What is Hoko Spear


Because of anime and tv show you might think katana is the only weapon samurai use, but the truth is, there are many choice of weapons for a samurai warrior, and one of them is Spear (Hoko).

"The 'spear' (hoko) is a weapon with a double-edged blade attached to a long handle. It is a weapon that was used not only in Japan but also worldwide, and is said to be the predecessor of the lance and naginata. It often appears in mythology as a weapon owned by the gods, so you may have heard the name before. We will introduce what kind of weapon the spear is, how it was used, the features and types of spears, existing spears, and famous spears appearing in mythology.

A weapon appearing in Kiki mythology
The 'spear' (hoko) is a weapon that has been around for a long time, with its name even appearing in the Kiki mythology (a general term for Kojiki and Nihon Shoki). During an era when forging technology was immature, the sturdy spear was prized on the battlefield, but eventually stopped being produced. The reason is that it cost more to produce than the lance (yari) or naginata. The spear was gradually replaced by simpler and cheaper-to-produce weapons such as lances and naginatas.
Difference between spears and lances
Spears are often confused with lances because of their similar shape, but there are points that distinguish spears from lances. These are the shape of the tip, the way it is attached to the handle, and the way it is held during combat.
Shape of the tip
The tip of a spear has a wide double edge. The difference with a lance is the shape of the tip. While a lance is designed for thrusting and thus has a sharp point, a spear is designed to 'slash', so its tip has a rounded shape.
Method of attachment to the handle
There is also a difference in the way spears and lances are attached to the handle. A lance inserts the tang (the part of the blade that fits into the handle) into the handle and secures it by winding vines around it. On the other hand, a spear changes its shape into a long-handled weapon by inserting the handle into a socket-like part and securing the handle and the blade with rivets.
How to hold during combat
While there is not a big difference in how spears and lances are held in Japan as both are held with both hands, there was a difference in China. The spear was basically used with one hand, so it is said that a shield could be equipped in the other hand. On the other hand, the lance was assumed to be used with both hands, so there was no shield equipped at the same time.
Types of Spears
The types of spears are broadly divided into three types depending on the material of the spear tip. The first is the 'wooden spear' (kihoko), which is sharpened by whittling a tree branch. The second is the 'stone spear' (ishihoko), which sharpens the tip of a long stone. The third is the 'bronze spear' (douhoko), which uses copper as a material.
Wooden Spear
A wooden spear is a primitive spear. There is a record in the 'Engishiki', a style guide compiled in the middle of the Heian period, that a bureaucrat of the court called 'Hayato' was given a 'wooden lance' (mokuyari) of 1 jo 1 shaku (approximately 333.3 cm) in the early Heian period. This shows that wooden spears were used as weapons in Japan at least by the early Heian period.
Stone Spear
A stone spear is a spear that is sharper and more durable than a wooden spear. This spear is completed by tying a stone to the tip of a stick, and in the Kofun period, the 'Izushiho' brought by the prince of Silla during the reign of 'Emperor Suinin' was a stone spear. The term 'Izushiho' is generally thought to mean 'beautiful stone spear', and was thus named 'Izushi', but there is also a theory that 'izushi' means 'sharp'.
Bronze Spear
A bronze spear is a spear with a bronze spear tip. From the Kofun period, when bronze swords began to be used, bronze spears were also made. Unlike wooden spears and stone spears, the spear is attached to the tip of the handle in a way that covers it, which is the same structure as the later 'bag lance' (fukuroyari). In Japan, during the hiding of the 'Amaterasu Omikami', 'Ishikoridome no Mikoto' mined copper at Amanokaguyama and made a bronze spear. Later, iron spears were introduced from northern Asia, and it is said that the less sharp bronze spears fell out of use. Iron spears were replaced by naginata in the late Heian period, but then in the Muromachi period, they revived as the main players on the battlefield in the form of lances."

"Use Cases Beyond Weapons
Tools for ceremonial purposes
The use of the spear (hoko) is not limited to actual combat. It is said that spears and shields were lined up for use in rituals at 'Kashiwara-no-Miya' in Kashiwara City, Nara Prefecture, where 'Emperor Jinmu' is said to have ascended to the throne (now Kashiwara Shrine). Also, in the 'Daijou-e' in November 698 (the 2nd year of Emperor Monmu), a ceremonial feast performed in the Imperial Court on the occasion of the Emperor's succession, and during the rebuilding of Heijo Palace in 745 (the 17th year of the Tempyo era), it was decided to create eight new 'spears' (hoko) of 1 jo 8 shaku (approximately 545.4 cm). The spear is one of the weapons derived from the spear, characterized by its rounded L-shaped tip.
Spears of 'Gion Festival'
The 'Gion Festival' is a traditional Shinto festival in Kyoto, originating from the Heian period. During the Jogan era (859-877), there was an epidemic in Kyoto, and disasters such as major earthquakes and eruptions of Mt. Fuji were happening nationwide. People believed and feared that these were the wrath of Gozu Tenno (the festival deity of Gion Shrine, now Yasaka Shrine, in Heiankyo). To appease the wrath of Gozu Tenno, a purification ritual was performed by erecting 66 spears, the same number as the number of provinces, and sending a portable shrine to 'Shinsen-en'. This became the origin of the Gion Festival. Since then, the spears have been transformed into 'Yama-boko', a type of parade float with decorations and wheels, and have been loved as a feature of summer in Kyoto.
Existing Spears and Spears in Mythology
Spears in Shosoin
Several spears exist in the Shosoin in Nara City, Nara Prefecture. Among them, there is a spear with a hook on the lower part of the tip. The hooked spear was used to drag down horse-riding warriors and to stab them, as well as to trip horses and make horse-riding warriors fall off. In the Battle of Hakusukinoe, which was a battle between the Japanese and Tang armies, the Japanese army was forced to struggle against this hooked spear. After that, hooked spears began to be manufactured in Japan as useful weapons. In addition to this, there is also a spear called 'Teboko' in Shosoin, which has a bent tip. Teboko was considered a tool for rituals for a long time, but in recent years it has been said that it might have been a weapon made for actual combat.
'Ame-no-nuboko' is a spear that appears in the 'Kiki Mythology'. In the Kojiki it is called Ame-no-nuboko, and in the Nihon Shoki it is recorded as 'Ame-no-niho-yari' or 'Ame-niho-yari'. In the 'Kuniumi Mythology', which is a tale of the creation of the land of Japan, it is said that 'Izanami', the ancestor of the Imperial family, and her husband 'Izanagi' stirred up the chaotic earth from a bridge called 'Ame-no-uki-hashi' with Ame-no-nuboko, creating an island.
'Hihiragi-no-yahoko' is a spear that appears in the Kojiki. It is said to be a spear that was given to 'Yamatotakeru' by his father, 'Emperor Keikou'. The name 'Hihiragi' is presumed to be derived from the fact that the sacred tree 'Holly' (Hihiragi), which wards off evil spirits, was used for its material."

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