The Story of the Samurai Katana
The Samurai Katana is characterized by its distinctive appearance: a curved, slender, single-edged blade with a circular or squared guard and long grip to accommodate two hands. It has historically been associated with the samurai of feudal Japan and has become renowned for its sharpness and strength
The production of samurai katana swords in Japan is divided into specific time periods: Jokoto (Ancient swords, until around 900 A.D.), Koto (old swords from around 900–1596), Shinto (new swords 1596–1780), Shinshinto (new new swords 1781–1876), Gendaito (modern swords 1876–1945), and Shinsakuto (newly made swords 1953–present).
The first use of “katana” as a word to describe a long sword that was different from a tachi is found in the 12th century. These references to “uchigatana” and “tsubagatana” seem to indicate a different style of sword, possibly a less costly sword for lower ranking warriors.
The evolution of the tachi into the katana seems to have started during the early Muromachi period (1337 to 1573). Starting around the year 1400, long swords signed with the “katana” signature were made.
This was in response to samurai wearing their tachi in what is now called “katana style” (cutting edge up). Japanese swords are traditionally worn with the signature facing away from the wearer. When a tachi was worn in the style of a samurai katana, with the cutting edge up, the tachi’s signature would be facing the wrong way. The fact that swordsmiths started signing swords with a katana signature shows that some samurai of that time period had started wearing their swords in a different manner.
The rise in popularity of the Samurai katana is believed to have been due to the changing nature of close-combat warfare. The quicker draw of the sword was well suited to combat where victory depended heavily on fast response times.
The katana further facilitated this by being worn thrust through a belt-like sash (obi) with the sharpened edge facing up.
Ideally, samurai could draw the sword and strike the enemy in a single motion. Previously, the curved tachi had been worn with the edge of the blade facing down and suspended from a belt.
The length of the samurai katana blade varied considerably during the course of its history. In the late 14th and early 15th centuries, katana blades tended to be between 70 to 73 cm (27½ to 28½ in.) in length. During the early 16th century, the average length was closer to 60 cm (23½ in.). By the late 16th century, the average length returned to approximately 73 cm (28½ in.).
The Samurai katana was often paired with a similar smaller companion sword, such as a wakizashi or it could also be worn with the tant, a smaller, similarly shaped dagger. The pairing of a katana with a smaller sword is called the daish. The daisho could only be worn by samurai and it represented the social power and personal honor of the samurai
Description of the Samurai Katana
Antique Japanese (samurai) daish, the traditional pairing of two Japanese swords which were the symbol of the samurai, showing the traditional Japanese sword cases (koshirae) and the difference in size between the katana and the smaller wakizashi.
The Samurai katana is generally defined as the standard sized, moderately curved (as opposed to the older tachi style featuring more curvature) Japanese sword with a blade length greater than 60 cm (23½ inches).
With a few exceptions, katana and tachi can be distinguished from each other, if signed, by the location of the signature mei on the tang nakago. In general, the mei should be carved into the side of the nakago which would face outward when the sword was worn. Since a tachi was worn with the cutting edge down, and the katana was worn with the cutting edge up, the mei would be in opposite locations on the nakago.
The Samurai katana is characterized by its distinctive appearance: a curved, slender, single-edged blade with a circular or squared guard and long grip to accommodate two hands. It has historically been associated with the samurai of feudal Japan, and has become renowned for its sharpness and strength.
The katana is often called a “samurai sword”, it is a type of Japanese sword. The katana is a long curved blade with a chisel like point. Because the katana is a single-edged sword, it is also referred to as a back-sword, meaning it had an unsharpened edge or back, rather than a sharpened edge on both sides.
Because of its curved shape and chisel point, the katana could be used as both a slashing and thrusting weapon.
The Samurai katana’s blade length is approximately 28 inches. It was worn blade up through a belt-sash, or obi. Another version of the katana is called the tachi, which is slightly longer than the normal katana with an average blade length of 31 inches. The tachi was worn suspended by cords from the belt, with the edge facing downward.
The History of the Samurai Katana
The history of the samurai katana sword can be traced back after the eighth century when there was reformation of warfare styles.It was when fighting on foot during battles had been changed to fighting on horseback.
Because straight bladed swords would not be very functional on horseback fighting, an innovated curved blade was thought to be better. At that time though, the swords were carried by the waist with the cutting edge facing down. These were called the tachi swords.
In the Muromachi period during 1392-1573, swords worn with their sharp edge facing upwards were made and these were the samurai katana swords.
Because of such mechanism, a samurai could slash the enemy very easily in a single swing right after he removes his sword from the scabbard. Katanas did not have as deep curves as tachi had.
The length of the katana’s blade varied considerably during the course of its history. In the late 14th and early 15th centuries, katana blades tended to be between 70 and 73 cm (27.6 and 28.7 inches) in length.
During the early 16th century, average length was much closer to 60 cm (23.6 inches), but late in the 16th century, it was again approximately 73 cm (28.7 in).
In the samurai katana sword history, only samurais were supposed to bring a katana. If anyone else from the lower class of soldiers is caught to have possessed a katana sword, he is killed right there and then.
The katana would be carried in a saya scabbard and tucked into the samurai’s belt. Originally, they would carry the sword with the blade turned down. This was a more comfortable way for the armored samurai to carry his very long sword.
The bulk of the samurai armor made it difficult to draw the sword from any other place on his body. When unarmored, samurai would carry their sword with the blade facing up. This made it possible to draw the sword and strike in one quick motion, usually beheading the opponent.
In order to draw the sword, the samurai would turn the saya downward ninety degrees and pull it out of his belt just a bit with his left hand, then gripping the tsuka with his right hand he would slide it out while sliding the saya back to it’s original position.
Without doubt, this magnificent sword still draws awe and respect today and , for a real treat , have a look at the post video on the forging of a samurai katana.
I hope this has given you some insight into the history of this magnificent weapon and that you enjoy the images of the Samurai Katana presented here.