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Kami
06-02-2002, 12:40 PM
Dear Friends,

If possible, I would ask for the following informations concerning
japanese sword terms :

a) I believe KEN and TO came from the chinese kanji for CHIEN (two edged
sword) and TAO (one edged sword) and that the second ideogram (TAO) is
different from the TAO (japanese DO), meaning "way or path". Is that so?

b)I believe TACHI is the combination of two ideograms, the second one seems
to be katana and I don't know what is the reading of the first one. The same
thing happens with WAKIZASHI. Could you explain both to me? Of course, I know what they mean but what does the ideograms read?

d) What is the difference, if any, between SAMURAI, BUSHI, RONIN, TANTO and
TANKEN? Aren's the first three all connected with samurai and the last two the same thing?

e) Was the Aikuchi used primarily by women for ritual suicide (Seppuku), by
striking at the throat? How was called this type of Seppuku (a strike to the throat)? And did the Samurai (male) always perform Seppuku with the Wakizashi?

f) Were the Wakizashi, Tanto and Aikuchi, sometimes made from broken katana?

g) When, why and what for was created the Shirasaya?

I will be thankful for any help.
Best :)

IrimiTom
06-02-2002, 01:38 PM
Kami: regarding d), I believe bushi is what warriors preferred to call themselves, while peasants and other people called them samurai. Ronin I believe are lordless samurai, sometimes this is translated as "mercenaries", but ronin were still bound by samurai codes, I think. (Check out the story of the 47 Ronin who avenged their lord, I frankly do not remember it accurately). Hope I was of some help.

Kami
06-02-2002, 02:56 PM
Originally posted by IrimiTom
Hope I was of some help.

KAMI : You were. Thank you. Anybody else?

Bronson
06-03-2002, 01:46 AM
When, why and what for was created the Shirasaya?


I believe the shirasaya was for storing the blade, not for carrying it. Pete Boylan are you out there? Help us out :D

Bronson

Tim Griffiths
06-03-2002, 03:11 AM
Originally posted by Kami

a) I believe KEN and TO came from the chinese kanji for CHIEN (two edged
sword) and TAO (one edged sword) and that the second ideogram (TAO) is
different from the TAO (japanese DO), meaning "way or path". Is that so?


Yup (at least, according to the Chinese guy here it looks that way - I don't speak Chinese).


b)I believe TACHI is the combination of two ideograms, the second one seems
to be katana and I don't know what is the reading of the first one. The same
thing happens with WAKIZASHI. Could you explain both to me? Of course, I know what they mean but what does the ideograms read?


The first kanji (tai/ta) means plump or thick (in diameter). The second one does mean katana. For wakizashi, waki means side, and the second one by itself means difference or variation (actually, to quote from my dictionary, "distinction, difference, discrepancy, margin, balance"). I don't know why it's used here.


d) What is the difference, if any, between SAMURAI, BUSHI, RONIN, TANTO and
TANKEN? Aren's the first three all connected with samurai and the last two the same thing?


Samurai and Bushi are the same thing, although 'samurai' has more the feeling of soldier, and 'bushi' has more the feeling of warrior. Ronin are samurai without a Master (not such a terrible or romantic thing, by the way - the Hagakure advises only to trust men who had been made a ronin seven times).

Tanken and tanto mean the same thing. 'Tan' means short, 'to' means sword and 'ken' is blade.


e) Was the Aikuchi used primarily by women for ritual suicide (Seppuku), by
striking at the throat? How was called this type of Seppuku (a strike to the throat)? And did the Samurai (male) always perform Seppuku with the Wakizashi?


An aikuchi is a dagger not based on a katana's shape, and was not used just for
suicide. My impression also was that a strike to the heart was traditional, rather than the throat. I don't remember what this is called in Japanese (something about 'honourable following').
As for men, you used what you had - certainly the tanto was used a lot (if you used a wakizashi, and pulled it all the way in, you couldn't complete the cuts as it would hit the spine).


f) Were the Wakizashi, Tanto and Aikuchi, sometimes made from broken katana?


I'm not sure, but I doubt it, at least on a regular basis. The tempering and layer structure of a katana would be ruined by the reforging needed to get a wakizashi shape.


g) When, why and what for was created the Shirasaya?


Dunno


I will be thankful for any help.
Best :)

Hope this counts....

Tim

Kami
06-03-2002, 03:35 AM
Originally posted by Tim Griffiths
Hope this counts....
Tim

Kami : It sure does...;)
Keep the good information coming, guys!
Best

Peter Boylan
06-07-2002, 09:47 PM
Hi Ubaldo,

Ken, which is read as "tsurugi" when it stands alone, comes from what was the character for a straight, two-edged sword. To, read "katana" when it is used alone. I can't find my reference book to look up the meaning of this character at the time it was imported into Japanese. DO, read "michi" when it stands alone, means road and is an entirely different character from "katana."

Tachi is as Tim described it. Wakizashi is actually a really straightforward word. "Waki" is side, and "sashi" comes from "sasu" meaning to put in, in this case, to put in the obi at the side. "Wakizashi" describes how this sword was worn. I should note that wakizashi is a general rather than specific term when dealing with swords, as are most of the terms used.

"Samurai" referred to legally designated class of individuals, while bushi was the more general term for anyone who made their living as a warrior.

"Tan" is short, read "mijikai" by itself. "to" and "ken" are the same as above.

"Aikuchi" was a dagger mounted without a tsuba, if I understand them correctly. They were an extreme back-up weapon if it came down to grappling on the battlefield, and were sometimes given to women in domestic situtations to protect themselves (there is a great anectdote about this from Nitta Sensei, soke of Toda-ha Buko Ryu in Diane Skoss's new "Keiko Shokon" <shameless plug> which available on my website</shameless plug>. Frankly, it's worth remembering that as serious weapons, after the tachi and katana, things fell off fast. One reason for giving women daggers in aiuchi mounts was that without the tsuba they were much easier to conceal.

Frankly, seppuku, which is a more polite term than the rude "hara-kiri"was't as common as romantics in Japan and elsewhere would like to make it. The legendary correct method of seppuku involved cutting your belly open and then cutting your own throat IF you didn't have a second to do it for you. The reason for cutting your throat was that it beats the hell out of waiting to die of dehydradation and shock caused by the belly cut. This could take hours, or longer, to kill you. It's also easier to get right than a thrust to the heart, and you die just as quickly.

As for wakizashi, tanto and aikuchi sometimes having been made from longer blades that were broken, the answer is a resounding YES! In fact, they still often are made from swords that didn't come through the yaki-iri in good shape. The reshaping is done by cutting off the end and reshaping the lines of the blade with polishing stones rather than running it through the forge a second time. If you are going to reheat it, generally a smith will just break it up and use it as raw ore to make another blade. A lot of extra long, old, old tachi were cut down this way to make them fit into katana mounts at the beginning of the peaceful Tokugawa era, since no one needed the extra long, battlefield style blades. It makes me want to cry when I see what was done to some of them.

I'm not sure about the origin of the shirasaya, but I do know that it is strictly a storage saya. For hundreds of years, collectors have kept blades in these and not in more expensive mounts. In fact, most blades today are stored in these, and many don't have functional mounts at all. They don't need them, and unless the collector has an interest in mounts as collectibles, they are a waste of time for him/her.

I hope this is some help, and not too full of inaccuracies.

Peter

Kami
06-08-2002, 01:01 PM
Excellent, Dear Peter!
As the japanese say : "Thank you very much for teaching us"!
Best regards and a good keiko :)