Quest For Japan Logo-Ver7

Katana : Japanese traditional sword – Part 2 –

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

Katana : Japanese sword (2)

Japanese swords are famous as samurai’s weapons, but was it impossible for common people like farmers to own them?

 

Japanese swords for civilians

"Tachi" key ring

- My "Tachi" key ring -
About 20 cm (8 in.) long.

"Tachi" key ring

- My "Tachi" key ring after drawing out the blade -
The blade is fake, so you can't cut anything with this.

If you have seen an old film “Shichinin no samurai” (Seven samurai) by Akira Kurosawa, you might think that Japanese farmers in the old times haven’t got proper weapons to protect themselves, let alone the knowledge of how to fight.
In the film, farmers in a small village suffered from frequent looting by a bunch of lordless samurai, and they wanted to hire skilled samurai who could fight against the villains for them.

Toy katana made of hard sponges

Toy katana and tantou, both are made of hard sponges.
They are rather hard to be broken, so you can beat somebody with these.

The story seems to take place in 1586 *, the “Sengoku” (Warring States) period.
In fact, there were lots of battles everywhere as you can imagine from the name of the period, so most of the farmers had got their weapons including Japanese swords and they did fight against authorities when necessary.

There were leagues which local lords, merchants, farmers and / or “ji-zamurai” (local samurai) organised, and some of them raised riots.
The word “ikki” refers to the leagues and their activities, but probably many Japanese think of riots by those leagues.

One of the most famous “ikki” in the “Sengoku” period is “Ikkou-ikki” (Ikkou revolts).
“Ikkou” is abbreviated word for “Ikkou-shuu”, a sect of Buddhism.
People including samurai who believed in the religion revolted against feudal warlords.
They were quite powerful, and even occupied a province of “Kaga” (southern part of present “Ishikawa”) once.
Nobunaga Oda had great difficulties and it took ten years to overpower those “Ikkou” people.

Toy katana made of plastic

Toy katana made of plastics.
Bought at 100 yen shop.

In 1588, Hideyoshi Toyotomi ordered “Katana-gari” (sword hunt), seizing weapons from civilians to avoid those kind of troubles and to separate people from different classes much more clearly.

Later in Edo era, travelers were allowed to carry “waki-zashi” to protect themselves.
Also, some civilians were given a permission to have their own family name and carry two swords, katana and waki-zashi, like samurai from the government to praise their achievement and / or good behaviours.

Traveller with katana

- Ukiyo-e by Kuniyoshi Utagawa (1852) -
A traveling man wearing "waki-zashi".
From GATAG

*Note:
You can tell this from the line by Kanbei, the leader of samurai, speaking to Kikuchiyo, a samurai imposter.
The line is like “You are born in February 17 in 1574. This means you are 13 years old this year.”

You may say “1574 + 13 = 1587, so “this year” in the film must be 1587!”
However, before adopting a solar calendar in 1873, everyone got old on January 1 no matter when your birthday was, and every new-born baby was one year old (there were no zero year old baby).
This age-counting method is called as “kazoe-doshi” (lit. counting age).
The “kazoe-doshi” method was still commonly used even after the government established a law in 1902 to adopt Western system of counting age solely and exclusively.
So, the government had to enact another law in 1950 to encourage people to use Western age-counting system instead of “kozoe-doshi”.

Thus, if Kurosawa intended to make a film as authentic as possible, it should be 1586.
I believe Kurosawa had tried to be true to the history, because I’ve heard he was such a perfectionist that he prepared a real letter in an envelope to use for a film, in spite of the fact he just needed the envelope.
(It was the same for the audience whether a letter was there or not, because inside of the envelope was never shown.)
And the film has the reputation as a very well researched creation.

So, it was a big surprise when I knew that the very basic setting – helpless farmers hired samurai to protect their village – was quite improbable whether the story took place in 1586 or 1587 (it was clearly before “katana-gari” in 1588).

Toy katana made of plastic

Toy katana after plastice blades are drawn out.
You can't use these to beat or cut somebody, because these will be easily broken.

 

Related posts:
#Katana (1)

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:

Osafune Sword 3

Osafune in Okayama: Sword learning centre – Part 1 –

Bizen Osafune Nihon-tou Denshuu-jyo (Bizen Osafune Japanese sword learning centre) 1 Here, you can see swordsmithing on Saturdays, Sundays and National holidays for free. Note that they don’t demonstrate in summer because it is too hot for swordsmiths to forge. General information Open from 9:00 to 16:00, closed during lunchtime (12:00 – 13:00). On Sundays […]

Read Article

IMG_0312

Omihachiman and the man named William Merrell Vories – Part 1

Every time I visit Japan for work, one of the many highlights I look forward during my stay is to get to travel with my Japanese language teacher – I fondly call her sensei. We have traveled together to so many different tourist destinations around Kyoto and Okayama. Having her as a travel buddy is […]

Read Article

Okusya, the Konpira Shrine

Due south: Konpira Shrine in Kagawa – Part 4 –

Konpira in Kagawa (4) Konpira Shrine (4) [“Okusha” or “Oku no Yashiro” (Back shrine)] 583 steps to go from the main shrine to here. (1368 steps in total) “Okusha” is also known as “Izutama Jinjya”, Izutama shrine. This shrine was placed near “Ema-den” at first with a different name, but moved to the present location […]

Read Article

10933010884_bef367e053_z

Kendo, The Way of the Sword – History

Kendo, or the “way of the sword,” is similar to forms of fencing seen in other lands. Two contestants wearing armor to protect the face, chest, and arms confront each other with bamboo swords called shinai. Today, it is widely practiced within Japan and many other nations across the world. The following two tabs change […]

Read Article

question

Kotoba Asobi: Nazonazo – Learning the Japanese Style of Wordplay 4

Another fun form of Japanese wordplay is nazonazo. And just like the shiritori, it is fun to play with other people. Word Puzzles/Nazonazo Nazonazo is just the Japanese word for riddles. Riddles are design to make your minds work but a riddle in a non-native language will make your mind work harder. It is very […]

Read Article

Shinai

Kendo, The Way of The Sword – Kendo Rules

As the concept of kendo states that kendo is to discipline the human character through the application of the principle of the katana, there are kendo rules and regulations followed in a match (or in Japanese 試合, shiai). Kendo Match Rules A kendo match is herein defined as a contest between two contestants for a […]

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

judo move

The “Gentle Way” of Judo – The Judoka

As we learned about the history of Judo in our previous post, this time we will learn more about the sport and martial art, particularly on the practitioners (called judoka). The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by harorudo (see all) Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text 2 – June 3, 2015 […]

Read Article

092648

What Does the Japanese Fox Say – A Look at Foxes in Japanese Folklore and Popular Culture 2

The Japanese fox (Vulpes vulpes), as mentioned in the first part of this feature, is a common topic in Japanese myths and legends. Continuing our discussion about the kitsune, we will feature one of its known ability: human possession. Kitsune’s Human Possession Kitsune is able to possess humans. The word, 狐憑き (kitsunetsuki), literally means the […]

Read Article

furisode

Seijin no Hi or Coming of Age Day

Coming of Age Day Today is Seijin no Hi (成人の日) or Coming of Age Day in Japan. It is a national holiday held every second Monday of January. It is held in order to congratulate all those who have newly entered adulthood or those who turned 20 years old in the past year and encourage […]

Read Article

Sponsored Links

Leave a Reply

Sponsored Links

  • Google+
    InstagramInstagram
PAGE TOP ↑