An uchine is an arrow-shaped weapon 36 to 54cm in length and 18mm in diameter. It has a flat and triangular spearhead 12 to 15cm long at the front end of the arrow shaft, and one big and one small feather attached as the fletching to the base of the shaft. A cord is attached to the nock. Uchine were used in the Sengoku period (period of warring states in Japan) when archers had run out of arrows or were engaged in close combat. Uchine was also equipped in the palanquin for emergencies when territorial lords were on a journey for Sankinkotai (a system under which feudal lords in the Edo period were required to spend every other year in residence in Edo).
Of all the martial arts studied by warriors, who were also called 'Yumihiki' or 'Yumitori' (both mean archers), archery was regarded as the most important, with bows and arrows not only used as major weapons on the battlefield, but also as sacred treasures which kept evil spirits away in peacetime. However, this weapon had a serious drawback in that it became useless when all the arrows ran out or a bowstring broke. Moreover, warriors could not use bows in close combat. Therefore, Uchine-jutsu (the art of Uchine) developed from the idea that archers use arrows instead of spears in battles. Depending on the proximity of the opponent, uchine could be thrown like a shuriken, wielded like a Kusarifundo (a traditional Japanese chain weapon), or thrust like a spear or knife. Thus, the uchine developed into a weapon with a wide range of usage according to circumstances.
A smaller uchine, 30 cm in length and developed especially for throwing, was called an "uchiya"and could be loaded in a barrel and thrown like 'furiya' or thrown like a shuriken.
When used as a throwing weapon, the feathers on an uchine stabilized flight, making it more accurate than a shuriken. Moreover, an uchine could inflict greater damage on opponents than uchiya or shuriken due to its weight. The cord attached to the nock used for retrieval made a big difference between uchine and disposable shuriken. When an uchine was bound to a bow with string, it could be used as a long spear, known as a "Hazuyari." There was also another type of Hazuyari used in the Sengoku period where a socket type spearhead was mounted on the tip of a bow.
One advantage of the uchine was that, due to its ornamental appearance, it was hard to guess its function at a glance
According to the records from the early 1600s, uchine were equipped for emergencies in the corner of palanquins used by feudal lords when on Sankinkotai or when traveling. Although use of the uchine had almost died out after the Meiji Restoration, Uchine-jutsu was taught as an extra art in the Heki school of archery, with the result that the art has been passed down to the present by groups such as the Fellowship of the Settsu-kei line of the Insai-ha branch of the Heki School.
Note: There is an old kind of arrow with a wooden head also called an "uchine," but it has no relation to the "uchine" introduced in this section.