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Tachi

TachiThe tachi is an older style of Japanese sword that appeared around the late Heian period. From around the Muromachi period, the katana style of sword became more commonplace; and by the Edo period it was katana that were used for general use, while tachi were reserved for use only on ritual or ceremonial occasions.

Tachi typically have longer blades than katana, at approximately 60cm or greater in length. Longer-bladed swords of approximately 90cm or longer are referred to as ōdachi. Another distinguishing feature of tachi is that they would be worn on the wearer’s left waist with the cutting edge down, so the left-hand side of the sword’s nakago (tang) faces outwards away from the wearer’s body when the cutting edge is pointed downwards.

Typically, curved-bladed Japanese swords made from the Heian period onwards which have a shinogi (a ridgeline that separates the edge of the blade from the back) are called tachi. Swords such as those excavated from ancient Japanese tombs and those that can be seen at the Shōsō-in treasure house in Nara (which are of foreign origin) are also referred to as tachi, but the word is written using slightly different characters in Japanese. A sword can also be judged to be a tachi if the swordsmith’s name is engraved on the front side of the tang (referred to as hakiomote).

Historical Examples

Itomaki Tachi as used by Minamoto no Yorimitsu (Raiko)

Inscription: Yasutsuna (Meibutsu Dōjigiri “Monster Cutter”)
The beloved tachi of Minamoto no Yoshimitsu, a warlord of excellent military prowess who survived through the mid-Heian period. It is said to be the tainted blade that Yorimitsu used to slay the mythical boy-faced oni (ogre) Shuten Dōji.

Kuro Urushi Aikuchi Uchigatana (Guardless uchigatana with black lacquer scabbard) as used by Uesugi Kenshin & Kagekatsu

No name inscription: Ichimonji (Gō Yamatorige)
The beloved tachi of the Azuchi-Momoyama to Edo period warlord Uesugi Kagekatsu, and the Sengoku (warring states) period daimyo and war hero Uesugi Kenshin. It is a masterpiece that reflects the strength in life of these two legendary warlords who wielded it.

Myōjundenji Sohaya no Tsuruki Utsusu Nari as used by Tokugawa Ieyasu

Important Cultural Property: Kawazuka Rōiro Saya Katana
It is held historically that Tokugawa Ieyasu, the first shogun of the Edo period, left a will requesting that the sword should be displayed with its kissaki (tip) facing to the west, as the sword that would guard over his descendents.

Kinnashikoji Kiku Kirimon Makie Itomaki Tachi (Itomaki tachi with kinnashiji painted scabbard decorated with makie of chrysanthemum and paulownia crests) as used by Tokugawa Hidetada

Inscription: Sanjō (Meibutsu Mikazuki “Crescent Moon” Munechika)
This is the famous sword that was loved by Tokugawa Hidetada, Ieyasu’s third son and second shogun of the Edo shogunate. It is an extremely graceful and high-quality tachi that is counted amongst the Tenka Goken (literally the “Five Swords Under Heaven”); the five greatest Japanese swords of all.

Katana

KatanaKatana are said to have a history of over 550 years, and existed at the very heart of Japanese culture from the Muromachi period right up until the beginning of the Meiji era. The sugata (overall blade shape), hamon (temper-line) and jigane (base material of the blade) of katana exhibit clear and distinguishing characteristics depending on the period and region during which they were made, and the swordsmith that made them. The shape of a katana alone is packed with various historical information.

Katana began to evolve further and changed into shorter, more easily usable shapes than the tachi that had been used until that time. From around the mid-Muromachi period, it became the typical established style to carry two katana, one large and one small. Essentially, the large sword would be a full-length katana, and the smaller sword would be a shorter-length wakizashi.

From the Edo period onwards, many daimyo (feudal lords) began to treat katana as pieces of art or antiques, and found value in the giving of katana as gifts.

Through selling katana, we also hope to provide our customers with the impetus to want to study and learn more about Japanese history.

Historical Examples

Kinarare Same Ao Urushi Uchigatana (Uchigatana with kinarare gilded rayskin and blue lacquer scabbard) as used by Kuroda Jōsui

Gold koftgari inscription: Hasebe Kunishige (Meibutsu Heshikiri)
This sword was bestowed upon the Azuchi-Momoyama Period warlord and general known commonly as Kuroda Kanbei by Oda Nobunaga. The name “heshikiri” is derived from the story that Nobunaga once used the sword to cut right down through a kitchen cupboard and kill the person hiding under it.

Yoshimoto Samonji as used by Oda Nobunaga

Oda Nobunaga was a famous Sengoku warlord. He was active between the Sengoku (warring states) and Azuchi-Momoyama periods.
The sword is inscribed in gold koftgari with words indicating that it was the sword that Imakawa Yoshimoto was carrying on May 19, 1560, when Oda Nobunaga (of Owari Province) killed him at the Battle of Okehazama.

Yoshimitsu (Ichigo Hitofuri) as used by Toyotomi Hideyoshi

This was the beloved sword of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, who served Oda Nobunaga during the Azuchi-Momoyama period.
It is a famous sword that is well known for being the only katana (hence the name ichigo hitofuri) to be made by the swordsmith Yoshimitsu, who was active during the last days of the Kamakura period but primarily made tantō short swords.
The sword was damaged by fire during one of the great fires of Edo, but was later re-forged at the hands of the swordsmith Echizen Yasutsugu.

Koshi Kizami Kuro Urushi Togidashi Same no Uchigatana Koshirae (Uchigatana-style koshirae with black lacquered polished rayskin scabbard with koshikizami grooving; commonly known as the Kasen koshirae) as used by Hosokawa Tadaoki

Inscription: Nōshū Seki-jū Kanesada Saku (made by Kanesada of Seki, Mino Province) (Kasen Kanesada)
This sword was treasured by the warlord Hosokawa Tadaoki, who was active from the Sengoku (warring states) period into the early-Edo period.
It is a great masterpiece made by a swordsmith from Mino Province (present day Gifu), historically one of Japan’s two great sword-producing regions.

Tantō

TantōThe term tantō basically refers to short katana, of length around 30cm or less. As one exception, there are some swords that are more than 30cm long but shaped like tantō, which are referred to as sunnobi tantō (meaning long or oversized tantō).

Historically, tantō played an invaluable role as futokorogatana (daggers that could fit into the folds of a one’s kimono) for personal protection in places such as inside castles and at meetings, etc., where carrying full-sized katana was not permitted.

Since tantō were referred to as katana for a long period of time, there is not a lot of information that remains in relation to older tantō. They were also referred to by various other names, including sasuga (stabbing sword), katana (written as “small katana”), koshigatana (waist katana), sayamaki (wrapped scabbard) and inken (concealed sword).

The difference between tantō and wakizashi is that tantō are typically shorter and have no tsuba (handguard) attached to them. For this reason, they are best suited to use in close-quarters combat. Because their presence is less likely to be noticed, they are also well suited to surprise attacks.

Historical Examples

Kenshin Kagemitsu as used by Uesugi Kenshin

It is said that Uesugi Kenshin carried this sword with him at all times. The name Kenshin Kagemitsu is inscribed on the body of blade itself. It is held that the incurving-shaped kataochi gunome (zigzag-style) hamon pattern originated with Kagemitsu.

Aizen Kunitoshi as used by Mori Tadamasa

Inscription: Kunitoshi
This sword was the beloved tantō of the warlord Mori Tadamasa, who was active between the Azuchi-Momoyama and early-Edo periods. The sword was passed down by Toyotomi Hideyoshi to Tokugawa Ieyasu, who in turn passed it down to Tadamasa.

Kaneuji

The swordsmith Kaneuji was born in Yamato Province (present-day Nara Prefecture), and later moved to Shizu in Mino Province (Gifu). It is said that he learned the Masamune style of sword making in Sagami Province (Kanagawa).

Kiyotsuna

The swordsmith Kiyotsuna moved from Yamato Province (present-day Nara Prefecture) to Suō Province (Yamaguchi), and is held to have been the originator of the Niō school; a group of sword makers known for the strongly Yamato character of their work.

Wakizashi

WakizashThe term wakizashi refers to backup weapons used at times when the wearer was unable to use their main sword (katana, etc.) Until the Muromachi period, wakizashi were referred to as shōtō (small katana), meaning the smaller sword in a daishō koshirae pair of uchigatana. In the modern era, they came to be called wakizashi. For this reason, wakizashi do not have any stylistically distinguishing characteristics as a type of Japanese sword.

The dōchūzashi that were carried mainly by peasant farmers and chōnin (town-dwelling merchants and craftsmen) for personal protection when travelling are also wakizashi. They are characterized by the fact that, as with tantō, persons other than samurai were permitted to carry them.

It is also said that any person who felt that they were being treated unreasonably when subjected to jōiuchi (being attacked at the order of the attacker’s superior) or bureiuchi (being attacked by a person of higher social status for an act of dishonor) were permitted to draw their wakizashi to defend themselves.

Historical Examples

Yukihide

Inscription: Sa no Yukihide
This tantō was used by Katsura Kogorō, who made his name as a central figure in the sonnō jōi movement (literally “revere the king, expel the barbarians”) to overthrow the Tokugawa shogunate during the Bakumatsu period. Yukihide was active as a swordsmith retained by the Tosa Domain in Tosa Province (present-day Kōchi Prefecture).

Tsunatoshi

Inscription: Katō Hachirō Tsunatoshi
Tsunatoshi was a swordsmith in the employ of the Uesugi clan, rulers of the Yonezawa Domain in Dewa Province (present-day Yamagata Prefecture). He was a master swordsmith who specialized in the Bizen-style gonome choji (zigzag clove) and Yamato-style suguha (straight) hamon patterns.

Yoshimichi

Inscription: Tanbanokami Yoshimichi
The distinguishing characteristic of this wakizashi is its distinctive hamon (temper-line) pattern, which resembles the gently meandering flow of a river. Because of the extremely sharp cutting edge of his blades, Yoshimichi is listed as a creator of wazamono (loosely translated as “sharp swords”).

Kunishige

Inscription: Bichhu no Kuni Mizuta-jū Kunishige Saku (made by Kunishige of Mizuta, Bicchu Province)
Mizuta Kunishige is a famous master swordsmith who is listed as a creator of ryōwazamono (“good sharp swords”). His work resembles the sōshūmono; swords made in Sagami Province (present-day Kanagawa Prefecture) during the Nambokuchō (Northern and Southern Courts) period.

Others

OthersHitotachi.com also accepts orders for other types of Japanese swords, aside from tachi, katana, tantō and wakizashi.

Provided that they still exist today, we can also produce pole-mounted weapons such as naginata and yari based on reference materials.

Even in the case of blades that no longer exist, as long as there are sufficient reference materials or existing weapons with many similar parts, there is still a possibility that we can recreate your desired weapon in accordance with your wishes.

*However, please note that we cannot produce yoroi (armor), items of protective wear, or other items that are essentially unrelated to swords and edged weapons.

We pay particular attention to the fine details of each and every sword that we produce. If you have any queries, please feel free to consult with us.

Historical Examples

Koresuke

This is a late-Kamakura period naginata. Full details of the school and period are unclear, but the swordsmith Koresuke’s name appears in the kokensho. The naginata is currently kept at Kyoto National Museum.

Nagamitsu

Inscription: Nagamitsu
This naginata was made some time during the mid-to-late Kamakura period. It is a valuable naginata that was presented to the Imperial household by the Ogasa family during the Meiji era, and has been maintained in almost its current condition to this day.

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