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Sword Spotlight: The Shikomizue

April 19, 2018

Sword Spotlight: The Shikomizue

The katana wasn't the only sword pioneered during Japan's feudal period. Japanese swordsmiths invented more than a dozen other swords, including the shikomizue. As shown in the photo to the left, the shikomizue featured a discreet design, allowing samurai warriors to easily conceal it. To learn more about the shikomizue and how it was used, keep reading.

Overview of the Shikomizue

The shikomizue is a medium-length, single-edged Japanese sword that is characterized by its unique method of mounting. The term "shikomizue" doesn't refer to a specific sword. Rather, it refers to the way in which a sword is mounted. The shikomizue mounting style consists of a cane-like scabbard used to conceal the sword.

Some people assume that shikomizue is the same as shirasaya, but this isn't necessarily true. While both are mounting styles used in traditional Japanese swords, the later consists simply of plain wooden mounts without any decorations or visual aesthetics. The shikomizue, on the other hand, was designed to look and even function like a cane.

To use the shikomizue, a samurai warrior would pull the handle from the scabbard, revealing the medium-length blade. Upon wielding the shikomizue, a samurai warrior could use to perform piercing thrust attacks or slash attacks. Its moderate length and discreet design made it formidable weapon for close-quarters combat.

Benefits of Using the Shikomizue

The primary benefit of the shikomizue was its discreet design. Normally, a samurai warrior's sword was visible to the naked eye. Whether a samurai warrior carried a katana, wakizashi or even a tanto, it was typically worn around a sash on his waist. The shikomizue differed in the sense that it looked like a traditional cane, not a sword. This allowed both samurai warriors and shinobi alike to engage in stealth combat.

The shikomizue was also designed with a strong, durable blade. Japanese swordsmiths produced the shikomizue using the same high-carbon steel used in traditional swords like the katana. This doesn't necessarily mean it offered the same performance, however. Unlike the katana, the shikomizue was designed with a straight blade. This was necessary so that it could fit into a cane. The downside to using a straight blade is that it swordsmiths couldn't use differential heat treatment to create a flexible spine with a strong edge.

The shikomizue, while not as popular as the katana, is an important part of Japan's history. It reflects the innovative design used by Japanese swordsmiths to produce some of the world's best swords.

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