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What Swords Did Japanese Samurai Warriors Use?

April 24, 2018

What Swords Did Japanese Samurai Warriors Use?

Samurai were the primary fighting force in feudal japan. Also known as bushi or buke, they were responsible for protecting and serving their lord -- something that usually involved attacking or defending against opposing clans. To accomplish this goal, samurai warriors often carried swords, the most common of which included the following.


One of the first swords wielded and used by samurai warriors during feudal Japan was the tachi. Originating in Japan's Jokoto period, the tach is the unofficial predecessor to the modern-day katana. It featured a single-edged, curved blade with an average length of 27 9/16 to 31 1/2 inches (70 to 80 cm).


Following the tachi, the katana was introduced as a primary weapon wielded and used by Japanese samurai warriors. Like the tachi, the katana also featured a single-edged, curved blade. The difference, however, is that katana featured a more prominently curved blade as well as a longer overall length. Furthermore, samurai warriors wore the katana with the cutting edge facing up. This was and still is the only traditional Japanese sword worn in this manner.


Although the tachi and katana were the two most popular swords used by samurai warriors during feudal Japan, these warriors often carried a secondary, smaller sword. The wakizashi, for instance, was a popular companion sword. While designed in a variety of sizes, it typically measured 12 to 24 inches (30 to 60 cm)., making it about half the size of the tachi. And like most other swords of this time, it too featured a curved blade.


Another companion sword used by samurai warriors during feudal Japan was the tanto. Meaning "short sword," the tanto lives up to its namesake by featuring a blade length of just 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cm). It's so small, in fact, that most people today refer to it as a knife. Samurai warriors would often carry the tanto as a backup or secondary weapon, wearing it in conjunction with a larger sword like the tachi or katana. If a samurai warrior lost his primary sword, or otherwise found the need to use his companion blade, he would draw the tanto from his obi (sash).

These are just a few of the most popular swords worn and used by Japanese samurai warriors. In addition to swords, samurai often carried other weapons such as staves, clubs, truncheons, polearms and more.

Photo credit: soomness

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