Shuriken or Shaken (but not stirred)

In the SHINOBI mysteries, my ninja detective Hiro Hattori uses a variety of weapons.

Shuriken image: Wikipedia Commons, © and credit M. Disdero

Hiro’s “cover story” involves masquerading as a samurai (and for the technical buffs among you – Hiro does have some samurai blood), so he always wears the katana-wakizashi duo used by samurai of his era.

But when the situation calls for something more covert, Hiro has access to a range of special weapons – including some that ninja fans will recognize immediately.

Case in point: the shuriken.

Technically, the term “shuriken” includes more than just the throwing stars most people envision when they hear the term. The Japanese use “shuriken” to describe a range of pointed weapons concealable in the hand. Shinobi (ninja) used shuriken for stabbing and slashing as well as throwing – in fact, the throwing stars often called shuriken in the West are more commonly known as shaken in Japanese.

When writing BLADE OF THE SAMURAI, Book 2 in the Shinobi mystery series, I had to decide whether to refer to a star-shaped weapon as shuriken or shaken. I opted for shuriken, even though I describe the object as a “star-shaped weapon,” because most readers recognize shuriken but think of shaken as something 007 does with his Martinis.

There’s another reason, too, but I won’t spoil the surprise. You’ll have to wait for BLADE to hit bookstore shelves to find out!

Have you ever opted for a slightly less-accurate word in order to avoid confusing your readers? Do you like ninja weapons? Hop into the comments and let me know!