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Shirasaya vs Katana

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

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

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.