Like any martial art, Iaido requires the correct tools and equipment to help master the essentials. And when it comes to traditional sword-handling and sword-fighting lessons, nothing can be more quintessential than an Iaito sword.
This unsharpened and “unsharpenable” sword makes learning, practicing, and mastering the art of katana swordsmanship safer and legal for everyone.
But have you ever wondered about the best Iaito swords you must buy? Well, we talked to seasoned Iaidoka masters and they’re unanimous about the three best Iaito sword brands. Check this out.
One of Japan’s Gokaden (The Five Traditions) or Japanese sword “trademarks” is the Mino School in the Mino province of present-day Gifu Prefecture. Second only to Bizen in the number of swordsmiths, Mino’s 1,269 certified Katana-kaji created katanas, Tachis, Wakizashis, Tantos, and other famous Japanese swords since the mid-Kamakura Period (1185-1333).
Mino School swords are revered for their unparalleled sharpness, with a thinner Mune (back side) and a slightly higher Shinogi (central ridge) than other Gokaden swords.
The Nagasa has irregular fingerprint-like patterns, and the Hamon’s border doesn’t have the ubiquitous grain pattern in other swords.
From this famed Gokaden comes Minosaka, a celebrated manufacturer of Japanese art swords since 1919. Dedicated swordsmiths and craftsmen apply decades-old knowledge to bring only the best katana and Iaito swords to 21st-century sword enthusiasts, collectors, and Iaidoka.
A tokusenkosirae Iaito sword. Photo by Minosaka.
Minosaka Iaito swords feature handcrafted fittings with customizable elements. Customers often wait up to a month to receive their orders because of Minosaka’s unparalleled attention to detail. Three of the Iaito sword brand’s most sought-out Iaito include the following.
This Iaito sword is perfect for a beginner Iaidoka (Iaido student). It’s lightweight, allowing novice Iaidoka to practice sword-handling essentials without straining their arms.
The Tokusei is also easier to control without losing its balance. The Iaito measures 2.20 to 2.45 Shaku (66.66 to 74.24 centimeters or 26.24 to 29.23 inches).
Advanced beginner Iaidoka deserve more robust Iaito swords, and the Higo Koshirae fits the bill. It’s also more suitable for taller Iaidoka, allowing them to wield this 2.35- to 2.55-Shaku (71.2 to 77.27-centimeter or 28- to 30.4-inch) training sword with relative ease.
This Iaito is also more stunning than the Tokusei. It features ornate Fuchi and Kashira fittings, a stunning Habaki, and a robust steel Tsuba. The sword never compromises its balance and precision with its lightweight nature.
Deluxe Higo Koshirae
With an Itomaki (Tsuka or hilt binding) featuring traditional yet elegant silk and a Sageo (sheath cord) in various color options, the Deluxe Higo Koshirae is an impressive Iaito.
The Deluxe is slightly longer than the standard Higo Koshirae at 2.4 to 2.5 Shaku or 72.7 to 75.75 centimeters (about 28.6 to 29.8 inches). Iaidoka can also customize the Tsuba, ensuring they have the best protection against accidental slips.
A shoden Iaito sword by Nosyudo. Photo by Nosyudo.
Like Minosaka, Nosyudo Swords hail from the Mino Gokaden region, albeit in Seki City. Hence, you can expect its swordsmiths and craftspeople to be descendants of one of Japan’s greatest katana swordsmithing schools or traditions.
Nosyudo uses traditional Japanese bladesmthing techniques, including Shintetsu (wrapping Satetsu in the core) and Hidetetsu (covering the Nagasa with hard steel). The result? A tenacious and nearly indestructible blade. This attention to tradition extends to Nosyudo’s Iaito swords, making them some of the finest in Japan.
Unsurprisingly, Nosyudo Iaito are sought-after in the international market. The brand features fine-quality Koshirae complementing Japan’s best sand-cast alloy blades. Every Iaito that Nosyudo produces is bespoke and custom-made to the Iaidoka’s preferences.
We must point out that Nosyudo Iaito are “heavier” than Minosaka swords. This attribute is understandable because Iaidoka will want a training sword that feels like a real sword – the Shinken. Here’s three of Nosyudo’s Iaito best selling swords.
This Iaito measures 2.35 to 2.6 Shaku or 71.2 to 78.8 centimeters (about 28 to 31 inches), making it closer to a katana. The Tsuba has ornate designs, while the Tsuka features top-notch fittings or Koshirae. Iaidoka will never complain about its chunky appearance because the balance is spot-on.
Like Minosaka, customization options are available. The Classic Tokujo is the perfect training sword for aspiring Iaidoka masters. It’s an Iaido-specific tool that’s as aesthetically pleasing as it is practical.
The Lightweight Tokujo is a wiser choice if the Classic version is too hefty or too long for the beginner Iaidoka. Tipping the scale at 100 to 150 grams (3.5 to 5.3 ounces) lighter than the Standard Tokujo, this Nosyudo Iaito makes for a fascinating entry-level training sword.
Although it’s slightly shorter than the Classic (maxing out at 2.45 Shaku, 74.2 centimeters, or 29.2 inches), the Lightweight Tokujo never compromises its fine quality and stunning craftsmanship.
With over 270 customization options, Nosyudo allows aspiring Iaidoka masters to create a highly personalized Iaito for their needs. One can choose between a Classic and a Lightweight version, while the length can be as short as 2 Shaku (60.6 centimeters or 23.86 inches) or as long as 2.6 Shaku (78.8 centimeters or 31 inches) and any length in between.
A Kurin sword. Photo by Brian Weiss.
Kurin is relatively new in the Iaito sword manufacturing business, having entered the market only in 2000. However, its focus on the international market makes Kurin the undisputed leader among non-Japanese Iaito fans.
Stainless Steel Iaito
Kurin’s choice of 430 stainless steel is commendable, allowing it to produce a training sword closely resembling a Shinken’s (real sword with a sharp edge) balance, flex, and weight.
Unsurprisingly, many non-Japanese Iaidoka buy these Iaito swords because they look stunning and perform nearly as well as a katana or Shinken (sans the cutting ability).
The tempered and polished 430 stainless steel looks stunning, made more pleasing by the premium-quality steel Tsuba and metal Koshirae in silver finish. It measures between 2.3 and 2.6 Shaku or 69.7 to 78.8 centimeters (about 27.4 to 31 inches).
The Bottom Line
Many manufacturers of Iaito swords exist. Like everything else, not all Iaito sword brands are equal. Aspiring and seasoned Iaidoka choose only reliable and trustworthy brands with exceptional track record for producing custom-built, handcrafted Iaito. These training swords might have roots in traditional Japanese swordsmithing, but they’re more than ready for the 21st century.