All About The Shirasaya

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In feudal Japan, the katana was the king. Not only was it one of the best Japanese swords, but it was also a true emblem for the samurai class.

So important was it that a samurai could not call himself a samurai if he did not have a katana. But what does this have to do with the shirasaya?

Well, that in the beginning the shirasaya was not considered a sword per se, but a method to keep the katana blade safe for long periods when it was not used.

However, today it is no longer necessary to have a shirasaya mount to keep the blade of a sword in good condition. Instead, the shirasaya has been transformed into a sword loved by tens of thousands of enthusiasts around the world.

Therefore, in this post we will take a look at the world of this emblematic Japanese sword.

What is a Shirasaya?

The shirasaya is a Japanese sword with a particular mount. While the common Japanese swords have a Saya, a Handguard, and a Handle, the shirasaya merges everything to create the appearance of a single piece of wood.

The shirasaya consists of a Saya and a Tsuka traditionally made of nurizaya wood. The special quality of this wood prevented the blade from sweating while being sheathed, and thus prevented it from rusting.

A factor to emphasize of the shirasaya is that this one is almost completely devoid of decorations. It is simply a wooden stick, and that is where its beauty lies; in its simplicity.


Shirasaya has no carvings or engravings. It has no metal inlays (usually), no hand guards, no silk or other materials. Simply, wood.

The only inlays it has are habaki and mekugi, which are vital pieces when it comes to keeping the sword blade steady in its position.

This is why holding a shirasaya in your hands is a very different experience from holding a conventional sword. The shirasaya’s handle, made of polished wood, provides a different kind of comfort than a normal katana; hard and smooth.

Is a Shirasaya necessary if I have a sword?

Shirasaya has been vital in keeping the blades of samurai swords intact throughout Japanese history.

For many years it was the only way for the samurai to keep the blade of their sword from rusting due to long periods of non-use.

What makes the shirsaya special is that its wooden structure is made to fit the blade perfectly. This prevents the air inside it from condensing on hot days and making the sword sweat, which would cause rusting over time.

Of course, this only happens during long periods of time when the sword is not used. However, if the sword is used even occasionally, it will allow the blade to ventilate, making it very difficult for corrosion to appear.

Nowadays, if we consider that our houses are made to insulate temperatures much better than houses in feudal Japan, then it is even more difficult for rust to appear on the blade.

This means that today, while shirasaya is still an effective method, using a shirasaya just to keep a blade intact for a long time does not make much sense.

No. Today, shirasaya is used for the things you would use any other sword for. However, there are a few things to keep in mind regarding this.

Uses of Shirasaya

There are some misunderstandings when talking about shirasaya. Since historically these mounts were not used as swords, some people believe that they do not serve as swords. However, this is far from the truth.

The blade of a shirasaya is the same as any other sword. The only thing that changes is the mount.

While conventional Japanese swords have lacquered wooden Sayas, hand guards, and complex handles made of various materials, the shirasaya is a single piece of smooth wood.

This is precisely why there are a number of considerations when using a shirsaya.

First of all, shirasaya does not have the ray skin and the Ito that give such an exceptional grip to the common Japanese swords. This means that if you use a shirasaya to perform cutting tests (Tameshigiri), it will be up to you to firmly grip the handle.

It’s not like it’s going to slip out of your hand like it’s smeared with oil. Despite being polished, the wood gives a firm grip, which will give you control of the blade at all times.

But you have to take into account that it does not give such an exceptional grip as the  katana.

Another point to take into account is the lack of hand guard.

At first, this may seem a minor detail unless you plan to duel another samurai. However, you must keep in mind that the hand guard of the Japanese sword (Tsuba) has a double function.

On the one hand, yes, the Tsuba is made to protect the samurai’s hand from the opponent’s sword. But on the other hand, it is also a barrier that separates his hand from his own blade.

The shirasaya does not have this barrier. Therefore, if it slips from the hands of the bearer, nothing would prevent the edge of his own sword from cutting his hand.

This is why you should be particularly careful when using a shirasaya, and always make sure to hold it firmly.

The saya of the shirasaya is also another factor to consider.

The saya of a conventional sword has a special groove through which it is possible to pass a rope called Sageo. This rope is tied around the samurai’s waist, allowing him to carry his sword everywhere.

The shirasaya does not have this. It is simply a unique piece of wood; polished and elegant, but with nothing else.

This makes it impossible to wear the shirasaya hanging from the waist, as is the case with other samurai swords. Of course this loses importance today, where no one carries their sword everywhere.

In feudal Japan, on the other hand, this would have been something decisive. A samurai never knew when he was going to enter a confrontation, so he always needed to carry his trusty sword with him.

Can I Use a Shirasaya to Cut Things?

If you are looking to use your shirasaya to cut objects, then you will be pleased to know that you can. The shirasaya is as effective at cutting things as any other sword.

The shirasaya is perfectly capable of cutting tatami, meat, or any other similar objects.

The only thing you have to consider is the material of the steel.


Different types of steel, different types of blades, different treatments… all of them affect the functionality of the sword. All of these possibilities are critical in determining how effective your sword will be in cutting things.

That is why in our 3D sword customizer you can choose from a variety of steels when creating your own shirasaya.

And that’s not all. You can also choose the type of wood, the treatments, the blade design, and more! Everything is easy and 100% online.

And if you like the shirasya you created, you can have it at your doorstep in a matter of days— fully functional and made perfect for you.

Try our sword customizer and build your own shirasaya in less than 5 minutes. Click here to get started.

History of Shirasaya

It is believed that shirasaya was invented in the Edo period. During this stage of Japanese history it had become illegal for people to carry swords in broad daylight. Japan was seeking peace and the law had begun to prohibit swords.

Those warriors whose whole life had revolved around their katanas had suddenly been deprived of the possibility of carrying their swords.

It is as if you had studied a career all your youth and worked as a professional during your adult life, only to have the government come and tell you that you could no longer work. It was devastating.

But many samurai refused to give up the path of the sword— the one they had perfected with years of practice.

So instead of giving up their swords, they chose to keep them in special mounts that would allow them to keep them intact despite the passage of time and the changing climate. This is how the shirasaya was born.

 The shirasaya provided a change from the traditional sword mount. The koshirae, also known as conventional mounts, tended to ruin the blade if stored for long periods of time without use.

The lacquered wood of the saya made it sweat on hotter days, which impregnated the blade with moisture and slowly corroded it.

At that time, shirasaya had proven to be the most effective way to avoid this. Thanks to it, many swords that we know today remained intact as in feudal Japan.

With the passage from feudalism to modernity, it gradually became less and less necessary to carry a sword. Many of the swords were simply left in their shirasaya mounts and were used as decoration for the house— and eventual weapon of defense against possible intrusion.

Shirasaya or Sword Cane?

The nature of the shirasaya, which makes it look like a unique piece of wood, has led to it being confused with the sword cane used by the ninjas of feudal Japan.

However, shirasaya is not very useful as a sword cane.

The purpose of the shirasaya was never to be a hidden weapon. On the contrary; as we mentioned before, it is often used to decorate the house. Having a half-drawn shirasaya hanging on the wall brings a majestic and enigmatic air to any room.

The usual sword cane, on the other hand, is not too aesthetic.

But apart from the aesthetics, the sword cane also needs a certain mechanism to lock the blade, so that it can be used freely as a walking stick.

The shirasaya, on the other hand, holds its Saya just like all Japanese swords; thanks to the habaki.

This means that the shirasaya keeps the sheath securely in place at all times. However, if you were to use it as a walking stick this sheath would probably slip at some point.

So, if you are looking for a sword cane, we recommend you take a look at one of our partners who make incredible, fully functional sword cane. Click here to visit their website.

How long does a Shirasaya keep the blade in good condition?

One of the advantages of shirasaya is that it is able to keep the blade intact even in the worst environmental conditions.

Even if you don’t use your shirasaya sword for years, you will only need to perform a small blade maintenance every so often.

This makes the shirasaya an ideal weapon if you are looking for a strong and durable sword that will survive the passage of time no matter how unfavorable the weathe— a sword that you can even give to your children and will be as intact as the first day.

How do I know if a Shirasaya is good?

The quality of a shirasya always depends on the materials used to create it. Each blade, each type of wood, each treatment changes its qualities.

Usually sword makers don’t give you much information about their shirasayas. However, we believe that you have the right to know not only the materials your shirasaya is made of but also its qualities and how they affect its functionality.

That’s why in our 3D sword customizer you can choose from dozens of materials, designs and treatments when creating your shirasaya. You will always know the advantages and disadvantages of each material, and how they affect your sword.

In less than 5 minutes you can create the shirasaya of your dreams. And, if you like it, you can order it and have it delivered to your door within days— 100% functional and custom made.

Click here to create your dream shirasaya.