The Shirasaya Sword is a simple elegant blade with a wood handle and saya. The Shirasaya Sword does not have any fittings. When sheathed it, look like a plain wood stick. True Katana has a large selection of Shirasaya Swords in many different colors of attractive hardwood both lacquered and natural. You can choose Shirasaya in Katana and Wakizashi. The Shirasya is loved by many collectors and is a must, in every sword collection because of its simplicity and elegancy.
I have bought several katanas from true katana, and I’m pleased with every single one. I highly recommend them for their craftsmanship, customer, service, and delivery professionalism. I will most definitely be buying more katanas from true katana.
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Sword was exactly what I was hoping for and my family really loves it as well so yes I will be shopping with you again very soon ☺️
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My mom got me this sword for my birthday! It's Awesome! You guys make a great sword!
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I got this for my son for Christmas he loves it so much. It is exactly what he wanted. Thank you so much
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it’s pretty cool sword, looks pretty nice. i got it hanging in my room if anyone tries to break in my home. makes me feel like a japanese samurai
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Experts believe that the shirasaya was invented during the Edo period (1603-1868). This makes special sense if we consider that during that time the laws restricted the carrying of swords in public in Japan.
After a long period of conflict, this was a time when the government tried to establish peace by imposing regulations on the samurai class. This ended up prohibiting anyone from carrying a sword in public.
During this time in Japanese history, the samurai had been robbed of what meant everything to them; their swords. However, they would not easily diminish the result of years of deep devotion to that Japanese steel.
The only problem was that conventional katana swords, with their Koshirae mount, tended to be ruined if stored for too long periods of time. The lacquered wood of the saya made it prone to sweat, which ruined the blade over the months.
In order to keep their most valuable possession, samurai began to use a specific mount. A sturdy mount that would be able to store the blade of his sword without any corrosion, and at the same time a sober and elegant piece, worthy of the admiration of a samurai warrior.
That mount was the Shirasaya.
With the transition from feudal Japan to modernization, this prohibition disappeared. However, the new weapons, more modern and effective, made it no longer make much sense to go out on the street with Katana, so many of these simply stayed in their original Shirasaya mounts ever since.
Some generals, however, would use Katana again. But this would be more for aesthetic purposes. It should be noted, however, that these swords would also have their place in armed warfare, functioning in a manner similar to that of a combat knife.
What Is a Shirasaya?
Shirasaya Swords are japanese sword mounts that are stripped down to the blade. They usually feature simple, elegant and plain wooden handle and Saya.
The word Shirasaya when translated means white or plain scabbard. Because the shirasaya sword lacks a hand guard and ito-maki or handle wrap it is not recommended for use as cutters.
The use of Shirasaya can be traced back to feudal Japan. The Shirasyaa mounting was invented to hold the samurai sword when stored for a long period of time.
After a long period of conflict, there was a time when the government imposed certain regulations on the Samurai class. Swords were not allowed to be carried by anyone in public which includes the Samurai class.
During combat, Japanese swords were carried in elaborate design Koshirae.
The cross section shape of the Shirasaya is different than that of a working saya. The Shirasyaa sword has a tight tolerance between the mekugi and the tsuka. The blade is double pinned.
Unlike Koshirae Mounting, the Shirasaya is is not intended for cutting. When it was time to go home after battle and there is a need to store the sword for a long period of time, the Shirasaya was used. This special mounting protects the valuable sword.
In fiction and in real life, members of the Yakuza or Japanese Mafia used this as a partially concealed blade when they want to dispatch their rivals or enemies.
Modern day Samurai Shirasaya are normally made of rosewood, ebony wood, maple wood, and different kind of woods available.
This makes a cutting edge an attractive display and the overall look of the sword is simple yet very elegant.
Shirasaya swords are basically used for storage, transport or for display purposes.
From time to time, these are used as disguised weapons and were made famous by the blind Samurai Zatoichi, Japanese gangs and Yakuza movies.
Shirasaya allows the sword to “breath” through the scabbard. This means it should not be painted or lacquered. It is therefore a must to find a scabbard made of natural wood without finishing.
When Did the Shirasaya First Appear?
Experts believe that the Shirasaya first appeared sometime between 1603 and 1868 A.D. during the Edo Period. This was when the Japanese government wanted to establish peace throughout Japan. However, it’s not yet known if the Shirasaya appeared earlier than this era.
The government authorities from that time believed that imposing restrictions on the Samurai class would regulate conflicts among clans. With that, they established specific rules, and one of these was the prohibition of carrying swords.
Since the Samurai didn’t see any further use for their swords, they had to store them for longer periods. And to prevent the blades from acquiring damage, they kept these in a Shirasaya.
This was a special type of sword mounting that retained the quality of a nihonto when stored for extended periods.
Shirasaya in Popular Culture
The shirasaya is often compared with the shikomizue. However, there are some distinct differences between the usages of the two scabbard styles. While the shirasaya and shikomizue are similar in appearance due to the undecorated exterior, the comparison ends there. The shikomizue is a hidden mounting that conceals the blade. It is intended to resemble a walking stick and may be used as such. The mounting could also be used to conceal other weapons like hooks or chains and is often associated with ninjas.
The shikomizue was popularized by the Japanese film and television series Zatoichi. The series ran during the 1960s to 1980s in Japan and told the fictional story of a skilled swordsman who traveled the country, posing as a blind masseuse. The series became popular in the United States following an Americanized remake of the series. That film, calledBlind Fury, is about an American Vietnam War veteran who becomes blind when overseas, but learns to fight from local masters before eventually returning home.
The film industry trend likely contributed to the popularity of the shirasaya among collectors. Modern reproductions are often more elaborate than the historic versions and make attractive display pieces.
There are a few modern films and television series where characters carry a shirasaya in battle, most likely inspired by the Zatoichi films. The fighting style is similar to fencing and the sword is held in one hand. Some of the popular shows that demonstrate this are as follows.
Two live action Japanese films in the 1970s, Lady Snowblood and its sequel, feature a shirasaya. The main character Yuki carries a sword of this style and fights one-handed.
In the Naruto anime and manga series, the character UchihaSasuke carries a sword with a plain shirasaya sheath that also has supernatural powers.
Kanda Yu in the D.Gray-mananime series carries a recognizable sword, which has been replicated as a shirasaya.
Modern Shirasaya Sword Makers
There are several modern forges that produce Japaneseswords in shirasaya scabbards. Most use the traditional Japanese technique for forging and folding the blades. The shirasaya is often less durable than a koshirae, so many are not intended for combat use. Each of these manufacturers produces this style of sword.
Masahiro is a Chinese manufacturing group of several forges. All of the swords produced include a full tang. The technique varies slightly by the individual forge, but each uses either medium carbon steel or high carbon steel. The majority of their products are appropriate for practice.
Musashi Swords is located in China as collaboration between smaller forges, including the reputable Chris Zhou. The swords are created to suit a wide range of budgets. All are hand-forged using carbon steel. They are functional weapons, primarily for light duty rather than heavy combat.
Ryumon swords are made at the Longquan forge in China. The company produces all types of blades from cheap replicas to museum quality display pieces. Budget weapons are produces using modern techniques, while the more expensive ones are crafted the traditional way. Many of their swords are considered battle ready.
What is the Difference between the shirasaya and Katana?
The Shirasaya is a sword mounting while the katana is a Nihonto. The Shirasaya was used for storing various types of nihonto like the Katana, Wakizashi, Tanto, and more. The Katana, on the other hand, is a Nihonto with a curved blade and a single edge.
The Shirasaya translates to “white scabbard”, which describes its featureless design. It was traditionally made of Honoki, a particular type of wood, and consisted of a Saya and a Tsuka.
It featured the Mekugi-Ana for the Mekugi pegs to keep the blade secure.
The Shirasaya was designed for long-term storage of swords when it wouldn’t be used on the battlefield or for practice. It was tight-fitting to prevent moisture from coming into contact with the blade and protect it from corrosion.
If the blade was going to be used often, it was stored in the Koshirae instead.
Additionally, the Shirasaya doesn’t have a Tsuba and Tsuka wrap. This is why it was not suitable for use in combat.
The Katana was the preferred Nihonto of the Samurai. This replaced the tachi sword during the early Muromachi Period. Its blade is curved and single-edged, while its Tsuba was usually circular. The length of its Tsuka was long enough to accommodate two hands.
Unlike the Shirasaya, the Katana featured a Tsuka wrap since it was used for combat.
Through the years, the blade length of the Katana varied. In the late 14th century until the early 15th century, it was between 70 and 73 centimeters long. During the first years of the 16th century, it became shorter by around 10 inches.
Eventually, the Katana became longer again by around 13 inches. This was during the late 16th century when it returned to its original length.
Also, the sword became the preferred and primary weapon in battle. It was the Daito or big sword in the Daisho.
What Is the Purpose of the Shirasaya?
The purpose of the Shirasaya is for storing a Nihonto for long periods. It’s made of a special material that keeps it protected from impact and corrosion.
These were used since the Koshirae, or the Saya for combat could cause corrosion along the blade’s surface.
Characteristics of the Shirasaya
The Shirasaya is a plain Saya that had no design or features. It only had the Mekugi-Ana where pegs were placed to keep the blade secure. Sometimes, it also had the Sayagaki or blade information, indicating when the sword was produced.
It was made of Honoki wood, which is a specific kind of Japanese magnolia. This material was known for being highly durable and shock absorbent.
What makes the Shirasaya an exclusive mount for storing swords for extended periods is its tight fit. It was made this way to block various elements like air and moisture from entering.
Despite having a tight fit and no air, blades stored in the Shirasaya can still breathe. It’s because the material used for the mounting had unique features that the lacquered wood of Koshirae didn’t have.
The Japanese swords are popular even now because the art of training using the swords has been kept alive by the martial arts schools around Japan. Though all types of Japanese blades are being purchased depending on the purpose for which it is being bought, the katana blade enjoys a special place in the hearts of those who are knowledgeable about Japanese swords. Therefore, there is an increase in the demand for shirasaya katana in recent times.
Though shirasaya is being treated as a type of samurai sword, it actually is a scabbard and handles pair that is made of plain wood. It actually amounts to store the blade when it was not used by the Samurais. The Samurais did this because the original koshirae mount of the katana blade actually damaged the blade when kept in it for a long time. This was because the metals used in the decorative fittings sometimes harmed the blade causing rust and corrosion when left unused for some time.
Traditional Shirasaya Vs Modern Shirasaya