With an average blade length of 25 to 28 inches (60 to 73 cm), the katana is a moderately long sword. Other traditional Japanese swords like the wakizashi and kodachi, however, were designed with shorter blades. Among the shortest Japanese swords is the tanto, which we're going to discuss in this blog post.
History of the Tanto
The tanto is a short-bladed sword that originated out of Japan's Heian period (794 to 1185). It was originally worn and used by samurai warriors as a weapon. A traditional Japanese tanto features either a single or double-edged blade with a blade length of approximately 5.9 to 11.8 inches (15 to 30 cm).
Like most the Japanese swords, however, the tanto has evolved over the years. During the Heian period, it was used primary as a stabbing -- though sometimes slashing -- weapon.
During the transition into Japan's Kamakura period (1185 to 1333), the tanto's purpose began to shift towards aesthetic. While some samurai warriors continued to use the small-bladed sword as a weapon, it gradually became more ornate. However, this didn't slow down its production. On the contrary, more swordsmiths began making the tanto towards the middle and latter years of the Kamakura period.
Several new styles of the tanto were developed throughout the years. Swordsmiths used the tachi style, for instance, to make the tanto longer and wider. Later -- when the Hachiman faith became prevalent throughout Japan -- swordsmiths began designing the tanto with more detailed carvings in and around the hilt.
Common Tanto Blade Types