Throwing stars have been made popular today because of the mystical legend of the Ninjas, master of deception and concealment. Shuriken are commonly known in the west as "throwing stars" or "ninja stars". This term hardly does justice to the weapon, however, as the pointed "star" shaped form is but one of many different designs the blades took over the centuries in which they were used.
A traditional Japanese concealed weapon that was used for throwing, and sometimes stabbing, the Shuriken (literally "hand hidden blade"), are small, sharpened, hand-held blades made from a variety of everyday items, such as needles, nails, and knives, as well as coins, washers, and other flat plates of metal. It has a wide variety of forms and they are now usually identified by the number of points the blades possess. They often have a hole in the center and possess a fairly thin blade sharpened only at the tip. The hole also had aerodynamic and weighting effects that aided the flight of the blade after it was thrown.
They were supplementary weapons to the sword or various other weapons in a samurai warrior's arsenal, although they often had an important tactical effect in battle, originally designed in many different shapes, the major varieties of shuriken are the bō shuriken (棒手裏剣, stick shuriken) and the hira shuriken (平手裏剣, flat shuriken) or shaken (車剣, also read as kurumaken, wheel shuriken).
Contrary to popular belief, shuriken were not primarily intended as killing weapons, but rather in a secondary role as a nuisance or distraction, especially hira-shuriken, were also used in novel ways—they could be embedded in the ground, injuring those who stepped on them, wrapped in fuse to be lit and thrown to cause fire, or wrapped in a cloth soaked in poison and lit to cover an area with a cloud of poisonous smoke. Shuriken are simple weapons, but their historical value has increased, antique shuriken are not often well preserved, largely due to their expendable nature.