Katana Sageo One of the most important accessories on samurai sword you should know

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Everything You Need To Know About Sageo

Sageo is one of the most beautiful and intriguing parts of a Japanese sword. It is made of silk, cotton, leather, and so on to pass through the Kurigata. Multiple knots and patterns can be made with a Sageo in the Katana. This guide will help you to learn more about Sageo.

What Is Sageo(下緒)?

Sageo of Katana

Sageo is the cord used on the scabbard (Saya) of a Japanese Katana. Sageo in Japanese is "下緒", literally means "Hanging cord". Because the main purpose of Sageo is to tie the katana to the belt (Obi). Sageo passed through the Kurigata of the Saya, comes in multiple colors, styles, lengths, and designs. 

Sageo is the term for Uchigatana (打刀), for Tachi (太刀), these cords are called Tachio "太刀緒"

What Are The Common Materials Of Sageo?

Common Material of Sageo

Most common material of Sageo are silk, cotton and leather. In ancient Japan, silk and leather (deer leather) are actually more common, until late 16th century, Japanese cotton production really took off, cotton then became the most popular material for Sageo. 

Silk and leather are premium materials for Sageo, enhancing its durability and providing a luxurious feel, they are often used on high end katana koshirae. Cotton and synthetic materials like rayon and polyester, they are more affordable and often used on entry level katana.

In most cases, the color, design and material of the Sageo matches or compliments the handle wrap of the Katana, creating a unified aesthetic that enhances the overall appearance of the sword.

How long is Sageo?

Common length for Sageo ranges from 120 - 240 cm ( 47 to 94 inches), usually 120 cm (47 inches) for Wakizashi and 220 cm (87 inches) for Katana. In modern days, there are no set rules for the Sageo length, it can be customized based on different swordsmen style and personal preference. In our katana (and custom katana) we usually use 350 cm (138 inches) long Sageo, to provide our customers with greater flexibility and versatility.

In ancient Japan Edo period, there were laws for the length of the katana blade, and for the Sageo as well. The standard lengths were set at five shaku (152 cm, about 59.8 inches) for the Uchigatana's Sageo and two shaku five sun (76 cm, about 29.9 inches) for the Wakizashi's Sageo.

Types of Sageo Knots:

Types of Sageo Knots

The Sageo can be tied in various ways, each with its own name and purpose (Mainly for decoration):

Tachi Knot (太刀結): This knot involves passing the Sageo through the hangers of a Tachi (a type of Katana) and tying it around the Saya to form loops on both sides. It’s used to keep the long Sageo neat and visually appealing, especially when the sword is displayed.

Daimyo Knot or Ronin Knot (大名結 /浪人結): These knots are more for display than practical use, often seen in decorative sword placements, like in an alcove. The Ronin Knot is named so because ronin (masterless samurai) supposedly chose this style for its looks since they didn't need to use their swords practically.

Formal Knot (正式結): Also known as a bow knot, this was the standard during the Edo period for formal occasions.

Noshi Knot (熨斗結): The simplest and most commonly used knot, it’s straightforward and functional.

Myoga Knot (茗荷結): This knot is used to prevent the ends of the Sageo from unraveling. The name comes from its resemblance to the myoga plant.

Wrap Knot (巻き結): After threading the Sageo through the Kurigata, it is wrapped around the scabbard and tied off tightly to secure it.

What’s The Usage Of Sageo?

Sageo is less important in modern days than ancient times. But It's a versatile tool for samurai in ancient Japan. We will list the various usage of Sageo for you to better understand this part.

*The images we used are from these YouTubers, they made great contents:

若駒ちゃんねる【殺陣師の時代劇解説】

景朧忍者検証ch

Tie the katana / Saya to the obi

The primary function of Sageo, is to tie the Katana or the Saya to the belt (Obi). You might be wondering why we used "or", that's because in ancient Japan, the major type of katana used was Tachi, and it was carried by hanging the Tachi at the waist, you will need the Sageo to tie the entire sword on it. 

But from the Kamakura to the Muromachi period, as the mainstream style of combat changed, Uchigatana became the major sword for samurai. The way of carrying Uchigatana is by inserted into the belt. Sageo is no longer used to tie the entire sword, but to tie just the saya

By using Sageo to tie the saya, it prevents the katana from being unexpectedly snatched away and to ensure the saya did not fall out when the katana was drawn. A well tied Sageo is very important, especially when you carry the Daisho Set (A katana & Wakizashi set), you want both sword securely fastened to your obi, and Wakizashi being fixed in a position that when you are in emergency situation, you can draw it out single-handedly. 

Use as a rope 

Sageo is essentially a rope, and can be used for many circumstances. Such as stop bleeding, as a belt replacement. Sageo could be cleverly used to restrain an enemy. By wrapping the Sageo around the enemy's limbs or body, a samurai could immobilize them, effectively using the cord as a handcuffs.

Field Tent

Samurai can use the Sageo to create a makeshift shelter during overnight stays in the field. They would stretch the Sageo between trees to form a frame overhead and then cover it with hand towels or cloaks to make a roof.

"座さがし" (Sitting Search)

 

The "Sitting Search" technique is used in completely dark environments, such as at night or in unlit rooms. In this method, a samurai slightly pulls their sword out of the sheath, barely exposing the tip, and holds the long cord (sageo) in their mouth. This setup allows them to move quietly and search through the darkness without using their hands. If they bump into someone with the sheath, they quickly spit out the cord, draw their sword completely, and immediately strike with a stabbing attack. This technique is both stealthy and effective for surprise defense.

下緒飛ばし Sageo tobashi

This is rarely documented, but some said you can hold the saya, and throw the Sageo to entangle the enemy's weapons, and block their movements. 

Seven techniques to use Sageo (下緒七術) 

Other than tying the katana, Sageo is a very handy too for samurai in ancient Japan. The 10th headmaster of the Masaki Ittoryu school "正木一刀流十代宗家", Naoya Meiwa "名和弓雄". he wrote about the seven techniques to use Sageo (下緒七術) : 

Travel Pillow (旅ま): When sleeping in inns during travel, samurai could use the Sageo to tie the swords (Katana and Wakizashi) together, and lay on the Sageo. This arrangement prevented theft and allowed samurai to quickly rearm themselves if needed.



Inn Caution (旅宿要慎): This technique involves setting up traps using the sageo to alert the samurai of intruders, such as tying it to barriers or makeshift alarms that would wake them if disturbed.



Gate Entry (戸入): Upon entering gates or doors, samurai would adjust their swords with the sageo to allow quick access and ensure they were prepared for sudden attacks.

Four Directions Block (四方詰): In confined spaces such as toilet, where drawing a sword is very difficult, the Sageo is used to ensure the sword can still be quickly deployed or adjusted to adapt to the limited space.

Spear Stop (槍止): This technique involves using the Sageo to control an opponent’s Yari (spear) by wrapping it around the spear shaft, thereby preventing the opponent from using it effectively and potentially disarming them.



Hanging Sword (吊り刀): Used when needing to climb over walls or barriers, the Sageo helps suspend the sword from the mouth or other holds to free hands for climbing.

Color of Sageo

In traditional Japanese samurai culture, the color of the Sageo was more than just a matter of personal taste. It carried significance related to the samurai's rank and social status. During the Edo period, specific colors were designated for different ranks within the samurai class, which helped identify a samurai’s status at a glance.

Take the Aizu domain"奥州会津藩" as an example, they had a "cord system" (紐の制度) that specified the color of cords worn according to rank:

Purple (紫色): A special color reserved for very high ranks such as chief retainers (家老) and senior elders (若年寄).

Dark blue green (御納戸色, onando iro): For chief retainers, senior elders, various high officers including castle stewards (城代), major inspectors (大目付), and military and school commissioners (軍事奉行, 学校奉行).

Black (黒色): For general upper-class samurai.

Navy (紺色): Specifically for the samurai stationed at Inawashiro Castle (猪苗代城).

Peacock Blue (花色, Hanada 花田色): For stable masters (厩別当), chief accountants (勘定頭), and other second-tier officials.

Brown (茶色): For middle-class samurai (中士).

Light Green (萌黄色): For middle-class samurai, denoting annual service (年割).

Light Blue (浅葱色, asagi iro): For middle-class samurai, denoting monthly service (月割).

This system was strictly enforced, and wearing a color above one’s rank was not allowed.

Today, we no longer need to follow these rules, and we can select the color we like when customizing our own katana. But in traditional martial arts like Iaido, some of these color traditions continue, they became unwritten customary rules. For example white Sageo is reserved for instructors only.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is Sageo Used For?

Ans: Sageo is used for securing the Katana / Saya to the user’s belt or Obi. It also serves other purposes, basically anything a rope can do , you can use the Sageo. For example stop bleeding, tie an enemy etc. 

What Is The Sageo Made Of?

Ans: Sageo is made of materials like cotton, leather, silk, rayon, polyester, and many more.

How Long Is A Sageo?

Ans: The length of a Sageo can differ from one user to the other depending on their preferences. Most commonly, the length of a Sageo is around 120-240 cm. You can of course ask for a customized length in your custom katana.

Conclusion

Undoubtedly, Sageo is an intricate and influential part of a Katana. It can serve a variety of useful purposes. At the same time, it can serve the spiritual and aesthetic purpose of the Katana. So, make sure you carefully choose the Sageo when you are buying your Katana. Thanks for reading till the end, for more katana parts, please check this guide.

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