The nagamaki (Japanese: 長巻, literally "long wrapping") is a Japanese pole weapon with a long and heavy blade with an equally long hilt, used by the samurai warriors of medieval Japan.[1] The nagamaki is very much like the Japanese naginata or a glaive.

A nagamaki



The nagamaki was introduced and used primarily during the late Kamakura (1192–1333), Nanboku-chō (1334–1392) and early Muromachi (1392–1573) periods. During the middle of the Muromachi period (1336–1573 A.D.) the nagamaki reached its peak of usage. The nagamaki is considered the favored weapon of samurai General Oda Nobunaga.[citation needed] Uesugi Kenshin is said to have a special guard of retainers armed with nagamagi.[2]


The nagamaki was a long sword with 2–4 feet blade and a shaft with about equal length[3] or slightly shorter[citation needed]. The blade was single-edged. It was also beveled along the back edge to reduce its weight. It resembles a traditional naginata, but the main difference was that the handle (tsuka) of the nagamaki was not a simple wooden shaft; it was made more like a katana hilt. Even the name "nagamaki" ("long wrapping") is given by the tradition of handle wrapping. The nagamaki handle was wrapped with leather or silk cords in criss-crossed manner, very similar to the wrapping that is made on katana. The nagamaki is considered to be evolved from the extremely long nodachi or ōdachi swords that are described in fourteenth century literature and pictorial sources.[4]

The length of blade varies on a nagamaki. However, the nagasa most commonly fits the profile of a tachi or katana blade, which would be a blade of more than 2 shaku (2 Shaku = 60.6 cm, roughly 2 feet) in length. While nagamaki means "long wrap" they have been found with no ito (wrapping cord) at all, which is very much like a long tachi handle. The tsukamaki (hilt wrap) is of even more importance when applied to the tsuka of a nagamaki. The cord helps to improve grip on the tsuka and also lends structural integrity to the wooden handle. Nagamaki found without hilt wrap usually had at least metal collars around the hilt where the tang is.[citation needed]

There are no solid rules governing the aspects of the make of the nagamaki. Unlike wakizashi, tantō, and katana, which have had history of strict measurements regarding the nagasa, and even the tsuka in some cases; the nagamaki varied in nagasa, nakago (tang) length, kissaki style, etc. Bare nagamaki blades are katana length with typical katana-size tang (7–10 inches). Nagamaki presumably could have koshirae in a tachi or katana style as well as a nagamaki style, however there are examples of nagamaki with rather long nakago (tang), which could be fitted with a longer staff for a haft and effectively function as a naginata. Araki-ryū nagamaki is a heavy naginata over eight pounds of weight and eight feet long.[5]

All traditional Japanese swords are fitted very snugly to their tsukas and held in place with a mekugi (bamboo peg) which is fit through a mekugi-ana (hole in the tang and hilt). This is actually quite a strong mount when done correctly, and allowed for easy dismount of the bare blade for maintenance or inspection. Katana most commonly had one single mekugi, and nagamaki commonly have been found with two or more to account for the added leverage of a longer handle.[citation needed]


The way to hold a nagamaki is very specific. It is held with the two hands in a fixed position in the same way a katana is held. Unlike the naginata, the hands do not change when handling the weapon and the right hand was always the closest to the blade. While handling nagamaki fewer sliding actions on the handle are performed than are with the naginata, where the entire length of the shaft is used.

The nagamaki is designed for large sweeping and slicing strokes.[6] It also works as a spear. Traditionally, it was used as an infantry weapon. Warriors used the weapon against horsemen. Still, it required more time and materials to create a nagamaki than spears or naginata, which is why it was not as widely used. The closest exemplar of real nagamaki that can be seen today is nagamaki-naoshi. It appears to be like a long katana-shaped halberd, but straighter and thinner, with a very long tsuka. In contrast to it, the naginata blade is shorter, wider and more curved to the tip. The nagamaki also resembles the Song Dynasty anti-cavalry weapon, the Zhanmadao.


  1. ^ Friday 2004, p. 88.
  2. ^ Amdur 2002, p. 117.
  3. ^ Friday 2004, p. 88.
  4. ^ Friday 2004, p. 88.
  5. ^ Amdur 2002, p. 121.
  6. ^ Amdur 2002, p. 120.


  • Amdur, Ellis (2002). Old School, Essays on Japanese Martial Traditions, Edgework
  • Friday, Karl F. (2004). Samurai, Warfare and the State in Early Medieval Japan, Routledge ISBN 0-415-32962-0
  • Knutsen, Roald M. (1963). Japanese Polearms, The Holland Press, London

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