What is Wakizashi
"Wakizashi" (脇差) refers to a sword that is shorter than the typical Japanese katana. During the Edo period, samurai wore two Japanese swords at their waist (called Daisho), with the shorter one being the wakizashi. It was used as a backup weapon when the longer sword, or uchigatana, could not be used. It was also allowed to be carried by regular people who were not of samurai class, so a large number of famous swords were made as wakizashi during the Edo period. This article will introduce some renowned wakizashi along with some basic knowledge about them. we hope these information will be helpful to you when you want to buy a custom wakizashi.
Characteristics of Wakizashi
A "Wakizashi" is a sword with a blade length of over 1 shaku (approximately 30 cm) but less than 2 shaku (approximately 60 cm). There are various theories about the origin of the name, but the standard explanation is that it's because it was "stuck at the side of the waist." Wakizashi from before the Edo period were typically carried with an uchigatana that had a different external design.
From the Edo period onward, carrying both an uchigatana and a wakizashi—known as "daishō"—became regarded as formal wear for samurai. Consequently, the materials and colors of the handles (tsuka) and scabbards (saya) were unified with the uchigatana so they can be a better pair. The wakizashi was also used in situations where a samurai could legally cut down someone who was disrespectful to them, a practice known as "kiri-sute gomen" (permission to cut and leave).
Types of Wakizashi
Wakizashi are categorized into three types based on their length: "large wakizashi", "medium wakizashi", and "small wakizashi".
A large wakizashi is a wakizashi that is 1 shaku 8 sun (about 54.5 cm) to less than 2 shaku (about 60.6 cm) long. Because it is roughly the same size as an uchigatana, it is said to have been useful when townfolk resisted in situations like kiri-sute gomen. Kondō Isami, the commander of the Shinsengumi, and Miyamoto Musashi, a renowned swordsman who used two swords, are said to have popularized the large wakizashi. Toshizō Hijikata, the vice commander of the Shinsengumi, owned a large wakizashi called "Horikawa Kunihiro."
A medium wakizashi is a wakizashi that is 1 shaku 3 sun (about 40 cm) to less than 1 shaku 8 sun (about 54.5 cm) long. Ishida Mitsunari, a retainer of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, one of the "Three Great Unifiers" of Japan, owned a medium wakizashi called "Ishida Sadamune". It is said that Mitsunari went into the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, wearing both the "Ishida Masamune", an uchigatana, and the Ishida Sadamune.
A small wakizashi is a wakizashi that is less than 1 shaku 3 sun (about 40 cm) long. Its size is close to that of the smallest Japanese sword, the "tantō", so it is often seen as the same. However, while a wakizashi typically has a guard (tsuba), a tantō usually does not. "Namazu Otoshiro" is known as a small wakizashi, remodeled from a naginata by Oda Nobukatsu, the second son of Oda Nobunaga, one of the "Three Great Unifiers" of Japan, and later passed on to Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
Large Wakizashi: Gold inlay, signature: Hashiba Gorozaemon Taicho (nicknamed: Nikkari Aoe)
The "Large Wakizashi: Gold inlay, signature: Hashiba Gorozaemon Taicho" (nicknamed: Nikkari Aoe) is a large wakizashi made by the Aoe School, a group of swordsmiths who were active in Bitchu Aoe (now Kurashiki City, Okayama Prefecture) from the late Heian period to the Nanboku-cho period. It got its name, "Nikkari Aoe," from an anecdote in which a samurai cut down a ghost of a woman who was laughing "nikkari". This wakizashi was handed down from Shibata Katsuie, a warlord known as "Oni Shibata", to Toyotomi Hideyoshi and eventually to the Kyogoku family, the lords of Marugame Domain in Sanuki Province (now Kagawa Prefecture).
Large Wakizashi: Unsigned, nickname: Bone-Eating Toshiro
The "Large Wakizashi: Unsigned, nickname: Bone-Eating Toshiro" (Honebami Toshiro) is a large wakizashi made by Awataguchi Yoshimitsu, a swordsmith who was active in Yamashiro Province (now the southern part of Kyoto Prefecture) during the middle of the Kamakura period. The nickname came from a story that it "broke bones just by pretending to cut".
Large Wakizashi: Signed Kanesada
The "Large Wakizashi: Signed Kanesada" is a large wakizashi made by Kanesada, a swordsmith who worked in Mino Province (now the southern part of Gifu Prefecture). Several swordsmiths used the signature "Kanesada", the most famous of whom is the second generation Kanesada, also known as "Nosada". The second generation Kanesada was known for making many excellent swords, and was beloved by famous warlords like Akechi Mitsuhide, a retainer of Oda Nobunaga, and Mori Nagayoshi, a warlord known as the "Human War God".