutu: many carbines were used but the 5 Monme is the most popular.
The Standard Size Guns
These guns were the most popular and they exceeded four feet five inches in length; the barrel length was three feet four inches. They were made the calibers of 2 to 2/5 Monme, they had outside spring locks and trigger guards, and they weighed about 25 pounds.
Hazamatutu (Wall Guns)
These guns were shot from ships or from the windows of castles. Their length is mostly more than five feet and they weigh between 50 and 60 pounds.
Five Monme Bajoututu
These guns of .60 caliber had a length of two feet and a barrel length of 14 inches.
Ten Monme Tsutsu
These weapons were called "Samurai-Tutu" and were of more than .70 caliber; They were very heavy guns. Most of these guns are well preserved.
Thirty Monme Tsutsu
These weapons have a caliber of 1.1 inch; their barrels are short - about two feet in length - but they are very heavy and weigh about 60 pounds.
Fifty Monme Tsutsu
The caliber of these guns is almost 3.5 inch. Few guns with caliber over 50 monme exist. They were used as cannons against ships or fortifications.