NINJA-TŌ (忍者刀) Ninja Sword


  TANTŌ (短刀) Short Knife-like Sword


  KOZUKA (小柄) Small Knife


  KATANA () Curved Long Sword


  WAKIZASHI (脇差) Curved Short Sword


  TACHI (太刀) Deeply-Curved Long Sword


  KODACHI (小太刀) Short Tachi Sword


  SHIKOMIZUE (仕込み杖) Hidden Sword


  SHIRASAYA (白鞘) White Scabbard


  TONFA-TŌ (トンファ刀) Tonfa Sword


  BOKKEN (木剣) Wooden Sword


  SHINAI (竹刀) Bamboo Sword




The NINJA-TŌ is a Japanese sword said to have been used by ninja.  It is usually depicted as being a short sword, often portrayed as having a straight blade similar to ones used in shikomizue (cane swords) with a square tsuba (guard).  Usually of a length "less than 60 cm", the rest of the sword is comparatively "thick, heavy and straight".  The saya (scabbard) of some ninja-tō have a triangular end allowing the ninja to climb over a small wall or fence by driving the sword into the ground and stepping on the guard, leaving no evidence by retrieving it by its long sword knot.

More information and history about the ninja-tō can be found in my earlier Blog entitled THE SHO KOSUGI NINJA-TO.


Enter the Ninja (1981)

The first time Sho wielded a "ninja sword" on screen it wasn't one of his trademark custom-designed SK Ninja-Tō, as it simply didn't exist yet.  Instead it was what appears to have been a Frankenstein-like creation made by taking a slightly curved blade from a wakizashi or a shortened katana blade (possibly from a ko-katana) and connecting it to a rather crudely-made handle and a unique square metal guard featuring a bunch of different sized holes.  Regardless of how it came to be, two such swords were made for The Cannon Group's first ninja movie ENTER THE NINJA, a white one for the white ninja Cole (Franco Nero), and a black one for the black ninja Hasegawa (Sho).

Along with his character's Black NINJA-TŌ, Sho also wielded the White NINJA-TŌ in the film's awesome and unforgettable opening credits.



Following the opening credits, we immediately see the white ninja and the black ninja face off against each other, both with their color-matching NINJA-TŌ strapped to their backs.



It's worth noting that these aren't the only ninja swords in ENTER THE NINJA, as there were other even more crudely-made NINJA-TŌ in the film. Instead of having a shiny polished blade and a distinctive square tsuba (guard) featuring a series of distinctive round holes, these additional prop swords had blades that were nothing more than a straight slab of strong aluminum or light steel and plain square guards.  These props were built in bulk and were the swords used in the fight scenes, particularly when swords were meant to clash together, as they were meant to take all the abuse and damage while Cole and Hasegawa's "real" NINJA-TŌ would continue to look pristine in closeups.  These where the stunt prop doubles and were used by the white ninja Cole, the black ninja Hasegawa, and by all of the maroon ninja in the film.






Oddly enough, even though the white stunt-prop NINJA-TŌ is meant to double the "real" white NINJA-TŌ, Cole does carry both of them at the same time in some instances in the film.



Considering how the two primary ninja swords with the distinctive square guards with the varying-sized holes are identical except for the color, it seems that a good name for these would be KOMORI-KE NINJA-TŌ (Komori-clan Ninja Swords), named after Master Komori (Dale Ishimoto), the Ninjutsu sensei to both Cole and Hasegawa.





Revenge of the Ninja (1983)

Having blown everyone away in The Cannon Group's first ninja movie, Sho was given the lead role in the follow-up REVENGE OF THE NINJA, along with full control over the weapons that would be used in the film.

   "Sho was obsessed with weapons and made most of the weapons used in the film himself.  He was pretty much a control freak on the set.
   He actually played both parts, the good Ninja and the bad Ninja with the mask and had total control of all choreography.
" - Keith Vitali

As we will see, that obsession led to the creation of some awesome ninja weapons not only for this film but for so many more films and TV shows after it, starting with the first version of the SK NINJA-TŌ, which was used exclusively in this phenomenal ninja movie.




The first version of the SK NINJA-TŌ featured a number of characteristics that would set it apart from future versions of Sho's signature ninja sword.  The first thing of note is that the tsuka-ito (handle wrapping) was done in the hineri-maki (捻巻) style, the same standard samurai style used on the average katana, with the twisting strands crisscrossing over each other to create the diamond effect on the handle.




Another distinctive element is the menuki under the tsuka-ito, which is a small black matsuba-gata (pine-needle shaped) bō-shuriken.  Also known as a swallow tail shuriken, this cool decorative metal ornament is visible on the swords of Cho Osaki (Sho) and Braden (Arthur Roberts).




The first version SK NINJA-TŌ also had a shiny polished alloy blade with no hamon (cutting edge outline) and no habaki (blade collar).




Stunt prop doubles featuring plain aluminum blades were also used throughout the film, particularly in the fight scenes.



Ninja III: The Domination (1984)

In the Cannon Group's final entry in The Ninja Trilogy, NINJA III: THE DOMINATION, a brand-new second version of the SK NINJA-TŌ was used. This revised version featured the same dimensions in terms of blade length, tsuba size, and handle length, but with some notable other changes.

The most noticeable change was that this second version SK-NINJA-TŌ featured a stunning new chrome-plated alloy-metal blade with a distinctive hamon line and a large smooth brass habaki.




The tsuka-ito wrapping on the handle on this second version SK NINJA-TŌ was also completely different.  Instead of the traditional samurai wrapping with overlapping crisscrossing strands, this new ninja style featured interlocking strands which resulted in a smaller diamond shape effect.  The cool small black matsuba-gata (pine-needle shape) shuriken menuki under the tsuka-ito was replaced with a more common/generic dragon menuki.  This unique wrapping style with dragon menuki would be used on every version of the SK NINJA-TŌ from this point on.



Another innovation on the second version SK NINJA-TŌ was that it had an extra-long-and-wider-width saya (scabbard) made of metal.  This too would be the standard on every SK NINJA-TŌ going forward, though the length would vary due to the needs of specific scenes.



As with the previous version, prop doubles were also made featuring the same handle and square guard but with stronger aluminum blades.  Genuine SK NINJA-TŌ and their prop doubles were used interchangeably as needed in the film.




The Master - ''Max'' (1984)

The second version SK NINJA-TŌ was used in almost every episode of THE MASTER, along with the aluminum-bladed prop doubles.







The Master - ''Out-of-Time-Step'' (1984)


The Master - ''Hostages'' (1984)



The Master - ''Fat Tuesday'' (1984)

Unexpectedly, the first version SK NINJA-TŌ from REVENGE OF THE NINJA was used in the 6th episode of THE MASTER.



The Master - ''The Good, the Bad and the Priceless'' (1984)




The Master - ''Kunoichi'' (1984)




The Master - ''Failure to Communicate'' (1984)





9 Deaths of the Ninja (1985)

The second version SK NINJA-TŌ, along with the aluminum-bladed prop doubles, were also used in 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA.






Pray For Death (1985)

The second version SK NINJA-TŌ was the sword wielded by "The Black Ninja" in the mock TV series segment at the start of PRAY FOR DEATH.



Or more accurately is was the main sword used, because along with the standard aluminum-bladed prop doubles, the third version SK NINJA-TŌ also made a brief appearance for one closeup shot before going back to the proper second version SK NINJA-TŌ in the next shot.




The third version of the SK NINJA-TŌ made its proper debut in the temple sequence in PRAY FOR DEATH.  The most noticeable change in this version was to the habaki which instead of being completely smooth, now featured a raised half-moon/crescent design over a textured/lined surface.  Less noticeable but nonetheless different was the blade-width ratio difference at the habaki and at the yokote (dividing line near the blade point).




Subsequently, the third version of the SK NINJA-TŌ was also the sword forged by Akira Saito (Sho) to avenge his wife's brutal murder.





The small kozuka-like knife hidden inside the pointy tip of the SK NINJA-TŌ's saya is also seen for the first time in this film.



Surprisingly, when the time came for Akira's sword to be broken with an axe in the film, the sacrifical lamb was not one of the aluminum-bladed prop doubles, but rather a second version SK NINJA-TŌ.



There was yet another SK Ninja-Tō of sorts seen in the film, THE SHO KOSUGI PLASTIC NINJA SWORD.  Sold by SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES, this child-safe version was wielded by Takeshi and Tomoya Saito who were played Sho's two sons Kane and Shane.




Master Class (1985)

The second version and/or third version SK NINJA-TŌ, along with the aluminum-bladed prop doubles, were used in MASTER CLASS.




Made in conjunction with PRAY FOR DEATH, the instructional segments in MASTER CLASS were staged on the film's temple set.





American Ninja (1985)

It may surprise some of you to learn that the SHO KOSUGI NINJA-TŌ actually appeared in a film without its namesake.  I certainly was when this was pointed out to me a few months ago by a couple of fans.  Amazingly enough, a number of SK NINJA-TŌ were in fact used in AMERICAN NINJA, the 4th ninja film from The Cannon Group (following ENTER THE NINJA, REVENGE OF THE NINJA, and NINJA III: THE DOMINATION). This was of course Cannon's first ninja film without Sho, but apparently the experience of working with him on the previous films made a lasting impact and he was a big influence on the production, especially in terms of ninja weapons, as stated by director Sam Firstenberg during his audio commentary on the Region 1 Blu-ray release of the film.

Although I've never thought that the first AMERICAN NINJA was as good as any of the films in THE NINJA TRILOGY, I still have a fondness for it (unlike the terrible sequels) as it still had the same overall feel, some of the same great music (sampled from the earlier films), and some good performances, particularly from Japanese martial arts legend Tadashi Yamashita, the late Steve James, and the adorable Judie Aronson.  Anyway, considering its close ties to Sho's 3 Cannon ninja films, I guess it's not all that surprising that some of the ninja swords used in Cannon's 4th ninja film would be SK NINJA-TŌ, along with some of their aluminum-bladed prop doubles.

The swords strapped to the backs of both the American Ninja Joe Armstrong (Michael Dudikoff) and the Black Star Ninja (Tadashi Yamashita) during these scenes near the end of the film were genuine SK NINJA-TŌ.



The sword wielded by Shinyuki (John Fujioka) is also a bona fide SK NINJA-TŌ.



These two shots show one of the swords close-up revealing it to be a third version SK NINJA-TŌ.



Not to be outdone, many of the other ninja in the film (including the two guarding the beautiful Judie Aronson) were also armed with SK NINJA-TŌ or one of the aluminum-bladed doubles.



Further confirming that these were indeed SK NINJA-TŌ, the small kozuka-like knife hidden inside the pointy tip of the saya is also used in the film.



Not only were numerous SK NINJA-TŌ used in the film, but one was also wielded by the black ninja figure on the film's original movie poster.  Additionally, a longtime fan of both Sho and AMERICAN NINJA recently acquired two great prop SK NINJA-TŌ from a member of the film's crew.



Note: It's unclear if some of these SK NINJA-TŌ were props leftover from Cannon's previous ninja films starring Sho, or if they were all newly purchased from SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES, but in any event the ones featured above are definitely the genuine article.  It must be noted however that not all of the ninja swords seen in the film are SK NINJA-TŌ.  Some, like the one Tadashi Yamashita uses in the opening ninja ambush, are definitely not, although the saya might be.


Ninja Theater Hosted by Sho Kosugi - ''Katana'' (1986)

The third version SK NINJA-TŌ and lots of aluminum-bladed doubles appeared in many NINJA THEATER HOSTED BY SHO KOSUGI segments.  In the one entitled "Katana" (a bit of a misnomer, although Sho does state "I would like to introduce the weapon called Katana or Ninja-To."), Sho shows the various secret parts of the sword, seen very rarely in previous productions.  This is due to the fact that most of the SK NINJA-TŌ used on screen did not have these components, unlike the retail replicas sold by SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES (more on that in future sections).








Ninja Theater Hosted by Sho Kosugi - ''Yari'' (1986)

Aluminum SK NINJA-TŌ prop doubles were used in many of the other segments of NINJA THEATER HOSTED BY SHO KOSUGI.



Ninja Theater Hosted by Sho Kosugi - ''Kama'' (1986)


Ninja Theater Hosted by Sho Kosugi - ''Tekagi'' (1986)


Ninja Theater Hosted by Sho Kosugi - ''Shobo'' (1986)


Ninja Theater Hosted by Sho Kosugi - ''Ninja Fan'' (1985)


Ninja Theater Hosted by Sho Kosugi - ''Tonfa'' (1986)


Ninja Theater Hosted by Sho Kosugi - ''Jitte'' (1986)


Ninja Theater Hosted by Sho Kosugi - ''Self Defense'' (1986)


Honda Hurricane - ''Hiding Ninja' commercial (1986)

Sho wielded a third version or fourth version SK NINJA-TŌ in his great HONDA HURRICANE TV commercial, which aired during Super Bowl XXI.



Note: The fourth version SK NINJA-TŌ was identical to the third version except for the habaki which had a zigzag design across the middle of it instead of a half-moon/crescent.


Rage of Honor (1987)

The third version SK NINJA-TŌ, along with the aluminum-bladed prop doubles, made their final film appearances in RAGE OF HONOR.








Interestingly, even though the third version SK NINJA-TŌ was the sword that was primarily used in the film (particularly in closeups), some old battle-worn second version SK NINJA-TŌ were also utilized at various times during the film's finale.




Wide Show 11PM - "Ninja Boom, Landing in Japan!" (1987)

While promoting the recent release of RAGE OF HONOR, Sho appeared on the March 17, 1987 episode of the Japanese Late Night TV program WIDE SHOW 11PM.   Entitled   "USA LATEST INFORMATION!    NINJA BOOM, LANDING IN JAPAN!   $1 MILLION STAR: SHO KOSUGI VISIT!!"
(USA最新情報! 忍者ブーム・日本上陸!100万ドルスター:ショー・コスギ見参!! ), this cool program, which was posted on YouTube on Apr 26, 2020, featured some great footage of Sho wielding a fourth version SK Ninja-Tō in front of his home in California.




Renegade Blade (1993) * unmade film *

Sho posed with a fourth version SK Ninja-Tō on a 1993 promotional poster for a planned ninja film entitled RENEGADE BLADE that would have reunited him with former Cannon head Menahem Golan.  Originally planned to be called RETURN OF THE NINJA with Sho's son Kane as co-star and director Sam Firstenberg at the helm for Golan's new company 21st Century Film Corporation in 1992, the re-titled 1993 film's storyline would have pitted Sho against a religious fanatic in a Waco-type situation.



Ninja Sentai Kakuranger - ''A Super Big Figure Coming to Japan!!'' (1994)

The next NINJA-TŌ to appear in the same project as Sho would be in the hands of his son Kane, one of the 5 stars of the Japanese TV series NINJA SENTAI KAKURANGER.




NinjaBlack Jiraiya (Kane) along with NinjaRed Sasuke (Teruaki Ogawa) were both seen with their ninja swords in the series' 28th episode (and first of two to guest star Sho). These NINJA-TŌ featured many of the common characteristics associated with a typical ninja sword but had longer and slightly curved blades.





Tenchu: Stealth Assassins (1998)

In the making of Sony Playstation's ninja stealth video game TENCHU: STEALTH ASSASSINS (立体忍者活劇天誅 Rittai Ninja Katsugeki Tenchū), motion captures of Sho and Kane were used to create the authentic, realistic, and fluid movements of two of the game's main ninja characters.  Sho's movements were used for the lead character Rikimaru, while Kane's movements were used for the main villain, Onikage.



In this popular video game, Rikimaru wields a legendary NINJA-TŌ called IZAYOI (十六夜), granted to him by his master and mentor, Shiunsai. The IZAYOI NINJA-TŌ is the sword of the Azuma Ninja Master.  It features a straight-blade and is slightly longer than the average ninja sword.  The blade has a pronounced hamon and a square tsuba.





The Ninjas From Hollywood Japan Tour 2001

A number of prop NINJA-TŌ were used in Sho's first stage show THE NINJAS FROM HOLLYWOOD JAPAN TOUR 2001.  Co-starring Sho and his youngest son Shane and featuring many of Sho's students from SKI (Sho Kosugi Institute), this lively stage production featured a number of ninja characters wielding prop ninja swords of varying lengths.





The Ninjas From Hollywood Japan Tour 2002

A number of prop NINJA-TŌ were also used in Sho's second stage show THE NINJAS FROM HOLLYWOOD JAPAN TOUR 2002.  As with the previous stage show, these prop ninja swords were wielded by various ninja characters, including Shane, whose sword is housed in a wide saya that looks remarkably like the ones from the SK NINJA-TŌ days...







Ninja Assassin (2009)

The most recent (and perhaps last) ninja film in Sho's career, NINJA ASSASSIN, featured a distinctive NINJA-TŌ with a long blade and a small square guard with holes in it.  It is carried by Raizo (Rain) and most of the other ninja trained by Ozunu (Sho) in the film.  Although not the same, the tsuba is a bit reminiscent of the one seen on the ninja swords in Sho's first ninja film ENTER THE NINJA, where appropriately enough he'd played the ninja assassin Hasegawa.



Engraved on one side of the blade just above the habaki on these ninja swords were the Japanese kanji characters 小角家 (Ozunu-ke) which translates to "Ozunu Clan", thus making these OZUNU CLAN NINJA-TŌ.  The meaning of the two Japanese kanji characters 千大 engraved directly on the habaki on the opposite side of the blade remains unclear.  Separately means "one thousand" and means "large" or "big", so since the number of Ozunu ninja seen in the film is substantial, most of whom carry a ninja-tō, this might translate to "One Thousand Large"?




The OZUNU CLAN NINJA-TŌ isn't the only distinctive ninja sword in the film.  Ozunu's most trusted and merciless student, Takeshi (Kai Fung Rieck and Rick Yune), who's also been Raizo's rival since childhood, uses a DOUBLE-BLADED variation of it that is quite spectacular.  At first glance Takeshi's sword looks like a normal Ozunu clan Ninja-Tō, but upon closer inspection we see that the blade is double-edged and that the handle has a tsuba at both ends.



The reason for the second tsuba only becomes apparent when Takeshi begins to swing the sword and (presumably) pushes a button on the handle which allows him to slide the blade through the handle so that it comes out on the other end.




The blade has a groove in the middle and holes at specific spots.  This allows him to also slide the blade half-way and lock it in place to create a DOUBLE-BLADED NINJA-TŌ which can then be wielded like a staff.




The Art of Hollywood Ninja Action Film Making (2017)

In April 2017, exactly 30 years after making its final movie appearance in RAGE OF HONOR, the SK NINJA-TŌ was seen again in Sho's 5-part instructional video THE ART OF HOLLYWOOD NINJA ACTION FILM MAKING.  Specifically, a fourth version SK NINJA-TŌ was brought out by Sho at the end of this series as part of a lesson explaining the difference between the ninja-tō and the standard katana.



Also seen in this segment were some old used aluminum-bladed SK NINJA-TŌ prop doubles.



Yin-Yang Code: Shadow of Tenkai-Bo (2018)

This last NINJA-TŌ is one that for the time being exists only in drawings in Sho's novel YIN-YANG CODE: SHADOW OF TENKAI-BO.  If Sho does realize his dream of turning his YIN-YANG CODE saga into a film or TV series, it will be very interesting to see if the Shugenja and Daiki carry another version of the SK NINJA-TŌ...




The TANTŌ is a short Japanese sword (nihontō) that was worn by the samurai class of feudal Japan.  The tantō is a sword, but it is used as a knife.  The blade is single or double edged with a length between 15 and 30 cm (1 Japanese shaku).  The tantō was designed primarily as a stabbing weapon, but the edge can be used for slashing as well.  Tantō are generally forged in the hira-zukuri style, meaning that their sides have no ridge line and are nearly flat, unlike the shinogi-zukuri structure of a katana.  Tantō were mostly carried by samurai, as commoners did not generally wear them.  The concealed short bladed fighting knife carried by ninja was called SHINOBI-TANTŌ.  Women sometimes carried a small tantō called a KAIKEN in their obi (belt) primarily for self-defense.  Tantō were sometimes worn as the shōtō (short sword) in place of a wakizashi in a daishō (long and short sword set), especially on the battlefield.

Enter the Ninja (1981)

In the ninja craze launching ENTER THE NINJA, Cole (Franco Nero and Mike Stone) carries a white TANTŌ that matches his Ninja-Tō.




Sho's character Hasegawa also carries a TANTŌ on his Obi (belt), but it is decidedly quite different from his Ninja-Tō and appears to be a real Shōtō (short sword), as opposed to a crudely made prop like the one Cole carries.



Interestingly, while portraying many of the maroon ninja in the film, Sho also often carries Hasegawa's TANTŌ.  Some of the other Maroon Ninja portrayed by Douglas Ivan also carry a very similar-looking TANTŌ with what appears to have maroon tsuka-ito wrapping on the handle.



Hasegawa's TANTŌ is also featured in other scenes, such as this scene where it's in the hands of another Maroon Ninja and where we get a good look at the blade.



Revenge of the Ninja (1983)

As with the SK Ninja-Tō, REVENGE OF THE NINJA also featured the very first appearance of what I like to call the SK NINJA-TANTŌ, due to it being the Shōtō (short sword) to the SK Ninja-Tō's Daitō (long sword).  This TANTŌ was first used by the Red Ninja Leader (Alan Amiel) in the film's opening ninja scenes.  All fans of Sho's ninja films should know who Alan Amiel is, but for any of you not familiar with him he was an integral part of every one of Sho's 1980's ninja projects, not only fighting Sho more than anyone else, but also assisting him in the fight choreography.



The Silver Masked Ninja Braden (often doubled by Sho) also carried one of these SK NINJA-TANTŌ, which just like the first version SK Ninja-Tō featured a small black matsuba-gata (pine-needle shaped) bō-shuriken as its menuki.  Interestingly, whereas the tsuba (guard) on the SK Ninja-Tō was square, the one on this SK NINJA-TANTŌ was rectangle.



Cho Osaki (Sho) also had this same SK NINJA-TANTŌ in his secret box of ninja weapons, which like the first version SK Ninja-Tō had "samurai style" tsuka-ito wrapping on the handle.



Interestingly, during the epic rooftop battle, the SK NINJA-TANTŌ on Cho Osaki's obi had no matsuba-gata menuki, while the one carried by the Silver Masked Ninja (doubled by Eddie Tse) did.  My suspicion is that perhaps there was only one made with the matsuba-gata menuki.





Ninja III: The Domination (1984)

The SK NINJA-TANTŌ was also seen in NINJA III: THE DOMINATION where it had a very important significance.  Or rather it did until Cannon inexplicably decided to cut out most of the incredible and important scene that fully explained its huge importance.  Even if I live to be a thousand I will never understand how this long and all-important sequence, which also consisted of some truly incredible fight scenes, was decimated and cut down to the very small flashback that remains in the film.  Anyway, to fill in what viewers missed, the TANTŌ in question belonged to Sho's character Yamada's father, which the Black Ninja Hanjuro (David Chung) took from his Obi and killed him with in front of his son (as seen in the all too brief flashback).



This TANTŌ had a very distinctive oval tsuba that would become a very important visual in the film, but which was completely lost on all of us because the rest of the scene was completely gutted, and the only way the tsuba on the TANTŌ can sort of be seen is by doing freeze-frames like in these screenshots:



Specifically, this oval tsuba became the awesome eyepatch worn by Yamada in the film, in honor of his father.  Also lost is that the tsuba-free TANTŌ carried by Yamada, and which is the weapon than finally puts an end to Hanjuro, was his father's TANTŌ.




The film makes it clear that Hanjuro's soul resided in and was transfered through his NINJA-TŌ, but what was sadly lost is that the soul of Yamada's father resided in his TANTŌ, which was ultimately why it was the only thing powerful enough to put an end to the Evil Ninja's life-after-death.  I'm convinced that's why we got this great dissolving shot of Hanjuro's NINJA-TŌ and the Yamada family TANTŌ at the end of the film.



It's sad that putting these two still photos side by side tells us more about this TANTŌ and its importance than what we get from watching the film.  The first photo shows a bloodied and battle-worn Yamada holding it after removing it from his father's dead body, his one remaining eye looking at it and the tsuba that would become an eyepatch, while in the second photo we see the tsuba-eyepatch and its source, his father's TANTŌ, in his Obi.



Additionally, these 2 great B&W promotional still photos also reveal something that I hadn't mentioned but which is worth noting, which is that one of the various props used to represent the Yamada family TANTŌ featured a matsuba-gata menuki like the one seen in REVENGE OF THE NINJA.



As cool a ninja film as NINJA III: THE DOMINATION might be (and I know some people are fanatical about it), it could have been so much better if we hadn't lost that amazing sequence of scenes revealing this important and meaningful element of the story.


The Master - ''Fat Tuesday'' (1984)

Filmed right after NINJA III: THE DOMINATION (with some overlap), it's not surprising that Sho used many of the same weapons on both productions.  What was a little surprising for me to discover was that one of the "Yamada" TANTŌ with no tsuba was also carried by Okasa (Sho).  As you can see from these screenshots, this is the same one with the matsuba-gata menuki from REVENGE OF THE NINJA that was also used in NINJA III: THE DOMINATION and also clearly seen in the B&W still photos above.



Interestingly, when Okasa finally ends up using his SK NINJA-TANTŌ it suddenly has a tsuba on it.  Obviously, this was a different prop, as it also doesn't have a matsuba-gata menuki.




The Master - ''Kunoichi'' (1984)

In what is undoubtedly the best and most serious episode of THE MASTER there were two different types of TANTŌ used.  The first one, carried by Okasa, was one of the standard SK NINJA-TANTŌ.



The second one was a spectacular black and gold Aikuchi Tantō which Okasa (Sho) memorably described as "Shinobi-Tanto...a beautiful weapon".  This indeed beautiful SHINOBI-TANTŌ was of course integral to the story as Okasa stole it from The Master's case of ninja weapons in order to frame him for attempted murder.





The Master - ''Failure to Communicate'' (1984)

Appropriately enough, Okasa fought with a SK NINJA-TANTŌ one last time in the last episode of THE MASTER that the character appeared on.




9 Deaths of the Ninja (1985)

Two different types of TANTŌ were used in the fantastic flashback sequence in 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA.  The first one was a SK NINJA-TANTŌ, which was carried by both Spike Shinobi (Sho) and by his sensei (Ken Watanabe).



The second one was a red SHINOBI-TANTŌ wielded by the female ninja (Imelda Dominguez) that Spike Shinobi unwisely takes pity on.



As is surprisingly often, the SK NINJA-TANTŌ carried by Spike Shinobi's sensei turns into a different prop in some scenes, as seen in this before and after of him shooting the female ninja in the back with an arrow.  Prior to shooting the arrow the Tantō on his Obi has a tsuba and no menuki, but afterwards it is the distinctive tsuba-free one with the matsuba-gata menuki.



Pray For Death (1985)

Both of Sho's characters in in PRAY FOR DEATH, the "Black Ninja" character in the mock TV series and Akira Saito, carried a SK NINJA-TANTŌ.



Master Class (1985)

During some of the self-defense techniques on MASTER CLASS Sho wore a SK NINJA-TANTŌ in his obi.



In other segments, Sho demonstrated how to use a NUNCHAKU to defend against a TANTŌ wielded by his frequent fighting partner Alan Amiel.




Journey of Honor (1991)

Another one of Sho's films where a TANTŌ had special significance was his 1991 epic samurai adventure film JOURNEY OF HONOR (aka KABUTO, aka SHOGUN MAYEDA), which he co-wrote, produced, and starred in. When rival samurai attack the shogun's young son Yorimune Tokugawa (Kane Kosugi), Daigoro Mayeda (Sho) gives his wife Chiyo (Yuki Sugimura) his TANTŌ asking her and their young son Daisuke (Shinsuke Shirakura) to protect the young lord.



This beautiful shōtō (short sword) features a samegawa (rayskin) handle accented with a gold menuki on each side, a small round tsuba (guard), and what appears to be a silver-colored fuchi and kashira (metal pommel and collar).




The blade style on this TANTŌ is hira-zukuri, which means it has no shinogi (ridge line at the thickest point of the blade), or yokote (dividing line between the blade and the tip) and is nearly flat on both sides.



Sadly, Mayeda returns from fighting off more of the attacking samurai only to find that both his wife and son have been killed, having sacrificed their lives to protect their young lord, Yorimune.  Heartbroken, he takes his weapon back from the lifeless hand of his courageous wife.



A short time later, while remembering his wife and son, Mayeda is visited by Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa (Toshiro Mifune) who is carrying a very nice TANTŌ on his Obi and who tells him of the journey he is sending Mayeda and Yorimune on to get guns in Spain.



Later, aboard the ship bound for Spain, Mayeda must use his TANTŌ to defeat an old enemy from both the Battle of Sekigahara and the subsequent ambush on Yorimune that left his wife and son dead.




Having unexpectedly fallen in love with Lady Cecilia (Polly Walker) in Spain, Mayeda gives her his TANTŌ, telling her "I want you to keep my family sword for me. It was very precious to me. Use it to protect yourself. Always keep it with you".



Luckily Lady Cecilia did as her beloved had requested, because when a friend turned foe and held her at knife point she was able to use Mayeda's TANTŌ to indeed defend herself.



Some great promotional photos featuring this TANTŌ were posted on Sho's Instagram and included in the official Japanese movie program.



琉球の風 第4回 若夏の恋
  Dragon Spirit - ''Young Love'' (1993)

A number of different TANTŌ were featured in Sho's next project, the excellent Japanese Taiga Drama Period TV series DRAGON SPIRIT, including another very nice rayskin-handled one carried by Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa (Akira Kobayashi).




琉球の風 第6回 愛の女たち
  Dragon Spirit - ''The Women'' (1993)



琉球の風 第11回 父子の悲劇
  Dragon Spirit - ''A Father's Sorrow'' (1993)


Tenchu: Stealth Assassins (1998)

A TANTŌ is used by Minister Kataoka to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) at the successful end of Rikimaru's 5th mission "Execute The Corrupt Minister" in the TENCHU: STEALTH ASSASSINS video game.




The Ninjas From Hollywood Japan Tour 2001

The TANTŌ was the main weapon of a few ninja characters in Sho's 1st stage show THE NINJAS FROM HOLLYWOOD JAPAN TOUR 2001.




Ninja Assassin (2009)

A few TANTŌ were also used in Sho's most recent film, NINJA ASSASSIN.  The first one seen on screen was wielded by the kunoichi listed in the credits as Pretty Ninja (Linh-Dan Pham) who unexpectedly attacks Raizo (Rain) in a laundromat.  Raizo is also wielding a TANTŌ-like knife, but as this rather unique weapon has been deemed by many, including Sho, as a KYOKETSU-SHŌGE, we will look at this weapon in that section.



The second TANTŌ in the film is used by Ozunu (Sho) in a great scene where he shows his young ninja students the power of the Kuji-no-in.




Although it's difficult to see clearly, the last TANTŌ in the film is used by Kiriko (Anna Sawai) after being pursued by other Ozunu clan members.




Yin-Yang Code: Shadow of Tenkai-Bo (2018)

This last tantō is one that as I write this still only exists in drawings in Sho's novel YIN-YANG CODE: SHADOW OF TENKAI-BO.  Based on these great illustrations and the descriptions of it in the book, I believe this was a KEN TANTŌ (剣・短刀), which is not technically a true tantō, though it is often used and thought of as one.  KEN TANTŌ were straight, double-edged blades often used for Buddhist rituals, and could be made from spearheads that were broken or cut shorter.  They were often given as offerings from swordsmiths when they visited a temple.




The KOZUKA is a small knife that is part of a Japanese sword mounting.  It is kept in a designated slot on the reverse side of a katana scabbard.  On the SK Ninja-Tō the Kozuka is secretly hidden inside the pointy end of the sword's metal scabbard.  Similarly, other small knives hidden in the ends of sticks can also be called Kozuka.

Revenge of the Ninja (1983)

The first ninja KOZUKA used in one of Sho's projects is actually the final secret weapon attached at one end of a SHINOBI-ZUE (staff with a hidden spear).  Specifically, it was the end of the handle of the SHIKOMIZUE (hidden sword) part, which was wielded by the Silver Masked Ninja (Eddie Tse) in his rooftop battle against Cho Osaki (Sho).




Oddly, the KOZUKA that is extracted from the SHIKOMIZUE handle is a doubled-edged blade, but the prop that is thrown from one ninja to the other and back features a single-edged blade.




We will look at the other parts of this cool staff with hidden sword and spears in both the SHIKOMIZUE section below and in the SHINOBI-ZUE section of the STAFFS and SPEARS category.

The Master - ''Out-of-Time-Step'' (1984)

In the second episode of THE MASTER, McAllister (Lee Van Cleef) takes a bamboo staff out of his case of ninja weapons and reveals that it features a hidden KOZUKA at one end of it.



Pray For Death (1985)

Two different ninja KOZUKA appeared in PRAY FOR DEATH.  The first one seemingly appeared from out of nowhere during a flashback memory sequence where Shoji (Yosh) stabs his brother Akira Saito (Sho) in the leg.



The second KOZUKA is extracted from the bottom end of the saya (scabbard) of Akira's SK NINJA-TŌ during the film's vengeance fueled finale.



Master Class (1985)

During some self-defense sequences in MASTER CLASS, Sho demonstrated how to disarm a KOZUKA-wielding opponent.




Ninja Theater Hosted by Sho Kosugi - ''Katana'' (1986)

As previously discussed in the NINJA-TŌ section, this segment of NINJA THEATER HOSTED BY SHO KOSUGI also showed the hidden KOZUKA attached to the bottom of the metal saya.  Amazingly, this segment and PRAY FOR DEATH are the only times that this feature of the SK NINJA-TŌ was ever seen in any of Sho's films, TV shows, instructional videos, etc....  This is due to the fact that virtually all of the saya used on screen did not have this detachable end, unlike the retail version of the SK NINJA-TŌ seen here (more on this in future sections).



Ninja Assassin (2009)

A different type of small knife called a KIRIDASHI (切り出し) was essentially used as a KOZUKA in NINJA ASSASSIN.  "Kiridashi", which means 'to carve out', is a traditional wood carving knife, widely used in Japan.  It is also a marking knife used by almost all Japanese carpenters, as well as a versatile tool for general use.





The KATANA and the WAKIZASHI are Japanese swords (nihontō) both characterized by a curved, single-edged blade with a circular or squared guard.  The katana features a long grip to accommodate two hands and is distinguished by a blade length (nagasa) of more than 2 shaku, approximately 60 cm (24 in).  The wakizashi has a shorter grip and a blade between 30 and 60 cm (12 and 24 in).  Historically, the wakizashi being worn together with the katana was the official sign that the wearer was a samurai.  When worn together the pair of swords were called daishō.

아메리카 訪問客
  Visitor of America (1976)

Considering how frequently the Ninja-Tō, and specifically the SK Ninja-Tō, appears in so many of Sho's films and TV shows, it may surprise some of you to learn that the first sword carried on-screen by Sho was not a "ninja sword", but was instead a standard samurai KATANA.  Such was the case in AMERICA BANGMUNGAEG (아메리카訪問客 Visitor of America), the South Korean film shot in Los Angeles that was later poorly re-dubbed in English and released as "Bruce Lee Fights Back From The Grave".  Unfortunately, as there are no good prints of the film available, it's difficult to get any good screenshots of this katana, particularly as it only appears in one scene and is only seen in a wide group shot.  The only thing that can be stated with relative certainty is that the katana's saya was black and white.  Oddly, this is the only time this sword appears in the film as the next time we see Sho's modern-day samurai assassin character Suzuki he's carrying a Shikomizue.  More on that when we get to the SHIKOMIZUE section.



The Richard Pryor Show - "Samurai" skit (1977)

Another early project for Sho was the second episode of THE RICHARD PRYOR SHOW.  A number of different KATANA are seen in a funny "Samurai" skit featuring a group of samurai who attack another samurai as he's enjoying tea with his wife.  Following the husband's death, the group of samurai attempt to take the wife with them, but a mysterious stranger (Richard Pryor) steps in to take them on.



In a "don't blink of you'll miss it" moment Sho (seen only from the side and the back) briefly emerges from the left side of the screen with his katana raised high over his head, only to be quickly cut down by Pryor.



After seeing all of his fellow samurai cut down, the group's leader (Tak Kubota) steps in to fight Pryor in a duel to the death.



Revenge of the Ninja (1983)

A matching set of KATANA and WAKIZASHI were part of the weapons on display in Cho Osaki's dojo in REVENGE OF THE NINJA.



A different WAKIZASHI was also impressively wielded by an 8-year-old Kane during a memorable scene in the film .





Aloha Summer (1988) * filmed in 1984 *

The opening of ALOHA SUMMER, which is set many years after the main events of the film, features a beautiful KATANA prominently displayed on a shelf in the home of Mike Tognetti (Chris Makepeace), one of the main character's in the film.  Oddly, this katana with blue tsuka-ito wrapping on the handle and a round gold tsuba (plus gold fuchi and kashira fittings) is meant to be the one given to him at the end of the film by Yukinaga Konishi (Sho) many years earlier in 1959, but as we will soon see it is a completely different sword.



The sword that should have been on the shelf is one of two identical prized TENNŌ KATANA given to Yukinaga Konishi (Sho) by the Tennō (Emperor of Japan) after the Battle of Singapore in 1942, and which Yukinaga's son Kenzo Konishi (Yuji Okumoto) hopes to one day be worthy of.  As you can see, these are completely different with black tsuka-ito wrapping on the handle and copper fittings, including a Aoigata (hollyhock shaped) tsuba.



Yet another different brown and gold KATANA with matching WAKIZASHI is seen on a display stand as Yukinaga Konishi unsheathes one of the precious TENNŌ KATANA.



Reluctantly, Kenzo Konishi unsheathes the other TENNŌ KATANA as he prepares to battle his father in a shinken (real blade) sword duel.






The duel ends in the son's defeat and some very harsh words from the father.



Later, following Kenzo's close call with death while surfing during a storm, Yukinaga realizes how precious his son's life is to him and presents him with one of the prized TENNŌ KATANA.



At the same time, before departing Hawaii, Yukinaga presents the other prized TENNŌ KATANA to Mike Tognetti in gratitude for saving his son's life, which brings us full circle and explains the significance of the sword that we saw at the start of this excellent film.



Interestingly, Sho posted a couple of still photos from the film on his Instagram page, one where he's wielding a KATANA with an aoigata tsuba and one where he's wielding a KATANA with a gold round tsuba that looks like the one from the film's opening, suggesting that this sword may have been used in outtakes of the father and son duel, and why the swords seen at the beginning and the ending of the final film are different.



Pray For Death (1985)

Another film featuring a KATANA at the start is PRAY FOR DEATH.  During the memorable opening credits Sho wields a black KATANA while his son Kane wields a matching black WAKIZASHI.  Although, it's hard to see these clearly, I believe that they are the same types of swords that were on the deer antler sword stand in REVENGE OF THE NINJA (see above).




Rage of Honor (1987)

A black KATANA is used by Alan Amiel's character in RAGE OF HONOR.  Once again, I believe that this sword is the same type featured in REVENGE OF THE NINJA and PRAY FOR DEATH, particularly as these were more than likely the ones sold by SHO KOSUGI NINJA ENTERPRISES, INC. (more on this later).




Blind Fury (1989)

Another one of these black KATANA was wielded by Sho in his incredible special appearance in BLIND FURY.  Doubling star Rutger Hauer in this phenomenal sword duel was another important contributor to Sho's ninja films, his student Eddie Tse, who of course had previously doubled Arthur Roberts (Braden) during the epic rooftop duel in REVENGE OF THE NINJA.




We get our first good look at the design of the tsuba on one of these black KATANA in the final moments of this fast paced sword fight.




琉球の風 第1回 海の王国
  Dragon Spirit - "An Island Kingdom" (1993)

A number of different KATANA were used in the period Japanese Taiga Drama DRAGON SPIRIT.  In the first episode of this excellent Jidai-geki (period drama) TV series, these swords are carried and used by high ranking aristocrats of the Ryukyu Kingdom (modern-day Okinawa, Japan) as well as by bandits attacking them on board a ship.




琉球の風 第5回 南海の密約
  Dragon Spirit - "Secret Pact" (1993)

A number of different KATANA and WAKIZASHI were also featured in the 5th episode of DRAGON SPIRIT, this time carried by samurai.




琉球の風 第11回 父子の悲劇
  Dragon Spirit - ''A Father's Sorrow'' (1993)

A wide variety of characters are seen carrying and using KATANA in the 11th episode of DRAGON SPIRIT.




琉球の風 第12回 前夜の嵐
  Dragon Spirit - "Stormy Eve" (1993)

In the 12th episode of DRAGON SPIRIT a very nice KATANA is used by the distraught daimyō and chief of the Shimazu clan of Satsuma Province, Yoshihisa Shimazu (Hideo Murota).



Later in the episode, warriors from Ryukyu are also shown carrying KATANA as they begin preparations for war with the samurai from Satsuma.



琉球の風 第13回 首里城明け渡し
  Dragon Spirit - "Surrender of Shuri Castle" (1993)

In the 13th episode of DRAGON SPIRIT (and final one to feature Sho's character), warriors from Ryukyu are carrying KATANA and using them to fight the invading KATANA-wielding samurai from Satsuma.




Ninja Sentai Kakuranger - "A Super Big Figure Coming to Japan!!" (1994)

In the 28th episode of NINJA SENTAI KAKURANGER (and first of two episodes to feature Sho), Sandayū Momochi (Akira Sakamoto), a legendary ninja master who helps the Kakurangers discover their abilities, is seen carrying a KATANA while giving guidance from the top of a mountain cliff.

Note: The first photo is not from the episode in question but is included as it shows Sandayū's KATANA more clearly.



Sho Kosugi Self-Defense and Ninjaerobics (1996)

In various segments reportedly filmed in Japan for Sho's 1996 instructional TV show SHO KOSUGI SELF-DEFENSE & NINJAEROBICS (aka MASTERS OF THE MARTIAL ARTS STARRING SHO KOSUGI), Sho and a number of his opponents often carried and/or wielded KATANA.

Note: These clips have been and continue to be posted by Sho on his Instagram accounts every week or so.  As there is no way to know how many more of these are left, this Blog is including a few examples from the ones posted thus far.







Tenchu: Stealth Assassins (1998)

A substantial number of enemy characters carry and wield KATANA in the stealth video game TENCHU: STEALTH ASSASSINS.






The Ninjas From Hollywood Japan Tour 2002

Some ninja characters in THE NINJAS FROM HOLLYWOOD JAPAN TOUR 2002 wielded KATANA.



Ninja Assassin (2009)

Whereas the ninja students of Lord Ozunu (Sho) in NINJA ASSASSIN all exclusively used Ninja-Tō, Ozunu himself seemed partial to the KATANA.  One of the first flashback scenes shows him sitting in front of two different ones, the top one featuring dark red (or maroon) tsuka-ito wrapping on the handle, while the bottom one has the more common black wrapping.



Ozunu's personal KATANA is shown for the first time in the pivotal scene where he presents it to his student Takeshi (Kai Fung Rieck) who uses it to execute the courageous Kiriko (Anna Sawai) after she tried to escape the clan.




Ozunu's KATANA is seen again when it is presented to Raizo (Rain) in another pivotal scene where its presence helps trigger memories of his beloved Kiriko's death and ultimately gives him the courage to revolt against Ozunu.



Ozunu's KATANA is seen again in the film's finale as Sho's character wields this awesome crane-tsuba sword in his battle to the death against his former student Raizo.





The Art of Hollywood Ninja Action Film Making (2017)

Whereas the ninja-tō seen in THE ART OF HOLLYWOOD NINJA ACTION FILM MAKING were limited to the final segment, KATANA were used in the actual demonstration segments where Sho explained what goes into putting on a realistic and exciting sword fight for the screen, before choreographing and demonstrating it with the assistance of his son Shane and others.



During the final segment on the video series, Sho was also seen with an amazing collection of swords at his feet.



Sho revealed that the swords they used in the demonstrations had blades made of bamboo, which were much lighter than the metal ones they used in his films and TV shows.  The sword that Sho wielded in THE ART OF HOLLYWOOD NINJA ACTION FILM MAKING was a KATANA with a square-guard.  A bit of a katana/ninja-tō hybrid, but a KATANA none the less.



His assistants/opponents on the other hand had more traditional looking KATANA with Aoigata (hollyhock shaped) tsubas.



Sho also showed off a nice "real" KATANA with a metal blade during this segment.



Yin-Yang Code: The Drums of Tenkai-Bo (2017)

This last KATANA is one that as I write this still only exists in drawings in Sho's novel YIN-YANG CODE: THE DRUMS OF TENKAI-BO.




The TACHI was a type of traditionally made Japanese sword (nihontō) worn by the samurai class of feudal Japan.  Tachi and katana generally differ in length, degree of curvature, and how they were worn when sheathed, the latter depending on the location of the mei, or signature, on the tang.  The tachi style of swords preceded the development of the katana, which was not mentioned by name until near the end of the twelfth century; tachi are known to have been made in the Kotō period, ranging from 900 to 1596.  The tachi was worn cutting edge down, unlike the katana which was worn cutting edge up.  An authentic tachi that was manufactured in the correct time period had an average cutting edge length (nagasa) of 70-80 cm (24 9/16 - 31 1/2 in) and compared to a katana was generally lighter in proportion to its length, had a greater taper from hilt to point, was more curved and had a smaller point area.

Pray For Death (1985)

The first time a TACHI sword was used in one of Sho's projects was in the flashback scene where Akira Saito (Sho) remembered a painful event from his past when he'd discovered a thief inside his adoptive father's temple in Japan.



The masked ninja thief proceeded to pick up the TACHI sword located next to the box of coins he'd come to steal and a battle to the death between him and Akira followed.






Years later this same TACHI sword was offered to Akira after he informed his adoptive father and ninjutsu sensei Koga (Robert Ito) that he was moving to America with his wife and two sons.



Journey of Honor (1991)

A large number of TACHI swords were used in Sho's epic samurai film JOURNEY OF HONOR (aka KABUTO, aka SHOGUN MAYEDA), as virtually every samurai in the film carried one.  The black and silver TACHI sword carried by Sho's character Daigoro Mayeda and the main one carried by Yorimune Tokugawa, played by Sho eldest son Kane, appeared to be identical and featured a traditional kabuto-gane (pommel), fuchi (collar), aoigata tsuba (guard), four semegane (scabbard rings), and a sajiri (scabbard tip).






The TACHI sword of Yorimune's father Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa (Toshiro Mifune) is also seen when his samurai attendant carries it behind him as he visits Mayeda to tell him of the journey to Spain that Mayeda and Yorimune are to go on.



When Yorimune is attacked by a rival samurai who stowed away aboard the ship bound for Spain, the young lord shows his skills as a swordsman by defeating his enemy with his TACHI sword.



During the procession to meet King Philip III of Spain (Christopher Lee), Yorimune (Kane) carries a different and more official TACHI sword, while Mayeda (Sho) presents an elaborate TACHI sword to the king, that was made by the finest sword maker in Japan.



Mayeda must prove his worth, honor, and skill with his TACHI sword on numerous occasions in this amazing film.







The KODACHI is a traditionally made Japanese short sword (nihontō) used by the samurai class of feudal Japan.  KODACHI are from the early Kamakura period (1185-1333) and are mounted and shaped like a TACHI sword but with a length of less than 60 cm.  They are often confused with WAKIZASHI, due to their length and handling techniques.  However, their construction is what sets the two apart, as KODACHI are a set length while WAKIZASHI are forged to complement the wielder's height or the length of their KATANA.  As a result, the KODACHI was too short to be called a sword properly but was also too long to be considered a dagger, thus it is widely considered a primary short sword, unlike the TANTŌ or the WAKIZASHI which would act as a secondary weapon that was used alongside a longer blade.  The exact use of the KODACHI is unknown; it may have been a companion sword to normal sized TACHI or it may have been a sword for an adolescent.  KODACHI appear to have been produced only in a certain time period by specific schools of swordmakers.


Tenchu: Stealth Assassins (1998)

A pair of KODACHI are the preferred weapons of the kunoichi (female ninja) Ayame in the stealth video game TENCHU: STEALTH ASSASSINS.






The SHIKOMIZUE is a Japanese swordstick.  The sword blade was placed in a cane-like mounting (tsue) as concealment.  Some shikomizue also concealed chains, hooks, and various other tools and weapons.  Shikomizue could be carried in public without arousing suspicion, making them perfect for ninja.

아메리카 訪問客
  Visitor of America (1976)

As mentioned earlier, the main sword wielded by Sho's character Suzuki in VISITOR OF AMERICA was a SHIKOMIZUE.  Though it's difficult to see it clearly in the fast paced fight against the film's star Jun Chong, we can see from some still photos that the sword has no tsuba (guard) and that the tsuka (handle) is wood.  Although, it's also possible that this was a SHIRASAYA, an undecorated wooden mounting composed of a saya and tsuka used to store a sword blade when not being used, the fact that Suzuki (Sho) uses it in combat suggests that it was indeed a SHIKOMIZUE.





Revenge of the Ninja (1983)

This sleek black SHIKOMIZUE used in REVENGE OF THE NINJA came out of what intially appeared to be a short-bladed YARI but was actually a SHINOBI-ZUE (staff with a hidden spear) which we will look at in more detail in the SHINOBI-ZUE section of the STAFFS & SPEARS category.




As previously mentioned, just when we thought every blade had been revealed, we get a final one pulled out of the SHIKOMIZUE handle.



The Master - ''Hostages'' (1984)

This BAMBOO SHIKOMIZUE used by Okasa (Sho) in the 4th episode of THE MASTER, was without question the coolest one ever.  Interestingly, although the sword did in fact slide into its bamboo saya (scabbard), if you look closely at these first two screenshots you will see what me and my friends noticed many years ago, that the sword blade does not come out of the bamboo stick but instead is just hidden behind it.  My firm belief is that the bamboo stick used was not actually its saya, but rather an un-hollowed out bamboo stick that Sho could use as a prop double in the scene so that the real saya could be spared any damage.



Regardless of this slight visual gaffe, the concept of this BAMBOO SHIKOMIZUE is what makes it so cool.



As with most swords used in fight scenes in Sho's projects, the one mostly seen in this great duel features a plain aluminum-blade, whereas the "real" one featured a chrome-plated alloy-metal blade like the ones on the SK NINJA-TŌ.




Another cool aspect of this SHIKOMIZUE is revealed at the end of this ninja battle when Okasa unleashes a hidden weighted chain from inside the bamboo saya.




A number of promotional photos featuring Sho holding the chrome-plated alloy-metal blade version of this great BAMBOO SHIKOMIZUE were also taken to promote THE MASTER.




The Master - ''Kunoichi'' (1984)

Another SHIKOMIZUE was used by a mysterious grey ninja in the 9th episode of THE MASTER.  Although not as cool as the earlier bamboo one, this black SHIKOMIZUE was definitely nice in its own right.




Wielded by Alan Amiel in another great duel with Sho who was doubling The Master, this sleek SHIKOMIZUE definitely made a lasting impression.




Ninja Theater Hosted by Sho Kosugi - ''Shikomizue'' (1986)

The SHIKOMIZUE was the subject of one of the awesome NINJA THEATER HOSTED BY SHO KOSUGI segments, where Sho very aptly stated: "It looks like bamboo stick, but... it's a Ninja surprise."





Rage of Honor (1987)

A number of SHIKOMIZUE were memorably used in RAGE OF HONOR, including two with metal tsuka (handles) and metal saya (scabbards) wielded by the "twins / Prison Ninja" (Masafumi Sakanashi and Kiyatsu Shimoyama) who sliced through an apple in midair with them.




Not to be outdone, Sho also used another metal tsuka and saya SHIKOMIZUE is another great sequence in the film.





Blind Fury (1989)

The final project in Sho's filmography to feature the SHIKOMIZUE is appropriately enough BLIND FURY, a film based on the legendary Japanese film series "Zatoichi" (1962-1989), which had made the SHIKOMIZUE famous.  As it was with the one used by Zatoichi (Shintaro Katsu), the SHIKOMIZUE in BLIND FURY appeared to be nothing more than a walking cane carried by a blind man named Nick Parker (Rutger Hauer), but of course it was much more than that in the hands of a skilled swordsman.






The SHIRASAYA ("white scabbard") is a plain undecorated wooden Japanese sword saya (scabbard) and tsuka (hilt), traditionally made of nurizaya wood and used when a blade was not expected to see use for some time and needed to be stored.  They were externally featureless save for the needed mekugi-ana (single hole for a wooden peg) to secure the nakago (tang), though sometimes sayagaki (blade information) was also present.  The shirasaya is sometimes confused with the shikomizue, but although they make look similar, the shirasaya was not meant to be used in battle as its main purpose was to protect and preserve precious Japanese blades.

Revenge of the Ninja (1983)

The first SHIRASAYA in REVENGE OF THE NINJA is seen so briefly that most viewers don't even notice.  It is literally not much more than the first screenshot below.  The three other screenshots from the rest of this mostly deleted scene were taken from the original theatrical trailer.




This same curved SHIRASAYA along with a number of others were amongst the weapons on display during Cho Osaki's pre-battle ceremony.




The TONFA-TŌ (Tonfa-sword) is, as the name suggests, a cross between an Okinawan Tonfa and a straight-blade Japanese sword (Shikomizue or Ninja-Tō).

Although this weapon doesn't appear to have actually existed in a historical (real life) context, it was featured (quite possibly for the first time) in the 1978 Japanese Jidai-geki (period drama) film YAGYŪ ICHIZOKU NO INBŌ (
柳生一族の陰謀) and in the expanded and spectacular 39 episode 1978-1979 TV series of the same name.  In English, the film version is best known as "Shogun's Samurai: The Yagyu Clan Conspiracy", while the TV series is known as "The Yagyu Conspiracy".  In both versions of this great saga the TONFA-TŌ is used by members of the Negoro Ninja clan.

柳生一族の陰謀  YAGYŪ ICHIZOKU NO INBŌ (1978 Feature Film)


In the original film version, a TONFA-TŌ and a SAI, two weapons that are symbols of the Negoro, are presented to Hayate (Hiroyuki Sanada) and Man (Mayumi Asano) by the Negoro ninja clan leader Sagenta (Hideo Murota) as part of their coming-of-age ceremony.  As the other members of the clan celebrate them becoming full-fledged members of the Negoro ninja, they are attacked by a group of Koga ninja, and Hayate and Ran fight bravely alongside them before their friend Jūbei Yagyū (Shinichi Chiba) arrives to assist them.


柳生一族の陰謀  YAGYŪ ICHIZOKU NO INBŌ (1978-1979 Television Series)


In the TV series remake, TONFA-TŌ and SAI are once again used by the Negoro ninja.  And although there isn't a coming-of-age ceremony for Hayate (Junichi Haruta) and Man (Hiromi Okamoto) in the TV version, the rest of the events at the Negoro village remain much the same except that this time it's the Iga ninja that attack them, led by Hyōma Hattori (Hiroyuki Sanada), young son of Iga ninja leader Hanzō Hattori.


Note: Although this film and TV series are not part of Sho's filmography, they are included here not only because of the possible influence they may have had on the creation of Sho's own TONFA-TŌ, but also because there are a number of connections between cast members and Sho.  Although they did not share any scenes together, Sho and his eldest son Kane co-starred with Hideo Murota in DRAGON SPIRIT (1993).  Furthermore, Sho's youngest son Shane appeared with both actors who played Hayate (Hiroyuki Sanada and Junichi Haruta) in two separate films, the big budget Hollywood epic THE LAST SAMURAI (2003) and the excellent ninja short film KAGE (2007).



THE LAST SAMURAI (2003): Hiroyuki Sanada, Lee Murayama, Shane Kosugi


KAGE (2007): Shane Kosugi, Junichi Haruta, Takeshi Maya, Kenji Ohba


9 Deaths of the Ninja (1985)

As seen in 9 DEATHS OF THE NINJA, Sho's first version of the TONFA-TŌ was something really special, as for most of the film it appeared to simply be a straight, albeit uniquely designed, NINJA-TŌ, carried and wielded by Spike Shinobi (Sho).




But with the press of a button and a quick flick of the wrist the SPIKE SHINOBI NINJA-TŌ transformed into the SPIKE SHINOBI TONFA-TŌ.




Along with this chrome-plated transforming SPIKE SHINOBI NINJA-TŌ⬌TONFA-TŌ, a number of prop doubles for both the straight-blade and tonfa-blade forms made of non-transforming solid aluminum were used in the fight scenes.



Rage of Honor (1987) * Photoshoots *

Seen only in photos, this other TONFA-TŌ bears a much stronger resemblance to the ones seen in "The Yagyu Conspiracy film and TV series. Sho's second version is also a bit of a mystery as it did not appear in any of his films, TV shows, etc... but I've listed it under RAGE OF HONOR because a number of promotional photos connect it to the film.  Although the first photo below might seem to suggest that it was connected to PRAY FOR DEATH because Sho is wearing the ninja kabuto (helmet) from that film, the large Spiked Tekkō-Kagi claws in his right hand places it later than that film because it was created for and was used exclusively in RAGE OF HONOR.



The second photo above along with the full weapons demonstration panel below is even more evidence that it was a RAGE OF HONOR weapon because these were included in an article promoting the upcoming release of RAGE OF HONOR in the October 1986 issue of Inside Kung-Fu.  Moreover, not only is the costume that Sho is wearing in these photos the same one that he wore in the jungle scenes in the film, but the other 2 weapon demonstrations in this magazine were exclusive to RAGE OF HONOR. Finally, this TONFA-TŌ also bears a strong resemblance to the metal handle SHIKOMIZUE that were used in RAGE OF HONOR, the only difference being that the handle is perpendicular to the blade.



Sho Kosugi Self-Defense and Ninjaerobics (1996)

Although it's difficult to see because of the wooded area and the credits graphic, a different silver/metal-colored pair of TONFA-TŌ were wielded by Sho in segments of his weekly TV series SHO KOSUGI SELF-DEFENSE AND NINJAEROBICS.





The BOKKEN, or BOKUTŌ (木刀) as it is more commonly called in Japan, is a Japanese wooden sword used for training in kenjutsu.  It is usually the size and shape of a katana, but is sometimes shaped like other swords, such as the wakizashi and tantō.  Bokken are traditionally made of red oak or white oak, although any hard wood can be used.

Revenge of the Ninja (1983)

Although not used in any training or practice sequence in REVENGE OF THE NINJA, a few BOKKEN owned by Cho Osaki (Sho) were visible on the walls of his dojo in a number of different scenes in the film.




Ninja Assassin (2009)

A number of distinctive BOKKEN featuring a shinogi (ridge line) were used with great effect in NINJA ASSASSIN in a couple of important flashback scenes showing how brutal and unforgiving Ozunu (Sho) was while training his young ninja students Raizo (Joon Lee), Takeshi (Kai Fung Rieck), and Kiriko (Anna Sawai).






Yin-Yang Code: The Drums of Tenkai-Bo (2017)

BOKKEN were depicted in drawings featured in Sho and co-author Warren Chaney's YIN-YANG CODE: THE DRUMS OF TENKAI-BO novel.




The SHINAI is a Japanese sword typically made of bamboo used for practice and competition in kendo.  The shinai was developed in an effort to reduce the number of practitioners being seriously injured during practice, making a practice weapon that was less dangerous than the hard wooden Bokken swords they were previously using.

Aloha Summer (1988) * filmed in 1984 *

SHINAI were used in numerous and important scenes in ALOHA SUMMER, including some great Kendo duels and training scenes featuring Yukinaga Konishi (Sho) , his son Kenzo (Yuji Okumoto), and his friend Mike Tognetti (Chris Makepeace).







Ninja Assassin (2009)

Whereas the BOKKEN was the practice sword for Ozunu's adolescent ninja students, the SHINAI was the one used to train them when they were much younger, as seen in another flashback scene in NINJA ASSASSIN.