Ashigaru made up the bulk of medieval Japanese armies although it is the Samurai who people normally think of. Ashigaru literally means 'Lightfoot' and Ashigaru were non samurai foot soldiers during this period. At first most ashigaru were runaway peasants who had joined an army in search of loot but by the end of the period in 1600 most ashigaru were trained professional soldiers. Although often forgotten they played a key part in many of the battles of Japanese history most notably Sekigahara in 1600. Much like their infantry counterpart in Europe the importance of ashigaru was greatly increased as new weapons were introduced, in the case of Japan the long spear which almost became the same length as the European pike and the arquebus or early firearm.
How to cite this article:
Dugdale-Pointon, T. (15 July 2001), Ashigaru (Japan), http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/weapons_ashigaru.html