Wakizashi is a Japanese sword that was made and utilized alongside a longer blade sword called the katana sword. Both the wakizashi and the katana have their origins in the rich cultural tradition of Japan. You should note that the Samurai were the noble, prestigious, and highly respected military elite warriors in feudal Japan. And, samurai tradition is considered to have made a significant contribution to Japanese tradition and culture.
The samurai and swordsmen in feudal Japan carried both Wakizashi and katana. The combination of these weapons was collectively known as Daisho. The katana was the main weapon while the wakizashi was the secondary weapon. Wakizashi measures between 12 and 24 inches. This post explains what you should know about a wakizashi sword.
Understanding a wakizashi sword
The word wakizashi means a sidearm, and this is a short sword that has a curved blade. Because of its size, it makes it easier to use when carrying two weapons. It was usually utilized by samurai in feudal Japan and was launched around the 14th century.
The samurai often used the wakizashi sword together with a longer sword, such as a katana, which means a long sword. The term daisho means wielding two weapons. Wakizashi can reach up to 24 inches or 60 cm long, and this length allowed the samurai to have a better balance in the weaker offhand.
It’s worth mentioning that there is no standard length for the wakizashi sword. Therefore, daggers and other short swords can be regarded as wakizashi. The feudal Japanese rulers tried to regulate the display and use of the daisho, so only those who wore these weapons were the samurai. This was done to enhance the status of the samurai warriors. Regardless of this, some groups of bandits would break the laws by wearing wakizashi that had the same length as the katana swords.
Wakizashi which was shorter or longer than the recommended length had a prefix, so O- was assigned to a longer sword and Ko was given to a shorter sword like Ko-wazikashi. There was a habiki that was placed below the hilt of the sword to hold it in place in its scabbard. On the other hand, the sword’s grip was wrapped in cloth so that it could absorb sweat and prevent slipping.
You should note that the wakizashi sword was utilized if battles as a backup weapon, for decapitating enemies, for ritual suicide, for dual wielding, and many more. Many people used to consider the wakizashi as the honor blade. This is because ritual suicide was one of the most respected and distinguished acts a person could do in the traditional Japanese culture.
Gathering heads from slain foes on the battlegrounds for trophies was common in feudal Japan. In such cases, the warrior had to cut off the head of the slain enemies using the sword. And, the shorter wakizashi sword made it a lot easier to do this. The warriors also used the wakizashi sword regularly to prevent the katana sword from unnecessary damage.
The samurai warriors used to take their wakizashi swords everywhere they went. When entering other people’s homes, they would give the katana to a servant to avoid suspicion. But the samurai warriors were allowed to keep the wakizashi swords for their protection. The samurai would wear the wakizashi from the time they woke up to the time they went to bed, and they would place it under their pillows when sleeping.
Wearing a wakizashi sword
The samurai would usually wear the wakizashi sword on the left side and hold it in place on their waist using a belt. The traditional Japanese dress usually included wearing a belt. The wakizashi sword was quite different from the katana when it comes to the type of person who was supposed to carry it in their everyday lives. That historical culture emphasized cultural tradition and order. Ideally, wearing a katana sword symbolized that a person belonged to the class of samurai warriors. The merchants were also allowed to carry a wakizashi sword.
Katana was believed to have come into existence in the 12th century. On the other hand, the history of wakizashi appeared in the 15th century. You need to know that the wakizashi sword was made to be a great companion sword and has no designed official size. It was designed to be a practical weapon that could be utilized for several purposes. During the battle, the samurai would prefer using the wakizashi sword rather than the Tanto and katana in close fights and indoor armed combat. And, while fighting, the samurai would use the wakizashi once they lost the katana sword. As you can see, the wakizashi was a lethal and dependable backup weapon.
Making a wakizashi sword
Traditionally, Japanese society is well-known for the rich history of its unique code of conduct and value system. They put a lot of focus on family values as well as preserving the sense of honor and integrity of oneself and family. In historical Japan, the sense of keeping a person’s honor and dignity usually led a person to commit suicide. The term for the ritual suicide practice was seppuku. The wakizashi sword was regarded as the best weapon for this practice.
Each Japanese sword is unique and is produced by swordsmiths who have for centuries improved their craft. Forging or making a wakizashi was done by choosing a variety of steel and materials. The swordsmiths would follow the traditional custom of making grips by using stylish materials and unique design elements. The craftsmanship and style of the wakizashi and katana swords have changed throughout the history of Japan. And, the swordsmiths who consider themselves passionate and preservers of traditional Japanese weapons are responsible for making these swords and tend to have unique signatures.
The tamahagane steel is the traditional Japanese steel that was utilized to make wakizashi and katana swords. These bladed weapons are produced by smelting, forging, and shaping the blade. The swordsmiths would then polish the blade. This is a time-consuming and detail-oriented process that needs a high level of skills.