Historically, the katanas were known as one of the traditionally made nihontos that were utilized by the Samurai warriors who have protected and fought in battles during the ancient times of feudal Japan. The katana is easily distinguished by the weapon’s distinct appearance: a single-edged blade that is curved with either a square or circular shaped tsuba plus a long tsuka to accommodate proper gripping with two hands.
The katana is defined as the moderately curved, standard sized, Japanese weapon that features a blade measuring more than sixty centimeters, allowing adequate reach when attacking opponents. This weapon and the tachi may appear similar but these can easily be distinguished from each other by checking if these are signed. Determine the location of the mei (signature) on the nakago (tang) – it should be carved right on the tang’s side which should be facing out when the sword is being carried. The tachi is carried with its cutting edge facing down while the katana has its cutting edge facing up; with that, the mei would be found in opposing locations right on the tang. Additionally, according to historians from the West, the katanas were some of the finest and most efficient cutting weapons in the world of military history.
During the Kamakura period in the years 1185 to 1333, the katana was first described as a long sword that was completely different from the tachi; these references to the tsubagatana and the uchigatana signify a different kind of sword that was most likely a cheaper weapon made for low-ranking warriors during that time. However, when the Mongols invaded Japan, the designs of the Japanese swords have slowly started to change. In the years 1338 to 1573 during the Muromachi period, the Samurai culture began creating the idea of a warrior artist and from then, the training of a Samurai started to include a tea ceremony, as well as a flower arranging ritual simply to add more balance and refinement to the persona of a Samurai warrior. From this addition, the Code of the Bushido was then formalized.
Aside from being extremely skilled individuals, the Samurai were considered as the aristocratic class of warriors of Japan; the twelfth century in Japan was the peak of the Samurai period and during this time, they were able to enjoy numerous benefits due to being part of the privileged and unique class. They were free to carry their Samurai katana and even had the right to kill any peasant who offended them. Yet in the year 1603 to 1867 during the Edo period, the reign and glory of the Samurai began to fall and all the years of peace made the Samurai feel quite archaic: they were allowed to carry their swords but were required to accept non-warrior jobs to live and survive during that period. Additionally, this was the time when the economy started to boom, thus, further excluding the principles and discipline of the Samurai; this is because most of the Japanese people were beginning to enjoy the luxuries and perks that came with the country’s economic prosperity.
From then, the decline of the Samurai advanced until the year 1868 during the Meiji Restoration and because of this, a lot of unsatisfied Samurai led a revolt against the shogun; however, the new government of that time betrayed these Samurai by removing all of their privileges in the year 1871. This ended the era of the Samurai and katanas were utilized for practicing various types of martial arts such as Battoujutsu, Iaido, Iaijutsu, Kendo, Ninjutsu, Kenjutsu, Aikido, as well as Tenshin Shōden Katori Shintō-ryū. The history, philosophy, as well as the culture of the Samurai continues to live on in the form of the Samurai katana that has become a sought after and well-known symbol of the Samurai era.
Construction of the Katana
Traditionally, the Katanas were created from a special type of Japanese steel called the Tamahagane which is made via an ancient smelting method that results to several sheets of layered steel. This traditional method helps expel impurities while simultaneously evening out the content of carbon in steel; remember that the steel’s age plays a vital role when it comes to its ability to get rid of impurities, so the older the steel, the higher oxygen concentration is present which makes it easier to stretch. This will help remove impurities while in the process of hammering thus, resulting in a much durable, sturdier, and stronger blade.
Storage and Maintenance
If the sword is mishandled during maintenance or while it is kept, the katana may end up becoming irreparably damaged. Keep in mind that the katana’s blade should always be kept horizontally while in its sheath, its curve facing down while its edge is facing upward to maintain its cutting edge. It is vital that the Katanas blade is thoroughly cleaned and well-maintained so it is best to regularly oil, polish, and powder the blade to keep the longevity of the weapon. The oil utilized to maintain the sword is traditional choji oil which is made up of 1% clove oil for fragrance and 99% mineral oil. Additionally, the katanas should be regularly inspected and aired if the sword is being kept for longer period; this is to prevent it from acquiring mold or dust.
Today, the katana is no longer utilized for military purposes and warfare but it continues to carry a strong historical and ceremonial importance in the culture of the Japanese. Because of this, there are numerous katanas sold online and it is safe to say that these katanas are also a great value for money. There are some replicas that are specifically made for decorative purposes while some are actually functional and can be utilized for practice and training; additionally, a lot of these katanas are handmade and created almost close to the real thing but there are also swords online that are sold cheap and are not really considered as functional in any way. They are also made of steel and some are even sharpened, yet a sharpened sword does not mean much if it easily bends or snaps on the first strike. This is why every individual searching for a katana should thoroughly research if the store selling these weapons provides quality products for sale.