Wakizashi vs. Tanto | Samurai Sword Types

Wakizashi vs. tanto -- what is the best pick? While each type of samurai sword boasts varied uses and features, there are key features that appeal to different people.

In standard casual conversation, it is not uncommon to hear many individuals refer to a typical Japanese style sword as a “samurai sword.” While this is acceptable, anyone who is knowledgeable with Japanese swords will find this a misplaced and somewhat generalized comment. Similar to western swords that come in a wide array of styles and sizes including long, short, bastard, or even broadswords; Japanese swords are no different in also exhibiting an assortment of styles. wakizashi vs. tanto

Japanese swords, tanto and wakizashi included, have over time become synonymous with Samurais. According to Bushido belief, their warrior spirit was contained in their swords. While samurai swords have gradually evolved with time, what didn't change much throughout history were the smaller companion swords which were the tanto and the wakizashi.


The samurai mainly used a sword known as the katana in battle. The wakizashi shares many of its aspects with only the size as the exception. It's relatively short blade (about 2/3 the length of a standard katana) means it is only suited for one-handed use. Traditionally, this sword was worn together with a katana subsequently creating a pair of swords that identified a samurai in ancient Japan.

The samurai seldom used the wakizashi in battle unless it was in a reasonably confined space where the katana was too large for proper and effective use. Moreover, it was also a useful sidearm, especially when a samurai was disarmed or had his katana broken during battle.


On the other hand, the tanto is a relatively long dagger and is about 1/3 of a typical katana length. Compared to the popular katana, the tanto does not feature any defined points.

The primary purpose of this relatively small knife is stabbing and slashing. This companion sword was usually carried in what was called the “obi” (a wide cloth belt) with its edge up while its handle (known as the tsuka) facing marginally to the right. With this positioning, the samurai could easily and quickly deploy his weapon when the need arose.

The tanto was often worn instead of the wakizashi as mentioned above particularly in indoor settings.

Although the tanto was reputed for its slashing ability, what mainly set it apart was its efficiency in stabbing. This was an effective way for a samurai to bring down their opponents. Finally, the tanto can be gripped in several distinct methods to facilitate efficiency both when stabbing and slashing.

When it comes down to wakizashi vs. tanto, which is the better pick? Since both swords are used as companion swords to the katana, it really just comes down to what the samurai prefers to use in the situation he's in. At the end of the day, the main difference between the two are the length of the blades.

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