Wakizashi is a traditional Japanese sword. Its blade was shorter than most popular katana, with the average length of 50 centimeters. Wakizashi was carried together with katana, as the official sign of belonging to Samurai or Swordsman class in feudal Japan. The history of Wakizashi traces back to 15th century when it was used as a backup weapon or, since it was shorter than katana, as an indoor weapon.
With social and legal changes in Japanese society, wakizashi popularity raised, becoming inseparable with Samurais. It was customary to leave katana when entering superiors’ house, but a Samurai could keep his Wakizashi at his side at all times. According to some stories, a real Samurai would never part with his weapon, a Wakizashi would be placed under the pillow for the night and used for the whole day, starting early in the morning. Wakizashi was popular for one more reason. When katana was strictly limited to Samurais class, merchants and artisans could use its shorter version, Wakizashi. It was necessary while traveling, when the risk of encountering bandits was high.
The usage of wakizashi varied, from backup weapon, close combat, to committing ritual suicide, seppuku. Samurais would also use wakizashi to decapitate defeated enemies. The shorter blade was more suitable for that task decreasing the risk of damaging the blade. The wakizashi was carried along the thigh and was used with one hand. Warriors that are more skilled used both blades on the battlefield, each in one hand gaining advantage in combat.
The pen is mightier than the sword if the sword is very short,
and the pen is very sharp.
– Terry Pratchett