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Weapons for capturing suspected criminals, from left to right: a tsukubō, a sodegarami, and a sasumata

The sasumata (刺股, spear fork) is a pole weapon used by the samurai class and their retainers in feudal Japan.

Description and use

Although some sources place the origin of the sasumata in the Muromachi period, most sources discuss its use in the Edo period. In Edo period Japan the samurai were in charge of police operations.

The sasumata (spear fork) together with the tsukubō (push pole) and the sodegarami (sleeve entangler) comprised the torimono sandōgu (three tools/implements of arresting) used by samurai police and security forces.[1] Samurai police in the Edo period used the sasumata along with the sodegarami and tsukubō to restrain and arrest suspected criminals uninjured. The head of the sasumata would be used to catch around the neck, arms, legs, or joints of a suspect and detain them until officers could close in and apprehend them (using hojōjutsu). The sasumata had a long hardwood pole usually around 2 m (6 ft 7 in) in length with sharp barbs or spines attached to metal strips on one end of the pole to keep the person being captured from grabbing the pole. The opposite end of the sasumata pole would often have a metal cap, or ishizuki like those found on naginata and other pole weapons.[2]


There were also firefighting versions of the instrument known as a chokyakusan, rinkaku, tetsubashira, or tokikama. A similar weapon in China[citation needed] was known as a chang jiao qian, and sometimes called a cha gan or huo cha (fire fork), which had a similar firefighting role.[citation needed] The sasumata type implements were used by firefighters to help dismantle burning buildings, raise ladders, and otherwise assist with their duties.

Modern use

Today, a modern version of the sasumata is still occasionally used by the police and as a self-defense tool. These modern sasumata are often made of aluminum, without the sharpened blades and spikes found on their medieval counterparts. They have been marketed to schools due to a growing fear of classroom invasions, which has prompted many schools in Japan to keep sasumata available for teachers to protect themselves and students and to detain a potential threat until the authorities can arrive.[3] The introduction of sasumata to schools came to be popular after the Osaka school massacre in 2001.[4]

In November 2023, an employee of a jewellery store in Tokyo used a sasumata to drive off three robbers wearing motorcycle helmets, attracting nationwide interest and increased sales of the weapon.[5]


See also


  1. ^ Taiho-jutsu: law and order in the age of the samurai, Don Cunningham, Tuttle Publishing, Apr 15, 2004 p. 96
  2. ^ Taiho-jutsu: law and order in the age of the samurai, Don Cunningham, Tuttle Martial Arts, Tuttle Publishing, 2004 ISBN 978-0-8048-3536-7 pp. 93–100
  3. ^ Mainichi Shinbun 2004.
  4. ^ 瀬戸口和秀; 森嶋俊晴 (2021-06-07). "付属池田小事件20年 受け継がれる五つの悔いと教訓". Asahi Shimbun (朝日新聞). Retrieved 31 May 2022.
  5. ^ McCurry, Justin (30 November 2023). "Foiled robbery attempt sees demand for ancient samurai weapon soar in Japan". The Guardian.