Category Archives: iaido

iaido gear, part 8


As promised, here are the details for uma-to.



Same as inu-to, this iaito has quite a sharp kissaki (sword tip). The blade is from Tozando’s extra light Keiryo Toshin range, with an extra deep groove to make it even lighter.

Length: 2.35 shaku, technically too long for me (I’m 5″3!)  but was told I should be able to handle it. Inu-to was 2.30ish shaku.

And like inu-to, uma-to has a straight hamon.




Uma-to is a jidai (period) style sword, typically with a slightly tapered tsuka (sword handle). This style was inspired by the similarly styled swords that were used during the warring states era, around the 14th to 16th centuries.

I chose this tsuka because I have small-ish hands, and prefer having a smaller area to wrap grip around.

Tsuka length : 8.5 sun (25.8 cm), which is suitable for the length of the blade with white ray skin and black cotton outer wrapping, Hineri Maki styled (creating the distinctive diamond shaped patterns).



The reason why I call this iaito uma-to…. Uma being horse in japanese. I think this sakura uma tsuba (hand guard) is a bit of a Japanese word play in action.

From 6th century onwards till around the 1800s, meat was more or less banned due to the influence of Buddhism from China. This being said, people who could afford it still ate meat from time to time, but created alternate names to avoid calling a spade a spade.

So mountain boars became botan (peony), venison as momiji (japanes maple leaves), and horses to sakura (cherry blossoms).

Sakura-nabe is actually horse meat hot pot.

Other than that, there’s also a famous haiki from Issa, born 1763 in a little village of Kashiwabara in the Japanese mountains, that goes like this:


(oouma ni shiri kosuraruru sakura kana)

cherry tree
rubbed by the rump
of a big horse

“Issa’s iconoclastic humor at its best: the cherry blossoms are revered by people for their beauty, but the horse has a different purpose in mind.”

“This hokku is from the second month (March) of 1818, when Issa was back in his home town or traveling near it. It’s a single statement leading up to the cherry tree, and the passive voice puts a lot of emphasis on the tree trunk being rubbed by a large horse. Issa is empathizing with the tree here and imagining how it must feel.

The above is a standard vanilla translation based on the assumption that Issa regarded the rubbing to be instrumental and done in one direction only, from the horse to the tree. However, that way of reading the hokku probably underestimates Issa’s multivalent way of viewing the universe. It also overlooks an interesting ambiguity here: shiri, meaning ‘rump’ when referring to the horse (translation 1), can refer to the tree as well: shiri means not only ‘hips, rump’ but also ‘back or bottom end or part,’ and ki-jiri means the lower trunk of a tree. In translation 2 the cherry tree’s lower trunk (shiri) is simultaneously being rubbed by the horse’s rump (shiri) and rubbing the rump — or, from the horse’s point of view, causing its rump to be rubbed.

Because of the passive voice in the verb, both the tree and the horse are actively passive and passively active. The main focus seems to be on the uncanny mutual passive-active rubbed-rubbing relationship that is briefly shared by two different beings. I wonder if Issa didn’t deliberately try to obscure the subject/object relationships here and intend the hokku to be read both ways, back and forth open-endedly like a moebius strip running between two different forms of consciousness.”



Take sasa menuki (bamboo grass, or the baby bamboo).

The Japanese love their bamboo…. Japan’s oldest story, the “Taketori monogatari”(Tale of Bamboo Cutter), is about the Princess of the Moon found inside a bamboo stalk and in the end returns to the moon, and it is one of the most beloved stories in Japan.

Bamboo is the symbol of prosperity in Japan because of it being a strong plant with sturdy root structures. Simple and unadorned, the bamboo is symbolic of purity and innocence. “Take o watta youna hito” literally translates into “a man like fresh-split bamboo” and refers to a man with a frank nature.

Take sasa are used in festivals to ward off evil. It is also symbolises strength and flexibility.

Fuchi Kashira:

uma-to 5

Sticking to the moon theme that I love, this set of fuchi kashira features hotaru (fireflies) and mikazuki (waxing crescent moon).

The Japanese love fireflies, viewing them as mysterious and eerie. The myth behind fireflies goes like this:

“Once upon a time, a woodman and his wife lived on the edge of a beautiful forest beneath Mount Fujiyama in Japan. They had a cosy little house and a beautiful garden, but they were not happy, as they wished for a child. One moonlit night, the wife slipped out of the house and laid herself down before the great mountain with its shining snowcap. She begged for Fujiyama to send her and her husband a child.

As she prayed, a tiny light appeared high upon the mountain and began to drift down toward the woman. When the light reached the branches of the bamboo, it stopped. The woman was overjoyed when she found it was a Moonchild, sent by the Lady in the Moon herself. She took the child home and her husband was overjoyed as well.

The Moonchild grew into a beautiful young lady, a Moon Princess, and was beloved by all who saw her. When the Emperor’s son saw her, he asked for her hand in marriage. However, she refused, saying that her mother, the Moon Lady, had bidden her to return home when she reached the age of twenty.

When the night came for her to leave, the woodman, his wife, and the Emperor’s son were all there to say goodbye, and they were inconsolable. The Lady in the Moon sent down a silver moonbeam for her daughter, and the Princess floated up upon it. As she floated, the Princess cried silver tears for those she left behind. As they fell, they took wing and flew all over the land.

The Moon Princess’ tears can still be seen on moonlit nights. Some call them fireflies, but those who know the legend know that they are the Princess’ tears, searching for those she loved on Earth and had to leave behind.”

Fireflies tend to pop up in Japanese art while depicting separation.


uma-to 6

The metal collar that keeps the sword snug in the saya (sheath). This has an antique silver shonai finish.

Phew… so that’s what I’ve got so far. I’ll likely come back for a bit of an edit when I find out anything new!

iaido gear, part 7

4 years ago on May 2009, I received my first (working) iaito. Since then, it has been to nearly every single tuesday and thursday classes (and a few seminars to boot). It was getting a tiny bit tired…

So when the chance came to get an order from Japan for a new one (and a treat for passing my shoden last year) that my sensei at Aikido of London was doing for us, I jumped onto the bandwagon.

2ndiaito 1

After a fair few weeks of anticipation (and UPS making a mess out of the delivery address), it finally arrived into my hands on Thurday. As you can see, the new one is quite a bit chunkier and longer than my old one, which was very slim and elegant

2ndiaito 2

For the purpose of this blog, I can’t keep referring to the swords as my first iaito or second iaito (specially because I actually have one before I bought the first one here, but that’s another story), I decided to give them reference names.

The first one will henceforth be known as inu-to because of the dog themed fuchi kashira, and the new one will be uma-to, because of the horse tsuka.

Stay tuned for the next post for a more detailed look at uma-to.