Wakizashi

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Wakizashi (脇差)
Xie Chai , Blade and Mounting for a Short Sword (Wakizashi).png
Blade and mounting for a wakizashi. The blade was made by Soshu Fusamune. blade, late 15th–early 16th century; mounting, 18th century. The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Type Sword
Place of originJapan
Production history
Produced Muromachi period (1336–1573) to present
Specifications
Blade lengthapprox. 30–60 cm (12–24 in)

Blade  typeCurved, single-edged
Scabbard/sheath Lacquered wood

The wakizashi (Japanese: 脇差 , "side inserted [sword]" [1] ) is one of the traditionally made Japanese swords ( nihontō ) [2] [3] worn by the samurai in feudal Japan.

Contents

History and use

The production of swords in Japan is divided into specific time periods: [4]

The wakizashi has a blade between 30 and 60 cm (12 and 24 in) in length. [1] Wakizashi close to the length of a katana are called ō-wakizashi and wakizashi closer to tantō length are called ko-wakizashi. [1] Wakizashi are not necessarily just a smaller version of the katana; they could be forged differently and have a different cross section. [5]

Wakizashi have been in use as far back as the 15th [6] or 16th century. [7] The wakizashi was used as a backup or auxiliary sword; [1] it was also used for close quarters fighting, to behead a defeated opponent [8] and sometimes to commit seppuku. [9] The wakizashi was one of several short swords available for use by samurai including the yoroi tōshi , and the chisa-katana. The term wakizashi did not originally specify swords of any official blade length [10] and was an abbreviation of wakizashi no katana ("sword thrust at one's side"); the term was applied to companion swords of all sizes. [11]

Antique Japanese daisho, the traditional pairing of two Japanese swords which were the symbol of the samurai, showing the traditional Japanese sword cases (koshirae) and the difference in size between the katana (bottom) and the smaller wakizashi (top). Long Sword and Scabbard LACMA AC1999.186.1.1-.16.jpg
Antique Japanese daishō , the traditional pairing of two Japanese swords which were the symbol of the samurai, showing the traditional Japanese sword cases ( koshirae ) and the difference in size between the katana (bottom) and the smaller wakizashi (top).

During the Edo period, the Tokugawa shogunate required samurai to wear Katana and shorter swords in pairs. These short swords were wakizashi and tanto, and wakizashi were mainly selected. [12] The wakizashi being worn together with the katana was the official sign that the wearer was a samurai or swordsman. When worn together the pair of swords were called daishō , which translates literally as "big-little". Only samurai could wear the daishō: it represented their social power and personal honour. [13] [14] [15] During this period, townspeople ( Chōnin ) and peasants were allowed to wear one legal-length ko-wakizashi, which made it popular for the general public to wear wakizashi. This was common when traveling because of the risk of encountering bandits. [16] [17] Wakizashi were worn on the left side, secured to the waist sash ( Uwa-obi or himo ). [18] [12] It was not until the Edo period in 1638 when the rulers of Japan tried to regulate the types of swords and the social groups which were allowed to wear them that the lengths of katana and wakizashi were officially set. [19]

Although the number of forged swords decreased in the Meiji period, many artistically excellent mountings were made. A wakizashi forged by Soshu Akihiro. Nanboku-cho period. (top) Wakizashi mounting, Early Meiji period. (bottom) Wakizashi Soshu Akihiro.jpg
Although the number of forged swords decreased in the Meiji period, many artistically excellent mountings were made. A wakizashi forged by Soshu Akihiro. Nanboku-chō period. (top) Wakizashi mounting, Early Meiji period. (bottom)

Kanzan Satō, in his book titled 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 because it was 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. [20]

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>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.

<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>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.

<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.

<i>Ōdachi</i> Sword

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.

<i>Jitte</i>

A jitte or jutte is a specialized weapon that was used by police in Edo period 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.

<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>Yoroi-dōshi</i> a type of Japanese sword

The yoroi-dōshi (鎧通し), "armor piercer" or "mail piercer", is one of the traditionally made Japanese swords (nihontō) that were worn by the samurai class as a weapon in feudal Japan.

<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.

<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.

<i>Tsuba</i> in the collection of Wolverhampton Art Gallery

The Wolverhampton Art Gallery, located in Wolverhampton, England, has a collection of 114 historic tsuba from Japan. The tsuba is usually a round guard at the end of the grip of bladed Japanese weapons, like the katana and its various variations. Items in the collection range from the Momoyama period to the end of the Edo period.

<i>Kusari</i> (Japanese mail armour)

Kusari gusoku (鎖具足) is the Japanese term for mail armour. Kusari is a type of armour used by the samurai class and their retainers in feudal Japan. When the word kusari is used in conjunction with an armoured item it usually means that the kusari makes up the majority of the armour defence.

References

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  20. The Japanese sword, Kanzan Satō, Kodansha International, 1983 P.68