Wakizashi Sword

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Wakizashi Sword

Japanese wakizashi swordThe word "wakizashi" means "side arm". The wakizashi sword is a traditional Japanese sword similar to the katana sword but much shorter. The wakizashi is on average about 20 inches in length. The wakizashi was usually worn together with the katana sword by the samurai warriors of feudal Japan. The wakizashi was simply a companion sword to the katana sword. The wakizashi was used in the 16th century and it originally was referred to as a side sword as it was worn on the side of the katana sword. In later years the term wakizashi referred to any swords that where shorter than the main sword of the samurai.

The samurai warriors wore different types of side swords and daggers and the term wakizashi did not refer to any particular blade length. The first usage of wakizashi goes between the 1332 and 1369. The rulers of Japan regulated different types of swords and permitted only certain groups to carry them. This enhanced the reputation and display power of the samurai class as only the samurai were allowed to carry the daisho – a pair of swords consisted of the katana and wakizashi. At the end of the Momoyama period the rulers passed laws that classified swords according to their lengths.

The wakizashi was used as a backup sword to the katana. Also, it was the sword used in committing a Japanese ritual suicide called seppuku (the dagger tanto was used for this purpose as well). Wakizashi were also used to decapitate already killed enemies. A samurai warrior would not risk the katana sword to cut off an enemy head who wore protective armor. It was also more convenient to use the wakizashi for this purpose as it was shorter than the katana sword. Some samurai warriors were skilled enough to use the wakizashi and the katana sword in separate hands simultaneously to maximize combat advantage. Miyamoto Mushashi was one of them.

Wakizashi swords were always worn by the samurai. When entering buildings, often the samurai would leave the main katana sword with the servant; however, they were allowed to carry the wakizashi. Even when going to sleep, the samurai would keep the wakizashi handy by keeping it under the pillow.

History of Arms and Armor | Arms and Armor Glossary


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