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The Five Blades of the Samurai Era

Samurai are known as the one of the best warriors from medieval history of Japan, formed the top military class and eventually rose to become the highest social rank. Renowned for their combat skills, they wielded numerous amount of weapons and one the most famous from those weapons was swordd. Five main types of Samurai swords existed: the curved, single-edged Katana, the shorter Wakizashi used in conjunction with it, the dagger-like Tanto for close combat, the massive field sword Nodachi, and the older style, curved Tachi worn differently than the Katana.

1. Katana

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swords kingdomThe katana, the most famous of all samurai swords, you can easily recognize katana from its long, curved blade and two-handed grip. Designed for powerful strikes and wielding at a distance, it has a slender, single-edged blade and a distinctive guard, either circular or squared. Typically, a katana measures 3 to 4 feet in total length, with the hilt accounting for roughly a quarter of that. The blade itself curves gracefully, with about an inch of curvature from end to end. These dimensions, along with its design, make the katana a truly unique and formidable weapon.

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swords kingdomUnlike its longer counterpart, the katana, the wakizashi is a shorter sword, typically around 50 cm in length. Samurai in feudal Japan wore it alongside the katana, which formed a pair which is called ¬†daisho, meaning “large and small.” This pairing served a practical purpose – the wakizashi functioned as a secondary weapon, always at hand for close-quarters combat or situations where the katana’s maneuverability was limited because of its long blade. The constant presence of the wakizashi further indicated the samurai’s status as a warrior.

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swords kingdomThe tanto, though technically not a sword due to its shorter length, is the classic Japanese dagger. Unlike the wakizashi, it can be single or double-edged and served a similar purpose as a close-quarters weapon worn at all times. It was designed primarly for thrusting but its sharp edge also gave an additional option for slashing attacks. Interestingly, tanto designs became more ornate over time. By the end of the samurai era, they transitioned from functional tools to decorative pieces, a role they continue to fulfill even today.

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swords kingdomThe nodachi, literally meaning “field sword” or “great sword,” is the giant among samurai swords. Even bigger and longer than the katana, these weapons were wielded by foot soldiers for their reach and power. Imagine facing off against cavalry on the open battlefield – that’s where the nodachi truly shone. However, their impressive size came at a cost. They were large and heavy in tight spaces and unsuitable for close-quarter combat.

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swords kingdomThe tachi is the predecessor of the katana, a more curved and longer sword designed for mounted samurai. With an average length of around 75 cm, it offered greater reach compared to the katana. This additional length and more curvature were crucial for cavalry charges, which allowed samurai to deliver powerful strikes down at foot soldiers from horseback.

These are the blades which were wielded by Japan’s warriors, these swords possess distinct characteristics and purposes. Disregarding the diversity of sword types to elevate one above the rest would be unjust. A comprehensive perspective is essential to honor the skill and creativity of both the Japanese Samurai and their craftsmen.

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