Traditionally, swords in Japan were usually used by Samurais. Samurais were the military nobility and official caste in the society of ancient and early-modern Japan. Within the category of swords that the Samurai used, experts state that Nodachi and Odachi were among them. These swords were produced and used during the Edo Period. This article will go in depth about what makes these swords different, and ultimately what Nodachi vs. Odachi is all about.
There is usually a confusion with the swords Nodachi and Odachi. Some sources state that swords are the same, but since the names are different, these two swords do have their own uniqueness. In Japanese, the word Nodachi means “field sword;” and Odachi means “large or great sword.”
Both these swords are long and equivalent to the Western long sword. According to the traditional Japanese beliefs, a Nodachi is shorter compared to Odachi. The difference might be of 1 feet, as the Odachi is supposed to be 5- 6 feet long and Nodachi of 4- 5 feet long.
Another interesting difference between the two swords is that, Odachi is broader than Nodachi. This is the reason Odachi is called a broadsword and Nodachi is called a long sword. Moreover, Odachi being long and broad also has the unique characteristic of being more curved than a Nodachi. This makes Nodachi a comparatively short, thin and less curved sword.
Both these swords were usually used as either ceremonial objects or infantry swords. Mostly used as offering to Gods in the shrine, they were also used in prayers before the war. Being so long and heavy, it was practically not possible for every Samurai to use the sword in a battlefield. This is the reason most of Nodachi and Odachi are displayed in temples, as a mythological weapon.
The making of both these swords was extremely difficult and required a lot of skills. It is because of its length that the heating treatment and polishing required patience and skills. The sword had to have a uniform thickness all over the surface and the curve of it determined what it would be called. The process of polishing for these two swords was also unique as it had to hang from the ceiling to make it stationary.
The swords were difficult to acquire even by the Samurai because of all its qualities. Firstly, it was not a sword which was available everywhere like a Katana, so Samurais had to custom make it. Secondly, the making charges were expensive. Though Samurais belonged to the nobility class in traditional Japanese courts, not everyone could afford it.
Lastly, these swords required efficient skills to hold it or even to use it. Carrying it was also difficult as it couldn’t be hung on the waist like a Katana. Some sources mention that Samurais used to carry these swords on their back or just held them in their hand. But drawing the sword out from the sheath required the help of another person, where the Samurai would pull out the sword, while the other person carried the sheath. There might be some warriors who actually used these swords on the battle, as it is said in stories, but it was uncommon even within the Edo Period.
So, Nodachi vs. Odachi — which is the better sword? There’s no such thing as a better sword in this case, as both swords are unique in their own ways. The main difference between the two is that Odachi swords are broader and longer, whereas the Nodachi swords are thinner in width and shorter in length. Both make great choices for your swords club to try and learn.