Recently, the Japanese sword called the katana sword has become quite popular once there was a re-acknowledgment of its value as a piece of art. No wonder various exhibitions are usually held and attract visitors of all ages, including the younger generation. Most people know that it was originally a sword used by the Samurai, though few are aware of its origin and the process required for making it.
No doubt, the Samurai Katana is a superior Japanese sword that has unique versatility and strength. This sword has existed for centuries and originates from feudal Japan. In this post, you will learn what makes a katana a popular sword.
The history of the katana sword
During the Kamakura time, between 1185 and 1333, they started using the term katana to refer to a sword. However, bladed weapon craftsmanship’s history started way back over twenty centuries. Initially, Japanese swords had simple features, including straight and double-edged iron blades. And the first original Japanese sword that came before the modern katana started to appear during the Heian period, around 700 CE.
The katana sword was mainly utilized by the Samurai, the warriors in feudal Japan up through the Edo period between 1603 and 1868. The increased popularity of this sword among the samurai warriors came about due to the changing form of close-combat warfare. Ideally, the quicker draw of the katana was suitable for combat where victory relied heavily on fast response times. The Samurai used to wear the katana using a belt-like sash and the sharpened edge facing up. Samurai could draw the katana and slice the opponent in a single motion.
After the end of the Edo period and the start of the Meiji era, Japan started a swift process of westernization and industrialization. In the military, their weapons changed from swords to firearms. Therefore, the katana was no longer used in Japanese daily life. Instead, the military and police officers were only allowed to use the katana. Most swordsmiths had to close their businesses, causing the katana sword to almost become extinct until 1906. During that time, two reputable swordsmiths became imperial household artists, so they preserved the skills of the swordsmiths. This became a cultural legacy that has existed until today.
The features of the katana
The katana sword has the right length. Most of the other swords are designed in a wide range of sizes. You can find some swords that have blades that are only one to two inches long, while others have longer blades that can be longer than 50 inches. When it comes to the katana, it has the right length. An average katana sword has a length of between 23 5/8 and 28 ¾ inches, meaning it’s not too short or long. The average sword length allowed samurai warriors to easily carry and use it in different situations.
The main difference between the katana sword and other traditional Japanese swords is how they used to wear them. The katana is considered unique as it was the only sword the samurai warriors wore with the cutting edge up. The warriors realized that wearing the katana in such a way made it easier to draw and unsheathe it.
Producing a traditional katana sword was a hard and methodical process. Some mass-produced and cheap swords can be made in factories in just a couple of hours, but the katana sword could take a few months to create. There is evidence that suggests that it could sometimes take at least six months to make a single katana sword.
A traditional Katana sword is also considered the best globally because it was forged utilizing differential heat treatment. The swordsmiths used a heating and cooling process on the spine and edge of the katana at different rates to create a more flexible spine and stronger edge.
Lastly, the traditional Katana sword had the right composition of metals. In those early years, swordsmithing involved making swords and blades using basic low-carbon steel. But swordsmiths later discovered that putting carbon to their swords produced stronger blades. Therefore, they developed tamahagane, high-carbon steel used to create Japanese swords, such as the katana sword.
The process involved in making katana swords
No doubt, the katana forging process requires perseverance, skill, and patience. You should note that this process of making a katana sword tends to vary depending on the preferences of the swordsmith and style, though some steps are required to produce a high-quality sword.
Preparation of raw materials like metals and charcoal, and equipment is crucial. These include heating the furnace and the required tools. The swordsmith also needs to forge the raw steel to make it become workable blocks. Also, they combine the hard steel to make the outer layer of the sword and soft steel for the blade’s core. A swordsmith then creates the final shape of the blade.
After making the final shape of the blade, they do the rough finishing that involves flattening and straightening the blade. Then they apply clay to the blade to make the Hamon, the fine pattern that goes along the cutting edge. The Hamon also requires heat-treating the blade. Finally, the swordsmith carves the grooves and engravings, which can be for decoration or just to make the sword look lighter.
As you can see, making a katana sword can be a complex process that involves heating and hammering. In most cases, it can take at least three months to complete a katana sword using this process. Currently, there are few registered swordsmiths in Japan. But just a few can make Japanese swords like the katana sword. Therefore, if you desire to purchase an authentic katana sword, make sure that you visit reputable Japanese sword suppliers.
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