The official term for Katana is Uchigatana, the primary sword of the Samurai in feudal Japan after the “great sword” odachi became obsolete around the end of the Muromachi period. Katana is a single-edged, curved blade about 60 cm or two feet in length. This two-handed sword had a long grip and was worn with the blade facing up, thrust through the belt in what is known as “katana style” today. Another unique feature of the Katana was the signature of the swordsmith, often used as an indication of its quality.
The Wakizashi was the short sword that paired with the Katana to make up the Daisho (“great and small”) of the official Samurai. Daisho were typically made to match in color and decoration. The Wakizashi was typically the sword that would be worn indoors while others were removed and served as a backup sword to the Katana when worn as part of a Daisho.
This short sword rarely measured more than 30 cm and was used for stabbing or slashing in close combat during the Heian period. The thick cross-section of the blade made it effective in piercing armor. Tanto were sometimes worn in place of Wakizashi in a Daisho and were commonly used for seppuku. Commoners did not carry Tanto, but women would sometimes carry a small version called a Kaiken for self-defense. Over time, this short sword became more of a decorative or ceremonial knife and today, designers of western tactical knives are known to take inspiration from the Tanto.