Japanese swords or the nihonto are traditional weapons used in Japan. There are many types of swords which are categorized according to their size, shape and manufacture (koshirae).
Types of Japanese swords
* Katana: These swords are very common in Japan. They are long swords used by the samurais from the 1400s. They are shaped and single edged swords and are curved with their blades facing up which helped the samurais with swift and quick moves. They are very sharp and can cut anything with a single stroke.
* Wakizashi: These are shorter swords which were also used with the Katana by the samurais. Only a trained kenjutsu (samurai sword art) can use both Katana and Wakizashi simultaneously.
* Tsurungi: These are double edged long swords.
* Otachi/Nodachi: These swords are traditional older long swords. They are single edged.
* Naginata and Yari: These are actually pole mounted weapons but they are still categorized as nihontos due the method of usage.
Anyone can purchase Japanese swords. Both the antique as well as the modern swords are easily found in antique stores. Many sword smiths in Japan make modern and authentic swords. You can find many varieties at contests hosted by the All Japan Swordsmiths Association.
Blades of Japanese swords
The blades of a Japanese sword differ depending on the smith and the methods used in constructing it. The most common form of a Japanese sword is the shinogi (middle ridge) which are flat at the center and then taper to the blade. The shinogi could also be narrow and then taper further to the blade.
The shinogi can be positioned at the back of the blade which would give a sharper and longer sword giving it a fragile look.
Length of Japanese swords
The length of the swords differentiates the Japanese swords. The Japanese measure their in the units of shaku (one shaku is approximately 30cm or one foot).
The three main divisions of swords according to their lengths are:
* 1 shaku or less which are called tanto (knife or dagger).
* 1 or 2 shaku for Shoto (wakizashi or kodachi).
* 2 or more shaku are for daito (Katana or tachi)
The swords of artistic merit can be owned and preserved. So if you are a sword collector then you can have a whole range of traditional as well as modern Japanese swords which are a collector’s delight!