Quest For Japan Logo-Ver7

Katana : Japanese traditional sword – Part 1-

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/20 Traditional Culture , , , , , ,

Katana : Japanese sword (1)

At first, I was going to post an article about “Muramasa”, a very famous cursed “katana”, but I thought it might be better to write simple explanations of Japanese traditional swords beforehand.

 

“Unbreakable, unbending and very sharp” sword

A sword has to be hard to be unbending and sharp, and has to be soft as well to be unbreakable.
To realise these two conditions, Japanese swords are produced by wrapping soft iron with hard one.
Soft iron contains a small amount of carbon and used as core of a sword, called as “shin-gane” (core iron).
Hard one contains a large amount of carbon, called as “kawa-gane” (skin iron).

“Kawa-gane” is produced by repeating two procedures; beating hot iron flat then doubling it over.
This procedure makes iron purer, makes contained-carbon in the iron homogeneous, and reduces amount of carbon.
(Impure substances come out as sparks when you beat an iron.)
If you repeat this too many times, the iron becomes too soft.
Usually around 15 times, so a finished sword will have nearly 33,000 layers of iron.

 

Types of Japanese swords

[Choku-tou (Straight katana)]

Almost straight katana.
Originally came from overseas and had been used until the first half of the 10th century.

It seemed that curved swords were begun to be forged after the insurrections (from 931 to 947) by Taira no Masakado and Fujiwara no Sumitomo.
The swords which were forged in this early times are categorised as “Jyouko-tou”.

This straight type of swords is mainly used for thrusting attacks like a rapier.

 

[Tachi (Broad katana)]

Tachi

"Tachi" blade without the hilt.

A long, largely curved sword used between the late Heian era (794 – 1185 / 1192) and the beginning of the Muromachi era (1336 – 1392).
The length of the blade is around 70 – 80 cm (approx. 2ft 4in to 8in).

Usually placed edge-down on exhibitions.
People hang it from their waist with edge-down.
Curved swords like “tachi” and “katana” are suitable for cutting.

Samurai with "tachi"

- Ukiyo-e by Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1886) -
Note that "tachi" is hanging from the samurai's waist with edge-down.
From GATAG

 

[Katana]*

Katana blade

"Katana" blade without the hilt.

Around more than 60 cm (approx. 2ft) long, but a little shorter than “tachi”.
Used from the middle of the Muromachi era (the late 15th century) to the end of the Edo era (the middle of the 19th century).
When “tachi” becomes shorter by “suriage”*, it’s called as “katana”.
“Katana” is worn with edge-up, inserted into “Obi” (a sash for kimono).

Samurai with "katana"

- Ukiyo-e by Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1886) -
"Saya", a scabbard for "katana", is inserted into the samurai's "obi" with edge-up (you can see it from the shape of the end of "saya").
From GATAG

*– The word “Katana” –
The word “katana” is also used for general Japanese traditional swords including “tachi”.
(Sometimes used for Western swords, too.)

*– Suriage –
Filing notches of a blade (“machi”) and cutting off the end of its tang (“nakago”).

Machi and nakago of a Japanese sword

A: "Machi"
B: "Nakago"

 

[Waki-zashi (lit. side-inserted)]

Between 30.3 cm (approx. 1ft) and 60.6 cm long.
Also worn at the waist with edge-up like katana.
Small ones between 36 to 40 cm (approx. 1ft 2in to 4in) are called “ko-waki-zashi” (small waki-zashi).
From around Azuchi-momoyama era (1573 – 1603) to Edo era (1603 – 1868), a waki-zashi was worn together with a katana as a spare.
A pair of katana and waki-zashi was called “Dai-shou” (Big and small).

 

[Tantou (lit. short katana)]

Tantou; Japanese short sword

"Tantou" blade without the hilt.

Its length isn’t over 30.3 cm.
Before curved blades were produced, this tantou was called as katana.

Tantou

- Ukiyo-e by Yoshitoshi Tsukioka (1891) -
Samurai before killing himself ("Seppuku", lit. cutting his belly) with "tantou".
Illustration from GATAG

One without “tsuba” (sword guard) is referred to as “ai-kuchi”.
Often carried in kimono. (Referred to as “kai-ken”. “Kai” is “futokoro”.)

Futokoro

- "Futokoro" -
"Futokoro" area (red circled) covered with kimono.
Illustration from Illust-ya

Tsuba

- "Tsuba" for a Japanese sword -
Photo from ASHINARI

 

[Ken / Tsurugi (lit. sword)]

Both-edged straight sword.

The word “ken” or “tsurugi” is frequently used for general (especially Western) swords, including katana.

 

Next: Japanese sword for civilians

The following two tabs change content below.

kara

A Japanese living in Okayama. A proud "Otaku"! Loves animals, snacks, manga, games (PC, iPad, Nintendo DS, PSP), foreign TV dramas, traveling and football (soccer).

Sponsored Links

  • Pocket
  • 1 follow us in feedly

Related Article/s:

Firefly watching - upclose

Japanese Seasonal Events: Firefly Watching 2

Firefly watching in Shirochi, Takahashi In Okayama prefecture, there are at least seven places listed on the website that I visited. I decided to pick one with easy access and free parking area. The viewing spot is located in Ochiai-cho, Shirochi, Takahashi-shi. In other viewing spots, artificially-reared fireflies are released to join other wild fireflies. While in […]

Read Article

084646

The Princess Who Came From a Bamboo, Princess Kaguya

It was December last year when I had my first time in a Japanese movie theater. The movie we watched was Studio Ghibli’s Kaguya-hime no Monogatari. Though my Japanese is limited, the movie never failed to amazed me somehow. From The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter Kaguya-hime no Monogatari(かぐや姫の物語) or The Tale of Princess Kaguya […]

Read Article

20141011_133610

Omihachiman and the man named William Merrell Vories – Part 3

Who is William Merrell Vories? William Merrell Vories was an american from Leavenworth, Kansas who at a young age of 24 left his country and moved to Japan to teach English at Hachiman Commercial High School and since his arrival at Omihachiman on February 2, 1905, he has called this place his new home. He quickly […]

Read Article

japan flag

Kenkoku Kinen no Hi or National Foundation Day

The National Foundation Day (建国記念の日, Kenkoku Kinen no Hi) is a public holiday in Japan and is celebrated every year on 11th February. The day is celebrated to commemorate the formation of the nation and also for the establishment of the imperial line by the first Japanese ruler, Jimmu. Holiday History The day originally coincided […]

Read Article

School in Takahashi

Takahashi in Okayama, Japan -Part 2-

The Bicchuu Matsuyama Castle in Takahashi city(2) When I reached the top, I found a tea server. “Bicchuu Uji-cha”, a local tea was served and it was free. “Thank god, I can cool my throat”, I thought, but surprisingly it was steaming hot! I didn’t want to waste my tea, so I waited until it […]

Read Article

4881450065_fe7f37024d_z

Playing with Flowers in Cards: Hanafuda 2

As we learned in our first post about Hanafuda (花札), they are Japanese playing cards that are used to play a number of games. The name comes from two Japanese words hana (花) which means flowers and fuda (札) which can mean cards. Some call it “flower cards” in English. In this post, we will […]

Read Article

vacation

Golden Week – Furikae Kyūjitsu and Golden Week History

Today is the last day of the Golden Week this year in Japan. For this year, this day has no particular celebration or holiday. Today is just a Compensation/Substitute Holiday (振替休日 Furikae Kyūjitsu) that is observed when any of the Golden Week holidays fall on Sunday. Past Observances of Furikae Kyūjitsu Furikae Kyūjitsu of the […]

Read Article

tenugui

Tenugui: More than Just a Hand Towel

A tenugui (手拭い) in its simplest definition is a traditional Japanese hand towel made of cotton. It is usually about 35 by 90 centimeters in size. It is typically plain woven and though there are also plain designs, it has usually repeating patterns printed/dyed on its surface. But a tenugui is not just a plain […]

Read Article

kanji of the year

税 (Zei) – 2014 Kanji of the Year

Every year since 1995, the Japanese Kanji Proficiency Society (財団法人日本漢字能力検定協会, Zaidanhōjin Nihon Kanji Nōryoku Kentei Kyōkai), chooses a Kanji of the Year (今年の漢字, Kotoshi no Kanji). The selection is done through national ballot. The character with the most votes, usually related to events happened that year, is announced in a ceremony on December 12 (漢字の日, […]

Read Article

Ninja

We are ninjas: What ninja is and the origin

What is “ninja”? From “Mansenshuukai” a.k.a. “Bansenshuukai” (a famous ninjutsu-sho, a book about ninja’s tricks), an excellent ninja is described as one who makes a great success but; Makes no sound Has no odor Remains nameless Never win a name for himself / herself Makes outstanding achievements just like creating this world About the expression […]

Read Article

Sponsored Links

Leave a Reply

Sponsored Links

  • Google+
    InstagramInstagram
PAGE TOP ↑