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Updated: 6 Mar 2021

Episode 1: Types of Japanese Swords

【Episode 1】Types of Japanese Swords:
There were traditionally many types of Japanese swords, all of which had different ways to be used back in the Samurai times. In this section, we would like to introduce the most famous types of Japanese swords in detail so that you can tell them apart correctly.

1. TACHI
2. UCHI-GATANA(Katana)
3. WAKIZASHI
4. TANTO

1, TACHI(太刀)
 TACHI typically refers to a longer, more curved sword than other Japanese swords though there were some exceptions. It was mainly used by armored Samurai with one hand on horseback from the Heian period (794-1185 A.D.) until the beginning of the Muromachi period.

 TACHI was suspended loosely on the left waist with its edge facing the ground so that you could draw it faster to cut down soldiers on the ground. Also, in this way, Samurai could avoid the situation where his horse was out of control as the back part of his scabbard touched his horse, which might get confused as a signal to move forward.

 In general, TACHI is older than the other types of swords, and the magnificent beauty of the sword’s curvature is more prominent.

Blade Size: Approx. 70-80 cm (27-31 inches) *the length of the blades doesn’t define what Tachi is.
Period: From the Heian to Kamakura Period (approx. 794-1333 A.D.)

Authentic Japanese Sword by Nioh

 

2. UCHI-GATANA (打刀)
UCHI-GATANA (Katana) was designed as a weapon to stab or thrush opponents during the MUROMACHI period and was being widely used until the Edo period (1333-1868 A.D.).

UCHI-GATANA is relatively shorter than TACHI and worn on the left waist with its blade up so that Samurai could draw it with one move as soon as possible. The curvature or length of those Katanas depends on the periods and one’s preferences.

It was usually used in ground-fighting, whereas TACHI was utilized on horseback. Samurai would also use UCHI-GATANA to fight over challenges from others, or apply their martial forces against crimes or anti-governmental activities in public. And a high-quality Katana was often given by a feudal lord to his subordinate as a gift for having achieved great success at war.

It is the most famous type of Japanese sword as well. If the Japanese envision what a KATANA is, we would imagine this one.

Blade Size: Above 60.6 cm-; 23.8 inches
Period: From the Muromachi period until the late-Edo period (approx. 1333-1868 A.D.)

3. WAKIZASHI(脇差)
WAKIZASHI refers to a 30-60 cm long blade (11.8-28.6 inches) and was worn on the waist along with UCHI-GATANA(Katana). Samurai carried WAKIZASHI as a backup sword next to Katana. Samurai needed to use Wakizashi when he fought in a small room or with proximity where Katana would be too long to unsheathe.  Also, when Samurai entered a castle, he had to leave his Katana to the castle guard. In contrast, Wakizashi was allowed to bring inside as self-protection. 

WAKIZASHI was also the sword for the famous Samurai custom called SEPPUKU(切腹; Stomach-Cut), the ritual act of Samurai to take responsibility for crime act or losing battles.

The use of Wakizashi became more widespread among Samurais during the Edo period. (1603-1868 A.D. ) Because the Edo Government had launched the national law to force all Samurais to wear two Japanese swords (Katana and Wakizashi) to identify themselves as the regime’s military officers.

Blade Size:30-60 cm (11.8-28.6 inches)
Period: From the late-Muromachi period to the Edo period (appx. 1333-1868 A.D.)

4. TANTO(短刀)
 Japanese swords under the blade length of 30cm (11.6 inches) are generally called TANTO, and sometimes TSUBA(鍔; Hand-Guard) is not attached to the TANTO. It was easy to carry and convenient for close combats. 

 It was initially used as a supplemental weapon for Samurai on horseback, who used a pole weapon or long sword in the Kamaura-Muromachi period. Samurai aimed at an unprotected area of his enemy’s armor with Tanto while having to fight with close distance.

 TANTO was named accordingly, depending on how you carry it, such as HUTOKORO-GATANA (懐刀; Stomach-Sword) or KOSHI-GATANA(腰刀; Waist-Sword) or elsewise. TANTO was also a gift for a bride from her family in a traditional Japanese wedding, as it is believed that TANTO would be divine protection from evil power.

Blade Size: Under 30 cm (11.6 inches)
Period: From the Kamakura to the Edo period (1185-1868 A.D.)

Authentic Tanto by Kanesaki

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We hope you enjoyed this article and have now captured the overview of Japanese swords. We deal with a lot of these types of swords online. You can just click the embedded links on these images, or visit HERE to have a look at all products. We are looking forward to serving you out there anytime.

Samurai Museum
Address:2-25-6 Kabukicho Shinjuku-ku Tokyo Japan 160-0021
Email: order@samuraimuseum.jp
TEL:+81 3 6457 6411

Antique Japanese Sword Tachi

Antique Japanese Sword Katana

Antique Japanese Sword Wakizashi

Antique Japanese Sword Tanto

Japanese Sword / Katana