Wakizashi

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A Daito (top) and wakizashi (bottom) in the form of a daishō, showing the difference in size.

The wakizashi (Kanji: 脇差 Hiragana: わきざし?) meaning "side inserted sword")[1] is one of the traditionally made Japanese swords (nihonto)[2][3] worn by the samurai class in feudal Japan.

Description[edit]

The wakizashi has a blade between 30 and 60 cm (12 and 24 in),[4] with wakizashi close to the length of a katana being called o-wakizashi and wakizashi closer to tantō length being called ko-wakizashi.[5] The wakizashi being worn together with the katana was the official sign that the wearer was a samurai or swordsman of feudal Japan. When worn together the pair of swords were called daishō, which translates literally as "big-little".[6] The katana was the big or long sword and the wakizashi the companion sword.[7][8] Wakizashi are not necessarily just a smaller version of the katana; they could be forged differently and have a different cross section.[9]

History and use[edit]

An antique Japanese wakizashi with koshirae and related parts, shown dis-assembled. The hamon (temper line) is clearly visible.

The production of swords in Japan is divided into specific time periods:

  • Jokoto (ancient swords, until around 900 A.D.)
  • Koto (old swords from around 900–1596)
  • Shinto (new swords 1596–1780)
  • Shinshinto (new new swords 1781–1876)
  • Gendaito (modern swords 1876–1945)[10]
  • Shinsakuto (newly made swords 1953–present)[11]
Wakizashi Edo period

Wakizashi have been in use as far back as the 15th[12] or 16th century.[13] The wakizashi was used as a backup or auxiliary sword;[14] it was also used for close quarters fighting, to behead a defeated opponent[15] and sometimes to commit ritual suicide.[16] The wakizashi was one of several short swords available for use by samurai including the yoroi tōshi, the chisa-katana and the tantō. The term wakizashi did not originally specify swords of any official blade length[17] and was an abbreviation of "wakizashi no katana" ("sword thrust at one's side"); the term was applied to companion swords of all sizes.[18] It was not until the Edo period in 1638 when the rulers of Japan tried to regulate the types of swords and the social groups which were allowed to wear them that the lengths of katana and wakizashi were officially set.[19]

Kanzan Satō, in his book titled "The Japanese Sword", notes that there did not seem to be any particular need for the wakizashi and suggests that the wakizashi may have become more popular than the tanto due to the wakizashi being more suited for indoor fighting. He mentions the custom of leaving the katana at the door of a castle or palace when entering while continuing to wear the wakizashi inside.[20] While the wearing of katana was limited to the samurai class, wakizashi of legal length (ko-wakizashi) could be carried by the chonin class which included merchants. This was common when traveling due to the risk of encountering bandits.[21][22] Wakizashi were worn on the left side, secured to the waist sash (Uwa-obi or himo).[23]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Ogyû Sorai's Discourse on government (Seidan): an annotated translation, Sorai Ogyū, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 1999 P.105
  2. ^ The Development of Controversies: From the Early Modern Period to Online Discussion Forums, Volume 91 of Linguistic Insights. Studies in Language and Communication, Author Manouchehr Moshtagh Khorasani, Publisher Peter Lang, 2008, ISBN 3-03911-711-4, ISBN 978-3-03911-711-6 P.150
  3. ^ The Complete Idiot's Guide to World Mythology, Complete Idiot's Guides, Authors Evans Lansing Smith, Nathan Robert Brown, Publisher Penguin, 2008, ISBN 1-59257-764-4, ISBN 978-1-59257-764-4 P.144
  4. ^ The connoisseur's book of Japanese swords, Kōkan Nagayama, Kodansha International, 1998 P.48
  5. ^ The connoisseur's book of Japanese swords, Kōkan Nagayama, Kodansha International, 1998 P.48
  6. ^ The Japanese sword, Kanzan Satō, Kodansha International, 1983 p.68
  7. ^ Mol, Serge (2003). Classical weaponry of Japan: special weapons and tactics of the martial arts. Kodansha International. pp. 18–24. ISBN 4-7700-2941-1. 
  8. ^ Ratti, Oscar; Westbrook, Adele (1973). Secrets of the samurai: a survey of the martial arts of feudal Japan. Tutle Publishing. p. 258. ISBN 0-8048-1684-0. 
  9. ^ Samurai: The Code of the Warrior, Thomas Louis, Tommy Ito, Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2008 P.138
  10. ^ Clive Sinclaire (1 November 2004). Samurai: The Weapons and Spirit of the Japanese Warrior. Lyons Press. pp. 40–58. ISBN 978-1-59228-720-8. 
  11. ^ トム岸田 (24 September 2004). 靖国刀. Kodansha International. p. 42. ISBN 978-4-7700-2754-2. 
  12. ^ Samurai: The Weapons and Spirit of the Japanese Warrior, Clive Sinclaire, Globe Pequot, 2004 P.87
  13. ^ Samurai: The Code of the Warrior, Thomas Louis, Tommy Ito, Sterling Publishing Company, Inc., 2008 P138
  14. ^ Ogyû Sorai's Discourse on government (Seidan): an annotated translation, Sorai Ogyū, Otto Harrassowitz Verlag, 1999 P.105
  15. ^ The encyclopedia of nineteenth-century land warfare: an illustrated world view, Byron Farwell, W. W. Norton & Company, 2001 P.240
  16. ^ A glossary of the construction, decoration and use of arms and armor in all countries and in all times, together with some closely related subjects, George Cameron Stone, Jack Brussel Pub., 1961 P.201
  17. ^ Handbook to life in medieval and early modern Japan, William E. Deal, Oxford University Press US, 2007 P.158
  18. ^ Samurai, warfare and the state in early medieval Japan (Google eBook), Karl F. Friday, Psychology Press, 2004 P.78
  19. ^ The connoisseur's book of Japanese swords, Kōkan Nagayama, Kodansha International, 1998 P.35
  20. ^ The Japanese sword, Kanzan Satō, Kodansha International, 1983 P.68
  21. ^ Taiho-jutsu: law and order in the age of the samurai, Don Cunningham, Tuttle Publishing, 2004 P,23
  22. ^ The connoisseur's book of Japanese swords, Kōkan Nagayama, Kodansha International, 1998 P.28
  23. ^ Secrets of the samurai: a survey of the martial arts of feudal Japan, Oscar Ratti, Adele Westbrook, Tuttle Publishing, 1991 P.260

Notes[edit]

External links[edit]