Kaiken (dagger)

Japanese kaiken/kwaiken style tanto.

A kaiken (懐剣) is a 20–25 cm (8–10 in) long, single or double-edged dagger[1] without ornamental fittings housed in a plain mount.


It was once carried by men and women of the samurai class in Japan. It was useful for self-defense in indoor spaces where the long blade katana and intermediate sword wakizashi were inconvenient. Women carried them in their kimono either in a pocket-like space (futokoro) or in the sleeve pouch (tamoto)[2] for self-defense and for ritual suicide by slashing the veins in the left side of the neck.[3][4] When a samurai woman married, she was expected to carry a kaiken with her when she moved in with her husband.[5]


Prior to modern orthographic reform the kaiken is now called Kwaiken kwaiken (pocket knife). The modern term and has no reference in historical records;[6] also called a futokoro-gatana

See also


  1. Stone, George Cameron (1999). Glossary of the Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor in All Countries and in All Times. Dover Publications. pp. 405–. ISBN 978-0-486-40726-5.
  2. Sinclaire, Clive (1 November 2004). Samurai: The Weapons and Spirit of the Japanese Warrior. Globe Pequot Press. pp. 88–. ISBN 978-1-59228-720-8.
  3. Tarassuk, Leonis; Blair, Claude (1982). The Complete encyclopedia of arms & weapons: the most comprehensive reference work ever published on arms and armour from prehistoric times to the present. Simon & Schuster. p. 306.
  4. Arai, Hakuseki; Joly, Henri L.; Inada, Hogitarō (1913). The Sword Book in "Honchō Gunkikō". C. E. Tuttle. p. 42.
  5. Mol, Serge (2003). Classical Weaponry of Japan: Special Weapons and Tactics of the Martial Arts. Kodansha International. pp. 27–. ISBN 978-4-7700-2941-6.
  6. Cannon, Garland Hampton; Warren, Nicholas W. (1996). The Japanese Contributions to the English Language: An Historical Dictionary. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 65–. ISBN 978-3-447-03764-8.
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