Tantō

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Tantō
Tanto Kunimitsu.jpg
Tantō with signature (mei) of Shintōgo Kunimitsu. Complete aikuchi style koshirae (mountings) and bare blade. Kamakura Period, 14th century. Important Cultural Property.
Type Japanese sword
Specifications
Blade lengthavg. 15–30 cm (5.9–11.8 in)

Blade  typeDouble or single edged, straight bladed

A tantō (短刀, "short sword") [1] is one of the traditionally made Japanese swords [2] (nihonto) [3] [4] 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.

Contents

Description

Tanto Terasawa Sadamune, by Sadamune. Kamakura period. National Treasure. Tokyo National Museum. Tanto sword, by Sadamune, Kamakura period, 1300s AD - Tokyo National Museum - Ueno Park, Tokyo, Japan - DSC08808.jpg
TantōTerasawa Sadamune, by Sadamune. Kamakura period. National Treasure. Tokyo National Museum.

The tantō is a sword, but is used as a knife. The blade is single or double edged with a length between 15 and 30 cm (1 Japanese shaku). The tantō was designed primarily as a stabbing weapon, but the edge can be used for slashing as well. Tantō are generally forged in hira-zukuri style (without ridgeline), [1] [5] meaning that their sides have no ridge line and are nearly flat, unlike the shinogi-zukuri structure of a katana . Some tantō have particularly thick cross-sections for armor-piercing duty, and are called yoroi toshi .

Tantō were mostly carried by samurai, as commoners did not generally wear them. Women sometimes carried a small tantō called a kaiken [6] in their obi primarily for self-defense. Tantō were sometimes worn as the shōtō in place of a wakizashi in a daishō , [7] [8] especially on the battlefield. Before the advent of the wakizashi/tantō combination, it was common for a samurai to carry a tachi and a tantō as opposed to a katana and a wakizashi. [7]

It has been noted that the tachi would be paired with a tantō and later the katana would be paired with another shorter katana. With the advent of the katana, the wakizashi eventually was chosen by samurai as the short sword over the tantō. Kanzan Satō in his book The Japanese sword notes that there did not seem to be any particular need for the wakizashi and suggests that the wakizashi may have become more popular than the tantō due to the wakizashi being more suited for indoor fighting. He mentions the custom of leaving the katana at the door of a castle or palace when entering while continuing to wear the wakizashi inside. [9]

History of tantō in Japan

The production of swords in Japan is divided into specific time periods:

Heian to Muromachi

Tanto made by Soshu Yukimitsu. Kamakura period. National Treasure. Tokyo National Museum Tanto - Yukimitsu.jpg
Tantō made by Soshu Yukimitsu. Kamakura period. National Treasure. Tokyo National Museum
Tanto by Hyuga Masamune, 24.8cm, Unsigned Masamune, Formerly in the possession of Ishida Mitsunari, who gave it to his brother-in-law; the tanto was stolen during the Battle of Sekigahara by Mizuno Katsushige, governor of Hyuga Province, Kamakura period, Mitsui Memorial Museum, Tokyo. Tanto Hyuga Masamune.JPG
Tantō by Hyūga Masamune, 24.8cm, Unsigned Masamune, Formerly in the possession of Ishida Mitsunari, who gave it to his brother-in-law; the tantō was stolen during the Battle of Sekigahara by Mizuno Katsushige, governor of Hyūga Province, Kamakura period, Mitsui Memorial Museum, Tokyo.

The tantō was invented partway through the Heian period. With the beginning of the Kamakura period, tantō were forged to be more aesthetically pleasing, and hira and uchi-sori tantō becoming the most popular styles. Near the middle of the Kamakura period, more tantō artisans were seen, increasing the abundance of the weapon, and the kanmuri-otoshi style became prevalent in the cities of Kyoto and Yamato. Because of the style introduced by the tachi in the late Kamakura period, tantō began to be forged longer and wider. The introduction of the Hachiman faith became visible in the carvings in the hilts around this time. The hamon (line of temper) is similar to that of the tachi, except for the absence of choji-midare, which is nioi and utsuri. Gunomi-midare and suguha are found to have taken its place.

During the era of the Northern and Southern Courts, the tantō were forged to be up to forty centimeters as opposed to the normal one shaku (about thirty centimeters) length. The blades became thinner between the ura and the omote, and wider between the ha and mune. At this point in time, two styles of hamon were prevalent: the older style, which was subtle and artistic, and the newer, more popular style. With the beginning of the Muromachi period, constant fighting caused the mass production of blades, meaning that with higher demand, lower-quality blades were manufactured. Blades that were custom-forged still were of exceptional quality, but the average blade suffered greatly. As the end of the period neared, the average blade narrowed and the curvature shallowed. [12]

Katana originates from sasuga (刺刀), a kind of tantō used by lower-ranking samurai who fought on foot in the Kamakura period. Their main weapon was a long naginata and sasuga was a spare weapon. In the Nanboku-chō period which corresponds to the early Muromachi period, long weapons such as ōdachi were popular, and along with this, sasuga lengthened and finally became katana. [13] [14]

Momoyama to the early Edo period

The tanto "Horaisan Kotetsu" forged by Nagasone Kotetsu is one of the Nihon santo. Tanto Horaisan Kotetsu.jpg
The tantō "Hōraisan Kotetsu" forged by Nagasone Kotetsu is one of the Nihon santō.

Approximately two hundred and fifty years of peace accompanied the unification of Japan, in which there was little need for blades. In this period, both the katana and wakizashi were invented, taking the place of the tantō and tachi as the most-used pair of weapons, and the number of tantō forged was severely decreased. [15] Since this period, tantō have often been carved with splendid decorations. Of the tantō and wakizashi forged during this period, three masterpieces are called the Nihon santō (Three Blades in Japan). [16]

Late Edo period

In the Edo period, gorgeous mountings were attached to old tanto. A tanto forged by Hasebe Kunishige. Nanboku-cho period. (top) Tanto mounting, Late Edo period. (bottom) Tanto Hasebe Kunishige.jpg
In the Edo period, gorgeous mountings were attached to old tantō. A tantō forged by Hasebe Kunishige. Nanboku-chō period. (top) Tantō mounting, Late Edo period. (bottom)

There were still a few tantō being forged during this period, and the ones that were forged reflected the work of the Kamakura, Nambokucho, or Muromachi eras. Suishinshi Masahide was a main contributor towards the forging of tantō during this age. [15] There are now only prehistoric tantō being used in combat.

Meiji to present

Many tantō were forged before World War II, due to the restoration of the Emperor to power. Members of the Imperial Court began wearing the set of tachi and tantō once more, and the number of tantō in existence increased dramatically. After World War II, a restriction on sword forging caused tantō manufacture to fall very low. [17] American and European interest in Japanese martial arts since the war created a demand for the tantō outside Japan from the 1960s through the present time. [18]

Types of tantō

Blade types

The general blade shape is approximately 25 cm long, 17 mm wide (near the tang), 8.0 mm thick (near the tang) and approximately straight. Actual historical examples would vary in length, width, thickness and curvature. (The hira and kiriha sides of the katakiriha blade have been swapped to allow the tip to point consistently to the left while still showing the chisel-like side.) Tanto blade styles.svg
The general blade shape is approximately 25 cm long, 17 mm wide (near the tang), 8.0 mm thick (near the tang) and approximately straight. Actual historical examples would vary in length, width, thickness and curvature. (The hira and kiriha sides of the katakiriha blade have been swapped to allow the tip to point consistently to the left while still showing the chisel-like side.)

Mountings (koshirae)

Antique Japanese tanto shown dis-assembled, British Museum. Antique Japanese tanto, British museum.jpg
Antique Japanese tantō shown dis-assembled, British Museum.

Other tantō

Kaiken tanto. Kwaiken tanto.JPG
Kaiken tantō.

Use in martial arts

Tantō with blunt wooden or blunt plastic blades are used to practice martial arts. Versions with a blunt metal blade are used in more advanced training and in demonstrations. Martial arts that employ the tantō include:

See also

Related Research Articles

A bokken is a Japanese wooden sword used for training in kenjutsu. It is usually the size and shape of a katana, but is sometimes shaped like other swords, such as the wakizashi and tantō. Some ornamental bokken are decorated with mother-of-pearl work and elaborate carvings. Sometimes it is spelled "boken" in English.

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 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>Wakizashi</i> Shorter sword in a daishō (Japanese)

The wakizashi is one of the traditionally made Japanese swords (nihontō) worn by the samurai in feudal Japan.

<i>Daishō</i>

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.

This is a list of types of swords.

<i>Yari</i> Japanese straight-headed spear

Yari (槍) is the term for a traditionally-made Japanese blade (nihonto) in the form of a spear, or more specifically, the straight-headed spear. The martial art of wielding the yari is called sōjutsu.

<i>Kodachi</i>

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>Ōdachi</i>

An ōdachi (大太刀) or nodachi was 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.

<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.

<i>Chokutō</i>

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.

<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.

<i>Kogarasu Maru</i> Japanese sword

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

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).

<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. Following tachi, it was used by samurai in feudal Japan and worn with the blade facing upward. Also, 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.

<i>Kaiken</i> (dagger)

A kaiken (懐剣) is a 20–25 cm (8–10 in) long, single or double-edged dagger without ornamental fittings housed in a plain mount.

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.

References

  1. 1 2 The samurai sword: a handbook, John M. Yumoto, Tuttle Publishing, 1989 P.47
  2. Handbook to life in medieval and early modern Japan, William E. Deal, Oxford University Press US, 2007 P.161
  3. The Development of Controversies: From the Early Modern Period to Online Discussion Forums, Volume 91 of Linguistic Insights. Studies in Language and Communication, Author Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani, Publisher Peter Lang, 2008, ISBN   3-03911-711-4 , 978-3-03911-711-6 p.150
  4. The Complete Idiot's Guide to World Mythology, Complete Idiot's Guides, Authors Evans Lansing Smith, Nathan Robert Brown, Publisher Penguin, 2008, ISBN   1-59257-764-4 , 978-1-59257-764-4 P.144
  5. Styles in the Shape of Blades
  6. Kaiken
  7. 1 2 The Japanese sword, Kanzan Satō, Kodansha International, 1983 P.68
  8. Shotokan's Secret: The Hidden Truth Behind Karate's Fighting Origins, Bruce D. Clayton, Black Belt Communications, 2004 P106
  9. The Japanese sword, Kanzan Satō, Kodansha International, 1983 P.68
  10. Clive Sinclaire (1 November 2004). Samurai: The Weapons and Spirit of the Japanese Warrior. Lyons Press. pp. 40–58. ISBN   978-1-59228-720-8.
  11. トム岸田 (24 September 2004). 靖国刀. Kodansha International. p. 42. ISBN   978-4-7700-2754-2.
  12. Satō, Kanzan (1983). Joe Earle (ed.). The Japanese sword; Volume 12 of Japanese arts library. Kodansha International. pp. 62–64. ISBN   978-0-87011-562-2.
  13. 歴史人 September 2020. p40. ASIN   B08DGRWN98
  14. List of terms related to Japanese swords "Sasuga". Nagoya Japanese Sword Museum Touken World.
  15. 1 2 Satō (1983) p. 68
  16. 崇高なる造形-日本刀 名刀と名作から識る武士の美学-. Bijutsu techō
  17. Sinclaire, Clive (2004). Samurai: The Weapons and Spirit of the Japanese Warrior. Globe Pequot. p.  59. ISBN   978-1-59228-720-8.
  18. 1 2 Steele, David (1981). "Japanese Daggers". Black Belt. Black Belt, Inc. 19 (2): 55–60.
  19. Unusual tantō
  20. Pacella, Gerard (2002). 100 Legendary Knives. Krause Publications. pp. 124–126. ISBN   0-87349-417-2.
  21. "American Tanto - Blade Geometry Knife FAQ". faq.customtacticals.com. Retrieved 27 May 2014.