Sageo is a cord that was traditionally used (and is still used today by students of the Japanese sword arts) to secure the scabbard of a Katana to the belt (Obi) of the person who will wield it. See the video below on how to secure it to the belt of a hakama (Japanese Sword Arts Uniform).
However, it was also used for several other surprising, but very
utilitarian purposes, such as tying the sleeves of Samurai clothing back
so that they do not get in the way of an impending sword fight, or even
to bind defeated opponents (Hojojutsu).
It comes in many different styles, colors and lengths (though usually is between 70 to 86 inches) and can be tied, both to the saya and to the belt, in quite a few different ways.
Normally the color of the sageo matches or at least compliments the color of the ito handle wrap. Historically, from 1645 to the end of the so called Edo period, the Shogunate had decreed that the ito of every Samurai sword MUST be black, so matching black cord is the most common color historically.
WHAT IT IS MADE FROM: Sageo is usually made from either cotton, rayon, leather or silk of varying levels of quality and as noted, tends to be made in lengths of between 180 to 220 cm (70 to 86 inches).
HOW MUCH IT COSTS: The cheapest Sageo is only about $3 for 180cm, however as it is quite thin it is not very strong, such cord is often described as 'shoelacey'. The best quality silk or cotton cord s over ten times as much, but worth the cost if the sword is to be used in a dojo setting.
COMMON PROBLEMS: One common complaint with the actual material is that some styles terminate with a frayed end as pictured below.
Usually frayed sageo terminates in a knot above the frayed portion, but if not, it is usually a simple manner to tie them as shown above so that they do not continue to unravel.
The second most common issue has to do with how to actually re-tie the knot if it comes loose or if it arrives untied, and a knot is preferred for display purposes. It is quite complicated, but the video below from the Hanwei Forge is one of several instructional videos you can find online to help, as most charts that explain it are so complicated as to be almost impossible to follow..
We hope this information on Sageo has been helpful. To return to Samurai Sword Terminology from Sageo, click here