Characteristics of Wakizashi
The wakizashi is forged in the same way and with the same materials as the katana. It has a high carbon steel blade, Saya, Tsuba, and handle. It is so similar to the katana that they are often confused.
This is where the size of the blade becomes important.
The blade of a wakizashi can measure from 12 inches (30 centimeters) to 24 inches (59 centimeters). If the blade is larger than that, then we are in the presence of a katana.
What usually happens with Japanese swords is that the same type of sword is divided into different subcategories depending on the size. This is how we arrive at the terms “ko wakizashi” and “o wakizashi”.
The first subcategory, the ko wakizashi, is the smaller version of the wakizashi. Sometimes it can even be confused with a tanto. To fit into this category, the sword must be less than 45 centimeters long. This is the type of wakizashi that a chonin would be allowed to carry.
On the other hand, the o wakizashi is the longest version of this sword. It is most commonly confused with a katana. Especially in its longer versions. For a sword to be a wakizashi, its blade must measure between 46 and 59 centimeters.
Note: the measurements may vary slightly depending on who you ask. Categorizing swords is not a science, but it serves to roughly understand the different roles of each blade.