Kaiken (dagger)

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Japanese kaiken/kwaiken style tanto.

A kaiken (懐剣) is a 20–25 cm (8–10 in) long, single or double-edged dagger[1] without ornamental fittings housed in a plain mount.


It was once carried by men and women of the samurai class in Japan. It was useful for self-defense in indoor spaces where the long blade katana and intermediate sword wakizashi were inconvenient. Women carried them in their kimono either in a pocket-like space (futokoro) or in the sleeve pouch (tamoto)[2] for self-defense and for ritual suicide by slashing the veins in the left side of the neck.[3][4] When a samurai woman married, she was expected to carry a kaiken with her when she moved in with her husband.[5]

In modern Japan, a kaiken is worn as a traditional accessory for formal kimono, such as a furisode, uchikake and a shiromuku, tucked into their obi.


Due to pronunciation changes over time, the kwaiken is now called a kaiken;[6] this is also referred to as a futokoro-gatana.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Stone, George Cameron (1999). Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor in All Countries and in All Times. Dover Publications. pp. 405–. ISBN 978-0-486-40726-5.
  2. ^ Sinclaire, Clive (1 November 2004). Samurai: The Weapons and Spirit of the Japanese Warrior. Globe Pequot Press. pp. 88–. ISBN 978-1-59228-720-8.
  3. ^ Tarassuk, Leonis; Blair, Claude (1982). The Complete encyclopedia of arms & weapons: the most comprehensive reference work ever published on arms and armour from prehistoric times to the present. Simon & Schuster. p. 306.
  4. ^ Arai, Hakuseki; Joly, Henri L.; Inada, Hogitarō (1913). The Sword Book in "Honchō Gunkikō". C. E. Tuttle. p. 42.
  5. ^ Mol, Serge (2003). Classical Weaponry of Japan: Special Weapons and Tactics of the Martial Arts. Kodansha International. pp. 27–. ISBN 978-4-7700-2941-6.
  6. ^ Cannon, Garland Hampton; Warren, Nicholas W. (1996). The Japanese Contributions to the English Language: An Historical Dictionary. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 65–. ISBN 978-3-447-03764-8.

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