View Full Version : TEXT: Honcho Gunkiko -concering O dachi

John Lindsey
10th June 2000, 06:02
Honcho Gunkiko (Volume number 8) by Arai Hakuseki
translated by Henri Joly in 1913
(text related to O dachi)

In later books we find O Tachi mentioned: The sword of Bizen used by Hatakeyama Shji Shigetada is said in the Bempei Seisuiki to have had a width of four sun and a length of 3’ 9”. It is said that this sword was the broadest one know at the time, but after the periods Genko and Kembu, there were many Tachi ranging from 5 to 6 feet in length, so that the Tachi of older made were then called Kotachi, and were carried as second swords with the larger Tachi (O Tachi).

In the early years of the Genko era, when the Santo attacked the capital, Sasaki Magosaburo, of Tamba, carried a sword 5’ 3” long. It is permitted to suppose, therefore, that the O Tachi began to be used about that period.

A book written by a Korean about the invasion of Korea by the troops of Hideyoshi says:

“All the Japanese solders carried on the shoulder enormous swords’ and when their host was seen from the other side of the Daidoko river, the rays of the sun were reflected upon their blades like flashes of lightning.”

The book Cho Hitsu Roku says: “Those swords were not real swords, they were made of wood covered with a paint of Biakuro (tin), so as to dazzle the eyes of the enemy from a distance.” I thought this was not true, but I read later a book, written by a Japanese, about this war and he says: “In that period many wooden swords were made, ranging from 5 to 6 feet in length, and they were carried on the shoulder as one would carry an ebira (quiver).

The book Konosho says: In olden times the Tachi was carried on the shoulder without a scabbard when at war, and thoughtful men (kokoro arushita) said: “Now this is surely the end of the world, for otherwise how could such a foolish thing be fashionable? Moreover, to so carry such a silly wooden sword is even worse than if it were a real Odachi, and it is a shameful thing to have left a record of such consummate folly in a foreign country.”

At the beginning of the Ashikaga period, when a tachi was given to a lord or visa versa when a lord presented a Tachi to an inferior, it was customary to accompany this gift with that of a horse and of several other things. At first Shirotachi, Kurotachi, Itomaki no Tachi, Kawazutsumi no Tachi were used for that purpose, but the world became busier and the country became poorer; in fact, very poor, so that a piece of iron one foot long decorated as if it were an Itomaki no Tachi was sent, and instead of a horse such things as copper cash, silver and gold were sent.

Since that period the Maki no Tachi was thought by the people to be used as a real Tachi. According to the Bubushi, there is a Chinese book describing foreign countries, in which it is said of the Tachi that it is only etiquette to wear it, as it is really a katana, but one which cannot be used in warfare.

In more recent times another type of sword made its appearance, it is called No Dachi, but it is different from the ancient No Dachi. There are three different styles.

The Wameisho says that tanto is the same as shito, and must be read as no Tachi. Moreover, it is the same as Himo katana, in the Kokiki, and Himo Katana in the Hihonshoki. It is also the same as the Uchi katana and Koshi katana of later dates.

The No dachi with mother of pearl and lacquer decoration are identical with those called Hirasya and Kenukigata.

These modern (1730) No dachi are identical with the Nagatachi or Nakamaki, the Wamiesho gives their name as Choto.

In the book: Ozoshi in the chapter called Nagagusoku we find mentioned Notachi Koyari (small spear) which are also called as O tachi.

In a book published during the periods of Tembun and Eiroku, the O Tachi is said to be 2’ 7” long, with a length of tsuka varying with the measurement of the wearer under the ear, so that No dachi and Nagatachi were evidently very long, both in blade and handle.

The Bubushi says: “The No Tachi was carried over the shoulder with leather straps fastened to the scabbard; sometimes it was carried in the hand. It was used particularly by the rear guard (zuigo).

John Lindsey
19th January 2003, 00:34
Message moved to the archive!

John Lindsey
10th July 2003, 21:20
Message bumped by member's request...