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Hachiwara (also known as Hachiwari)
Time Period: 13th century to present
Location: Japan
Common Construction: Wooden handle, Iron rod
The hachiwara is a triangular iron rod with a hook near the grip designed as a parrying tool. The idea is to use it as a sword breaker, either by catching the sword with the hook and then twisting it, or by simply blocking the sharp edge of the blade and causing it to chip or crack. Very little is actually known about this instrument and there is a lot of misinformation concerning its time period and use.

The concept of the hachiwara dates back to the Mongol invasions of Japan in 1274 and 1281. The isolation of Japan had turned combat into a highly ritualized affair in which most of the fighting was conducted 1 on 1. The Mongols however used formations of troops and attacked en masse. Samurai needed a second weapon so that they could defend against multiple assailants, and they needed a weapon that could function in close quarters.

The hachiwara was worn on the right side of the body and was designed to be drawn by the left hand. It could parry attacks, and the name means "helmet breaker", although it is doubtful that it is strong enough to actually break a helmet. However, it is possible to get the hook under someone's helmet and apply enough pressure to pop out one of the metal plates or force the opponent's head to the side.

A famous inscription on a hachiwara reads:

Priest Goro Masamune made this
Made for Kusunoki Masanari
Made by the Japanese Swordsmith
A lucky day in the first month of the first year of Genko
(1331)


While this implies that the hachiwara was made by the famous swordsmith Masamune, some argue that it is a generic Buddhist prayer. There are no hachiwari that have been dated to the 13th century and it is not certain that they even existed before the 17th century. The 13th century sidearm was more likely the tanto. So what exactly is the purpose of the hachiwara?

An alternative theory suggests that the hachiwara was created after the Tokugawa era in which non-samurai were not allowed to carry swords. It was carried by bureaucrats and law enforcement officers and occasionally used like a baton to thump the skulls of peasants. (It is named "helmet breaker" after all)

These instruments are not nearly as popular or revered as katana so it is possible that simply no older specimens have survived. It seems there is simply not enough information to draw a definitive conclusion at this time.

CE 13th Century, CE 14th Century, CE 15th Century, CE 16th Century, CE 17th Century, CE 18th Century, CE 19th Century, CE 20th Century, History, Japan, Present, Weapon


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