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Japanese Katana Essay

1192 words - 5 pages


A popular ancient Japanese saying states that “The sword is the soul of the warrior.” (Buchanan 120) The warrior in the proverb pertains to the samurai of feudal Japan and the sword refers to their most prominent weapon, the Katana. An ancient blade made through a complicated forging process, the Katana is truly a work of art. Also known as the Japanese long sword or the samurai sword, the Katana is a curved, single-edged blade with ridges along its exterior. It is primarily used as a weapon to cut down or slash its foes (Robinson 28). The ridges along the blade, called the hamon, divides the soft metal components, the shingane, from the hadagane of the hard metal components used to forge the sword to give it its trademark razor sharp edge and flexibility (Turnbull 12). The blade of the Katana is around sixty to seventy centimeters in length and is often likened to the arc of the new moon. With its signature curved edge and its fusion of hard and soft metals, the Katana is considered to be the greatest offensive weapon ever created (O’Neill 114,116). It is a hallmark of Japanese sword history and is a noteworthy aspect of Japanese craftsmanship. The Japanese Katana is an important symbol of Japanese culture whose significance must be asserted.
Stories about war and implements of such can be observed throughout the course of Japanese history. This shows the prevalence of martial training and the profession of arms as a tradition that has not faded since ancient times (Friday and Humitake 13).
Japanese sword history spans several centuries. It is commonly divided into five major periods, the Jokoto and Koto periods or the ancient swords, pre-650 A.D, and the old swords from post-650 A.D. until 1596 A.D. when the Shinto period began proceeded by the Shishinto period, the era of post-war swords. After the Shishinto period, the modern era of swords called the Gendaito period and the Shinsakuto period began in 1868 A.D. (“Sword History: History Japanese Swords” n.p.).
There is no record of when swords were first introduced to Japan. However, it is believed that the Chinese were the first to being these weapons to the country. It was only during the Heian period when these ideas were innovated and thus new methods of sword forging were born (Yumoto 23-24).
After the Heian period is the Kamakura Era and the Nanpokucho Era. These two periods signal the beginning of the samurai reign. Kamakura, a city south-west of Tokyo, became the cultural center of Japan after the end of a massive feud between the Taira clan and another affluent Japanese family during that time. This historical development affected the art of sword forging. Swords styles became much more extravagant. Sword lengths also increased due to strategic necessities, such as the need for a sword that can easily be wielded on horseback.
The next era, the Muromachi Era was an era characterized by warfare and the birth of the Katana. Spanning 200 years, the Muromachi can be...

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