Japanese Swords Types Katana Sword

 The term "Japanese sword" refers to steel swords made in Japan. There are many types of Japanese swords, and their shapes have evolved over time and forms of warfare. There are multiple types, including the "straight sword", "tachi", "uchigatana", "wakizashi" and "tanto". The following is an introduction to the 10 types of Japanese swords.

Straight Sword

The term "straight sword" refers to the kiriha-zukuri style swords, which were used before the middle of the Heian period and did not have a chain. Bronze and iron tools were introduced to Japan from the mainland during the Yayoi period. Iron making technology then developed in the country and iron forging began. There are many opinions about the date, but the currently established theory is that it dates from the late Kofun period.

As most of the straight swords made at that time have been unearthed, it is not possible to determine a precise production date as many of them are rusty or have lost their original shape. However, if the blade is fragile, the accompanying koshirae (sword armor) has been found in its almost original state.

It is therefore possible to guess from the materials and decoration what type of sword it was. It is said that swords with beautiful arrangements were not used for warfare as such, but mainly for ceremonial purposes, as gifts, offerings or presents for powerful people.

There are also several types of straight swords. In the beginning the blade of the sword was simple, but gradually the "kantou no tachi" (large ring-headed swords) were made with gold and silver decorations on the handle and on the decoration.


The "tachi" is a deformed sword of shinogi style which appeared at the end of the Heian period (794-1185).

It has a bow-like shape, with a "koshi-wari" form, in which the blade near the shaft (nakago: the handle of the metal part of the sword) is strongly deformed.

It was more than 2 shaku (about 60 cm) long and was worn at the waist, suspended by a cord, with the blade pointing down. This is called "佩く" (haku) or "佩用する" (haiyou).

It was not until the early Heian period (794-1185) that the "wanto" (sword), which is said to be the prototype of the tachi, began to be made.

The wanto later became the tachi (sword) and was used until the Nanbokucho period, when mounted warfare was the norm, because it was better suited to cutting opponents than a straight sword.

Swords Types

Tachi can be divided into three types according to their size: the "large tachi" (大太刀), the tachi (太刀) and the "small tachi" (小太刀).


Greatswords, also called "nodachi" (nodachi/notachi), are large swords with a blade measuring more than 3 shaku (about 90 cm). Originally designed as a sword to be dedicated to shrines, it is said that it was sometimes used on the battlefield.

Only high-ranking warriors were allowed to own large swords. However, since they were not easy to carry, they were carried by followers on the battlefield. When used, the sword was either sheathed and drawn by the follower or drawn from its scabbard by the follower and received by the follower.

Among the surviving Notachi swords are Shida Otachi, owned by Yahiko Shrine (Nishikanbara-gun, Niigata Prefecture), and Nenekirimaru, owned by Nikko Futaarayama Shrine (Nikko-shi, Tochigi Prefecture). Both swords are designated as cultural properties of national significance.


The kodachi is a sword with a blade length of less than 2 shaku (about 60 cm) which has been made since the middle of the Kamakura period. It was never used in real battles, and was mostly used in ceremonies and celebrations. As its size is similar to the "Wakizashi" seen at the end of the Warring States period, it is sometimes equated with it, but it is classified as a sword because of its shape and deformation.


An "Uchigatana" is a sword generally called a "Japanese sword". The length of the blade is 2 shaku (about 60 cm) or more, and the blade is characterized by a shallow curvature. Also, in terms of how the sword is inserted, the blade is turned downwards, but the sword is usually placed on the waist.

From the middle of the Heian period to the middle of the Muromachi period, swords were used on horseback, so swords that were convenient for swinging down were useful. In the world of the Warring States, which corresponds to the end of the Muromachi period, the aspect of warfare changed from fighting on horseback alone to a group battle on foot. In response to the trend of this period, swords adapted for battle (Kachiikusa: infantry battle) became the mainstream.

The sword used to be used as a sword by making a modification called "polishing" which cuts the shaft into short pieces. If you polish the sword, the inscription (name of the sword that is cut on the shaft and the age of the sword), which is the maximum information that the author can understand, will be lost, but because of the characteristics such as sword and ground iron (jigane) . We can guess the manufacturer of the sword and its age.



The wakizashi is a Japanese sword whose blade length is equal or superior to 1 shaku (about 30 cm) and inferior to 2 shaku (about 60 cm). The wakizashi appeared after the Muromachi period and was used in addition to swords and uchigatana. There are several theories, but the name comes from "because I put it on the side of my waist".

Like a sword, it is inserted into the obi with the blade facing up, but since it is shorter than a sword, it is said to have been used for close combat and battles in tight spaces. Or it was used as a backup weapon when the sword was broken or chipped.

It can be classified into three types, "Owakizashi", "Nakawakizashi" and "Kowakizashi", according to its length.

  • Owakizashi : Length from 1 shakuhachi 8 inches (about 21 inches) to less than 2 shakuhachi (about 24 inches).
  • Nakawakizashi : Length from 1 shakuhachi 3 inches (about 16 inches) to less than 1 shakuhachi 8 inches (about 22 inches).
  • Wakizashi : Length less than 1 shaku 3 inches (about 16 inches).

In a historical drama set in the Edo period, a Japanese sword "two big and small swords" are used, but it is said that this style was born towards the end of the Muromachi period.

A large sword is a sword, and a small sword is a Wakizashi.

And since non samurai townspeople were only allowed to own Wakizashi, many Wakizashi were made during this period.


A "tanto" is a Japanese sword whose blade length is less than or equal to 1 shaku (about 30 cm). It was also called "Koshigatana" because the samurai had his blade turned upwards and put it at his waist. From the Kamakura period to the Muromachi period, it was used to decapitate the enemy when striking, but by the Momoyama period, it was no longer used in combat.

After the Edo period, the daughter of a samurai had a dagger to defend herself. It was called "Kaiken" because there were many occasions to put it in the chest.

A dagger is sometimes mistaken for a wakizashi because of its size, but if it has an edge, it can be a wakizashi, or if it has no edge, it can be an "Aikuchi / Aikuchi". It can be distinguished from a dagger.


"Naginata is a long-handled sword weapon that specializes in slashing the opponent. Born in the Heian period, it played a prominent role in many battles during the Northern and Southern dynasties. Originally it was written "long sword", but later it was said that the character of naginata was applied to distinguish it because the uchigatana was called the long sword for the dagger.

The length and shape of the naginata differed in different periods. In the Kamakura period, the length of the handle was about 4 shaku (about 120 cm) and the length of the blade was about 3 shaku (about 90 cm). ... On the other hand, the Naginata called "Osanagi sword" which appeared in the Nanbokucho period evolved to a longer blade and handle.

According to the records, there was a naginata with a handle length of about 5 shaku (about 150 cm) and a blade length of 6 shaku 3 inches (about 190 cm). The naginata was popular as the main weapon of the Northern and Southern dynasties, but in the Warring States era, when the combat format changed to group battles, accidents occurred in which allies were cut by mistake.

Therefore, "spear" entered instead of Naginata . Naginata gradually declined because the same long-handled weapon, spear, was used in combat. After that, it was remade into a Wakizashi called "Naginata Repair", which was a large form of the blade, and it ended its activity as a long-handled weapon.


"Nagamaki" is a sword very similar to Naginata, and in fact there is no clear definition.

Originally, it is said to be a weapon developed to facilitate the handling of the Ōdachi, and the differences are usually "the difference in size", "the state of deformation", "the presence or absence of Yokote", and "the armatures of the sword. Differences" and so on.

Différences en Taille

The general length of the blade of Naginata is about 2 shaku (about 60 cm), and the length of the handle is about 9 shaku (about 270 cm). On the other hand, the length of the blade of Nagamaki is about 3 shaku (about 90 cm), and the length of the handle is about 3 shaku (about 90 cm) to about 4 shaku (about 120 cm), and the length of the blade and the handle is almost the same. It is.

With or without Yokote

"Yokote (Yokote muscle)" is the line of demarcation that goes into the lower part of the sword/tip.

Usually, this is a feature found in Japanese swords made of ho, but the Naginata does not have a Yokote.

However, the Nagamaki has a Yokote.

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