Japanese Wakizashi samurai sword with shibayama inlays of ivory, horn, mother of pearl and different sort of woods. Details show butterflies, snakes, different kinds of beetles, flies and other insects on the sheath and handle. Maker is unknown. Circa 1890.
Wakizashi have been in use as far back as the 15th or 16th century. The wakizashi was used as a backup or auxiliary sword, it was also used for close quarters fighting, to behead a defeated opponent and sometimes to commit seppuku, a ritual suicide. The wakizashi was one of several short swords available for use by samurai including the yoroi tōshi, and the chisa-katana. The term wakizashi did not originally specify swords of any official blade length and was an abbreviation of wakizashi no katana (“sword thrust at one’s side”); the term was applied to companion swords of all sizes. It was not until the Edo period in 1638 when the rulers of Japan tried to regulate the types of swords and the social groups which were allowed to wear them that the lengths of katana and wakizashi were officially set.
Kanzan Satō, in his book titled The Japanese Sword, notes that there did not seem to be any particular need for the wakizashi and suggests that the wakizashi may have become more popular than the tantō due to it being more suited for indoor fighting. He mentions the custom of leaving the katana at the door of a castle or palace when entering while continuing to wear the wakizashi inside.While the wearing of katana was limited to the samurai class, wakizashi of legal length (kō-wakizashi) could be carried by the chonin class which included merchants. This was common when traveling due to the risk of encountering bandits. Wakizashi were worn on the left side, secured to the waist sash (Uwa-obi or himo). (Source: Wikipedia)
Length in sheath: 66 cm