Kaiken : the unknown Japanese sword

kaiken banniere

When we talk about Japanese katana, we usually think of the uchigatana… However, not all Japanese swords have long blades ! Some swords like the wakizashi have shorter blades.

A smaller blade offers:
1. better freedom of movement
2. better maneuverability for hand-to-hand combat

The kaiken is a member of the small blade katana family. Sometimes it is even considered a knife.

Presentation of the kaiken

The kaiken is a traditional Japanese sword. It has a blade that goes from 20 to 25 cm. It is therefore one of the smallest weapons for a samurai.

His small blade gives him a certain advantage in combat. Unlike the longer katana, it is robust and versatile.

Although there are different styles of kaiken, the most common is the straight single-edged blade. This arrangement reduces the need for blade maintenance.

It is also possible to find kaiken knives double-edged. While more devastating in combat, the latter require greater attention.

However, in the life of the samurai, the fight was not the largest of his time. He had to train and sharpen his blade for many hours to prevent it from getting damaged and rusty.


Its advantage against the long swords uchigatana

1. Long swords can easily break in battle because of their long blade. This is not the case with the kaiken.

2. The kaiken offers a much better handling than the uchigatana. A Japanese sword of the uchigatana type must be carried with two hands to be really effective. On the other hand, a kaiken can be handled with one hand and in a fluid way.

3. Also, it is possible to hide a kaiken underyour clothes. That’s why women used it for self-defense. On the other hand, the long Japanese katana are only worn on the belt.

Are you interested in Japanese weapons? See our article on 15 most deadly Japanese weapons.

The use of the kaiken by samurai and women

The kaiken among the samurai

The kaiken was never the weapon of choice for samurai. The latter served as asecondary weapon, in addition to the katana on the belt. The latter had the choice between wearing a wakizashi or a kaiken for their close combat. The kaiken is so small that it can even fit in a pocket of a traditional Japanese outfit.

The kaiken for women

The kaiken was usually given by the husband on the occasion of the wedding. It marks the link that the wife has with her husband. The kaiken was then linked to its bearer who could not get rid of it.

The kaiken is thus an integral part of the Japanese culture.
A woman separating from her kaiken was a sign of dishonor and had disastrous consequences in traditional Japanese society.

A more morbid aspect of the kaiken is that it was the weapon of choice for jigai. It is a suicide of the wife by perforation of the carotid. This one was to follow her husband in death, if he operated a seppuku on himself.

Use of the Kaiken

Kaiken vs Tanto : what are the differences ?

Although they are very similar, they have characteristics that set them apart:

  • the blade of the tanto is slightly longer than that of the kaiken
  • the tanto is a weapon of war. It was used for battlefield combat.
  • The kaiken is purely a weapon forself-defense. It is not intended to be used to fight the enemy.

The kaiken has the particularity to be made with meticulousness and detail. Its small size requires meticulous work from the blacksmith and the polisher.

This small dagger has allowed Japan to be recognized worldwide for the quality of its forges.

Illustration Tanto

How to choose your kaiken ?

1. In general, you are much more likely to end up with a quality kaiken than an uchigatana.

2. However, pay attention to the quality of the steel and its carbon content. You will need to pay special attention to the blade. The kekkai will be more resistant and robust than the uchigatana because it is smaller. It will also requiremaintenance, but it will be less than your other swords.

3. To select your katana, go to our specialized store. We offer Japanese weapons made in the spirit of Japanese tradition.

All our models are forged by masters and are works of art in their own right. We collaborate with experienced blacksmiths to offer you high quality swords.

FAQ : kaiken, the unknown Japanese sword

What is a kaiken?

A kaiken is a small dagger for self-defense. It is often hidden in a kimono or in a pocket to create surprise. It has a blade of 20 to 30 cm in length. The kaiken is worn by samurais but also by women.

How to recognize a kaiken ?

A kaiken can be recognized by the length of the blade which is between 20 and 30 cm. The latter often has a single sharp edge but can be double-edged in some cases. It also features a sturdy blade and wooden handle.