The 3 Most Popular Traditional Japanese Swords

  • Japan is a country popular for its swords. Swords vary in size, shape, functionality and style of manufacturing. Each period produced a different type of sword. The ancient swords were seen during the Jokoto(上古刀)period while newly-made swords flourished in the Shinto(新刀)period Among these, there are only 3 types of swords which became very popular: katana, wazikashi and tachi.

    1. Katana

    Katana is the most prominent traditional Japanese sword. These were used by samurai in Japan. The first use of katana dates back to the Kamakura Period. Then came the time when long swords were engraved with the word “katana” on it. The fact that some samurais wore their katana the wrong way paved the way for this signature. Normally, signatures would be facing away from the wearer.

    Over time, the combat style changed making close-combat even popular. The skill in drawing the sword faster than the opponent was the basis of winning it and so “obi” or a belt-like sash was made. In this way, the katana’s sharpened edge would be facing upwards making it easier for the samurai to strike the enemy in a single motion.

    2. Wakizashi

    Wazikashi is one of the short swords used by the samurais in the past. It was primarily used for close quarters fighting in order to behead an opponent. It was also the sword used for sepukku. However, for a while, there was no official blade length for this type of sword. It was only during the Edo period when katana and wazikashi were given official lengths. Katana was only worn by the samurai class while wazikashi (with official length) was worn by “chonin” class, who were considered a social class in Japan. They included rich merchants as well as craftsmen.

    3. Tachi

    Tachi was the sword which preceded katana. The Tachi was worn in the opposite direction compared to the katana. It was hung from the belt with the cutting-edge down. During the early 1600s, some old-surviving tachi blades were converted into katana.