SAMURAI KATANA was a single bladed arm which samurai warriors wore on their waist. To wear a katana was considered to be one of the previlages that indicated one's class. |
In 1614, after the early TOKUGAWA period, the Tokugawa Shogunate regulated wearing of katanas, and samurai warriors began carrying two swards of different size. O-GATANA (longer sward) and KOGATANA(shorter sward) were limited in their length to under 2 ft. 7.5 inches (85cm) and 2 ft. 2.5 inches (75cm) respectively.
Katanas which are curved, medium in length, and bladed on sigle side, are the ones that are under the most demand. Single bladed kogatanas are also often considered as a gift item. WAKI-SASHI and TAN-PEN that are also in demand are the ones that appearred later on. They were used when committing suicide by cutting one's own stomack or in SEPPUKU.
One of the most popular ones among collecters in Japan are KAI-KENs. They were used for decorative purposes, and the ones with pointed shape was used with a ceremonial belt (women samurai's belt) in a formal occasion.
Old swaords are items that are collected by collectors that are capable of identifying its quality. When testing a sword, you hold a piece of soft paper or cloth in one hand, take out the sward completely from the SAYA, and place the blade upward. You should not breath on the blade or expose the sword in strong light.
History of Japanese swords goes back 2,000 years. The first metal sward was discovered from a grave in Japan. The oldest sward is called JO-KO-GATANA which means "the sward of an ancestor". The ones with blades on both sides are known as KEN or TSURUGI. Those with a sigle blade is generally called TACHI. |
From the 3rd to the 8th century, Chinease and Korean sword craftsmen came over to Japan. Ken or the strait RYO-TO-KEN were made during the 7th to the 8th period as can be seen at HO-BUTSU-DEN in Nara city. Tachi developed into KATANA during the middle of the 10th century, because the Japanese calvery required weapons fit for surprse attacks.
During the year 1190 to 1337 (Kamakura period), blacksmith techniques for sward making reached its peak, and many of the swards designated as national treasures were made during this period.
During the year 1337 to 1570 (Muromachi period), long and heavy swards fit for one on one fights were in demand by many samurai warriors. Those swords produced from the 14th century to Sengoku period were heavy and some were longer than 3 ft. (90cm). At the end of Sengoku period, many tachis were cut shorter, and the concept of "tachi wearing" (TACHI KOSHIRAE) changed into "katana wearing"(KATANA KOSHIRAE). This caused the loss of many good swards with production dates and signatures.
Those swords made during MOMOYAMA period to KEICHO-NENKAN, 1596 to 1614, are known as KOTOU or FURUI KATANA. Katanas produced after this period are called SHIN-KATANA.
During 1868 to 1926 (in the beginning of SHOWA era), SHIN-SHINTOUs were made, and SHOWA-KATANs with machine-made blade followed.
SAMURAI --- A class of people that existed in old Japan. Consisted of about 2 million or 3% of total population.
TACHI KOSHIRAE --- Wearing method of swords. The sword is hung from a belt with the cutting edge facing down.
KATANA KOSHIRAE --- Wearing method of swords. The sword is hung from a belt with the cutting edge facing up.