The katana is not the only world famous sword to originate in Japan. Another sword commonly associated with Japanese history is the wakizashi. It has a similar design to the katana, with a curved, single-edged blade. However, the wakizashi is a very unique sword that has some key differences from the katana. To learn more about the wakizashi and how it became one of the most widely used weapons of samurai warriors during the feudal period in Japan, read on.
Recognizing the Wakizashi
The wakizashi is a small “companion” sword with a curved, single-edged blade. According to Wikipedia, the wakizashi was typically constructed with an average blade length of 11-25 inches. It was therefore shorter and smaller than its katana counterpart.
Not only is the wakizashi smaller than the katana, but it also has a different cross-section. Japanese smiths often created the wakizashi with a narrower cross-section to make it a sharper and more deadly weapon. The disadvantage of this type of cross-section, however, is increased wear and tear on the blade. Samurai warriors who carried and used the wakizashi had to maintain the blade by regularly sharpening it with stones.
Why did the samurai warriors wear the wakizashi?
You may wonder why Japanese samurai warriors wore the wakizashi. After all, the katana was undoubtedly a powerful weapon, perhaps even more so than the wakizashi. Well, samurai warriors usually carried a katana or similar long sword, but they were also required to carry a smaller "companion" sword. In feudal Japan, there was a law that required samurai warriors to carry both types of swords, one long and one short. Thus, in addition to the katana, samurai warriors often carried the wakizashi.
Quick history of Wakizashi
It is believed that wakizashi originated during the 15th or 16th century in Japan. This was of course during the feudal period of Japan, when powerful warlords, called shoguns and their families, ruled the country.
The wakizashi became even more popular in later years, partly because of its accessibility to non-Samurai citizens. The law reserved long-bladed swords for members of the samurai class. However, because the wakizashi had a shorter blade, it could be owned and carried by citizens of the chonin class, such as merchants. It was not uncommon for chonin to carry the wakizashi while traveling. If they encountered a bandit, they could use the short sword to defend themselves.