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5 Fast Facts About the Wakizashi

June 21, 2018

5 Fast Facts About the Wakizashi

The wakizashi is a traditional Japanese sword with a single edge and a curved blade. It was invented around the same time as the katana, during the region's feudal, and was used primarily by samurai warriors as a weapon. While most sword collectors and swordsmanship practitioners are familiar with the wakizashi's overall design, there are other facts about this sword that may surprise you.

#1) 2 Primary Types

Japanese swordsmiths create two primary types of wakizashi: ko-wakizashi and o-wakizashi. The former featured a longer blade that rivaled its katana counterpart, whereas the latter features a shorter blade, similar to that of the tanto. Of course, there was countless variations of ko-wakizashi and o-wakizashi. Some featured a different cross-section, forging technique, metal composition, etc. Nonetheless, most wakizashi could be categorized as either ko-wakizashi and o-wakizashi, depending on the blade length.

#2) It's Been Forged For More Than 600 Years

To say the wakizashi is old is an understatement. This traditional Japanese sword has origins dating back to the 15th or 16th century. Of course, the methods for forging the wakizashi have evolved over the years. At first, it was forged using low-carbon steel. As swordsmithing techniques improved in Japan, however, high-carbon steel was introduced, thereby increasing its strength and overall durability.

#3) It Was Worn With a Smaller Sword

While the wakizashi is smaller the katana, samurai warriors often wore the wakizashi with an even smaller sword, such as a tanto. There was even a term used to describe the act of carrying two swords such as this: daisho. Meaning "bit-little," it involves carrying a small sword and a larger sword, allowing samurai warriors to choose the right weapon for whichever scenario they encountered.

#4) The Government Regulated Blade Length

For a while, swordsmiths in Japan had unrestricted freedom to produce the wakizashi in any blade length of their choosing. Around the early to mid-1800s, though, the Japanese government placed regulations on the wakizashi's blade length as well as other swords' blade length.

#5) It's Used in Swordsmanship

Although it lacks the popularity of the katana, the wakizashi remains a well-known traditional Japanese sword with significant cultural value. Today, it's no longer used by samurai warriors as a weapon, but it is used in swordsmanship. Some of the swordsmanship martial arts in which the wakizashi is used include iaido, kendo and kenjutsu.

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