Date Published: 2022-01-12
What Is A Wakizashi?
By Adelia Ladson
Starting With The SamuraiThe Samurai were an aristocratic warrior class that rose in Feudal Japan from the ongoing wars over land among the clans. The Samurai originated from regional clans of ancient warriors, but they lost their provincial ways and developed a sophisticated culture. It was based on a rigid code of ethics, “bushido”, that was to be followed devoutly. Bushido, meaning “the Samurai way of life”, had seven virtues that were held sacred. Samurais carried two swords as part of their dress, which were called the “daisho”. The katana was their primary weapon and the wakizashi was a shorter sword used for close quarters combat. If the Samurai had broken one of the seven virtues of bushido, he would use the wakizashi to commit ceremonial ritual suicide.
Characteristics Of A WakizashiBasically, a shorter version of the katana, the wakizashi has a blade that’s usually from 19” to 22” in length. Like the katana, the single-edged blade has a gentle curve that’s slender and it extends from a square or circular handguard, also known as a “tsuba”. The hardwood handle is wrapped in rayskin and then a “braid” of silk or cotton cord. A lacquered, wooden scabbard houses the wakizashi’s blade.
My FavoritesWith so many choices of wakizashis out there, you can find the one that feels right for you. The swords’ tsubas come in an almost infinite number of themes and designs, complemented by a variety of cords and scabbard colors. Here are a few of my favorites.
Shikoto Longquan Master WakizashiAn exceptional expression of the traditional wakizashi sword, the Shikoto Longquan Master is heirloom-worthy. When you hold the wakizashi in your hand, you are holding the same weapon a warrior used more than 2,500 years ago. Using methods used by Bronze Age swordsmiths, the 1060 high carbon steel blade has been hammer-forged and clay tempered. Differential hardening gives this magnificent sword a harder cutting edge and a softer spine, which is the hallmark of a high-quality weapon. The tsuba and handle fittings are of solid brass with an aged bronze finish and the wooden handle has teal-colored cord wrapping over genuine, tea-dyed rayskin. A black lacquered and polished wooden scabbard with cord-wrapping houses the 30 3/4” overall sword. Also included with the Shikoto Longquan Master Wakizashi is a certificate of authenticity with forging specifications, signed by the master swordsmith who crafted the blade. Now, how cool is that?!?
Shinwa Regal Makaku WakizashiI’ve included the Shinwa Regal Makaku in this list of premium wakizashis because its tsuba perfectly illustrates how unique and intricately detailed tsubas can be. The cast metal, circular tsuba is expertly crafted in an open-work, three-dimensional design featuring two macaque monkeys perched in a Japanese plum tree. The hardwood handle is wrapped in genuine, black rayskin and tan, cotton cord with dragon-shaped menuki. The wakizashi has an eye-catching, Damascus steel blade that was hand-forged by seasoned swordsmiths. The coordinating, black lacquered scabbard has tan, cotton cord-wrap. The Regal Makaku has everything a sword collector would value and is one of the best price values on the market.
Kojiro Kraken WakizashiThe Kojiro Kraken Wakizashi is styled in a non-traditional way, drawing inspiration from legend. Putting the biting power of a mythic sea monster in your grip, it has a carbon steel blade with a burned finish and a deep, purple coating. The blade extends from a scale-patterned, antique metal habaki and an expertly crafted tsuba embossed with the Kraken, the legendary monster of the deep. The hardwood handle is wrapped in genuine brown leather cord over faux, black rayskin. Completing the overall design, the genuine leather scabbard is textured and painted in a sucker design inspired by the Kraken’s tentacles. The scabbard also has an adjustable leather shoulder strap so that you can just sling it over your shoulder and go.
Honshu Boshin WakizashiRounding out the list, one of the most popular modern wakizashis is Honshu’s Boshin Wakizashi. It fuses tradition and innovation to yield a masterpiece of tactical sword design. It has a 1060 high carbon steel blade that retains its sharp edge through extended use and punishing conditions. The rugged TPR handle has a heavily textured, no-slip grip and it’s bookended by an offset, elliptical guard and angled pommel that’s crafted of stainless steel. A tough wooden scabbard, accented with black leather-wrap houses the sleek, tactical wakizashi. At 34” overall, it’s ideally sized for covert ops and fast-paced combat. The Honshu Boshin is a wakizashi for a new era!