The Ninjato or Shinobikatana is a single-edged sword from feudal Japan. It was the Close-Range weapon of the Ninja.
- 34 inches
- 2 lbs
- Tempered Carbon Steel
As there is no reliable historical account of the ninjato, most designs are based on speculation. The ninjato is typically depicted as being a short sword, often portrayed as having a straight blade (similar to that of a Shikomizue or Joto) with a square guard. It's design is often considered to be similar to the tantō (a variant of Japanese short swords/daggers). In many Hollywood films, the ninjato is a straight bladed sword with a square tsuba (hand guard). However, there are theories that the ninjato was a wakizashi (Japanese short sword) blade fitted with a Nodachi sized handle and carried in a Katana-length scabbard. Broken blades taken from the battlefield may also have been a source of ninjato. This was to trick opponents into thinking his enemy had a full length Katana and overestimate how long it would take to draw the sword, since it does not take as long to unsheathe a ninjato and with the longer handle would not be at a disadvantage as far as length was concerned.
However disproving the notion that the straight-blade ninjato is somehow a Western invention is the fact that this very style of ninjato is prominently on display at the Iga-Ryu Ninja Museum in Iga Ueno, Japan and where a ninjato (or shinobi-gatana) is described as follows:
"A straight sword with a distinct rectangular guard. The sheath of the shinobi-gatana has a triangular end. The ninja could climb a fence by driving the sword in the ground and stepping on the guard, leaving no evidence by retrieving it by its long sword knot. Although popular, from the closing days of the Tokugawa shogunate, the ninja's sword was more a symbol-like item rather than a practical one."
It was actually more common for a Ninja to steal a sword from battlefields or to buy/sell them in black markets in order to get them. Because of this, many Ninjatos were simply modified Katanas.
The ninjato was primarily a slashing sword, although it might have been used for thrusting and stabbing as well. The shorter sword blade coupled with the long scabbard allowed it to be drawn from the scabbard more quickly than the opponent could anticipate. The ninjato would have been more suited for indoor use than the Katana, because it required less swinging room. A straight bladed ninjato would be more suitable for stabbing and thrusting, making it the more logical weapon to use compared to a slashing weapon, while trying to assassinate a Samurai. As the Samurai used lamellar armor that was better at defending against slashing attacks than it was against thrusting attacks.
Since the Samurai rarely fought against short swords it was easy for Ninjas to use the cover of night to trick the Samurai into believing that the Ninja was wielding a long Katana. Also, similar to a cutlass, the Ninjato's short size made it superior in indoor combat to the longer Katana.
The Saya (scabbard) of the Ninjato was also used as a weapon. It could block enemy blows and also carry glass and dust used to blind the enemy (similar to the Black Egg).