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Wakizashi
Time Period: 14th-17th century
Location: Japan
Common Construction: Steel

The wakizashi is a short sword carried by samurai as a companion sword to the katana. The pair are called a daisho, although typically the two blades are crafted independently from one another. It is rare for a katana and wakizashi to have been forged and fitted by the same swordsmith with the intention of making them a pair and such swords are quite valuable.

Samurai were not permitted to carry their long swords into certain places, such as the royal court. When entering such a building the katana was removed for the duration of the samurai's stay, but he retained the wakizashi for personal defense.

Originally the term wakizashi referred to a sidearm of any length, but in 1645 the government regulated the acceptable length of swords, shortening the legal size and forbidding non-samurai to have them unless special permission was given. This gave wakizashi a definitive length measured in shaku. A tanto was less than 1 shaku, a wakizashi between 1 and 2 shaku, and a katana or tachi 2 shaku or greater. When Japane converted to the metric system, they changed the shaku to be roughly 30cm, so a wakizashi is a sword between 30 and 60cm long.

CE 14th Century, CE 15th Century, CE 16th Century, CE 17th Century, History, Japan, Sword, Weapon


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