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Introduction to the Japanese Jintachi

Jintachi swords are a modern variety of Japanese sword. In recent years, they have seen surge in popularity in the United States due to their usage in anime television shows and graphic novels. The name itself is fictional and samurai never carried a jintachi. However, the style is based on the tachi swords, which may have been used by horseback riders before the rise in popularity of the katana in the early seventeenth century. For those in the market for a jintachi sword, a closer look at the nuance of the blade and the history of its counterpart, the tachi, can be educational as well as entertaining.

Description of Jintachi Swords

Jintachi swords follow much of the general design style and features that most other Japanese swords do. The shape of the blade is long and slightly curved. It can be anywhere from about 27 to 48 inches in length and is sharpened on only one side.  Most are made from hand-forged steel and may or may not be created using Damascus steel. This technique is visually detected by its distinct dark, rippled pattern. The mottling pattern is meant to resemble flowing water. Damascus steel is said to be a harder material and will hold a sharper edge for a longer period of time. High-carbon steel is also a commonly used material for its shine and durability.

The tsuba, or guard, separates the blade of the sword from the handle. With the jintachi, the handle often appears to be backward. This style is called the reverse curved nakago, or tang, which is the part of the blade that is housed inside of the handle section. This reverse handle allows for the sword to be worn and drawn differently from the traditional katana style. All swords are worn on the left side, so as to be drawn with the right hand. The katana is worn stuck downward into the belt with the cutting edge facing upward. Alternatively, the jintachi and tachi swords are worn with the cutting edge facing downward.When worn, the blade is house in what is called a tachi koshirae. This is a scabbard that hangs from two slings that allows the blade to swing horizontally. Some swords that do not have the reversed handle are still sold as jintachi swords. The koshirae may be elaborately decorated or relatively plane.

The jintachi varies from its historic inspiration, the tachi sword, in a few ways. The primary difference is length. While the jintachi is available in a wide range of sizes, an authentic tachi was measured more precisely between 27- 9/16 inches and 31-1/2 inches. A tachi is usually of more durable materials and can be used in combat. However, for the collector, the jintachi is more conservatively priced. The modern jintachi usually has a cotton-wrapped handle and lacquered wood scabbard.

History of Tachi Swords

Tachi swords are often confused with jintachi swords. They are similar in appearance and in name, but the jintachi was created specifically for commercial sales and was never used in historic combat. The history of the former plays a role in how it inspired the latter.

Historically, ancient tachi swords were forged between 900 and 1596 A.D. This is called the Koto Period and was the first time during which sword makers consistently signed their works. An old tachi is often only distinguishable from a katana from a similar period by the location of the name. Sword makers signed their work by engraving on the blade. The text is always written to face outward when worn. Because of the distinct way that each is worn – one facing downward and the other upward - the two swords have the text engraved on opposite sides, from a visual perspective.

During the Mongolian invasion of Japan from 1274 to 1281 A.D., Kublai Khan attempted to conquer the island. Following the earlier battles, the Japanese sword makers began crafting swords with a thicker and wider blade. The tachi was ideal for horseback usage. However, the uchigatana slowly replaced the tachi as the blade of choice for samurai warriors as battles moved to be more often on foot and the shorter blade of the new sword could more easily accommodate indoor battle scenarios.

Jintachi Swords in Anime

The jintachi sword made its debut in popular culture with the increasing demand for Japanese swords for decorative and costume use. The swords are created to be more affordable to the everyday person who does not intend on using it in hand-to-hand combat with a samurai. Jintachi swords are a practical option for fans of anime who dress as their favorite characters to cosplay for comic and anime conventions or simply want to have a piece of the anime experience. In general, anime refers to any animated cartoons originating in Japan. However, from an American perspective, it may also refer to a specific style of animation.

Much like the cartoon characters, anime swords tend not to follow specific real-world rules and may even possess magical qualities. This makes is somewhat difficult to determine if an animated sword is specifically meant to be a jintachi, katana, or other type of Japanese sword. The following are generally considered to be tachi style swords.

·       The title character in the Inuyashaanime and manga series carries a sword called Tessaiga. The sword can change forms when wielded, but in its resting form, appears to be a jintachi.

·       The manga and animated series Once Piece features several characters with jintachi swords. The sword is primarily carried by marines and vice admirals, though a few of the main characters carry swords that resemble them.

·       The reverse blade sword carried by Himura Kenshin in the anime series Rurouni Kenshin is not explicitly the same type of sword. However, the idea of a non-traditional Japanese sword makes the jintachi an appealing alternative for American cosplayers dressing as the character.

Modern Jintachi Sword Makers

If you are shopping for a modern jintachi sword, you may discover it is more difficult than expected to find exactly the piece for which you are looking. Authentic Japanese sword makers still follow the techniques and procedures of their ancestors, making them quite expensive. The primary availability of commercially crafted swords is replicas and can vary greatly in technique and quality. The following forges are highly reputable and produce this particular style of weapon for collectors.

Ten Ryu forge makes Japanese swords using the traditional methods of hand-forging and fire tempering. The brand puts an emphasis on the traditions of the samurai class and their attention to detail. Each sword from Ten Ryu is handmade by a master sword smith to be fully-functional and battle ready. Swords are sharpened to a razor sharp edge.

Masahiro is the overall branding for a group of forges located throughout China. The company uses a full tang and medium or high carbon steel for the blades, depending on the price point. They are sharpened at the factory before distribution and rated for practice usage.

Ritter Steel is a manufacturer of medieval, samurai, and fantasy weapons in the United States. The company began in 1995 as an offshoot of the catalog sales company Knight’s Edge, which, in addition to swords, sells jewelry and home goods in the same styles. The forge makes all of its weaponry using historically accurate methods and natural materials. Many of their swords are functional and those blades are hand-forged over fire. Swords labeled as decorative use only are not hand-forged.

Dynasty Forge was founded in Canada in 2003 with the goal of crafting functional artwork. It offers three classes of products for collectors of all budget levels. The company initially created only high-end swords of the Daimyo class. It then expanded to offer the mid-priced Bushi line and budget-friendly Musha line. While the first two categories are forged using traditional methods, the Musha line is made with modern tools. All swords are polished extensively before distribution.

Tips for Choosing a Jintachi Sword

The most important factor when choosing a jintachi sword to purchase is how you will be using it. If your primary purpose is decoration or wearing as part of a character costume, you may prefer a weapon that is less historically accurate and more visually appealing. You can find them in varying sizes and a wide range of colors and designs. It you intend to use the sword for light combat or martial arts, you will need something that is sold as battle ready and will hold up to more heavy usage without breaking. If you will be wearing the sword on your person, look for weapons that include the appropriate feature to attach it to your belt or obi.Some may also include a display stand, but these can also be purchased separately. Price is often a factor when making any purchase, but the jintachi is available from a wide range of places, giving you the advantage of being able to choose the one that fits within your budget. You can see these and traditional samurai swords in our store. Please let us know if you have any additional questions.