Known for its splendor beauty and its fine sharpness, the Japanese Sword (Nihon-to)
has now become one of the most popular item throughout the world.
How to define Japanese swords are complicated, since they are categorized
depending on each year of production and flute length.
Here below is the description of each category.
Categorize by year of production
Japanese swords can be categorized depending on which year it was produced.
Koto (Old Sword)
Sword made from AD 900 to AD 1596 (end of Heian era to Bunroku).
If we go by the Japanese historical period names, it spreads throughout Heian period,
Kamakura period, Nanboku-cho period, Muromachi period, Sengoku period,
and Bunroku era of Azuchi Momoyama period. (Transition from Koto to Shin-to
occurs around Azuchi Momoyama period.)
Shin-to (New Sword)
Sword made from AD 1596 to AD 1771 (Keicho era to Meiwa).
This was the era ruled by the first Tokugawa Shogun, Ieyasu Tokugawa up
until the 10th Tokugawa Shogun, Ieharu Tokugawa, the grandson of Yoshimune Tokugawa.
Shin-shin-to (New New Sword)
The sword made from AD 1772 Anei era (Edo period) to Meiji period,
when Japan was thrown into turmoil and people faced rapid changes.
This was the era ruled by the 10th Tokugawa Shogun, Ieharu Tokugawa
(the late days of his rule) up until Meiji Emperor.
Gendai-to (Modern Swords)
These swords were made during and after Taisho period.
Categorize by its flute length
Japanese swords can be categorized depending on each of its flute length.
Flute length is above 60cm.
Wakizashi (Companion Sword)
Flute length of 30cm to 60cm
Tanto (Short Blade)
Flute length is below 30cm
Tachi (Big Sword) and Katana (Sword)
When a samurai carries a Katana, they wear them around the waist belt
with the blade facing upward.
For Tachi, they are hung them from the waist belt with the blade facing downward.
So to put it short, the difference is how the samurai wore them.
Therefore, we do not simply call all long swords Tachi.
The usage of each sword is different as well. Tachi is used by high ranked samurai,
who has the privilege to ride horses.
So the whole form is designed to be able to attack the enemies running along
the ground while riding on the horse.
And because it is used while mounting on a horse, it is hanged from the waist belt.
On the other hand, Katana is a weapon used for ground battles
when samurai dismantle from their horses. It is designed to suite for
quick attacks such as a single combat.
Since they need to walk with their sword, it is very uncomfortable
if they had to hang it from their waist like a Tachi.
In addition, these swords must be taken out from your sheath quickly,
the curve is rather straight compared to Tachi.
Also if you hold the sword with the blade facing upward, you can swiftly attack
your enemy in the ground as you pull out your weapon.
That is another reason why they are worn with the blade facing up.