What Is The Story Of The Katana

The Japanese sword, katana, or (日本刀 nihontō) is one of many different kinds of swords made from Japan traditionally. Blades have been produced as long back as the Kofun time period, however in more general terms “Japanese swords” usually refer to blades with curved cutting edges made after the Heian time period.

Japan is known for its wide variety of swords, with all sorts of different shapes and sizes. Among the more popular swords are the: katana (the longest), wakizashi (a bit shorter than a katana) , odachi (yet another very long sword), and tachi (good length).

Generally throughout history, the Japanese sword, or katana, was one of the swords generally made and used by samurai who lived during the early to medieval periods. The katana is characterized by its unmistakable appearance: a curved, single-edged blade with a round or square handguard and long grip to suit being gripped and wielded by two hands. Hand-guards (tsuba) often bear symbols which may vary depending on the design of the sword – immortal or godly figures, a smith’s personal signature and so on.

Story of the katana

Katana or Nihontō

Story of the katana
So, the Japanese word for sword is katana, and it’s also the term used to refer to a group of swords called nihontō that have lengths of 2 shaku or more. Katana are likewise sometimes known as dai or daïto among Western sword enthusiasts in spite of the fact that daïtō is a common name for any Japanese longsword while adding “big sword” implies it. Japanese does not have separate plural and singular forms, so both katana and katanas are seen as acceptable in English.

Pronounced [katana], the Japanese word for 刀 (a Chinese character meaning “blade” or “saber”) is pronounced kun’yomi in Japanese, but has been adopted by Portuguese speakers from China as a loanword.The Portuguese word for machete is either “macacada” or “machado”, depending on whether it refers to a large knife or an axe.

HANDMADE WEAPON
The 5160 forged high-carbon steel blade features a 1 1/2 kissaki (point) and blade geometry conducive to rigorous cutting without chipping or deformation on soft and semi-hard targets.

Antique Japanese daishō, or a prestigious honor bestowed at the pinnacle of rank. With this recognition came the privilege to carry two weapons in battle.

The katana is a Japanese sword characterized as average size, moderately curved from the tachi type with a sharp blade length of over 60 cm. This blade appears unmistakably due to its distinctive appearance: a straight, slender, single-edged cutting blade with a round or squared guard and relatively long handle for two hands.

The Katana vs. Tachi

Story of the katana
The katana and tachi can be distinguished from one another by the location of their signature, or mei. Generally, the mei on a nakago should reside on the side that would face out when it’s carried by a swordsman.

To differentiate the two swords during times of peace, one sword (the tachi) was worn with the sharp edge facing down, while the other sword (the katana) was placed with the sharp edge facing up.

Since they had opposite edges on their blades and were carried in different ways when separated into warring or peacetime modes, it became easy to tell which blade was for use under which circumstances.

HANDMADE WEAPON
Precious hand-forged Tamahagane, clay tempered, water quenched, and the blades have high hardness, which can meet real combat requirements. Hardness can meet real combat requirements.

Western historians have said that Japanese katana were among the best cutting weapons in world military history, leading to awe and respect for an authentic katana.

Japanese swords have evolved from straight-bladed, two-handed chokutō or jōkotō and other unusual shapes to curved blades in a variety of different styles. Some Japanese sword blades were imported from China through trade; other blades were shaped by Chinese craftsmen stationed in Japan during the seventh century AD.

History of the Samurai Sword

Story of the katana

The Samurai sword is over 1300 years old, but there are only 6 significant periods in history where it was used:

  • Jōkotō (ancient swords, until around 900 CE)
  • Kotō (old swords from around 900– 1596)
  • Shintō (new swords 1596– 1780)
  • Shinshintō (more current swords 1781– 1876)
  • Gendaitō (present day swords 1876– 1945)
  • Shinsakutō (recently made swords 1953– present)

The first katana was a straight, double-edged iron sword with origins from China. At the end of the 10th century, Japan started to cut ties with China and became stable by forming its own class divisions in society. As a result of this revolution, warriors guarding society became samurai. Although there is no significant evidence of the history or methods that led to Yamakuni becoming known as “the father of Samurai” among myths his family were forgers who significantly improved the design on Japanese weaponry – namely Samurai swords.

The Legend of Amakuni

Story of the katana

There was a growing demand for weapons and armor from the leaders of both Japan and neighbouring countries. The samurai used their weaponry to invade Korea and China, to deter invasion from either side, and to gain power within their own country.

Leaders with a large supply of weapons were considered superior because they could fend off invaders themselves without asking for help or fighting on foreign ground; that is why there was such an immense effort throughout their kingdom by many smiths working day in and day out on making swords.

The Japanese emperor at the time tasked Amakuni Yasutsuna (a famous blacksmith) with the responsibility of making precious swords for his army himself, as well as providing his son as assistant through teaching him everything he knew before Yoshits.

According to legend, the Emperor was distraught about his troops’ swords being damaged or broken after returning from battle. This concerned Amakuni who then set-out on a quest to create a sword so perfect that it would please the emperor and ensure victory in the battles.

The Amakuni family sought counsel from Shinto gods to help them create a sword. Their prayers were heard and the artisan smiths forged a single-edged, slightly curved blade. Weaponsmith and swordsmith Amakuni developed a new type of blade made from iron, not bronze.

The warriors were victorious against the enemy in their next battle without losing one single sword. As a result, Amakuni won favor of the emperor and was known as the father of blades for Samurai warrior fighters.

Story of the Katana

Story of the katana

The Kamakura and Muromachi Periods

Two time periods in samurai sword history are considered to be the most important due to their defensive origins. The first of these is from 1185 to 1336, which was called the Kamakura period, and houses invaders in Japan amongst many other issues. The second of these two time periods is from 1337 to 1573, which were known as the Muromachi period. Both overcame major invasions on Japan’s success and needed an effective defense – leading to a desire for better swords during this particular time.

Story of the katana

 

Kanzan Sato’s book “The Japanese Sword: A Comprehensive Guide” traces the word “katana” to be found in Japan during its Kamakura Period from 1185 to 1336.

In the Muromachi period, sword makers designed a curved blade for Samurai duels, as swordsmen found it difficult to draw straight blades from their scabbards while riding on horseback. Consequently, they could easily slash opponents in a single swipe by drawing their weapon with ease – and switching back to a one-handed sword was not cumbersome.

The Mongol Invasions

Japanese swordsmiths are traditionally thought to have invented the katana out of need for a better weapon. From 1274-1281, Kublai Khan attempted to conquer Japan’s archipelago by leading Mongol armies.

In the wake of Mongol invasions, Japanese warriors became more accustomed to close-quarter combat and developed a new type of sword called the katana that was especially useful in defending against intruders’ leather armor and thick clothing.

Accordingly, the Japanese swordsmiths and smiths who wanted to address this conflict began to develop more slender temper lines as well as blades that had a thicker back while using points which could be effective in most types of combat.

The need for swords and other weaponry was heavily impacted when the Sengoku Jidai common war broke out in 15th century Japan. This new enormous need for swords both in general and in battle caused the exceptionally artistic processes of creating katanas of the Kamakura time period (also known as “the Golden Age of Swordsmithing”) to be partially replaced with more crude and disposable weapons.
Story of the katana

While shipping samurai swords has always been commonplace, it peaked during the Muromachi period. Japan transferred about 200,000 swords to China at a time when the potential for piracy was high. The transfer of weapons was an official trade between Japan and China with an aim to weaken any pirates by taking away their firepower.

In the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, samurai found a growing need for swords to be used in both close combat and when fighting indoors. In addition, the use of soldiers on foot equipped with spears led to production of single-hand (uchigatana) as well as two-handed (bastard type) swords.

In the Sengoku era, the uchigatana style developed into the more modern katana sword. This was because in this period of war, armor was less common and soldiers didn’t want to get stabbed in a vulnerable area (not wearing protective armor), so they would fight with both hands free, without any big shields. That’s why two-handed swords like katanas proliferated during this era. The longer style of tachi blade, which had been popular in Japan since the 15th through 17th centuries, became shorter as demand grew for katana blades.

The art of producing swords slowly deteriorated and declined as time went on and guns were first introduced in major battles. Toward the end of the Muromachi time period, Tokugawa shoguns issued guidelines for who could possess and use swords. The standards of a nihontō sword were also set during this era.

Katana After World War II

Story of the katana
After the second world war, from 1945 to 1953, it was not permitted to produce swords and any hand-to-hand fighting or martial arts related to swords.Numerous swords were taken, confiscated and destroyed – so most samurai couldn’t make a living by their craft.

Japanese swordsmiths are only permitted to work under strict conditions. They must serve an apprenticeship for five years and be authorized by the government even to produce Japanese swords. The maximum they can make in a month is two longswords, and all of their products must be registered with the government.

Western swordsmiths are recreated katana from the Japanese model to use combinations of present day steel, such as L6 and A2. These advanced swords imitate the size and shape of the traditional katana but can be created without danger because they do not have an edge or sharp point.

Mass-produced swords shaped like iaitō and shinken come from many countries, but China produces the most. These sorts of swords are typically mass-produced and made with a variety of steels and techniques.

Present day use of the katana

Story of the katana
When Japan was occupied by the United States at the end of World War II, every armed unit in that region had been disbanded, and private individuals were prohibited from owning swords with sharpened blades.

The boycott on Japan was lifted again in 1950 after General Douglas MacArthur received an individual plea from Dr. Junji Honma, who used the different types of swords from Japanese history to show him all aspects Japan offers. MacArthur was able to quickly determine which pieces were aesthetically pleasing and which swords were made for use rather than solely decoration. As a result of this, the boycott was undone so that all crude weapons or guntō could be demolished while swords of aesthetic legitimacy were allowed to be claimed and traded.

All things considered, a very large number of katanas were sold to Americans at low prices and it is estimated that by around 1960 there were more nihontō in the USA than in Japan. Most of the one million swords that were being traded are guntō, although there was still a stable number of older and more expensive swords being bought.

Rediscovering nihontō techniques

Due to changes in the need for swords, the requirement of more durable materials and increased efficiency, swordsmiths adapted after the Edo time frame by producing a larger variety of products.
Story of the katana

The U.S. Occupation led to nearly halting the production of Nihonto, swords made using traditional techniques. Many swordsmith watch their craft fade as the world of swords is replaced by guns and explosives. However, a few sword smiths kept at their work and one man who went by the name Honma took on the role of organizer for Society for Preservation of Japanese Swords (日本美術刀剣保存協会 Nippon Bijutsu Tōken Hozon Kyōkai)..

The organization has one primary goal – to preserve old techniques and blades. Thanks to efforts of similar people, the nihontō did not vanish and sword-smiths continued work started by Masahide. Old sword making methods were rediscovered.

Modern Japanese swords – The Katanas

Story of the katana
Modern Katana swords produced in the traditional style are called shinsakutō (新作刀), meaning “newly made sword.” Beyond that, they can also be given the name shinken (真剣) when they are intended for battle instead of just training weapons used for iaitō.

There are records of high-quality tempered steel Japanese swords, but these are uncommon at best. Some replica nihontō have led to robbery scenes. These swords sparks the U.K. ban on its sale or importation of the item . There are many replica swords on the market with both sharp and dull edges that are often falsely marketed as being hand-forged and made of high-quality materials.

There are restrictions on purchasing blades like kitchen knives and swords. There are also importation laws for importing these items if you purchase them outside of Taiwan, as well as laws regarding their sale that vary by region. Replicas have been subjected to reviews and feedback from people.

It is important for a buyer to pay attention not only to the marketing tricks, but also to the quality and materials of the sword. Swords are made with different types of steel in order to get certain desired qualities such as balance or sharpness. Further, they should know how many layers that give it strength are present on each side of the blade and if it has any folds in its edge.

All bladed hand-made Japanese swords in Japan (whether antique or more modern) are considered artistic objects and must have a certificate in order to be lawfully possessed. A few companies outside of Japan produce swords, but the quality varies considerably.

Story of the katana

Conclusion

Katanas, traditional Japanese swords that were often used in combat and ritual suicide ceremonies, are highly sought after due to their lengthy forging process and the high quality of raw material.

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