Monday: Taiyo Yamamoto
Fun Fact: Medieval Chinese ships often had trained otters who would gather fish, shellfish, and mollusks to supplement the ship’s provisions.
The Hachiwara Dagger
The hachiwara (also kabuto wari or hachi wari), meaning “helmet breaker” or “skull breaker” was a type of knife-shaped weapon, resembling a jutte in many respects. This weapon was carried as a side-arm by the Samurai class of feudal Japan.
One type of hachiwara was forged with a sharp dirk like point, to parry an opponent’s sword, to hook the cords of armor or a helmet, or like a can opener to separate armor plates. The sharp point could pierce unprotected or weak areas of an opponent’s armor like the armpit area.
The blade of this type of hachiwara was a curved tapered square iron or steel bar with a hook on its back edge. In combat one could parry and catch a blade with that hook, as with a jutte. Some hachiwara of this type were mounted in the style of a tanto with a koshirae.
The other type of hachiwara was a blunt, cast iron or forged truncheon like weapon resembling a tekkan or a jutte. This type of hachiwara had the same basic shape as the dirk type hachiwara including the hook, but it was usually blunt and not meant for stabbing.
But Hachiwara are not actually tanto as they are not a sword, but rather a forged iron bar designed as a defensive weapon against swords. As said, they are sometimes called sword breakers or helmet breakers.
The blades are normally of square cross-section with a hook next to the grip, approximately 12 to 15 inches in length. The mounts are commonly of carved wood or carved cinnabar lacquer. Some hachiwara were made by noted swordsmiths and may be signed.
It would appear that tales of samurai breaking open a kabuto (helmet) are more folklore than anything else. The hachi (helmet bowl) is the central component of a kabuto, it is made of pie-piece shaped plates of steel or iron riveted together at the sides and at the top to a large, thick grommet of sorts called a tehen-no-kanamono, and at the bottom to a metal strip that encircles the hachi.
This would require enormous pressure to split open. This idea that the hachiwara was somehow able to smash or damage a helmet kabuto is most probably a misinterpretation of the name which could have several meanings, as hachi could mean skull or helmet bowl and wari could mean, split, rip,crack or smash.
In modern times there is no Ryu (School, Style) known to train with hachiwara, although certain dojos within Bujinkan Budo Taijutsu still train with them, as an extension of juttejutsu. A number of weapons retailers in Japan still sell usable hachiwara.