What Is a Nodachi (Ōdachi) Sword? The Ultimate Guide


If you’re familiar with Samurais from feudal Japan, then you probably know they wielded swords of different kinds. One of which is the Nodachi or ōdachi.

The Nodachi is a Japanese long sword held by foot soldiers or carried on their backs. It is identified by its blade, which is 35.79 inches (90.91 cm). It may not be as portable as other swords, but it is great for field combat. 

Nowadays, it is still revered for its historical significance and excellent craftsmanship. 

Find out more about the Nodachi sword and how to recognize one in the next few lines.  

What Is a Nodachi (Ōdachi) Sword? 

Nodachi (Odachi) Sword

Known as one of the most powerful Samurai weapons, the Nodachi (ōdachi) sword is a field weapon popular during the late 14th century or the Nanboku-chō period. 

During this era, feudal Japan took control of the country with the Samurai class on top of the social hierarchy. As a result, weapons like Nodachi became popular. 

However, as more portable swords became available, the Nodachi turned into a ceremonial sword. 

It shifted from a functional weapon to a symbolic artifact during the Edo period. This is because the sword was deemed the Gods’ sword. 

That’s why until today, it is not uncommon to see them in Japanese temples and Shinto shrines.

Ōdachi Norimitsu

The longest ōdachi is called the Ōdachi Norimitsu. It has a total length of 148.43 inches (377 cm), a thickness of 0.92 inches (2.34 cm), and weighs 32 lbs (14.5 kgs). 

Also, the Ōdachi Norimitsu has a cutting edge (nagasa) measuring 89.25 inches  (226.7 cm) with a curvature (sori) of 1.97 inches (5 cm). Its shank or tang (nakago) goes as long as 59.45 inches (151 cm) that fit right into the handle. 

Moreover, its single gold habaki, which is the metal around the base of the blade, is about 5.85 cm. 

It was crafted in 1446 by renowned bladesmith Norimitsu Osafune from Bishu or Kibi province. 

Aside from its length, this Nodachi is known for its production method. The blade was forged from a single piece instead of multiple sections. 

The process is similar to how a katana is formed. Applying such a method to Nodachi needs impeccable forging skills, which were expected from the Norimitsu line of swordsmiths. 

Ōdachi Norimitsu bears the signature Bishu Osafune Norimitsu. It has the addendum Taichi mei on its name, suggesting the blade was under the 1st generation Ho Norimitsu. 

Nowadays, the Ōdachi Norimitsu can be found in Kibitsu Shrine, located in the Kibi area of present-day Hiroshiman and Okayama prefectures.

Ōdachi Vs. Nodachi 

The terms ōdachi and Nodachi are used interchangeably to describe the same type of long sword. So, there’s no difference between the two except for the specific attribute they describe. 

For example, if you put the terms in their respective context, you could say Nodachi when describing a long sword used on the battlefield. Nodachi focuses on the application of the weapon. 

On the other hand, if the discussion is about blade length, it should be referred to as ōdachi since it points to the sword’s size.   

The two terms are the same. But they can be differentiated through their characters. Check out the meaning behind their names. 

Ōdachi

If you’re talking about the size of the sword, the term ōdachi is appropriate to use. 

Ōdachi means great sword in Japanese. The character “ō” in ōdachi means “big.” At the same time, da and chi are alternative forms of tachi, referring to the sword style predating the katana.

Nodachi

Nodachi translates to field sword. Therefore, if you’re describing the sword’s function, Nodachi is usually used. The character “no” in Nodachi means wild, representing its use on the battlefield. 

The form and size of the sword allow the combatant to charge and invoke a rampage against their opponents. Hence, Nodachi refers to the degree to which the long sword is used during battle. 

Are Nodachi and Ōdachi the Same? 

The difference between ōdachi and Nodachi was debated many times over coming up with ōdachi Vs. Nodachi topics.  Some would say that Nodachi is a type of ōdachi. 

However, historical accounts point out the ōdachi and Nodachi are the same long sword mentioned in various documents, particularly those mentioning weaponry during different wars. 

With that, ōdachi and Nodachi are identical, just like any other Japanese words that share the same meaning. 

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Nodachi (Ōdachi) Length & Weight 

The Nodachi’s blade has a length of at least three shaku or 35.8 inches (90 cm). It can even go as long as 4 to 5 feet. 

Its handle is about 14 to 20 inches (35 to 50 cm), while the tsuka has a length of about 12 inches (30 cm). 

Overall, Nodachi stretches for about 59 inches (150 cm). 

On the other hand, the average weight of a Nodachi sword is 4.9 lbs (2.2 kgs). 

If you’re wondering about the typical length and weight of Nodachi today, check out the following ōdachi swords available in the market. 

Blade LengthFull-LengthHandle (Tsuka) LengthWeightSteel Type
Shinwa Colossus 36 inches (91.11 cm) 60 inches (152.4 cm) 22.25 inches (56.52 cm)Over 
2 lbs 
Damascus steel
K EXCLUSIVE Japanese Odachi 49 inches (124.46 cm) 65.5 inches (166.37 cm)16.5 inches
(41.91 cm)
Under 3 lbsStainless steel

What Was Nodachi Sword Used for?

Samurai warriors used the Nodachi sword for a field battle. 

Its size was an advantage in combat, especially against cavalries. A Samurai can wield the sword from a safe distance. However, Nodachi’s colossal form was also a bane since carrying it was almost impractical. 

Nevertheless, using a Nodachi sword was almost exclusive to those who had developed the necessary body strength and swordsmanship demanded by the weapon. 

But during the beginning of the Sengoku period, the popularity of Nodachi declined, especially because guns and yari spears were preferred over swords. Since then, Nodachi swords were seen as an offering to Japanese gods instead of a weapon.

Was the Nodachi Sword Used in Combat?

Nodachi was used in combat to wound enemies through downward cuts. 

It was a prominent anti-cavalry weapon used to strike down enemies on horses. 

It is widely believed that the Nodachi blade has high-quality cutting suitable for a field battle. 

On the contrary, Nodachi was not ideal for indoor use. Its length was deemed a disadvantage for small spaces.

Nodachi Sword – For Honor – Man At Arms: Reforged (feat. Mark Dacascos)

Did Samurai Use Katana or Nodachi Sword?

Samurai warriors used katana more over Nodachi after the Kamarakura Shogunate dated 1185 to 1333. But during this period wherein the feudal military governed Japan, Nodachi was the primary weapon on the battlefield. 

However, the katana became associated with the Samurai since a majority of the class used it in battle during the later era. 

Nodachi Vs. Katana Sword 

The main difference between a Nodachi and a katana is their length. While both weapons are classified as long swords, Nodachi is longer than katana.  

A Nodachi’s blade can stretch for at least 35.8 inches, while the katana’s blade has a length of about 23.62 to 31.5 inches. 

But aside from the length, you can also distinguish the two swords based on their historical use. 

Transport

The Nodachi is relatively bigger than the katana, which is why Samurais would simply hold it or carry the sword in their back. Sometimes servants hold the Nodachi to unload the burden from their master.

Meanwhile, the katana can be kept in a sheath attached to the waist like a belt. The scabbard is made of saya (the wood sheath that houses the blade), sageo (belt cord), and fuchi kashira (the fitting on the base of the tsuka or handle). 

Method of Use

Nodachi is a two-handed sword, while katana is single-handed. 

With the weight of the Nodachi, it’s almost physically impossible to wield the sword with one hand. Hence, Samurai warriors need to use both hands to swing the blade toward the opponent.

On the other hand, a katana is lighter and controlled with proper grip from one hand. This gave a defensive advantage for the Samurai as the freehand helped maintain balance during the fight.  

Popularity

Among other swords, the katana is more identified with the Samurai. This comes as no surprise considering it was the primary weapon for the warriors during the Nambokucho to the Ashikaga period. Hence, people recognize the katana as a piece of Samurai history. 

However, Nodachi was also the primary weapon during the reign of the Samurai class. But as the era progressed, it became a more exclusive sword for the elite warriors and high-ranking officers.

Best Nodachi Swords

Shinwa Colossus Handmade Odachi Samurai

If you’re into handmade blades, then the Shinwa Colossus Ōdachi is for you. This hand-forged Nodachi is made of a Damascus steel blade crafted using traditional techniques.

With an overall length of 60 inches, you can expect a high-quality blade with Shinwa’s logo and a hilt faithful to Japanese design. 

The 36-inches blade contains 2,000 layers of high carbon steel with multiple exquisite patterns.

The tsuka or handle includes a genuine ray skin, a brass menuki, and traditional wooden mekugi. All compositions have a touch of Japanese traditional elements and form. 

You can easily sharpen the blade even with standard kitchen steel. You can assemble and disassemble the Nodachi with care, especially if you intend to put it on display. 

Overall, the Shinwa Colossus Ōdachi Samurai Sword satisfies the features of a standard Nodachi and more. It’s flexible yet sturdy, making it a fine choice as a weapon and part of your collection. 

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K Exclusive Japanese Odachi Sword

Here’s a Nodachi sword representing the legendary size of the weapon. The K Exclusive Japanese Ōdachi Sword is a work of art stretching to a total length of 69 inches. 

This enormous Nodachi contains a 45-inch blade made of carbon steel and a robust tang construction. 

You can sharpen the blade to maximize its slashing property.

Nonetheless, the sword already comes slightly sharpened so you can enjoy its function just as you receive it. Plus, you can expect a clean-cut given its form.

Moreover, the hardwood handle of this Nodachi is wrapped with leather with diamond patterns. 

Unlike other Nodachi swords, the K Exclusive Japanese Ōdachi comes with a chained scabbard made of black lacquered wood, keeping the blade and yourself safe. 

Generally, this Nodachi sword states true to its form, simulating the authentic weapon. It’s an impressive collector’s item that you can acquire for a relatively affordable price. 

K EXCLUSIVE Japanese Odachi Sword
  • This odachi is a sword out of legend
  • 45" heat forged carbon steel blade
  • Powerful full-tang construction
  • Leather wrapped hardwood handle
  • Coordinating wooden scabbard

Last update on 2022-11-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Fire and Steel Kurosaki Ichigo’s Tensa Zangetsu Nodachi

When you’re a Bleach fan and a Nodachi enthusiast, you shouldn’t miss Fire and Steel’s replica of Kurosaki Ichigo’s Bankai Tensa Zangetsu Nodachi form.

Although the blade is blunted, the entire look of the sword copies that of the full-length version of Ichigo’s Bankai. Visually, it contains elements that will remind you of the character’s strongest Bankai, from the blade to the hilt design.

The Nodachi has a total length of 56 inches or 142 cm. Its blade is made of hand-forged carbon steel covered in black, while the handle has a red ray skin covered with black rayon with diamond patterns. 

It also has a blackened chain at the top end of the handle, similar to Ichigo’s Tensa Zangetsu.     

Aside from the Nodachi, you also get a wooden sheath to house the blade. The sheath matches the color of the sword.

Altogether, Fire and Steel’s Kurosaki Ichigo’s Bankai Nodachi fulfills its inspiration’s visual requirements. With that, it can be a great addition to your swords collection. 

Last update on 2022-11-21 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Conclusion

Nothing says cool like an authentic-looking Nodachi. Not only is it visually appealing, but it can also be functional in extreme cases where you need to use a sword. 

But what’s great about your very own Nodachi is its association with the elite Samurai warriors. It’s a fine conversation starter and impressive addition to your collection. 

So, if you are looking for a sword that will embellish your collection in terms of size and aesthetics, choose the Nodachi (ōdachi) sword. 

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