The Secrets Of The Yari: The Deadly Samurai Spear

Key Point: The yari is a Japanese spear with a straight, double-edged blade. Its overall length ranges from approximately 2 to 2,4 meters.

For this article, we are again looking to Japan. And more specifically the yari weapon or more specifically the yari spear used in Feudal Japan. So, here we will cover what a yari is, how yari was used, and what exactly made it such an effective weapon in a warrior culture such as Japan.

As, always, before we begin let’s answer the main question first. What is a yari? And how was yari used?

The yari is a Japanese polearm (spear) that was commonly used by foot soldiers during feudal Japan. The weapon typically had a straight blade and a wooden shaft, and it was used to thrust and stab at an opponent. Yari was often used in combination with other weapons, such as the katana or the wakizashi, and it played a significant role in many historical battles in Japan.

That was the key takeaway of the article. Let’s take a look at this pivotal weapon from Japan in a lot more detail. Starting with its origin.

The Origin Of Yari

The yari spear originated in Japan during the Muromachi period (1336-1573). Before the yari, the main weapon used by the samurai was the sword. However, during the Sengoku period (1467-1573), warfare shifted from individual combat to mass battles.

The yari spear was developed as a response to this change in warfare. The yari spear allowed samurai to engage the enemy at a distance, and it quickly became one of their favorite weapons for battle.

There are a few theories on how the yari was developed. One theory suggests that the yari spear was inspired by the Chinese spear, which was introduced to Japan in the 6th century. Another theory suggests that the yari spear was developed by ashigaru, or foot soldiers, who modified farming tools into weapons.

Due to its usefulness, the use of yari continued into the Edo period (1603-1868), where it remained an important weapon of war and a symbol of the samurai class.

Now that we have discussed the origin of the yari spear, let’s move on to a famous battle where it was used.

A Battle Where It Was Used

One notable battle where the yari spear was used in a major way was the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600. In this battle, the yari spear was used to devastating effect by the forces of Tokugawa Ieyasu against the army of Ishida Mitsunari. It was a huge battle in Japanese history.

Time for us to turn our attention to its physical dimensions.

Yari Dimensions

Yari measured six to eight feet in length, with a blade that ranged from six to eighteen inches of the total length. The total length of the spear enabled its wielder to attack the enemy from a safe distance.

Now, for the materials the yari was made of.

Materials Used To Make The Yari Spear

The blade of the yari was made from high-carbon steel. While the shaft of the yari was made from a variety of woods, including oak, bamboo, and ash. The shaft was often reinforced with metal rings or bands to prevent it from splitting or breaking during combat.

Now for the cool stuff … how the yari was used in battles by the samurai.

How Yari Was Used In Battle?

Yari was an extremely versatile weapon in battle. In fact, it was considered one of the most important weapons for samurai warriors. Samurai were trained to use the yari spear to keep their opponents at bay. The length of the weapon made it an ideal choice for cavalry warfare.

Samurai would ride into battle with their yari raised, ready to strike at their enemies from a safe distance.

The yari spear was not only useful for thrusting and striking but also for tripping enemies off horseback. And, the yari could be used in combination with other weapons like the katana. In fact, a common tactic was for samurai to carry both a yari spear and a katana, using the yari to keep enemies at bay and the katana for close combat.

But how does the yari spear compare to naginata? The other popular Japanese polearm.

Yari Vs Naginata – What Is The Difference?

In terms of reach, the yari was generally longer than the naginata. Which gave it an advantage in open spaces and cavalry battles. The naginata, on the other hand, was better suited for close combat, particularly in cramped spaces where its curved blade allowed for more maneuverability.

Both weapons required different training and techniques to use effectively. The yari relied on thrusting and stabbing motions. And the naginata? Well, it could be used for both slashing and thrusting attacks.

The naginata was also used for disarming opponents and for hooking the enemy’s weapon.

Despite their differences, both the yari and naginata were popular among samurai warriors. With each having its advantages and disadvantages in battle. Some samurai preferred the yari’s long reach and piercing power, while others favored the naginata’s versatility and ability to disarm opponents.

In the end, the choice between the two weapons depended on the specific battlefield conditions and tactics employed.

Let’s see now, why this popular weapon disappears from battlefields across Japan.

The Downfall Of The Yari Spear

The reason why it fell from use is quite simple.

As firearms became more prevalent in Japan during the 16th century, the yari began to lose its effectiveness on the battlefield. The long reach of the yari was no match for the power and accuracy of firearms. So the weapon eventually fell out of favor among Samurai warriors.

In Conclusion

Thank you for taking the time to read this article. I hope you learned a thing or two. And I will see you at the next one. I suggest taking a look at a European polearm called the Brandistock, right here.

Take care!


“Samurai Arms, Armor and the Tactics of Warfare” by F. G. Notehelfer

“Samurai Weapons: Tools of the Warrior” by Don Cunningham