Take a look at the wakizashi and you will notice that it is just a shorter version of the very popular katana; it was also carried by the samurai during the feudal period in Japan and it was worn as a pair with the katana.
It is necessary to carry these weapons together (though sometimes they also include a tanto) to clearly show everyone that the wielder was a samurai since the swords appear as the side arm of these samurai.
Usually, the wakizashi sword is worn along with the katana and the carrying of these weapons were called the daisho which literally means small and large – dai or large to describe the katana while sho is for the smaller weapon which is the wakizashi.
Features of the Wakizashi
Generally, the wakizashi’s blade measures around twelve to twenty-four inches; however, there are different sizes of these weapons where one measures close to the katana’s length and is called the o-wakizashi, while the wakizashi that has almost a similar measurement to the tanto is called the ko-wakizashi.
When the wakizashi is carried together with the katana, it was an official sign that the wielder of the two swords was a samurai from Japan’s feudal period. Although some would assume that the wakizashi is just the smaller version of the katana, these weapons could be forged and made differently, with different cross-sections as well.
History of the Wakizashi Sword
Just like every other authentic Japanese sword made in the past, the wakizashi has been utilized by the samurai as far back as the fifteenth or sixteenth century; it was primarily utilized as an auxiliary or backup sword, a weapon great for close-quarter battles, as well as a sword used for beheading their defeated enemies.
Furthermore, these weapons were also were made for decapitating their defeated opponents and the wakizashi was also used by the samurai to commit a ritual suicide or Seppuku; because of this, the weapon was referred to as the Honor Blade among foreign individuals. Miyamoto Musashi, a master swordsman was famous for wielding a wakizashi and a katana in both hands, simultaneously, to fight his opponents to achieve the ultimate advantage during combat.
In the past, samurai who carried these two swords would leave their katana with the servant of the building or on a rack called the katana-kake; when set on the rack, they need to have the katana’s hilt pointing to the left so the weapon had to be removed or pulled out with the left hand.
After this, the katana would be carefully passed to the right hand then placed on the wielder’s right waist, allowing him to only remove the sword with his left hand. This was necessary to make drawing the sword more difficult and would eventually decrease all suspicions and negative thoughts about the samurai. When it comes to the wakizashi, this will be worn at all times unlike the katana, hence, was known as the side-arm of every samurai. Interestingly, a samurai would have his wakizashi with him from the time he wakes to the time he sleeps.
Wakizashi in Modern-Day Fiction
Today, the wakizashi is commonly used by fictional characters that would be categorized into the archetype of stealth wherein the characters would usually be ninjas, assassins, or even spies. The reason for this was due to the usefulness and efficiency of the wakizashi especially in close quarters and its ability and ease to be concealed.
A popular video game of this time called Final Fantasy X features one of the characters there, a samurai aeon called Yojimbo who makes use of a wakizashi; also, in a Japanese anime called Samurai Champloo, all of the main characters namely Fuu, Mugen, and Jin, all wield a wakizashi; in fact, Jin and Mugen actually win most of their challenging battles in the anime using the wakizashi.