|Place of origin||Japan|
|Produced||Heian period (794–1185) to present|
|Blade length||approx. 70–80 cm (27+9⁄16–31+1⁄2 in)|
|Blade type||Curved, single-edged|
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.
The production of swords in Japan is divided into specific time periods:
The predecessor of the Japanese sword has been called Warabitetō (ja:蕨手刀).In the middle of the Heian period (794–1185), samurai improved on the Warabitetō to develop Kenukigata-tachi (ja:毛抜形太刀) -early Japanese sword-. Kenukigata-tachi, which was developed in the first half of the 10th century, has a three-dimensional cross-sectional shape of an elongated pentagonal or hexagonal blade called shinogi-zukuri and a gently curved single-edged blade, which are typical features of Japanese swords. There is no wooden hilt attached to kenukigata-tachi, and the tang (nakago) which is integrated with the blade is directly gripped and used. The term kenukigata is derived from the fact that the central part of tang is hollowed out in the shape of a tool to pluck hair (kenuki).
In the tachi developed after kenukigata-tachi, a structure in which the hilt is fixed to the tang (nakago) with a pin called mekugi was adopted. As a result, a sword with three basic external elements of Japanese swords, the cross-sectional shape of shinogi-zukuri, a gently curved single-edged blade, and the structure of nakago, was completed.Its shape may reflects the changing form of warfare in Japan. Cavalry were now the predominant fighting unit and the older straight chokutō were particularly unsuitable for fighting from horseback. The curved sword is a far more efficient weapon when wielded by a warrior on horseback where the curve of the blade adds considerably to the downward force of a cutting action. According to author Karl F. Friday, before the 13th century there are no written references or drawings etc. that show swords of any kind were actually used while on horseback. However, According to Yoshikazu Kondo, bow and arrows were certainly the main weapons used in battles fought on horseback, but from around the Genpei War in the 12th century, the use of tachi on horseback increased. Early models had uneven curves with the deepest part of the curve at the hilt. As eras changed the center of the curve tended to move up the blade.
By the 11th century during the Heian period, tachi had already been exported to neighboring countries in Asia. For example, in the poem "The Song of Japanese Swords" Ouyang Xiu, a statesman of the Song Dynasty in China, described Japanese swords as "It is a treasured sword with a scabbard made of fragrant wood covered with fish skin, decorated with brass and copper, and capable of exorcising evil spirits. It is imported at a great cost.".
The Mongol invasions of Japan in the 13th century during the Kamakura period (1185–1333) facilitated a change in the designs of Japanese swords. The swordsmiths of the Sōshū school represented by Masamune studied tachi that were broken or bent in battle, developed new production methods, and created innovative Japanese swords. They forged the blade using a combination of soft and hard steel to optimize the temperature and timing of the heating and cooling of the blade, resulting in a lighter but more robust blade. They also made the curve of the blade gentle, lengthened the tip linearly, widened the width from the cutting edge to the opposite side of the blade, and thinned the cross section to improve the penetration and cutting ability of the blade.
Historically in Japan, the ideal blade of a Japanese sword has been considered to be the kotō in the Kamakura period, and the swordsmiths from the Edo period to the present day after the Shinto period focused on reproducing the blade of a Japanese sword in the Kamakura period. There are more than 100 Japanese swords designated as National Treasures in Japan, of which the Kotō of the Kamakura period account for 80% and the tachi account for 70%.
Traditionally, yumi (bows) were the main weapon of war in Japan, and tachi and naginata were used only for close combat. The Ōnin War in the late 15th century in the Muromachi period expanded into a large-scale domestic war, in which employed farmers called ashigaru were mobilized in large numbers. They fought on foot using katana shorter than tachi. In the Sengoku period (period of warring states) in the late Muromachi period, the war became bigger and ashigaru fought in a close formation using yari (spears) lent to them. Furthermore, in the late 16th century, tanegashima (muskets) were introduced from Portugal, and Japanese swordsmiths mass-produced improved products, with ashigaru fighting with leased guns. On the battlefield in Japan, guns and spears became main weapons in addition to bows. Due to the changes in fighting styles in these wars, the tachi and naginata became obsolete among samurai, and the katana, which was easy to carry, became the mainstream. The dazzling looking tachi gradually became a symbol of the authority of high-ranking samurai.
From the 15th century, low-quality swords were mass-produced under the influence of the large-scale war. These swords, along with spears, were lent to recruited farmers called ashigaru and swords ware exported . Such mass-produced swords are called kazuuchimono, and swordsmiths of the Bisen school and Mino school produced them by division of labor.The export of Japanese sword reached its height during the Muromachi period when at least 200,000 swords were shipped to Ming Dynasty China in official trade in an attempt to soak up the production of Japanese weapons and make it harder for pirates in the area to arm. In the Ming Dynasty of China, Japanese swords and their tactics were studied to repel pirates, and wodao and miaodao were developed based on Japanese swords.
From this period, the tang (nakago) of many old tachi were cut and shortened into katana. This kind of remake is called suriage.For example, many of the tachi that Masamune forged during the Kamakura period were converted into katana, so his only existing works are katana and tantō.
In later Japanese feudal history, during the Sengoku and Edo periods, certain high-ranking warriors of what became the ruling class would wear their sword tachi-style (edge-downward), rather than with the scabbard thrust through the belt with the edge upward.This style of swords is called handachi, "half tachi". In handachi, both styles were often mixed, for example, fastening to the obi was katana style, but metalworking of the scabbard was tachi style.
With the rising of statism in Shōwa Japan, the Imperial Japanese Army and the Imperial Japanese Navy implemented swords called shin guntō, which were worn tachi style (cutting edge down).
In the Sintō period from around 1596 in the Azuchi-Momoyama period, the traditional techniques of the Kotō period had been lost, and no one was able to exactly reproduce the tachi of the Kamakura period. However, in 2014, Kunihira Kawachi succeeded in reproducing a tachi from the Kamakura period and received the Masamune Prize, the highest honor as a swordsmith. On the tachi he forged, midare-utsuri (a pattern of hazy white shadows between hamon and shinogi) that is characteristic of the Bizen school in the Kamakura period was reproduced. Nobody could have won the Masamune Prize without extraordinary achievements, and in the field of tachi and katana no one has won until Kawauchi for 18 years.
With a few exceptions, katana and tachi can be distinguished from each other if signed by the location of the signature (mei) on the tang. In general the signature should be carved into the side of the tang that would face outward when the sword was worn on the wielder's left waist. Since a tachi was worn cutting edge down, and the katana was worn cutting edge up the mei would be in opposite locations on the tang of both types of swords.
An authentic tachi had an average cutting edge length (nagasa) of 70–80 cm (27+9⁄16–31+1⁄2 in) and compared to a katana was generally lighter in proportion to its length, had a greater taper from hilt to point, was more curved and had a smaller point area.
Unlike the traditional manner of wearing the katana, the tachi was worn hung from the belt with the cutting-edge down, 3.7 metres (12 ft) in total length with a 2.2 metres (7 ft 3 in) blade, but believed to be ceremonial. In the late 1500s and early 1600s many old surviving tachi blades were converted into katana by having their original tangs cut (o-suriage), which meant the signatures were removed from the swords.and was most effective when used by cavalry. Deviations from the average length of tachi have the prefixes ko- for "short" and ō- for "great, large" attached. For instance, tachi that were shōtō and closer in size to a wakizashi were called kodachi . The longest 'tachi (considered a 15th-century ōdachi ) in existence is
For a sword to be worn in tachi style it needed to be mounted in a tachi koshirae. The tachi koshirae had two hangers (ashi) which allowed the sword to be worn in a horizontal position with the cutting edge down.A sword not mounted in a tachi koshirae could be worn tachi style by use of a koshiate, a leather device which would allow any sword to be worn in the tachi style.
Generally, the blade and the sword mounting of Japanese swords are displayed separately in museums, and this tendency is remarkable in Japan. For example, the Nagoya Japanese Sword Museum "Nagoya Touken World", one of Japan's largest sword museums, posts separate videos of the blade and the sword mounting on its official website and YouTube.
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 sword is a bladed melee weapon intended for cutting or thrusting that is longer than a knife or dagger, consisting of a long blade attached to a hilt. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographic region under consideration. The blade can be straight or curved. Thrusting swords have a pointed tip on the blade, and tend to be straighter; slashing swords have a sharpened cutting edge on one or both sides of the blade, and are more likely to be curved. Many swords are designed for both thrusting and slashing.
The wakizashi is one of the traditionally made Japanese swords (nihontō) worn by the samurai in feudal Japan.
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.
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.
Masamune (正宗), also known as Gorō Nyūdō Masamune, was a medieval Japanese blacksmith who is widely recognized as Japan's greatest swordsmith. He created swords and daggers, known in Japanese as tachi and tantō respectively, in the Sōshū school. However, many of his forged tachi were made into katana by cutting the tang (nakago) in later times. For this reason, his only existing works are katana and tantō. No exact dates are known for Masamune's life. It is generally agreed that he made most of his swords between 1288 and 1328. Some stories list his family name as Okazakii, but some experts believe this is a fabrication to enhance the standing of the Tokugawa family.
The ōdachi (大太刀) or nodachi is a type of traditionally made Japanese sword 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 is the longsword or claymore.
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 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.
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.
The Kogarasu Maru (小烏丸), or "Little Crow Circle", is a unique Japanese tachi sword believed to have been created by legendary Japanese smith Amakuni during the 8th century AD.
Japanese swordsmithing is the labour-intensive bladesmithing process developed in Japan for forging traditionally made bladed weapons (nihonto) including katana, wakizashi, tantō, yari, naginata, nagamaki, tachi, nodachi, ōdachi, kodachi, and ya (arrow).
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.
The guntō was a ceremonial sword produced for the Imperial Japanese army and navy after the introduction of conscription in 1872.
Kiku-ichimonji (菊一文字), often romanized with a somewhat misplaced hyphen as Kikuichi-monji, is a collective name given to the katana made by the thirteen swordsmiths who were in attendance to the Emperor Go-Toba in 1208.
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.
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