Types of Japanese Swords

June 22, 2017

Types of Japanese Swords

Japanese sword making goes beyond the traditional Katana, in fact, there are several remarkable swords Japan is known for, all of which have their own well deserved reputations.

Tachi Sword

Tachi Sword

The Japanese Tachi sword is in some respects similar to the Katana, however, it can be distinguished by its more pronounced curve and slightly longer blade. The Tachi was primarily used by warriors on horseback, where the extra length and curve to the blade made it particularly suited to cutting down any enemy foot soldiers on foot.
The sword is the predecessor to the Katana, as the preferred weapon the of Japan’s warrior class, and it evolved over the years into the later designs. The two are more easily differentiated from each other by the fittings on the blade and how they were worn.

Katana Sword

Katana

The legendary Katana is well known type of Japanese sword, which is often solely referred to by many as a ‘Samurai Sword’. The Katana has several characteristics which make it easily recognisable. The single edged blade is curved, slender and averages between 60cm – 80cm long. Most Katana will have a square or round hand guard and the handle will be long enough to accommodate two hands. The blade has long been associated the Samurai class of feudal Japan, it’s instantly recognisable for many due to its appearance in pop culture and it’s synonymous with Japanese swords.
The Katana began its life around 1392-1573, during the Muromachi period. It’s thought the sword came to fruition due to changes to the battlefield environment, which required warriors to be more responsive and faster. The Katana was unique as it was traditionally worn with the edge facing upwards, allowing the wearer to draw the sword and strike there opponent in a single stroke.

Wakizashi Sword

Wakizashi Sword

A Wakizashi sword is a another traditional Japanese sword with a shorter blade compared to the Katana, the average Wakizashi is between 30 and 60 centimetres. The sword is similar in some respects to the Katana, and is shorter than both the Katana and the Kodachi. Traditionally, the Wakizashi would be worn with the Katana by Samurai warriors. This pairing of swords is called the daisho, or little big. The Katana in this pairing would be called the sword, long sword or killing sword, while the Wakizashi would be called the companion sword. 

The Wakizashi could be used as a backup weapon, or in some circumstances could be wielded in the warriors off-hand, if the Samurai was skilled enough to use two swords at the same time. On occasions the sword may also be used to commit Seppuku, or ritual suicide, which lead to the title ‘Honor Blade’.
When entering a building or residence, the Samurai would often be required to leave their Katana at the entrance. However, the Wakizashi could be worn at all times without causing offence. This made the sword something like a side arm, as it was inconspicuous and could be taken everywhere. It was also especially well-suited to fighting in confined spaces, seeing as the sword is shorter than a Katana. Some Samurai would even sleep with the sword under there pillow, or next to the bed, in order to be instantly accessible.

Odachi Sword

Odachi

The Odachi is a very large two handed Japenese sword, the word Odachi roughly translated to ‘field sword’.
Odachi look in many ways similar to a Tachi, however, they are significantly larger and longer. It is thought that the Odachi was carried by foot soldiers and where used primarily against mounted cavalry, the extra reach provided by the Odachi could allow a soldier to engage a mounted warrior directly. Odachi would generally only be used in open battlefields, as their large size made engagement in constricted environments unpractical.

Shin Gunto Sword

Shin Gunto Sword

The Shin Gunto Sword was created and designed for use by Japanese officers during world war two.