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Stupid question? A clear definition of Wakizashi?


Freddie
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I have just enter the wonderful world of Japanese swords and culture. But I’m stuck on one question that I don’t seam to find an clear answer on. 

 

How is the Wakizashi defined?

and please don’t say a Japanese sword they is shorter than the Katana.

 

The blade should be “approximately” 30-60cm. Does that mean that a Katana must be 60+ cm and a Tanto 30- cm?

 

Is there a more specific definition?

 

sorry for my lack in knowledge ;-)

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44 minutes ago, DoTanuki yokai said:

I don’t have  read the Sesko article and i think that the intentioned purpose the blade was made for defines what it is. Everything else was added later and is more like a way for dealers to describe their products.


Firstly, all of this is covered ground on this forum. Several times in fact. Just one such thread (but I think there have been others): 


Secondly, sword length was codified by Hideyoshi and his successors. So, we cannot say that “everything else was added later” for the use of “dealers”. Blatantly wrong statement. 

 

 

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Thank you guys so much. So to simplify it, the rule of thumb is the 30 respectable 60cm.

 

I like the idea about the umbrella term. With makes everything relatively between two blades.

 

Also it was interesting that you can check the mei and the roundish or flat nakago-mune for clues to what kind of blade it is.

 

very nice and interesting article @Edwolf.

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27 minutes ago, Gakusee said:


Firstly, all of this is covered ground on this forum. Several times in fact. Just one such thread (but I think there have been others): 


Secondly, sword length was codified by Hideyoshi and his successors. So, we cannot say that “everything else was added later” for the use of “dealers”. Blatantly wrong statement. 

 

 

 

 

This^

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 Personally I have no objection to the dealers rigid interpretation of a Katana being over 24 inches blade length. I have picked up a couple of very decent swords for bargain prices as a result.

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27 minutes ago, Dave R said:

 Personally I have no objection to the dealers rigid interpretation of a Katana being over 24 inches blade length. I have picked up a couple of very decent swords for bargain prices as a result.

:haven’t thought about that.  :-)

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I think we can get very fixated about sword definitions and lengths. As mentioned in Marcus's article, the Tokugawa were obviously uptight about commoners carrying swords that were just below 2 shaku, probably in overlong saya, and decreed the maximum lengths. Having said that, the samurai class were obviously not so rigid in their attitude, wearing swords commensurate to their stature. I have a daisho in which the daito is only 22.4" (57cm) long and the shoto 18.1" (46cm) which I worried about for a while before being told it was for a small person.

Ian Bottomley

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On 2/17/2021 at 1:28 PM, Dave R said:

 Personally I have no objection to the dealers rigid interpretation of a Katana being over 24 inches blade length. I have picked up a couple of very decent swords for bargain prices as a result.

 

 I just went and checked again, and though of quite different weights and styles they both have a nagasa of 21 inches and just one mekugi ana in the unsigned nakago. Are they wakizashi of unusual length, or short katana.

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I think the "modern" definition of 60.6cm is very useful. There is one notable exception of Bizen, and to lesser extent Mino blades from around Tembun (1496-1540) period, where a lot of ubu swords are 56-62cm yet were clearly intended to be the main weapon, upper classes included, and the ones that are 62cm long are clearly of the very same kind and type of weapon as those with "only" 58cm.

Aside from this, one clearly sees that in Edo times 60.6cm was always a red line of sorts, whatever the law said. There are a lot of daito that are shortened exactly to this size, with a clear intent to preserve its long sword status. Wakizashi "touching" up this range at say 60.1cm are anything but common. 

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Always natural to learn the rules first and the exceptions afterwards, the way a child learns language.

 

When a child says "I thinked", it shows an understanding of how to use the past tense, but when his/her classmates all laugh,  shouting, "it's 'thought', stupid!"  then an awareness of some kind of exception is triggered.

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I have to confess that i was very lazy in my first comment and then felt kind of offended. So I’m sorry if I made you work to prove me wrong but that was at least what I expect. I’m not saying there is not stated wakizashi, I just wasn’t able To find the original Japanese source to proof.

What I really wanted to say in my first comment is that the 60,6 and 30.3 cm definition is established by dealers. I saw some origami of the nbthk that say blades a few cm longer than 30.3 are tanto. And later the nbthk corrected that paper saying it is wakizashi now.  

Thanks. 

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3 hours ago, DoTanuki yokai said:

I have to confess that i was very lazy in my first comment and then felt kind of offended. So I’m sorry if I made you work to prove me wrong but that was at least what I expect. I’m not saying there is not stated wakizashi, I just wasn’t able To find the original Japanese source to proof.

What I really wanted to say in my first comment is that the 60,6 and 30.3 cm definition is established by dealers. I saw some origami of the nbthk that say blades a few cm longer than 30.3 are tanto. And later the nbthk corrected that paper saying it is wakizashi now.  

Thanks. 

Likely that is only the case with any tanto over 1 shaku that is not in sunnobi shape (correct?). While those are a bit over the stated length the shape fully implies tanto while wakizashi are generally distinguishable from tanto sugata. Happily awaiting friendly correction as I may very well be wrong.

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Don’t bother: there is only one official classification done to avoid endless discussion
 

Under or equal to One shaku: Tanto

Between one to two shaku: wakizashi

Over two shaku: katana or tachi

 

Now you are free to use whatever term you want but officially the above classification will be used. In the same way in official papers, you’ll only see : Naginata naoshi.

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1 hour ago, Fuuten said:

Likely that is only the case with any tanto over 1 shaku that is not in sunnobi shape (correct?). While those are a bit over the stated length the shape fully implies tanto while wakizashi are generally distinguishable from tanto sugata. Happily awaiting friendly correction as I may very well be wrong.

 

The problem is that wakizashi length swords came into being at least twice via completely independent paths.

In Nambokucho they appeared as oversized tanto. In Muromachi in addition to that there was introduction of significantly reduced in size daito. Both functionality and design of those two is drastically different as well.

So sunnobi tanto in wakizashi length is still a derivative of tanto and was often associated with "tanto-heavy" lineages like Soshu. The kind of wakizashi one could use in a daisho, i.e. shinogi zukuri, is a derivative of daito, and could be made by smiths specializing in daito rather than tanto. It is also a relatively recent phenomena. Though attempts at "ko-daito" were occasionally made way before, and such pre-Muromachi examples should be called wakizashi - since they were probably intended to be such.

 

Which term is being used can thus depend on the context. If one discusses how Rai tends to be tanto heavy lineage, then even very large, later sunnobi examples can be referred to as tanto, since they were intended to be used as a large tanto.

In the same way I would not call uchigatana at "just" 58cm a wakizashi, since it was never intended to be one, i.e. worn as a side, additional weapon, or a large sword which could still be carried indoors (you would still have to surrender it in places where daito were not worn), or to avoid legal/appearances issues. Which when it comes to long swords were common even during Nambokucho times - in Ashikaga's armies kuge generally avoided wearing armor or carrying swords especially during public events.

 

 

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