Last updated
Ōdachi (大太刀)
A sheathed ōdachi
Type Sword
Place of originJapan
Service history
Used by Samurai, Kendo, Iaido practitioners
Production history
Produced Nanboku-chō period 14th century until present.
Mass2.2 kg (4.9 lbs) to 14.5 kg [1]
Blade lengthapprox. 90.9 cm (3 shaku) up to 377 cm (12.4 shaku) [1]

Blade  typeCurved, single-edged [1]
Hilt  typeTwo-handed swept, with circular or squared guard. Material: wood, metal, ivory , fish skin, silk
Scabbard/sheath Lacquered wood
The Odachi Masayoshi forged by bladesmith Sanke Masayoshi, dated 1844. The blade length is 225.43 cm and the tang is 92.41 cm. Odachi-Masayoshi-at-Yahiko-Shrine.png
The Odachi Masayoshi forged by bladesmith Sanke Masayoshi, dated 1844. The blade length is 225.43 cm and the tang is 92.41 cm.

The ōdachi (大太刀) (large/great sword) or nodachi (野太刀, field sword) [2] [3] [4] is a type of traditionally made Japanese sword (日本刀, nihontō) [5] [6] used by the samurai class of feudal Japan. The Chinese equivalent of this type of sword in terms of weight and length is the miao dao , and the Western battlefield equivalent (though less similar) is the longsword or claymore.


The character for ō (大) means "big" or "great". The dachi here (太刀) is the same as tachi (太刀, lit. "great sword"), the older style of sword/mounts that predate the katana . The chi is also the same character as katana (刀) and the in nihontō (日本刀 "Japanese sword"), originally from the Chinese character for a blade, dāo.

To qualify as an ōdachi, the sword in question would have a blade length of around 3 shaku (90.9 centimetres (35.8 in)). However, as with most terms in Japanese sword arts, there is no exact definition of the size of an ōdachi.


A wood block print of a samurai carrying a nodachi/odachi on his back Samurai wearing a nodachi (field sword).png
A wood block print of a samurai carrying a nodachi/ōdachi on his back

In the Nanboku-chō period in the 14th century, huge Japanese swords such as ōdachi became popular. The reason for this is thought to be that the conditions for making a practical large-sized sword were established due to the nationwide spread of strong and sharp swords of the Sōshū school. In the case of ōdachi whose blade was 150 cm long, it was impossible to draw a sword from the scabbard on the waist, so people carried it on their back or had their servants carry it. Large naginata and kanabō were also popular in this period. [7] However, as infantry were equipped with yari and naginata, this fashion died out in a short period of time. Furthermore, from the Sengoku period in the latter part of the Muromachi period to the Azuchi-Momoyama period, as tactics shifted to fighting with yaris and guns by a large group of infantry, ōdachi became even more obsolete. As ōdachi became useless, it was often cut and replaced with a tachi and katana. [8]

Ōdachi was used as a weapon, but because of its magnificent appearance, it was often used as an offering to kami, a Shinto shrine. For example, Ōyamazumi Shrine, which is said to be a treasure house of Japanese swords and armor, is dedicated to the national treasure Ōdachi, which was dedicated by Emperor Go-Murakami, and ōdachi, which was dedicated by Ōmori Naoharu and killed Kusunoki Masashige. [9]

In the peaceful Edo period, ōdachi was no longer regarded as a practical weapon and came to be recognized only as an offering to the kami of Shinto shrines.


Ōdachi are difficult to produce because their length makes traditional heat treatment more complicated: The longer a blade is, the more difficult (and expensive) it is to heat the whole blade to a homogeneous temperature, both for annealing and to reach the hardening temperature. The quenching process then needs a bigger quenching medium because uneven quenching might lead to warping the blade.

The method of polishing is also different. Because of their size, ōdachi are usually hung from the ceiling or placed in a stationary position to be polished, unlike normal swords which are moved over polishing stones.

Method of use

As battlefield weapons, ōdachi were too long for samurai to carry on their waists like normal swords. There were two main methods in which they could be carried. One was to carry it on one's back; however, this was seen as impractical as it was impossible for the wielder to draw it quickly. The other method was simply to carry the sheathed ōdachi by hand. The trend during the Muromachi era was for the samurai carrying the ōdachi to have a follower to help draw it. [7]

An exception does exist, though. The Kōden Enshin-ryū taught by Fumon Tanaka use a special drawing technique for "short" ōdachi allowing it to be carried on the waist. The technique is to pull out the sheath rather than drawing the blade. While this move is also used in other schools, for example, Yagyū Shinkage-ryū, Shin musō Hayashizaki-ryū and Iaidō, only Enshin-ryū seems to have used it to improve the drawing speed of an ōdachi, the other schools having used it with classical katana. The Kage-ryū style is also used to draw from the belt, using blades of approximately 2.8 shaku.

Ōdachi swordplay styles differed from that of other Japanese swords, focusing on downward cuts.

One possible use of ōdachi is as large anti-cavalry weapons, to strike down the horse as it approaches. Alternatively, it could be used as a cavalry-on-cavalry weapon comparable to the Chinese zhanmadao, with the long reach, increased weight and slashing area of the blade offering some advantages over spears, lances and smaller swords.

Ōdachi Norimitsu

The longest known ōdachi is the Odachi Norimitsu with a total length of 377 centimetres (148 in). [1] It was forged by the Japanese master bladesmith Norimitsu Osafune in the former Bishū province in August 1446. [1] It is kept in the Kibitsu Shrine in Okayama. [1] A special attribute is that this blade was forged from one piece, similarly to conventional Japanese (katana). [1] It was not forged from multiple pieces or sections. [1] This required the skill of a master bladesmith. [1] The blade, hada and hamon are authentic. [1] This odachi has a bo-hi (fuller or colloquially, but inappropriately "blood groove"). [1] Norimitsu was a famous line of swordsmiths that began in the Oei Bizen school (1394) and continued until the end of Bizen. [1] Around 2000s it was polished and named "Kibitsu maru" by the priest of Kibitsu Shrine in Okayama Prefecture. [1]


These are the specifications of the Ōdachi Norimitsu. [1]

See also


Related Research Articles

Japanese sword Type of traditionally made sword from Japan

A Japanese sword is one of several types of traditionally made swords from Japan. Bronze swords were made as early as the Yayoi period, though most people generally refer to the curved blades made after the Heian period when speaking of "Japanese swords". There are many types of Japanese swords that differ by size, shape, field of application and method of manufacture. Some of the more commonly known types of Japanese swords are the katana, tachi, odachi, wakizashi, and tantō.

A tsurugi (剣) or nihonken (日本剣) is a Japanese sword, akin to the Chinese jian. The word is used in the West to refer to a specific type of Japanese straight, double-edged sword used in antiquity.

A tachi (太刀) was a type of traditionally made Japanese sword (nihonto) worn by the samurai class of feudal Japan. Tachi and katana generally differ in length, degree of curvature, and how they were worn when sheathed, the latter depending on the location of the mei, or signature, on the tang. The tachi style of swords preceded the development of the katana, which was not mentioned by name until near the end of the twelfth century. Tachi were the mainstream Japanese swords of the Kotō period between 900 and 1596. Even after the Muromachi period (1336–1573), when katana became the mainstream, tachi were often worn by high-ranking samurai.

<i>Daishō</i> Pair of Japanese sabres, typically comprising a katana and a wakisashi, or a tashi and a tantō

The daishō—literally "big-little"—is a Japanese term for a matched pair of traditionally made Japanese swords (nihonto) worn by the samurai class in feudal Japan.


Kenjutsu (剣術) is an umbrella term for all (ko-budō) schools of Japanese swordsmanship, in particular those that predate the Meiji Restoration. Some modern styles of kendo and iaido that were established in the 20th century also included modern forms of kenjutsu in their curriculum. Kenjutsu, which originated with the samurai class of feudal Japan, means "methods, techniques, and the art of the Japanese sword". This is opposed to kendo, which means "the way of the sword" and uses a bamboo sword (shinai) and protective armour (bōgu).

This is a list of types of swords.

<i>Naginata</i> Type of pole weapon

The naginata is a pole weapon and one of several varieties of traditionally made Japanese blades (nihonto). Naginata were originally used by the samurai class of feudal Japan, as well as by ashigaru and sōhei. The naginata is the iconic weapon of the onna-bugeisha, a type of female warrior belonging to the Japanese nobility.

<i>Tantō</i> Japanese dagger

A tantō is one of the traditionally made Japanese swords (nihonto) that were worn by the samurai class of feudal Japan. The tantō dates to the Heian period, when it was mainly used as a weapon but evolved in design over the years to become more ornate. Tantō were used in traditional martial arts (tantojutsu). The term has seen a resurgence in the West since the 1980s as a point style of modern tactical knives, designed for piercing or stabbing.


A kodachi, literally translating into "small or short tachi (sword)", is one of the traditionally made Japanese swords (nihontō) used by the samurai class of feudal Japan. Kodachi are from the early Kamakura period (1185–1333) and are in the shape of a tachi. Kodachi are mounted in tachi style, but with a length of less than 60 cm. They are often confused with wakizashi, due to their length and handling techniques. However, their construction is what sets the two apart, as kodachi are a set length while wakizashi are forged to complement the wielder's height or the length of their katana. As a result, the kodachi was too short to be called a sword properly but was also too long to be considered a dagger, thus it is widely considered a primary short sword, unlike the tantō or the wakizashi which would act as a secondary weapon that was used alongside a longer blade.

Muramasa, commonly known as Sengo Muramasa (千子村正), was a famous swordsmith who founded the Muramasa school and lived during the Muromachi period in Kuwana, Ise Province, Japan.

<i>Nagamaki</i> Type of Japanese sword with an extra long handle

The nagamaki is a type of traditionally made Japanese sword (nihontō) with an extra long handle, used by the samurai class of feudal Japan.


The chokutō is a straight, single-edged Japanese sword that was produced prior to the 9th century. Its basic style is likely derived from similar swords of ancient China. Chokutō were used on foot for stabbing or slashing and were worn hung from the waist. Until the Heian period such swords were called tachi (大刀), which should not be confused with tachi written as 太刀 referring to curved swords.

Japanese sword mountings Housings and associated fittings that hold the blade of a Japanese sword

Japanese sword mountings are the various housings and associated fittings (tosogu) that hold the blade of a Japanese sword when it is being worn or stored. Koshirae (拵え) refers to the ornate mountings of a Japanese sword used when the sword blade is being worn by its owner, whereas the shirasaya is a plain undecorated wooden mounting composed of a saya and tsuka that the sword blade is stored in when not being used.

Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-ryū

Kashima Shinden Jikishinkage-ryū, often referred to simply as Jikishinkage-ryū or Kashima Shinden, is a traditional school (koryū) of the Japanese martial art of swordsmanship (kenjutsu). The school was founded in the mid-16th century, based upon older styles of swordsmanship, and is one of the few ancient Japanese martial arts schools still existing today.

<i>Uchigatana</i> Type of Japanese sword

An uchigatana (打刀) is a type of Japanese sword worn by the samurai class of feudal Japan. The uchigatana was the descendant of the tachi.

Horimono, also known as chōkoku, are the engraved images in the blade of a nihonto (日本刀) Japanese sword, which may include katana or tantō blades. The artist is called a chōkokushi (彫刻師), or a horimonoshi. There are a variety of designs, which include tsume (爪) "claws", kusa kurikara (草倶利伽羅), Munenagabori, renge (蓮華) and rendai (蓮台)(lotus pedastal), fruit, dragons, and many others.

<i>Katana</i> Samurai sword

A katana is a Japanese sword characterized by a curved, single-edged blade with a circular or squared guard and long grip to accommodate two hands. Developed later than the tachi, it was used by samurai in feudal Japan and worn with the blade facing upward. Since the Muromachi period, many old tachi were cut from the root and shortened, and the blade at the root was crushed and converted into katana. The official term for katana in Japan is uchigatana (打刀) and the term katana (刀) often refers to single-edged swords from around the world.

Glossary of Japanese swords Wikipedia glossary

This is the glossary of Japanese swords, including major terms the casual reader might find useful in understanding articles on Japanese swords. Within definitions, words set in boldface are defined elsewhere in the glossary.

Yamatorige, equally known as Sanchōmō by its Sino-Japanese reading, is a tachi forged during the middle Kamakura period. The set of the blade and its koshirae (mountings) is a National Treasure of Japan. It was wielded by Uesugi Kagekatsu (1556–1623), a powerful warlord in the Sengoku period, and had been inherited by his clan.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 "Ôdachi Gallery - Norimitsu Ôdachi". Japan Trip. July 6, 2003. Archived from the original on May 7, 2021.
  2. Mol, Serge (2003). Classical Weaponry of Japan: Special Weapons and Tactics of the Martial Arts. Kodansha International. p. 17. ISBN   9784770029416.
  3. Fumon Tanaka (2003). Samurai Fighting Arts: the Spirit and the Practice. Kodansha International. p. 12. ISBN   9784770028983.
  4. Conlan, Thomas (2003). State of War: The Violent Order of Fourteenth-century Japan. Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan. p. 260. ISBN   9781929280230.
  5. Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani (2008). The Development of Controversies: From the Early Modern Period to Online Discussion Forums. Linguistic Insights. 91. Peter Lang. p. 150. ISBN   9783039117116.
  6. Smith, Evans Lansing; Brown, Nathan Robert (2008). The Complete Idiot's Guide to World Mythology. Complete Idiot's Guides. Penguin. p. 144. ISBN   9781592577644.
  7. 1 2 日本刀の歴史 南北朝時代 Touken world
  8. [Kazuo Tokunou 日本刀図鑑 保存版] ISBN   978-4769401285
  9. 大山祇神社(愛媛県今治市) Touken world