The Norimitsu Odachi is a huge Japanese sword, probably the largest ever forged on Japanese soil. Its dimensions are so impressive that they suggested the imaginative hypothesis that it belonged to a giant. The sword is indeed 3.77 meters long and weighs 14.5 kilograms, practically useless for every feudal Japan Samurai!
Apart from the basic knowledge of it having been forged in the 15th century AD, and its size, this impressive sword is shrouded in mystery.
The Japanese are renowned for their sword-making, and we know several types of famous japanese swords. The most famous is certainly the Katana, due to its association with the famed samurai. However the Japanese forged several other types of weapons, one of which is the ōdachi, which means “big sword” and written as 大太刀 in kanji.
The ōdachi, sometimes inappropriately defined as nodachi (written in kanji as 野 太 刀 and translated into “field sword”) is a type of Japanese sword whose blade could be from 90 to 100 centimeters long, even if you know swords long almost 2 meters.
The ōdachi was often used on the battlefield during the Nanboku-chō period, which lasted for much of the fourteenth century, but was certainly built as early as the 5th century AD.
During this period the ōdachis often exceeded the meter in length, were used by the infantry against the cavalry, and it is hypothesized to hurt the legs of the horses or to unsaddle the rider.
Beyond this historical period, the use of this type of weapon fell into disuse and the main reason being that it was not a very practical sword to use in battles.
However, the odachi continued to be used by warriors and its usage only died out in 1615, following the Osaka Natsu no Jin (known also as the Siege of Osaka), during which the Tokugawa Shogunate destroyed the Toyotomi clan.
Some historians have even hypothesized that the majority of the ōdachi, in reality, were used as ornamental weapons, to be used as a banner to show to the enemies. During the Edo period, 1603-1868, it was certainly used during the ceremonies, and also as an offering to the Gods in the sanctuaries.
The odachi may have also served as a showcase of a swordsmith’s skills, as it was not an easy blade to manufacture. A series of Japanese laws forbade, after 1600, to use swords longer than a certain extent, a law that shortened almost all the ōdachi of the period and explained the small number of “great swords” that had reached our era.
The Norimitsu Odachi was forged by master swordsman Osafune Norimitsu, in 1447, destined for the Shrine of Kibitsu in the prefecture of Okayama. The weapon was left to rust until 1992, when it was rediscovered by Fujishiro Okisato, who made it known to the world. From that date, the sword became famous all over the world, and the “fake” videos multiplied, like the one below that imagines the Norimitsu Odachi used by a giant Samurai.
In reality, Norimitsu Odachi was certainly commissioned by a very wealthy gentleman of the time, and served for ceremonial purposes and kept in a sanctuary. The sword also demonstrated the ability of its creator, Osafune Norimitsu, whose fame has come to this day.