Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Different Kinds of Japanese Swords

Japanese swords are most often associated with the samurai of feudal Japan. To possess a sword or pair of swords was an honor reserved for only the upper class. Thus, the blades serve as symbols of rank and status. Most Japanese swords feature a curved, narrow blade with a single sharpened edge, but the majority of today's Japanese-styled swords are replicas meant for decoration. They come in several major variations.

The katana is a traditional full-sized Japanese sword. It features the same style of slender blade seen on most Japanese swords, an elongated grip that allows for two-handed use, and a handguard that usually has a rounded shape. The blade of a katana is generally 23.5" or longer. Older-style katanas from the 14th, 15th, and late 16th centuries had blade lengths of 27.5" to 28.5". The hilt and hamon, or blade pattern of a katana, varies aesthetically from one sample to the next.

Samurai Sword Set
Samurai sword sets usually contain a katana and one or more smaller blades. The most common combination is a three sword set including a katana, wakizashi, and tanto. The other common pairing is known as a daisho, which means "big-little." A daisho usually matches a katana with a wakizashi, but anything paired with a tanto is technically classified as daisho.

Meaning "white scabbard," the shirasaya is a featureless wooden mount used to display the blade of a Japanese sword when in long term storage. The shirasaya is comprised of two separate pieces: the scabbard and hilt. Since the protective covering was not meant to be used in actual combat, it does not come with a handguard or grip wrappings.

Zatoichi Sword
Also known as a "cane blade" or "stick sword," the zatoichi is a concealable katana hiding in a sleek outer shell. When sheathed, the sword looks like a uniform bar of wood meant to be used for training. People who are unaware of this Japanese sword style would probably never guess that there is a blade inside. The zatoichi is a very cool, stealthy blade that can be hidden in plain sight.

Ninja Sword
Ninja swords, also called ninajto, are very similar in build and appearance to the katana. However, they are typically shorter and have straighter blades. A more accurate description of a ninjato is a wakizashi missing the curve in the blade.

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