History of the Tanto Knife

Written by
The Tanto knife, an iconic weapon with a rich Japanese history, has roots that date back as early as the 10th century. Here is a short history of the Tanto knife.

The Tanto knife, an iconic weapon with a rich Japanese history, has roots that date back as early as the 10th century. While its artistic style and structure has changed since then, its design as a short sword ideal for stabbing and slashing has remained consistent for centuries. Known for the length of its blade, which can vary anywhere between six and twelve inches, the Tanto knife comes in either a single or double-edged knife or dagger.

tanto knife
A Modern Tanto Knife

Early Tanto knife history

The Tanto knife was born out of practicality and necessity in Japan during the Heian period, in which the warrior class gained power. Though the weapon most commonly associated with samurai warriors is the katana (samurai sword), the Tanto knife was frequently carried by the samurai for a last line of defense. Early Tanto knives had no aesthetic appeal and were typically smaller than tanto knives today. In years to come, there would be a drastic increase in Tanto artisans who were making intricate designs on the hilts as well as decorative blades.

The Tanto knife and the Warring States Period

The explosion in artistic design surrounding the Tanto knife did not last. By the 15th century, social upheaval and constant military conflict in Japan gave way to the Warring States period. This period had a negative impact on the Tanto knife. Due to all the fighting, mass production of Tanto knives compromised the knife's artistic design and blade qualities.

Peace in Japan and the decline of the Tanto knife

Once the conflict in Japan began to settle by the 18th century, there was little need for blades, so production of the Tanto knife suffered. Also, the invention of the katana and wakizash around the early 15th century significantly decreased the popularity of the Tanto knife. A few Tanto knives were still in production, but were merely copies of previous designs and styles.

The Tanto knife today

Prior to World War II, there was a resurgence in production  of Tanto knives, as more people started wearing the knives for self-protection. The popularity of the knife during that time has left many in circulation and there is steady production even today.

If you want to own a piece of fascinating Japanese history for display or everyday use, we have a large variety of the Tanto knife. And they are all covered by a 30-day 100% money-back guarantee.