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Traditional matchlock guns fired in southwest Japan to pass down local history

A gun corps member fires a blank shot with a large matchlock rifle in the city of Oita on Dec. 12, 2021. (Mainichi/Yuki Imano)
Gun corps members fire blank shots with matchlock rifles in the city of Oita on Dec. 12, 2021. (Mainichi/Yuki Imano)

OITA -- A citizens' group to pass down the history of the former city of Bungo Funai -- present-day Oita in southwest Japan -- conducted a matchlock gun demonstration here on Dec. 12, and while they were blank shots, the guns blowing fire like back in the day thrilled about 30 spectators.

    Bungo Funai prospered in the Sengoku (warring states) period (1467-mid 16th to early 17th century), and the citizens' group, which was founded in 2005 by matchlock gun enthusiasts, has conducted demonstrations both in and out of Oita Prefecture to pass down the local history and to introduce 16th century feudal lord Otomo Sorin, who possessed many matchlock rifles, to the general public.

    The group, whose name translates to the "Bungo Otomo Sorin gun corps," conducted the Dec. 12 demonstration at the former Otomo residence garden in the city.

    Seven members of the corps, each clad in heavy full armor and helmets weighing about 10 kilograms, stuffed gunpowder into the large and small rifles, which are said to date back to the Edo period (1603-1867). After they fired blank shots, the spectators cried out in delight.

    The corps' captain Masanori Okura, 69, commented: "Sulfur -- gunpowder's material -- was mined in Bungo province, and the 'Nanban trade' (trade with Portugal and Spain) also flourished here. We'd like people to become familiar with the local history through matchlock guns."

    After the firing display, a group of elementary and junior high schoolchildren that have promoted the Nanban culture in the Bungo Funai area performed a lovely dance.

    (Japanese original by Yuki Imano, Kyushu News Department)

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