Nodachi Sword – Large Japanese Battlefield Sword

The Nodachi Sword

Name:  Nodachi Sword
Blade Length: 90+ cm
Handle Length: 35-50 cm
Weight: 1.97 kg
Used By:  Samurai Class of Feudal Japan; Japanese soldiers in the battlefield
Function: Votive offering to a shrine in honor of patron gods; used in ceremonies and prayer before a war
Place of Origin: Japan
Date Produced: 5th century
Special Features: Similar to Chinese Miao dao, Spanish Espada Bastarda, Scottish Claymore; Claim as a legendary sword from mythology

Nodachi Sword Background

Nodachi was said to be inspired from legendary mythology. Japanese Nodachi was a traditionally made two handed sword of Japan. Samurai Nodachi was a sword of Samurai class of feudal Japan.

During the 5th century proof that this sword was created during that period was produce because of an unearthed sword found from a mound in Tochigi. Nodachi sword was said to be closely affiliated to the Chinese Miao dao, westernized Spanish Espada Bastarda and Scottish Claymore.

The “O” use for Nodachi means great. Even if the qualification for being classified as an Odachi means a blade length of at least 90.91 cm, there is no definite size for this sword. It is often referred to whoever used it as a great field sword. This is because Samurai Nodachi can do a lot of damage to any enemy near the warrior using this sword.

Nodachi Sword

The Nodachi is significantly longer than tachi in terms of appearance and design. This sword was carried by foot soldiers because of its size. This sword was specifically design for war. This sword was used on the open battlefields because of its length.

Using it indoors or for close quarter battle would defeat the purpose for which it was constructed. However, this is not use most of the time.

The Nodachi sword is often compared to a Katana. Even today, collectors have differing opinions on which of these two is the better sword. Some say that this sword falls under a great sword and a Japanese polearm because of its huge size. However, polearm were issued to armies because of its ease of use. In this case, this sword does not permit the owner to use it with great ease.

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Everything You Need to Know about Nodachi Swords

The Katana was and is one of the most beloved swords by the Japanese. Not only did it give a twist to conventional swords, allowing the novel technique of drawing and attacking in a single movement, but it was also extremely comfortable for fighting in places where there was not so much space.

What happens, however, when the fight is in open field?

What happens when one of your biggest enemies is not the infantry troops, but the cavalry attacking your troops without rest?

Then what you need is a sword capable of dealing with both foot soldiers and horsemen. A weapon capable of saving you even when you are being attacked by a charge of cavalry. A weapon that, some believe, was capable of cutting a horse in two.

What you need is the Nodachi.

Japanese Nodachi Sword
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History of the Nodachi (or Odachi)

It is believed that Nodachi first appeared in the 5th century. Some attributed these swords to Japanese mythology.

For example, it was believed that the sword called “Hutsunomi-tamano-tsurugi”, of enormous proportions, had been delivered to the emperor by the hand of a god, in order to end a revolt. Today we know that such a sword had been forged during the Heian period. Apparently, the emperor had requested it just as a replica of a sword from Japanese mythology.

During this period, only the strongest and most skillful warriors were given the responsibility of carrying a Nodachi to the battlefield. This is because it was extremely difficult both to wield it properly, due to its weight and size, and to draw it -reason because it was carried on the back or on the hand.

Its colossal size made it impossible to use it indoors, so it was only used in open field in battles in which the opponent had cavalry troops. During this time the belief arose that this sword is capable of cutting a horse and its rider in two.

The Best Nodachi Swordsman

One of the most famous warriors in Japanese history used a Nodachi to fight. His name was Sasaki Kojiro. He lived during the Sengoku and early Edo periods.

It is believed that Sasaki learned to fight by the hand of his master Seigen Toda, who was also his training partner. By then Sasaki had already chosen to use Nodachi in response to his master’s excellent use of kodachi, which is a considerably short sword.

Sasaki would end up excelling in his use of the Nodachi and adopting it as his main weapon. His sword was called a “drying stick” and had a blade measuring more than 90cm. Despite the enormous size and weight of this weapon, Sasaki Kojiro learned to master it with ease, allowing his blows with it to be unusually fast and precise.

He even developed his own technique, known as “rotating swallow cut”, which was named because it simulated the movement of a swallow in flight. This consisted of a fierce and fast cut downwards and immediately another fast cut upwards. A variant of this attack could be to push the sword backwards during the second stage of the attack, and then make a blow upwards at a certain angle, emulating an eagle as it took flight.

Throughout his life, Kojiro had many successful duels against other warriors. And when he died he did so against one of the most famous swordsmen in Japanese history: Musashi.

Osaka Castle

Prohibition of Nodachi

After the war of Osaka-Natsuno-Jin in 1615 (battle between Ieyasu Tokugawa and Mitsunari Ishida), the popularity of Nodachi as a combat weapon fell, and it began to be used mainly for rites and ceremonies.

This is due to two factors:

Open-field battles ended after 1615. This caused the Nodachi to lose relevance, taking most of the fighting in reduced environments where the katana was more viable.

The Bakufu government passed a new law prohibiting the carrying of large swords. This made it illegal to carry a Nodachi, so many of them were reduced to comply with the regulatory measure. This is one of the main reasons why to find old Nodachi in so rare. Most of those that survived were those whose use was intended to worship the gods.

Main Use of a Nodachi Sword

The Nodachi has the same general appearance as its close cousin, the Tachi. The difference is that this is a massive sword that usually measures more than half of its carrier. As mentioned earlier, however, using it involved great skill and strength, so only a few were able to use it effectively.

Here are some of the most common uses for these swords.

  • Sword against cavalry: The reason for their existence and the main use given to the Nodachi was to confront cavalry. In this sense it was believed that it was capable of cutting a horse and its rider in one blow. But not only that. Thanks to its size, it was perfect for attacking the horse’s legs, mutilating it and making it fall along with its rider.
  • As a ceremonial weapon: As mentioned above, this type of swords were strongly related to the gods. It is therefore not surprising that they were also ceremonial weapons, used for offerings, as decoration, or for prayers in which victory was requested.
  • Symbol of strength: Nodachi was also used to demonstrate the strength and presence of an army, as well as a banner, spear, or other pieces intended to embolden troops. And it’s obvious why; their presence alone commands respect.
  • To practice: It is well known that many martial arts schools based on swords have chosen to teach their apprentices with Nodachi. In this way, having spent a good deal of time practicing with such a heavy sword, handling a Katana or any other type of weapon would become a much easier task.

Whichever destination it is destined for, it is clear that the Nodachi is a sword that stands out with the naked eye, as it is one of the largest swords in Japanese history.

Reasons Why the Nodachi didn’t last

  • This sword was difficult to forge than that of a standard size sword
  • It will take a lot of steel to produce a Nodachi and it would be expensive to have another piece created
  • Wielding this sword needs greater strength. Warriors prefer using naginata or nagamaki since these are easier to use in the battlefield
  • If the warrior wielding it is not that skilled enough the use of this sword can harm him. Legend states that Nodachi can cleave a warrior and his horse in just one blow
  • Used most of the time for training purposes to help the warriors become accustom to the size of the average size weapon
  • Short stint popularity from 1330 to 1390

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Purposes of a Nodachi Sword

  • Offering for gods and shrine. Some of these swords were dedicated before going to war while others were place on shrines as legendary swords of mythology
  • Use by soldiers as a weapon during battles
  • Too long swords were use as symbol for an army. When it is impractical to use such a sword they use it like a flag
  • Use for ceremonial purposes
  • Shows the skills of a swordsmith

Nodachi Production Issues

Creating this sword needs teamwork. It would require an extra ordinary teamwork to create one. Making a Nodachi sword needs special facilities.  Nodachi being longer than the average sword complicates the heating and forging process.

Heating must be done to cover the whole blade so that it can reach the hardening temperature. The same thing can be said about the quenching process. A bigger quenching medium is needed because uneven quenching can warp the blade.  Normal swords only need to be moved over polishing stones.

Since Nodachi sword is customized it will take time to make it. It is more expensive to create a longer blade. Due to the renewed popularity and interest in ancient Japanese weapons in the 20th and 21st centuries orders for this sword are pouring in.

Our Nodachi sword comes in three steel variation. using 1060 Heat tempered steel, 1095 Steel or 9260 Spring Steel, we do not offer Clay tempered blades for Nodachi due to its enormous size.

How to Carry a Nodachi?

In the battlefield, Nodachi was too long for a Samurai to carry on his waist. One way of carrying this sword is by slinging it on one’s back. It was impractical in the sense that a quick draw is not possible.

Another way is to carry it by hand although it must be sheath to protect the one carrying it. The trend during the Muromachi era was for the Samurai to have a follower to help him draw it. A special drawing technique was taught by Fumon Tanaka that allows this sword to be carried on the waist.

The technique was simply to pull out the sheath instead of drawing the blade. During swordplay, this sword focuses on producing downward cuts.

There was a time when this sword was said to place fear in the enemy. In one Korean chronicle it states that from the opposite of the enemy camp this big sword captures the sun and look like lightning. The mere sight of this weapon can make Korean soldiers fall back.

Nodachi importance starts to wane and died during the Osaka Natsuno war. Since then this weapon has been used as a ceremonial piece instead of a tool for war. The Bakufu government set a law that prohibits holding sword above a certain length.  Since the law was put into practice, this sword was cut down in shorter legal size.

For serious collectors owning Nodachi is a rare privilege. One thing is certain though, in the Land of the Rising Sun there exists a sword of extraordinary stature and this is it.

Most collectors prefer having an Odachi because it connotes bigger size and therefore more impressive for show. This is a sword for the strongest of men at any given time. No wonder even some anime depicts characters that uses Nodachi.