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An Edo period wood block print showing samurai gunners firing bo-hiya with hiya-zutsu (fire arrow guns).

Bo hiya (hiya) is the Japanese version of the fire arrow. Bo-hiya were used in ancient Japan and by the samurai class of feudal Japan.

History and description[edit | edit source]

Fire arrows of some type have been used in Japan as far back as the 6th century where they are said to have been used during a military campaign in Korea. Bows (yumi) were used to launch these early fire arrows.[1]

In 10th-century China, gunpowder was used to launch fire arrows, and this type of fire arrow was used against the Japanese by Mongolian naval vessels in the 13th century.[2]

In 1543 the Japanese acquired matchlock technology from the Portuguese, and the resulting firearms developed by the Japanese led to new means of launching fire arrows. These rocket-type bo-hiya had the appearance of a thick arrow with large fins, a wood shaft and a metal tip; they resembled the Korean cannon-fired rocket (Chongtong)[3] Bo-hiya were ignited by lighting a fuse made from incendiary waterproof rope which was wrapped around the shaft; when lit the bo-hiya was launched from either a wide-bore cannon, a form of tanegashima (Japanese matchlock) called hiya zutsu, or from a mortar-like weapon (hiya taihou). By the 1500s Japanese pirates (wokou also, kaizoku or wako) were reported to have used bo-hiya. During one sea battle it was said the bo hiya were "falling like rain".[4] Bo-hiya were standard equipment on Japanese military vessels where they were used to set fire to enemy ships.[5]

Gallery[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Japan, its history, arts and literature, Volume 2, Volumes 1-8 of Trübner's oriental series, Japan, Its History, Arts and Literature, Frank Brinkley Volumes 1-8 of Oriental series, Author Frank Brinkley, publisher J. B. Millet Co., 1901 P.135
  2. The Rocket, New Cavendish books, 1978 ISBN 0-904568-10-5 P.10
  3. Fighting ships of the Far East: Japan and Korea AD 612-1639, New Vanguard Volume 2 of Fighting Ships of the Far East, Stephen R. Turnbull, illustrated by Wayne Reynolds, Osprey Publishing, 2003, ISBN 1-84176-478-7, ISBN 978-1-84176-478-8
  4. Pirate of the Far East: 811-1639, Stephen Turnbull, Osprey Publishing, Nov 20, 2007 P.34
  5. Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan, 1885, Original from the University of Michigan P.121

External links[edit | edit source]

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