Samurai Roles: From Spear Squad To Commander

4 minute read

Widely known as Japan's warrior class, the samurai had a fierce reputation, filled with mystery. But did you know that within the samurai, there were different ranks, levels and classes?

Within military operations, the samurai organised and structured their army based on a number of different groups and roles.  Below are some of the primary contributors to samurai military operations.

Commander (Daisho)

The daimyo (leader) was the supreme leader of the military unit, and commanded the army troops. He was protected by a large number of forces and servants at all times.

Gun Squad

This squad of troops were responsible for the shoot-out at the start of a battle. As time went on and heavier artillery was introduced, the size of the gun squad gradually increased in both size and importance, but other groups within the operation were still also extremely important. 

Spear Squad

The spear squad had many roles. Initially (before gun artilleries became more common), they were on the front-lines, attacking the enemy towards the start of the battle with thrusting and stabbing of spears. After the introduction of heavier arms, the spear squad's responsibilities shifted more towards defending the gun squads, as well as protection of the leadership.

Archer squad

The role of this group was to fire bows and arrows at enemy territory. Whilst their use was decreased after the introduction of guns, even then they were still important - bow and arrow can be used regardless of the weather, are cheap to make and maintain, and can be used in close combat in addition to long-range operations.


The cavalry force took charge of breaking through enemy lines, hunting down rogue enemy soldiers where numbers were sparse, and using force to attack enemies. Primarily mounted on horseback, the cavalry's job was primarily to attack, and also counter-attack when needed. Generally the cavalry were armed heavily with spears, but servants also carried other weapons such as bow and arrow and guns for them to use when required.

Standard Bearers

A role held with much honour was the stnadard bearers, who had the task of carrying various flags and sigils. They were generally not involved in fighting itself, but in displaying the army's might to intimidate opponents, as well as representing their leader and group. 

Transporters (Konida)

Large armies require lots of supplies and weaponry, and as such, a large transporter group was always organised to accompany the main army. This consisted of horses, minor nobles and laborouers, whose role was to organise, transport, deliver and pick up goods to the mobilised army. The size of the group would depend on the size of the operation, the numbers of soldiers requiring support, as well as whether the mission was offensive or defensive.

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