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Everything to Know About the Japanese Katana

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Between the years 1185 and 1333, the Japanese katana was born. Since then, it’s become a cultural icon around the globe. So much so that it’s still in demand today.

These swords are some of the most popular in the world, even though they aren’t used quite as much. They’re still the heart of any samurai movie, and they look great when displayed in a living room. 

How did they get their start, though? We have the answers to this and much more. Check out this guide to learn everything you ever needed to know about the different types of swords.

What is a Japanese Katana? 

First thing’s first, what is a Japanese Katana? It’s characterized by its long 60-80cm curved blade. The guard is always circular, or square and the grip is long enough to be held by two hands. 

Though you can wield it with two hands, it’s light enough to be swung with one. 

They first came about during the Kamakura period and have played various roles in history. 

Mongol Invasion 

When the Mongol invasion first began, samurai used Tachi blades to fight back. These blades are sharp but short. They also often broke against the Mongols leather armor. 

So, there came a need for a stronger blade. This is when swordsmiths took to perfecting the Katana. 

Muromachi Period

Swordsmiths didn’t completely perfect the sword until the Muromachi period. They got a little more creative with the heat treatment. 

The goal was to make a blade that was flexible as it was sturdy. As you can imagine, it took quite a few tries to forge the steal the way they wanted it. 

It was also during this period when the sword got its actual name. Samurai began wearing them with the blade pointed up instead of down as they did with previous swords. 

World War II

During the Meiji period, samurai were cast out of the picture. Since there were no more samurai, there wasn’t a need for katana. 

Well, there were a few, but the only people who could carry them were the military, lords, and the law. The katana didn’t stay out of the picture for too long, though. 

During World War II, Japan fought with Russia, which got the blade business bustling once again. They weren’t of the same quality, however. 

Swordsmiths needed a pump out a bunch of blades to the army all at once, so they couldn’t use the traditional Japanese steel and water method. Due to demand, many katana forged today are created using the same quick method. 

The Anatomy of the Sword 

We talked a little about the design of the sword above, but let’s delve in further. It was traditionally crafted using a material known as Tamahagane steel. 

It contains trace amounts of carbon, which is what gave the sword its flexible quality. It was also shock-absorbent. 

The outer edge was made of stronger steel that had little to no impurities. This is what made the design sturdy and sharp. 

Oftentimes, swordsmiths etched designs on the blade. Some popular designs include dragons, deities, and flowers. 

Types of Samurai Swords 

There are a few different types of katana. The most common is the Shinogi-Zukuri. It uses a distinct line between the main blade and the tip and is optimized for strength and cutting speed. 

Then there is the Shobu-Zukuri. It’s sort of like the Shinogi-Zukri, except there’s no line separating the main blade and the tip. This sword model is famous for cutting through the Mongols tough armor. 

Why Did Samurai Use Katana? 

Samurai used katana because of the advantage they gave to them in battle. The swords sit in the sheath point down with the blade facing up. 

It doesn’t take long to draw the weapon. The design allows one to cut down an enemy using a single fluid motion. 

Due to how fast the swing happened, it was hard for most enemies to be able to respond to it. This led to many a victory for the samurai. 

Creating the Swords is an Art 

One important thing to note is creating katana was an art form. It still is to a point. In the past, swordsmiths often purified themselves before working with the steel. 

Today many makers here put just as much passion into forging their blades. Some going as far as to perform similar religious rituals. 

Cleaning and Storing Your Katana 

In the past, katana saw a ton of action every single day. Even though the sword can take some punishment, you can still severely damage it if you don’t clean and store it the right way. 

It’s important to wipe down the blade with oil whenever you get the chance. Follow the oil up with powdering and polishing. This will stop the oils in your hands from rusting the blade. 

As far as storage goes, it must always sit in the sheath point down with the blade facing up. If you neglect this step, it won’t be too long before your sword wears out. 

Everything You Need to Know About the Katana

Have you thought about buying a Japanese katana? Before you head to the store, take a moment to brush up on your history. There’s a rich culture centered around the blade. 

Not only should you be familiar with the history, but how to care for your blade as well. The last thing you want is for your expensive sword to rust. 

If you want to learn more about Japanese swords and culture, check out the interesting facts section of our blog. 

The post Everything to Know About the Japanese Katana first appeared on Weirdomatic. Weirdomatic is the place where all weird things come to life through the amazing world of photographs – a corner of our wild imagination or the whimsical face of the reality?


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