The Three Types of Samurai Swords

samurai reenactor crossing a street

Japanese Sword Styles

The samurai were an elite warrior class in Japan’s feudal system. They were each tied to a lord or lady and fought on their behalf. Traditionally, samurai carried three weapons as the iconic symbols of their class, but they were also known to use spears, bows and arrows, and even guns. While samurai were trained in many different kinds of weapons, three types of samurai swords were their preferred weapons of choice. Learn more about these Japanese sword styles at Swords of Northshire today.

1. Katana

The katana is the most well-known of the samurai’s traditional weapons. While it was the signature sword of the Edo period, the katana gained worldwide renown due to its use in pop culture movies and media.

Traditional Features of a Katana

This type of samurai sword is distinguishable due to its single-edged, curved blade. Typically, katanas measure between three to four feet, with the handle making up about a quarter of the length. A long handle was necessary to counterbalance the weight of the blade and make two-handed fighting more comfortable. Katana were typically used in duels and on the battlefield because they had a long reach to keep your enemies farther away.

2. Wakizashi

The wakizashi was the partner sword to the katana. The two types of samurai swords were worn together on the belt as a set. When worn or displayed together, the set is called a daisho, which translates to mean “large and small.”

Traditional Features of a Wakizashi

Wakizashi are shorter than katanas, measuring at most 23” long. They were highly effective weapons indoors and in close combat, as the shorter blade offered the samurai more maneuverability than the longer katana. Wakizashi were also commonly used in the ritual suicide ceremony known as seppuku.

3. Tanto

The final type of samurai sword was actually a knife. The tanto is a very short weapon that was mainly used for slashing and cutting in close quarters. While it went out of style in the 1100s, it has seen a resurgence as a modern tactical weapon.

Traditional Features of a Tanto

A tanto could have a single or double-edged blade and can come in many variations. Some tanto have curved spines for better stabbing, ridged centers for more blade flexibility, abnormally long tips for slightly more range, or a triangular intersection that creates a diamond shape.

Defining an Era

The samurai of Japan defined an era until the last one died in 1877. Saigō Takamori marked the end of the warrior class and the rise of more modern weapons, such as guns and cannons. Today, most people display the different types of samurai swords solely for ceremonial purposes or practice in the dojo.

At Swords of Northshire, we still craft swords through ancient Japanese blacksmithing techniques to honor their work and pay homage to their skills. Explore our selection to find historical replicas, battle-ready pieces, and much more!

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