The katana isn't the only traditional Japanese sword. Although it's the most popular and well known, Japan has produced dozens of swords and bladed weapons throughout its history. A lesser known traditional Japanese sword is the kodachi. In this post, we're going to explore five fast facts about the kodachi that you probably didn't know.
#1) It Means 'Small Sword'
The term "kodachi" literally translates into "small sword" or "short sword." This, of course, is an appropriate description of the kodachi, as it typically featured a blade length of less than 23 inches. In comparison, the katana almost always featured a blade length more than 23 inches.
#2) It Was Invented During the Kamakura Period
Like the katana, the kodachi was invented sometime during Japan's Kamakura period (1185 to 1333). This period was defined by the ruling shogunate as well as the emergence of the samurai class. Japan experienced a constant wave of invasions during the Kamakura period, prompting the government to develop new weapons like the kodachi.
#3) It Was Used as Secondary Weapon
Samurai warriors carried the kodachi as a secondary weapon. During feudal Japan, it was customary -- and even required by law -- for samurai warriors to carry two weapons: a long sword and a short sword. With a blade length of less than 23 inches, the kodachi as the perfect side weapon for this purpose. Samurai warriors could easily carry it on their waist, from which they could quickly draw it when needed.
#4) It's Often Confused With the Wakizashi
The kodachi is often confused with the wakizashi because of their similarities. But there's one major difference between these two traditional Japanese swords that shouldn't be overlooked. The kodachi was forged for a single samurai warrior, whereas the wakizashi was forged using standard measurements and specifications. As a result, many samurai warriors preferred the kodachi, as it was designed specifically for their unique needs, featuring the ideal length and construction.
#5) It Was Available to Citizens
During Japan's Edo period, the government established a new law restricting the ownership of swords measuring longer than 24 inches to samurai warriors. Because the kodachi was shorter than 24 inches, it didn't fall under this new law. As a result, even citizens could own the kodachi -- and many did for the purpose of self- and home defense. The kodachi allowed ordinary citizens to protect their property, family and themselves against invaders and criminals.