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Glossary of Terms



Adake-bune - Largest ships in general use by the 16th Century; powered by up to 80 oarsmen. The Adake-bune were used in both trade and war, generally acting as flagships in the latter endeavor.

Agemaki - Ornamental bow common in armor throughout samurai history.

Ainu - Caucasian people indigenous to Japan now confined to Hokkaido.

Ako-gishi -The '47 Ronin' of the Edo Period incident.

Akuso - "Rowdy Monks", an old term for the warrior monks later known as SOHEI.

Akuto - Outlaw bands prevalent in the Kamakura period. Between 1301 and 1333 the Hojo weakened but could not completely destroy the roving Akuto.

Amaterasu - Also, Amaterasu-ō-mi-kami. Shinto deity; the goddess of the sun and progenitor of the Imperial family. The daughter of IZANAGI and IZANAMI, Amaterasu is also said to have taught her people how to cultivate food and raise silk worms. The most important Shinto divinity.

Ashigaru - ‘Light feet’: infantry. Largely developed in response to the Onin War, the Ashigaru became the backbone of all daimyo armies in the 16th Century, especially after the widespread adoption of the matchlock. Until the 1590’s, an ashigaru was normally a peasant who worked in his home village when not on his lord’s campaigns.

Ashikaga Period - 1333-1573, also known as the Muromachi Period. Named after the shogunate that ruled during this time.

Ashura - Protector of the Buddhist realm, depicted with three faces and six arms.

Atsumori - Particularly popular No drama depicting a poignant event in the Gempei War, the death of young Taira Atsumori at the Battle of Ichi-no-Tani.

Azuma kagami - An important historical work completed in the early 14th Century, dealing with the years between 1180 and 1266. The Azuma kagami’s day-by-day treatment of the Kamakura Bakufu makes it an invaluable tool to historians of that era.

Azuchi - 1) Castle in Ômi completed by Oda Nobunaga in 1578. Designed by Niwa Nagahide, Azuchi was the greatest castle of Japan in it's day and was lavishly decorated. Nobunaga went to great lengths to attract merchants to Azuchi's castle town. After Nobunaga's death in 1582, Azuchi was pillaged by Akechi Mitsuhide's troops then burned-either by looters or on the orders of Niwa Nagahide himself. 2) Term occasionally used to describe the period of Oda Nobunaga's ascendancy (1573-1582).


Bajo - A term for cavalry.

Bakufu - ‘Tent/Camp government’: term used to refer the shogunate or, in the case of the Hojo Regency, the military government. Bakufu could also be more narrowly applied to the headquarters of the shogunate.

Bakuhan - Modern term used to describe the Tokugawa (BAUKUfu) rule over the domains of the daimyo (HAN).

Bansho - ‘Captain’; found occasionally in 16th Century records (especially relating to the Hôjô clan).

Betto - Term or device common in the early Heian Period normally used to signify the holder of some important office.

Bishamon - God of War and Defense, one of the Seven Deities of Good Luck.

Biwa - Gourd-shaped lute-a musical instrument that predated the SAMISEN.

Bo - Wooden staff primarily used by non-samurai in the Edo period.

Bodhisattva - One who has attained enlightenment but rather then move on to Nirvana waits to aid others in their quest for enlightenment.

Bôsen - A defensive battle; to fight on the defensive.

Bokuto - Wooden sword often used in a swordsman’s training.

Book of Five Rings - See GORINSO.

Bôsen - fighting on the defensive, a defensive battle

Bu - Ancient term applied to the martial side of the Japanese culture.

Budo - Term occasionally used in the Edo Period to describe the study of the martial arts; in modern usage, a reference to the martial arts.

Bugei - Ancient term used to describe martial combat. The terms Bujutsu and BUDO are derived from Bugei.

Bugukake - Weapon rack.

Bugyô - Administrator, official, commissioner, ect. Generally charged by the Bakufu or daimyo with a specific function; i.e. Gunbugyô: Army Chief of staff. Bugyonin referred to lower-level versions of the above, especially in the Kamakura Period.

Bugyônin - See BUGYÔ.

Buke - Military house; family whose duties include the bearing of arms -most often applied to those warrior clans prior to and during the Gempei War (1180-85) but in use into and beyond the Momoyama Period. Buke is occasionally- and misleadingly- translated as ‘equestrians’.

Bunbu ichi - Term referring to the old samurai debate over the relative important of letters and learning versus martial skill.

Bun'ei - Term for the first Mongol Invasion (1274).

Bunji - Noble; a member of the imperial court.

Bunkoku - Provinces that in the Heian Period were governed by court nobles; in the Sengoku Period, Bunkoku was sometimes used to refer to the territory of a daimyo.

Burakumin - See ETA.

Bushi - Warrior.

Bushido - ‘Way of the Warrior’. First recorded in the 16th Century (in the Koyo Gunkan and other such works), the term Bushido has come to act as a blanket expression for the philosophy and mindset of the samurai, in particular the ideals of honor and bravery.


Cha - Tea.

Cha-no-Yu - Tea ceremony; a custom refined in the later 15th Century and popular among the samurai and court nobles. Considered in many ways an art form.

Chado - The Way of Tea; a term used to describe the art and practice of the tea ceremony.

Chasengami - Style of top knot named after it’s resemblance to a tea wisk.

Chinjufu shôgun - Rank; 'General of the northern pacification command', a rank held by Ashikaga Takauji during the Kemmu Restoration (1333-1336).

Chinzei - Medieval term for Kyushu.

Cho - Unit of land measure that was equivalent to 2.94 acres until 1594, when it was reduced, now equaling 2.45 acres.

Chokkatsuchi - A lord’s personal territory-his personal property.

Chonin - A class term for merchants and artisans, who figured in below the peasants and above outcasts on the social scale.

Chôsen - Korea.

Chubu - Central Japan; especially Mino, Shinano, Kai, Owari, Ômi, and Hida.

Chugen - Term occasionally used to describe ASHIGARU.

Chugoku - The western arm of Honshu: Nagato, Suo, Aki, Iwami, Bingo, Izumo, Hoki, Bitchu, Bizen, Mimasaka, Harima, and Tajima. Chugoku can also be found in reference to China.

Chûsei - Scholarly term broadly describing the 'medieval' period in Japanese history; the time between the late Heian Period and the Momoyama Period.


Daijo Daijin - ‘Great Minister of State’-the highest appointment awarded by the imperial court. Rank held by such figures as Taira Kiyomori, Oda Nobunaga, and Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

Daikan - Deputy, intendant, manager. Daikan could refer to the official tax collector for a daimyo.

Daiku - Carpenter.

Daimyô - ‘Great Name’; term used to describe the autonomous lords of the late 15th and 16th Centuries who exercised personal authority on a multi-province, multi-district, or, in some cases, multi-village level. A term occasionally, and incorrectly, applied to the earlier SHUGO, or misleadingly equated to the shugo. At the same time, the term shugo-daimyo is sometimes used to describe the increasingly autonomous shugo of the early to mid-14the Century, and the term shugo can be found still in use as late as 1560. In the Edo period, the term daimyo generally applied to those lords who governed lands worth more than 10,000 KOKU.

Dairai - The Imperial Palace.

Dairyo - A district magistrate.

Daisho - Sword pair formed by the KATANA and WAKIZASHI and worn by the samurai.

Dajo Tenno - Honorific title for an abdicated emperor.

Dengaku - ‘Country music’, ‘rustic music’; music popular with the common people, often including dance routines as part of a performance.

Deus - Jesus

Do - Generic term for body armor - that armor which protects the torso; a cuirass.

Dogo - Village leader, headman, especially one whose assets allow him a certain amount of political and/or military clout locally.

Dojo - Martial arts school or training hall.

Donjon - Castle keeps, popular in the later 16th Century. The first castle keep was built by Matsunaga Hisahide in 1567 at Tamon. Donjons were ultimately designed as much for appearance as defensive capability.

Doshin - Term for Edo Period ‘police officers’, subordinate to YORIKI.

Doso - Pawnbroker; moneylender in the Muromachi Period.

Doza - The copper guild.


Eboshi - Cap, usually black and often fastened to the head with a silk cord, worn by the samurai in formal circumstances.

Edo - Castle in Musashi and capital of the Tokugawa Bakufu. Built in 1456 by Ôta Dôkan, Edo came under the Hojo's control in 1524. When the Hojo were defeated in 1590, Tokugawa Ieyasu made Edo his home castle at Hideyoshi's suggestion. It remained the capital of the Tokugawa until 1867; in 1868 the Emperor Meiji moved the Imperial Court to Edo and renamed it Tokyo.

Edo Period - 1600-1867

Egoshu - Council, especially one composed of civilian community elders-often applied to the governing merchant body of Sakai.

Emishi - Derogative term for the AINU.

Emma - God of Hell.

Enryakuji - Temple complex on Mt. Hiei (Ômi province) founded by the monk Saicho Dengyo-Daishi) in 788. The spiritual capital of the Tendai sect of Buddhism, the Enryakuji maintained a virtual army of warrior monks and played an active (and at times destructive) role in Kyoto politics until 1571. In that year, Oda Nobunaga, whom the Enryakuji had defied, destroyed the Enryakuji and killed thousands of its monks. It was later rebuilt though almost no buildings predate 1571.

Eta - Term used to describe those people who handled tasks considered exceptionally distasteful: executioners, butchers, undertakers, midwives, and tomb attendants - in general, any job which required the handling of the dead or the remains of the dead. Even the makers of leather armor could be considered Eta. The term is possibly derived from Etori, or butcher. Eta were considered practically subhuman, especially in the Edo Period, and to have Eta roots remained a stigma into the 20th Century - currently known as Buraku-min.


Fudai - A hereditary vassal-a retainer of long standing. In the Edo Period, this came to mean those lords who had supported Tokugawa Ieyasu in the Sekigahara Campaign (1600). Sometimes translated as ‘Inner Lords’.

Fudo Myoo - Budd. Deity of Fire; attendant to Dainichi, depicted with a sword in one hand and a rope in the other. Also known as Achala.

Fugen - Budd. Bodhisattva depicted sitting on a elephant.

Fumie - Device used to find Christians after that religion became prohibited (starting to an extent in 1587). Normally an image of Jesus, the Fumie was dropped on the ground and individuals made to step upon it, in the belief that a true Christian would not commit such a sacrilege.

Funa Benkei - ‘Benkei aboard ship’, popular Nō play recounting a legend from 1185 involving Minamoto Yoshitsune, the warrior monk Benkei, and the tragic Shizuka Gozen.

Fundoshi - Loincloth.

Funsen - A brave battle; to fight bravely.

Furyū - A group dance making use of outlandish costumes to tell an often energetic and occasionally bawdy tale; originally a ritual of exorcism, Furyū was quite popular by the 16th Century, especially among commoners.


Gagaku - Style of music traditionally favored by the Imperial Court.

- Gawa - River (examples: Anegawa, Saigawa); also: kawa.

Gakushu - Scholarly monks.

Gekokujo - ‘The low overcome the high’; term contemporary to the Muromachi Period that described someone of high standing being unseated by an inferior. Often applied to the frequent political upsets of the Sengoku Period.

Gempei War - The conflict between 1180 and 1185 that saw the defeat of the Taira (Heike, Heishi) and the rise to power of the Minamoto (Genji) led by Minamoto Yoritomo.

Genko - The Mongol Invasions (1274 and 1281)

Gennin - Attendants to samurai, whose responsibilities included horse care, equipment maintenance, and so on.

Genpuku - Coming of age ceremony generally celebrated on a boy’s 14th or 15th birthday. Also known as genbuku.

Genzoku - The act of a monk returning to lay life. Most sengoku daimyo had rules regulating the return of monks to secular life, presumably because many defeated samurai were spared execution if they took up a monk's habit.

Gesu - Estate/SHOEN manager, administrator of the Heian Period.

Ginza - Silver guild in the Edo Period.

Giri - A term implying a debt of gratitude, obligation, or a sense of honor; duty.

Go - Ancient board game with an emphasis on careful strategy, popular throughout Japanese history.

Go- Affix denoting ‘Later’. For example: Go-Daigo-The Later Daigo. As Go is also 5 in Japanese, the same affix sometimes indicated five of something.

Gokamon - Term used by the Tokugawa Bakufu to refer to members of the Matsudaira families.

Gokenin - A retainer/vassal family of the Kamakura Bakufu, especially those who had served under Minamoto Yoritomo; generally having a certain amount of influence.

Gorinso - Work on the principles of sword fighting composed by the swordsman Miyamoto Musashi in the early to mid-16th Century.

Goson - Village; self-governing village important in the later 16th Century and Edo Period.

Goyoshokunin - Performers or artisans kept on a retainer by a daimyo and allowed special privileges.

Gumin - "Stupid commoners"; Edo Period samurai phrase for peasants and townspeople.

Gun - 1) "Country". 2) Administrative division of a province. 3) Military, army.

Gun-Bugyô - See BUGYO.

Gunkimono - ‘War tale’; type of written work that dealt primarily with warriors and their deeds.

Gun sen - Folding war fan often made out of metal.

Gun’yaku - A military service levy or tax.

Gun’yakushu - Taxpayers in the 16th century who rendered military service or provided soldiers in return for an exemption on rice/money taxation.

Gun'yuukakkyo - A rivalry of powerful warlords.

Gyôbushô - Ministry/Minister of Justice; court rank/office estalished as part of the Taiho Code (702) and later a ceremonial title.

Gyorin - Battle formation; 'fish scale'. Supposedly tilized by some daimyô in the 16th Century, the gyorin was intended to make an army appear as if it were preparing to retreat-thereby tricking an enemy into attacking.


Hachimaki - Traditional white head cloth worn with armor and acting as a helmet pad or cushion.

Hagakure - Early 18th Century text complied by Tashiro Tsuramoto from the recollections and precepts of Yamamoto Tsunetomo. Considered one of the foremost works of samurai thought.

Haiboku - Defeat.

Haidate - Thigh guard additions to suits of armor that became popular in the 16th Century.

Hakama - Large, skirt-like pants worn over a kimono, typically worn by samurai-especially in the Edo Period. A shorter version, a han-bakama, could be found among lower-class samurai and outside classes.

Han - A Daimyo’s domain in the Edo Period, a relatively modern term.

Hanran - Rebellion.

Hanzei - A tax or obligation that called for one half of the income of a particular holding to be rendered to the Daimyo.

- Hara - Plain (example: Mikata ga Hara).

Hara-ate - Traditional armor type normally reserved for the lower classes that protected only the front of the torso. \

Hara-kiri - ‘Belly-slitting’; a term for SEPPUKU, considered somewhat vulgar and rarely used by samurai.

Haramaki-do - Style of armor developed during the 14th Century that was more form fitting than previous armor types and was opened in the back.

Hatamoto - ‘Bannerman"; retainers close to the Daimyo/Shogun and accorded certain privileges and special status.

Heian Period - 794-1192.

Heike - Name for the Taira family.

Heike Monogatari - ‘The Tale of the Heike’; a ‘war tale’ relating the fall of the Heike clan composed around 1220.

Heishi - Term applied to conscripted infantry of the Yamato Period.

Hikan - A retainer/attendant of lowly rank; a personal retainer of the Ashikaga shogun who filled an ostensibly low-ranking post.

Hinin - See ETA.

Hirajiro - ‘Castle on the plain’, ‘Plain castle’, a castle built on flat ground (as opposed to a YAMASHIRO).

Hirayamajiro - 'Flatland Mountain Castle', a castle built on a rise surrounded by plains.

Hokke - See NICHIREN.

Hōkō - Military service, especially after 1590.

Hokucho - The Northern court.

Honjin - The headquarters of a daimyo or general on a campaign.

Honjin-Hatamoto - A samurai responsible for the guard of a field headquarters; commander of a headquarters’ staff.

Honjô - A primary castle mutually supported by satellite castles (Shijo).

Horagai - Conch-shell used as a signaling device on the battlefield and for ceremonial purposes.

Hori - Water-filled moat.

Horo - Large, cape-like armor accessory worn mainly in the Heian Period whose exact purpose is unknown.

Hoshi - 1) Arrowhead. 2) Battle formation; 'arrowhead'. A 16th Century formation, the 'hoshi' was intended for a charge-probably a standard formation.

Hyakushô - Farmer, villager, cultivator.

Hyôbushô - Ministry/Minister of War; court rank/office estalished as part of the Taiho Code (702) and later a ceremonial title.

Hyōrōryōsho - Council of State; the main administrative body under the Kamakura Bakufu.


Ichi - Market, marketplace.

Ie - A household; family.

Ikki - A league or alliance. Also, a generic term for a rebellious or riotous peasant group, from the 15th Century into the Edo Period.

Ikko-ikki - Militant league consisting primarily of commoners, ‘village samurai’, and religious adherents-especially one associated with the Honganji sect of Jodo Shinshu Buddhism. Prominent in the 15th-16th Centuries.

Imayo - Type of singing style popular in the late Heian Period.

In - A retired emperor.

Inka - Certificates awarded by a Zen master to a student that signified the holder had achieved some degree of enlightenment in Zen.

Insei - Modern term describing a system whereby retired/abdicated emperors continued to rule from behind the scenes. Once commonly translated as ‘government by cloistered emperors’, the term ‘cloistered’ is now considered misleading. Emperor Go-Daigo officially abolished this system in 1321.

Inu ō-mono - Archery sport in which live dogs were chased and shot from horseback.

Ishigaki - Stone castle walls.

Ishiku - Stone mason.

Izanagi - In Shinto, along with IZANAMI one of the creators of Japan; Izanami's lover, and the father of AMATERASU.

Izanami - (Also, Izanami-no-kami.) In Shinto, the Creator of Life; with Izanagi the creator of the Japanese Islands. Izanami is said to have retired to a castle in the underworld after the creation of the world.


-Ji - Affix indicating a temple (i.e. Enryakuji: Enryaku Temple).

Jibushô - Ministry/Minister of Civil Affairs; court rank/office estalished as part of the Taiho Code (702) and later a ceremonial title.

Jinai - Temple complexes that included religious, militant, and economic dimensions; especially those associated with the Jodo Shinshu sect.

Jinbaori - Surcoat, or sleeveless jacket, worn over armor, often by important samurai, especially in the 16th Century.

Jingasa - Simple iron helmet used by foot soldiers in the 16th Century that doubled as a shallow pot for cooking rations in the field.

Jinmaku - See MAKU.

Jinnō Shōtōki - ‘The Records of the Legitimate Succession of the Divine Sovereigns’, completed by Kitabatake Chikafusa in 1339. Essentially an argument for the legitimacy of the Southern Court.

Jito - A lower-level official charged with the collection of taxes and the enforcement of laws on an estate level. The jito, created by the Kamakura Bakufu, answered to the SHUGO.

Jitte - Iron bar with a prong on one side used to disarm an attacker, developed for use by the YORIKI in the Edo Period.

Jizamurai - ‘Samurai of the land’, ‘samurai of the soil’-rural samurai who often lived close to the land and were not entirely removed from the peasantry.

-Jo - Affix indicating a castle (i.e. Osaka-Jo, Chihaya-jo).

Jodan - Room with a raised floor-used by important figures.

Jōdo Shinshu - ‘True Pure Land’ sect of Buddhism popular with the peasantry that worships the Amida.

Jōkamachi - Castle town, especially one of the late16th-17th Century and beyond.

Joro - Prostitute, especially those catering to the lower classes.

Joshu - A castellan; a castle keeper-a prestigious posting for the retainer of a Daimyo in the 16th Century.

Junshi - The act of following one’s late lord in death through suicide. Generally applied to peacetime incidents of such suicides, junshi was expressly outlawed in the Edo Period.


Kaburaya - "Turnip head’-bulbous arrow head that produced a distinctive noise in flight.

Kabuki - Popular form of theater developed in the early Edo Period. The Bakufu attempted on six occasions to ban Kabuki (which was considered vulgar) without success. Kabuki did evolve over time, however - the earlier forms featured female players, who were later banned.

Kabuto - The traditional helmet of the samurai, often decorated with a sometimes-elaborate crest. The most common sort of kabuto by the 16th Century was the so-called hachi-mai-bari, or ‘eight applied plates’. This cheap, conservative design was a descendant of the often-ornate kabuto worn by earlier Heian and Kamakura samurai that were designed for using a bow and protecting against arrows.

Kagemusha - "Shadow warrior’; an individual who acted as the double for a daimyo when his appearance on the battlefield or elsewhere needed to be feigned.

Kagoshima - Town in Satsuma. Kagoshima acted as the seat of power for the Shimazu family from the early Kamakura Period onward, and was the scene of a western naval bombardment in 1863 following the murder of a British diplomat.

Kagura - Ancient form of dance-drama that predates NO.

Kaho - Daimyo house law, the set of guidelines and/or rules by which the daimyo and his retainers operated. The earliest kaho may have been the ‘Wall Writings of the Ōuchi’, some of which dates from 1440. Also known as Kakun.

Kaishaku - A ‘second’; an assistant to the act of suicide, whose job it was to behead the samurai committing suicide after he had cut his belly, so as to minimize the suffering he would have to endure.

Kakun - See Kaho.

Kakuyoku - Battle formation; 'crane's wing'. Used by certain daimyô in the 16th Century (notably Takeda Shingen at Kawanakajima in 1561), the kakuyoku was supposedly intended to envelop a retreating or surprised enemy.

Kamikaze - ‘Divine Wind’, term given to a typhoon that destroyed the Mongol Invasion fleet in 1281 (and possibly in 1274, although it is conceivable that the storm in the 1st invasion has been embellished over the centuries).

Kamishimo - Formal samurai attire consisting of a KIMONO, HAKAMA, and KATAGINU. During the Edo Period, kamishimo become more ‘everyday wear’.

Kamon - See Mon.

Kan - Unit of cash-equivalent to 1000 MON.

Kana - Phonetic syllabary popular in and after the Heian Period, though generally reserved for the common people and women. Edicts and codes commoners were expected to understand were often written in kanna, as were popular books and the like.

Kanadaka - The value of a holding expressed in a cash sum.

Kanjo - A letter of commendation, often issued by a daimyo to a valued retainer, especially one who had preformed some meritorious deed or service.

Kannon - Bodhisattva with 33 manifestations including Fuken the eight armed Kannon; Juntei the eighteen armed Kannon, and Senju, who is sometimes depicted as having a thousand hands with an eye on the palm of each.

Kanpaku - Imperial Regent; a court rank dating from the 9th Century. Assumed by Toyotomi Hideyoshi in 1586 and passed to his adopted son Hidetsugu in January 1591. Also rendered as ‘Kampaku’, or ‘Kwampaku’.

Kanrei - Deputy or Vice Shogun; established in the late 14th Century. Two Kanrei positions were ultimately established: the Kyoto Kanrei and Kanto Kanrei, the latter acting as the shogun’s executive office in the Kanto region. The last individual to hold the post of Kanto Kanrei was Uesugi Kenshin.

Kanshi - The act of committing suicide in remonstration to a lord or in protest; commiting suicide to get a point across.

Karo - Clan elders; those trusted retainers of a daimyo whose service is long and loyal.

Kashin - Retainer.

Kashindan - A daimyo’s retainer band.

Kataginu - Stiff-shouldered sleeveless jacket worn by samurai over a kimono along with HAKAMA in formal circumstances, especially in the Edo Period.

Katana - Traditional long sword of the samurai constructed through the folding and refolding of a bar of hot metal thousands of times. Reknowned for its toughness and cutting ability, the katana-or tachi-replaced the bow as the primary weapon of the samurai during the later Kamakura period, although it was often secondary to a short spear (YARI) in battle.

Katanagari - Term describing the confiscation of arms from all non-samurai at the end of the 16th Century.

Katanakaji - Swordsmith.

- Kawa - River (also, gawa).

Kebiki-odoshi - Type of close lacing used to construct armor.

Kegutsu - Boots made with fur (often from bears) popular among ranking samurai in the Heian Period but rare by the 16th Century.

Keiseimachi - 'Courtesan district'; literally meaning 'district of destroyers of cities'; otherwise known as 'pleasure districts', these areas were grudgingly allowed by the Tokugawa bakufu during the Edo Period and catered to all classes.

Kemmu Restoration - 1333-1336, brief period in which full authority was restored to the Imperial house under Go-Daigo. Ashikaga Takauji-a former ally of Go-Daigo-brought the Restoration to an abrupt end by seizing power and creating the Ashikaga Bakufu.

Kemmu Shikimoku - Set of 17 injunctions composed by the monk Zeen on the order of Ashikaga Takauji in 1336 essentially acting as a representation of the Ashikaga's authority. Numerous additions were made to the original 17 articles-a total of 200 by 1520.

Ken - A unit of distance equal to 1.818 meters or 6 SHAKU.

Kenchi - Cadastral study, land surveys conducted by many daimyo in the 16th Century to maximize the lands registered for taxation. Toyotomi Hideyoshi organized the greatest of the land surveys between 1587-1597. Land surveys were patently unpopular with the peasantry and local samurai, sometimes prompting riots and resistance.

Kenjutsu - The study and practice of swordsmanship.

Keppan - 'Blood seal', the act of cutting the fourth finger on one's left hand with a knife and smearing the resultant blood on an oath, below the signer's signature or monogram

Kerai - Retainer.

Kesa - A monk's ritual shawl or cloak, sometimes worn over armor by samurai who were also Buddhist monks.

Kimono - Standard every-day wear throughout Japanese history, designed in part to keep its wearer cool during the summertime. Kimonos were made from cotton, hemp, or silk, depending on the station of the wearer, and changed styles frequently over the centuries. Formal kimono-as a court noble or important samurai might wear-was made of fine silk and was bilious, with especially long sleeves and reaching to the floor. Peasants and foot soldiers often wore half-kimonos-which allowed easy movement and-perhaps more importantly-were cheap.

Kinai - The provinces around Kyoto, especially Yamashiro, Yamato, Kwatchi, Izumi, Settsu, Iga, Tamba, and Ômi.

Kinsei - Scholarly term describing the "Early Modern' period in Japanese history; the time between the Momoyama and Meiji Periods.

Kirishitan - Christian.

Kirisutogomen - The right of a samurai to slay disrespectful members of the lower classes in the Edo Period.

Kiseru - Long handled wooden pipe popular among samurai in the late 16th Century after the introduction of tobacco to Japan.

Kô - Filial piety, especially to one's lord.

Kobaya - Small, open roof ship found in medieval navies, manned by 20 oarsmen.

Kodokan - Samurai school established by the Mito Tokugawa house that became well-known and controversial.

Koga-kubō - Rank by which the Kanto Ashikaga branch was known.

Kôgeki - Attack, offensive strike.

Kôkei - A succesor.

Kokka - A daimyo’s realm, his direct sphere of influence-the land a daimyo ruled.

Koku - A unit of rice (44.8 gallons/180 liters) that was used to measure an individual’s wealth and a place’s theoretical productivity. In the 16th Century, a simple samurai might be awarded a stipend of 100 koku a year, while in the Edo Period an income of 10,000 koku was considered Daimyo status. One koku was held to be enough rice to feed one man for a year.

Kokudaka - The value of a holding expressed in koku of rice.

Kokujin - "Man of the province", "provincial"; term used to describe locally powerful samurai families during the Muromachi Period. As they were often not far removed from the peasantry in terms of priorities and concerns, kokujin were very much like jizamurai-if not the same, for all intents and purposes.

Konidatai - The baggage/supply train for an army in the field.

Kori - District, a subsection of a KUNI (province).

Koshu - Term for Kai province and things of Kai province.

Koto - 13-stringed board zither popular from the early Heian Period onward, especially in the Court.

Koyo Gunkan - History of the Takeda clan in the Sengoku Period possibly complied in part by Kosaka Masanobu sometime before 1578 but more recently attributed to Obata Kagenori; one of the first texts to mention the term BUSHIDO.

Kubi bukuro - 'Head bag'; a netted bad used to carry the heads of defeated enemies.

Kuge - Court noble(s).

Kugyō - Highly placed court nobles.

Kuji - Dues levied in corvēe labor, a requirement to send men for provincial work.

Kuni - Province.

Kuruwa - Term for a castle compound.

Kyoto - Imperial Capital from 794AD (when it was known as Heian-kyo) until 1868. Kyoto also acted as the seat of Ashikaga power from 1333 until 1573, and was the scene of the Ônin War (1467-77). Throughout, Kyoto was the largest city in Japan, and may have numbered as many as 150,000 citizens in 1550.

Kyûba no michi - The Way of Horse and Bow, a term for the Heian and Kamakura era martial values.


Machi - Communities within a city; a large town; a division (block) of a city.

Machi-bugyo - Edo Period town or city magistrates that handled many civil tasks for their daimyo, especially when he was away serving in Edo. Edo itself counted two machi-bugyo.

Makimono - A scroll.

Makoto - Sincerity, pureness of intention.

Maku - Camp curtains enclosing a leader’s headquarters while on campaign or on an outdoor excursion. Maku were essentially silk walls and were not ‘roofed’. Also known as jinmaku and tobari.

Mandokoro - The chief governing body of an important family or monastic complex; in the Kamakura Period, the primary executive branch of the Bakufu.

Mappo - See MASSE.

Masse - A Buddhist term meaning the 'Decline of the Law', or 'Latter Days of the Law'. A period of corruption and spiritual decay said to last 10,000 years and during which time asuras (demons) would walk the earth. This was said to follow the Age of the Simulated Law (shobo), a period of 500 years after Sakyanumi entered paradise. A notion frequently encountered in medieval Japanese writings, including the Heike Monogatari. Also known as mappo.

Mempo - Face mask or plate worn with armor, popular from the mid-16th Century and progressively more elaborate as time went on.

Metsuke - Lesser officials who in the Edo Period appear to have handled under-cover police work and acted as spies for the Tokugawa government.

Michinoku - Term for Mutsu province, often poetic (Heian Period).

Michiyuki - A depiction of a journey and the emotions that accompany it in a song, poem, or book.

Minka - 'House/houses of the people', a broad term for a variety of residential housing.

Mikoshi - Portable Buddhist shrines that were often carried to Kyoto when warrior monks rioted or made demands on the Court.

Minatomachi - Port town.

Minbushô - Ministry/Minister of Popular Affairs; court rank/office estalished as part of the Taiho Code (702) and later a ceremonial title.

Miyako - Poetic term for Kyoto and occasionally Nara.

Mon - Family crest, often displayed on flags, formal clothing, and armor - especially after the 15th Century.

Monogashira - Captain, leader.

Monogatari - ‘The Tale of…’, ‘The Story of…’ when affixed to a title (i.e. Heike Monogatari). Also used to describe Japanese fictional prose between the 9th and 16th Centuries in general.

Monto - Followers of the Jōdo Shinshu Buddhist sect, especially those militantly organized.

Motodori - Topknot.

Mujo daimyô - Edo period daimyo who held an income of 10,000-20,000 koku but no castle.

Mura - Village.

Myo - A land holding registered to a cultivator family that taxation and service came to be based upon in the Shoen system.

Myoden - The rice fields contained within a given MYO.

Myoshu - Rights holders to a MYO; a patriarchal family of cultivators that managed a MYO and paid taxes on it to their governor.


Naginata - A mid-sized pole-arm topped with a curving blade popular in the Heian Period. Originally the weapon of a foot soldier, the naginata came to be known as the favored weapon of the warrior monks (SOHEI) and women. The naginata was not otherwise in general use by the 16th Century.

Nakatsukasa - Ministry/Minister of the Central Office; court rank/office estalished as part of the Taiho Code (702) and later a ceremonial title.

Namban - ‘Southern Barbarians’, term applied to Westerners, especially in the 16th century-presumably in reference to the fact that most arriving Spanish, Dutch, and Portuguese ships came from ports south of China.

Nanban dô - Armor inspired by western examples, especially that of a Spanish Conquistador, popular between 1580 and 1600. Tokugawa Ieyasu, for instance, wore a suit of nanban dô at the Battle of Sekigahara (1600).

Nambuchuko Period - 1336-1457, sub-period within the Muromachi Period referring to the years in which two separate imperial courts existed and vied for power. The Southern Court, established after Ashikaga Takauji defeated Go-Daigo in 1336, was finally forced to submit in 1457.

Nanushi - A term sometimes applied to village elders.

Nawabari - The planning of a castle’s defensive lay-out-in particular the placement of the outer walls.

Nembutsu - The reciting of the name of the Amida Buddha, as in Nami Amida Butsu (Hail the Amida Buddha).

Nengo - Year Period or reign name - dating practiced borrowed from the Chinese in the Yamato Period (for example, the 3rd Year of Tenshô)

Nengu - An annual land tax or rent.

Nichiren - Sect of Buddhism found by the monk Nichiren in the 13th Century that tended to inspire nationalism and a hard-line approach among its followers to both religion and politics.

Nidome - A policy whereby Sengoku daimyo would refuse to allow certain commodities to cross their borders; essentially a form of economic warfare.

Ninja - Popular term often loosely applied to irregular forces, spies, and assassins in the time of the samurai. According to legend, the services of ninja clans, especially those of Iga and Ise provinces, were highly sought after by sengoku daimyo.

Nō - Traditional form of theater popular among the court and samurai that makes use of dance, costumes, music, and a chorus to portray an often-complex tale. Nō was developed 1350 and 1450 by Kanami Kiyotsugu and his son Zeami Motokiyo. The term is derived from the phrase sarugaku no nō. See SARUGAKU.

No-bori - Long, vertical flag popular in Japan after the 15th Century; carried by the retainers of a daimyo in battle (and the daimyo himself) and displaying individual family crests, patterns, or written characters.

No-dachi - ‘Field Sword’; an extremely large two-handed sword fairly popular in the 15th and 16th Centuries, essentially an over-sized TACHI. Surviving examples from the Muromachi Period include no-dachis almost 6 feet long. Samurai are said to have brought them to Korea (1593) in some number to use as a psychological weapon against Korean soldiers.

- No Kami - ‘Lord of…’; originally given to the lord of a certain place, by the 16th Century –no Kami was largely honorific, being dispensed frequently by all daimyô and regardless of whoever else might happen to be ‘lord’ of the province ‘awarded’. The term 'no kami' was literally translated 'Spirit of', and also applied to Shinto deities (Amaterasu no kami, for instance).

Nôson - Farming village.

- No Suke (-nosuke) 'Deputy Lord of...'; another honorific title common esepcially in the 16th Century.

Nushi - Lacquerers


Okegawa-do - A relatively simple suit of armor extremely common in the 16th Century, constructed by riveting together strips of metal. Probably introduced sometime around 1555, the Okegawa-do could be produced cheaply, easily maintained, and was well suited to Sengoku warfare. Like most armor of the period, Okegawa-do was tapered to allow the wearer’s waist to support the armor’s weight.

Ôkurashô - National Treasury; court rank/office estalished as part of the Taiho Code (702) and later a ceremonial title.

Ōmetsuke - Inspector general in the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Onchi - A reward of land given by a daimyo to a retainer for exceptional service.

Oni - An Ogre, or particularly violent and brutal person.

Onmyōshi - Astrologer.

Oshiro - A castle.

Oshu - Northern Honshu:Dewa, Mutsu.

Otemon - A castle’s main gate.

Oyakata - Term used to refer to a daimyo-especially as ‘Oyakata-sama’. Also rendered as Oyagata.

O-Yoroi - Elaborate suit of armor in general use during the Heian Period and among important figures into the Sengoku Period. Often constructed with many thousands of strips of laminated bamboo, the O-Yoroi was expensive and box-like, intended for use by samurai on horseback. It was impractical for fighting on foot and therefore fell out of favor as the samurai went from bowman to spear- and swordsman. Daimyo continued to wear variants of the traditional O-Yoroi, however, up until the 19th Century.

Ozutsu - Cannon, in limited use in the Sekigahara Campaign (1600) and the Osaka Campaigns (1614,1615). Japanese cannon were generally inferior to their European equivalents, and saw most of their use as siege weapons.


Rakachu - Name for Kyoto in use until the Edo Period.

Rappa - Term used, especially among the Go-Hojo, for irregular troops otherwise described as NINJA.

Ransen - a confused, wild battle (lit., chaos battle).

Renga - Linked verse poetry, often composed of 31 syllables in two parts.

Ri - A unit of linear measure equal to 2.445 miles.

Rinji - An emperor’s personal edict.

Rokuhara - District of Kyoto that functioned as the headquarters in that city for the Taira (Heike) from 1156 until 1183. Rokuhara also acted as the headquarters for the Kamakura Bakufu's deputies in Kyoto until 1333.

Rokuhara Period - 1156-1185.

Ronin - ‘Wave Man’; a masterless samurai. Many samurai were made ronin by the vicissitudes of the sengoku Period, and so formed the basis for many bandit groups and outlaw bands that plagued the countryside into the Edo Period. Though not employed by a daimyo, a ronin was still entitled to wear his swords.

Roto - Generic term applied to both civil and military servants.

Ryo - Unit of gold currency.

Ryogoku - "Dominal Province"; a Daimyo’s territory.


Saihai - Baton carried by leaders to aid in the direction of troops; worn at the waist when not in use.

Sakayaki - Describes the portion of the head shaved by many samurai.

Sakê - Rice wine. Sakê was traditionally produced in the winter months by brewers and created through a process of the breakdown of rice grains by a fungus and fermentation.

Samisen - Three-stringed lute introduced from China and popular from the late-16th Century on. Best-known as a woman’s instrument.

Samurai - "One who serves"; the traditional warrior class of Japan until 1876. While of obscure origins, the samurai emerged as a powerful force by the 10th Century and after 1192 acted as the de facto rulers of Japan. Until the 1590’s, the status of samurai was somewhat fluid, and within the grasp of those born in the lesser classes-especially in times of war. In the 16th century, many samurai worked alongside the peasantry until they were called to service. After Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s clampdown on social mobility, all men who carried arms were considered samurai (or varying ranks) and made to live in the castle town of their daimyo. With no more battles to fight, the Edo samurai refined their ways of thinking and in many ways shaped the romantic way in which samurai history is now perceived.

Sanbi - A term sometimes used to describe the Bizen, Bingo, and Bitchu area.

Sankin-Kotai - The Alternate Attendance Policy. Established by the Tokugawa Shogunate, this system required all daimyo to live in Edo for a certain period of time, often every other year. Designed partially as a safeguard against treason, the Sankin-Kotai system produced the often-stately daimyo processions that became such a part of Edo art and lore.

Sanshu no jingi - The Imperial Regelia, The Three Treasures: The Mirror, Sword, and Bead Strand whose ownership was necessary for a legal imperial succession.

Sarugaku - ‘Monkey music’, a term that theater was commonly known by in the early 15th Century. The phrase Sarugaku no nō meant, roughly, ‘theater of the best kind’ and provided the better known title of NŌ.

Sashimono - Small banner affixed to the back of a suit of armor, for battlefield recognition purposes. Common in and after the 16th Century.

Satori - In Zen Buddhism, a sudden enlightenment.

Seiryaku kekkon - Political marriage.

Seii tai shôgun - see SHÔGUN.

Sei to shôgun - See SHOGUN.

Seki-bune - Medium-sized ship common in 14th-16th Century navies, operated by a 40-man crew.

Sekisho - Toll barriers. One of the ways sengoku daimyo gathered income-especially in the provinces around Lake Biwa, Tollbooths were particularly unpopular. Oda Nobunaga’s abolition of tool booths in the Kinai brought him considerable acclaim from the people.

Sekkan - The Fujiwara regency. The Fujiwara family provided regents to young emperors from the early 8th Century until 1321, when the practice was discontinued by Go-Daigo.

Sekkanke - Fujiwara sublineage; sublineage of the northern branch of the Fujiwara house. The sekkanke provided hereditary members of the Sekkan and from whose ranks Kampaku were normally drawn in the Nara-Heian Periods.

Sendai-do - Style of 16th century armor otherwise known as Yukinoshita-do made famous by its extensive use in the army of Date Masamune (of Sendai, Mutsu). Also known as kanto-do and oshu-do. This style of armor was notable for its ease of construction and the ability to customize its appearance based on the rank of the owner.

Sengoku Period - Sengoku Jidai, ‘The Country at War’. 1477-1600. The term Sengoku jidai is taken from a roughly comparable episode in Chinese history.

Seppuku - Ritual suicide: the act of killing one's self by slitting open his belly. Possibly first carried out by Minamoto Yorimasa in 1180, seppuku came to be the 'official' manner of suicide for a samurai, and was prohibited for all other classes. In time, seppuku came to take on religious connotations, but in essence the exceedingly painful manner of dying it brought was a mark of grime pride to the samurai-a final test of his bravery. By the 16th Century a 'second' (or KAISHAKU) had been added to the ritual, to limit the amount of suffering the samurai who was to die would experience. When a female member of a samurai house committed seppuku, she almost always did so by slitting her own throat.

Shaku - A unit of linear measure equal to 0.995 feet, or 10 SUN.

Shakuhachi - End-blown bamboo flute often associated with Buddhist monks and traveling musicians. Also known as Hitoyogiri Shakuhachi.

Shijô - Satellite castle or fort that acts as part of a defensive system anchored by a primary castle (Honjô). The average shijo was a simple stockade constructed from wood and making use of earthen walls, and often fully garrisoned only in emergencies.

Shiden - 'Hall for sleeping'; the central structure in Heian Period residencial complexes that gave its name to the overall style of such establishments: shiden zukuri.

Shikken - Regency; term given for the Hojo’s control of the Bakufu in the Kamakura Period.

Shikki - Under the Shōen system, rights to a particular holding that entitles the owner a fixed percentage of the annual crop.

Shikibushô - Ministry/Minister of Ceremonies; court rank/office estalished as part of the Taiho Code (702) and later a ceremonial title.

Shikoro - Neck guard that hands from the bowl of a samurai’s KABUTO.

Shinchō-kō Ki - Useful biography of Oda Nobunaga composed by Ōta Gyūichi in the late 16th Century.

Shingon - ‘True Word’: Buddhist sect founded by Kukai in the early 9th Century. Shingon is sometimes described as ‘esoteric Buddhism’ due to the stress it placed on mysticism and ritual.

Shintô - Japan’s indigenous religion, based in part on the worship of spirits.

Shite - Actor, especially in NŌ.

Shizoku - Term used after 1869 to refer to former samurai.

Shōen - Private estate exempted from central government control and often subject to a multi-layered proprietorship. Established in the Nara Period, the Shōen system lasted until the late 16th Century, when it was finally eliminated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s sweeping land surveys.

Shôgitai - A band of pro-Bakufu forces that attempted to resist against the Meiji government.

Shôgun - Military ruler of Japan; a shortening of Sei to shogun, or ‘Barbarian-quelling general/marshal’. The rank of shogun was originally given on a temporary basis to those leading campaigns against the AINU, the first such commission being given to Otomo Yakemochi in 784. Following the Minamoto’s triumph in the Gempei War (1180-1185), Minamoto Yoritomo received the title shogun in 1192 and made it a hereditary position. The Minamoto were in time followed by the Ashikaga (founded by Ashikaga Takauji in 1338) and the Tokugawa (founded by Ieyasu in 1603). The rank of shogun was finally dispensed with when Tokugawa Yoshinobu resigned from that post in 1867.

Shogunate - Term used to describe the government of a shogun, BAKUFU.

Shoji - Japanese chess.

Shoku Nihongi - The second of Japan's national histories.

Shokunin - Craftsman, a term that at first had a general connotation (to include, for example, doctors) but eventually came to mean one who worked with their hands.

Shosen - The first attack in a battle or war.

-Shu - An affix meaning ‘unit’, or ‘formation’-as in teppo-shu (rifle unit) or Kuni-shu (Provincial unit).

Shugo - Provincial governors assigned by the Minamoto Shogunate in the 1190s and an important part of Bakufu control until the Onin War (1467-77). Many of the older shugo families were weakened in the Onin fighting, and then over-thrown or destroyed in the Sengoku Period. During the Kamakura Period, the shugo were largely responsible for upholding the will of the Bakufu, defeating rebels, and overseeing the activities of provincial JITO. Shugo could be roughly translated as ‘Protector’, and in the Muromachi Period a given shugo might control a number of far-flung provinces. The term shugo can be found in records as late as the 1560 in certain provinces (such as Satsuma).

Shugo ryōgoku - A phrase describing the process by which the shugo were transformed to daimyo in the early 16th Century.

Shukubamachi - Post town, a village or town that catered to traffic along one of Japan's primary road circuits.

Shukurō - Universal Bakufu term for ‘elders’.

Sohei - Warrior monks; relatively modern term describing the armed warriors that acted as military muscle for major religious establishments from the 9th Century until the 1580’s. In particular, the warrior monks of the Enryakuji (Mt. Hiei) were an important political force for centuries, and their support was often sought after in times of war. At the same time, the Sohei were destabilizing elements, and clashes between riotous Sohei and Bakufu and Court forces was reasonably common until 1571. In that year, Oda Nobunaga destroyed Mt. Hiei’s monastic complex and Hideyoshi's later forays into the Kwatchi-Kii area marked the beginning of the end for the Sohei in general.

Sonnô jôi - "Revere the emperor, expel the barbarians."; 19th Century expression that became a rallying cry for anti-Western and anti-Bakufu elements in Japan.

Sokotsu-shi - The act of committing suicide to make up for an offense or failure to one’s lord.

Sugoroku - Backgammon, popular in medieval Japan.

Sukiya - 'Abode of refinement', a style of architecture that stessed understatement and irregularity.

Sumō - Traditional form of wrestling that was once part of religious festivals, particularly popular in the Edo Period. Oda Nobunaga enjoyed sumō and in February 1578 held a lavish sumō tournament at Azuchi Castle involving as many as 1,500 wrestlers.

Sun - A unit of linear measure equal to 1.193 inches.


Tachi - Term for sword, specifically the long sword carried by the samurai; KATANA.

Tabi - Short socks, designed with a split toe so as to be worn with sandals.

Taiheki - Chronicle of the Nambuchuko Period compiled by the monk Kojima and others around 1370-1372.

Taihô Code - 'Great Treasure', a sweeping reorganization of the Imperial Goverment formulated under the auspices of the Emperor Mommu in 702 AD.

Taiko - 1) Retired Imperial Regent; 16th Century post adopted by Toyotomi Hideyoshi when he retired from his position as KANPAKU in 1592. 2) Great drum used in ceremonies, to sound alarms and summons, and for signaling on the battlefield.

Taiko kenchi - The national land surveys Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered in the 1590’s.

Taisho - General, captain, commander.

Tandai - Kamakura Bakufu branch headquarters. One was established in Kyoto (1221, known as the Rokuhara Tandai) and a second on Kyushu (1293, known as the Chinzei Tandai). Two Hojo family officers were placed in each Tandai.

Tanegashima - See TEPPO.

Tanka - Style of Japanese poetry consisting of 31 syllables in five lines, organized as 5-7-5-7-7. The term waka is a synonym for Tanka, but may be applied to a form more courtly in nature than common.

Tansen - A cash tax levied against the value of a holding by a shugo or daimyo.

Tanto - Short bladed knife.

Tatakai - Battle (as in Nagashino no Takakai-the Battle of Nagashino).

Tatami dô - A type of armor common in the 16th Century that could be folded up for easy of storage.

Tatamiya - TATAMI makers.

Tendai - "Heavenly Platform": Buddhist sect founded by Saicho in the early 9th Century. Tendai was particularly powerful in the Heian Period.

Tenka Fubu - ‘The Realm under one sword’, ‘The Realm covered in military glory’; expression coined by Oda Nobunaga around 1565 that acted as something of a slogan in his rise to power.

Tenkyu - Minister of Horses; relatively common honorific rank

Tennô - The emperor.

Tensen - To fight in various battles.

Tenshō-ki - Biography of Toyotomi Hideyoshi composed in the late 16th century and commissioned by Hideyoshi himself.

Tenshu - Donjon,Castle keeps, popular in the later 16th Century. The first castle keep was built by Matsunaga Hisahide in 1567 at Tamon. Tenshus were ultimately designed as much for appearance as defensive capability.

Teppo - Matchlock, harquebus, gun. Occasionally referred to as a Tanegashima, after the island where Portuguese sailors introduced the European matchlock to Japan around 1543. Japanese matchlocks tended to be of superior quality to European and Chinese varieties and incorporated a number of original additions. Japanese gunners were generally trained with an emphasis on accuracy as opposed to load time but were aided in the latter with the invention of cloth ‘cartridges’ sometime after 1570.

- Tôge - A mountain pass (example: Mimase ga tôge).

Tokusei - ‘Virtuous Government’; originally referring at any act of government reform; in the 16th Century the act of canceling debts owed moneylenders as a way to settle discontent among the debtors.

Tono/Tono-Sama - See Oyakata

Torii - Distinctive Shinto gateway, the most famous of which stands on Miyajima Island as part of the Itskushima Shrine.

Tozama - ‘Outer lord’; term used in the Edo period to describe those lords who had joined or submitted to Tokugawa Ieyasu only after his victory at Sekigahara.

Tsuba - Sword guard.

Tsuifuku - See Junshi.

Tsukai-ban - Term used in some daimyo family to distinguish their messenger corps.


Udaijin - Minister of the Right; one of the imperial ranks held by Oda Nobunaga.

Uijin - One's first military campaign.

Uji - Clan, family - from the Yamato Period.

Ujikami - Chief deity or spirit of a clan; Ujgami.

Uma - Horse.

Uma I - Horse physician, veteranarian.

Uma Jirushi - ‘Horse standard’; large rectangular banner often used to mark a daimyo or important general’s presence on the battlefield.

Umeboshi - Pickled plums.

Utaisho - Honorific title by which Minamoto Yoritomo was sometimes remembered; the highest Imperial post Yoritomo received.

Utsu - To attack.

Utsubo - Arrow quiver.


Wa - Early Chinese name for Japan.

Wakizashi - Short sword carried with the katana by the samurai.

Wako - Wako Japanese pirates who ravaged the coasts of China and Korea between the 13th and 16th Centuries, in some cases attacking hundreds of miles inland. The activity of the Wako (which often included pirates from any number of nations in addition to Japan) was one of the factors that contributed to the Mongol Invasions. The Wako were largely suppressed by 1587.

Waraji - Straw sandals.


Yabusame - A form of archery practice conducted from horseback.

Yakuza - Criminals, gangsters of the Edo Period. Kozuke was especially known for it’s Yakuza activity.

Yamabushi - Members of the Shugendō sect of Buddhism thought to have mysterious powers, such as the ability to cast out demons.

Yamashiro - Hilltop fortification, castle, especially one prior to the 17th Century.

Yari - Lance, spear.

Yashima - Reknowned Nō play composed by Zeami involving Minamoto Yoshitsune and the Battle of Yashima.

Yojimbo - Bodyguard, especially in the Edo Period.

Yoriki - Edo Period police official. 50 Yoriki operated in Edo at any given time and answered to the MACHI-BUGYO they were assigned under.

Yoroi hitatare - Set of silk shirt and pants worn under armor, primarily in the Hiean period.

Yukinoshita-do - See SENDAI-DO.

Yumi - Bow. The bow acted as the ‘official’ weapon of the samurai during the Heian Period but by the 15th Century had been more or less relegated to the common soldiery. Made from laminated strips of bamboo composited over a core of wood, the Japanese bow was generally effective out to 80 meters. In the later 16th Century, bowmen acted as skirmishers in most daimyo battle formations.

Yumiya no Michi - The way of the bow and arrow.


Za - Trade or craft guild. Toyotomi Hideyoshi outlawed merchant za in 1585.

Zazen - Passive Zen meditation.

Zen - Considered both a philosophy and a sect of Buddhism, Zen became popular in Japan among the samurai after it’s embrace by the Kamakura Bakufu in the 13th Century. By the 16th Century, Zen was almost universally studied by samurai and daimyo alike.

_________________________________________________________Edited by Elliott Long, F.W. Seal and C.E. West