Title: Uchine Japanese Throwing Arrow
Author: Fujita Seiko, Sakai Shigeki, Takahashi Shitaro
Translated by: Eric Shahan
I love reading about martial arts. They are a unique cross-section of culture (including violence), history, and technology. That being said, there's always going to be some weird pieces of technology that popup for a short time are very useful for their purpose, but ultimately are replaced. Think of cassette tapes. If you're too young to get the reference... read a book! They were very useful, very portable, and ultimately useless once digital music became available. Martial arts has pieces of their technology like that. It shows up in weird weapons that are hard to figure out how or why they developed. Dating myself (and showing my Geek-ness) I first heard about the uchine from a D&D book called "Oriental Adventures" published in 1985 (so excuse the "Oriental" in the title). It was a supplement for D&D where you could pay samurai instead of knights. It mentioned a weapon called the Uchi-Ne, and just said it was a short, javelin, but it always stuck in my head. There was also almost nothing on the weapon. Until, I found out about this book.
The reason there isn't much written on uchine, is just that; there isn't much written on them. What this book does is collect works from previous pieces of materials from other martial arts manuals and writings and assembles them all in one place. This is also, as far as I can tell, the only work in English on the weapon at all. It includes the history, development, construction, and use of this unusual weapon. Many of the articles are from archery manuals dating from before and after the Meiji restoration (1868). It includes the original illustrations and writing from the scrolls and manuals as well as the English translations done by Mr. Shahan.
The uniqueness is the main positive factor for this book. This is a subject matter that you will not find anywhere else. I also like that it includes the original illustrations. In my Indiana Jones fantasies, I always wanted to be able to work on translating some forgotten piece of lore, and this book, has that feel to it. You feel like this is privileged information made available to you.
It is a very restrictive subject matter. I don't think most instructors of Japanese martial arts could even tell you what one is, let alone how it was used. I don't think even most koryu Japanese instructors would be able to describe what an uchine is.
Will uchine ever come up in your training? I can't even imagine how that would occur. Unless, some old guy pulls out his old copy of Oriental Adventures, and asks specifically about it. Barring that occurrence, this book will not help you punch, kick, or throw better. It will not give you insight into the oneness that is supposed to occur during martial arts practice. What it will do is give you a little bit of insight into a weird little know samurai weapon, which can add to your overall understanding of them and their mindset. That being said, I'm going to give this book 3 out of 5 Ninja Stars. Mainly cause except for me and my fascination with weird and unusual weapons, I don't know how many people will enjoy this book. It's very well done, and very approachable, so hopefully there are some other weird weapons lovers out there like me.