The katana samurai sword is a weapon whose legend has continued to grow since its invention in the late 13th century.
You've probably seen them at souvenir shops across the world and definitely seen them in films and shows throughout modern-day society, from Kill Bill and Stepbrothers to The Walking Dead.
The katana is an iconic piece of technology that lives on mostly through cinema, but the legend of it is rooted in a deep history in Japan's feudal Samurai roots.
Continue reading to learn more about the history of the katana and how it became the iconic and revered blade that it is today.
What Is a Katana Samurai Sword?
A katana samurai sword is a curved and single-edged blade with a two-handed hilt that originated in Japan in the late 13th century. Samurai warriors armed themselves with this sleek piece of weaponry and shaped the destiny of Japan.
The Japanese samurai sword proved vital in protecting Japan from a massive Mongolian invasion in the late 1200s. It was around this time that combat swayed from the use of bows and arrows towards the samurai sword.
Prior to the late 13th century, Japanese samurai warriors used swords, but not the curved katana sword variant that is so famous today.
As legend tells it, there was a great swordmaker named Amakuni that, during the Mongolian invasion, noticed numerous Japanese warriors return from battle holding broken blades.
Amakuni altered the design of the blade to give it a slight curve. This change increased the strength of the blade as well as its effectiveness at slicing through enemy combatants.
According to the legend, Amakuni's death is neither recorded nor known, and he supposedly became immortal as a result of all of the blood that his blades he made absorbed.
The Bushido was the honor code of samurai warriors. It guided a samurai through life and through battle and provided a moral compass for samurai warriors.
The main weapon of the samurai through the Bushido was the katana. It entered a warrior's life as soon as life began. At birth, the child's samurai sword would in the delivery room to greet him.
Additionally, a warrior dying of old age would traditionally have his Japanese katana with him on his deathbed. Through the Bushido, samurai warriors considered their katana samurai sword as an extension of their souls.
There were multiple types of swords that samurai had at their disposal. The usual setup was a longsword and a shortsword. The shortsword was a wakizashi and the longsword a katana.
To carry both a katana and a wakizashi was an exclusive right of samurai warriors. Carrying both weapons was a Daisho, and it was in case a warrior came up against greater opposition and needed a little extra weaponry.
Samurais were to carry the wakizashi with them at all times, even sleeping with it underneath their pillows. It was also used to commit seppuku, the ritual suicide of the samurai.
The katana samurai sword was the more valuable option of the combination when it came to use on the battlefield. Its design allowed its user to slice and cut their way through their enemies like a knife through butter.
The Forging Process
The makers of samurai swords faced a roadblock when it came to the sword's development. They needed the sword to be soft enough that it wouldn't break during combat but still be able to sharpen to a razor's edge.
The ingenious solution to this problem was a mix of four metal bars to forge a sword with. Two of the metal bars were a hard iron that would keep the steel from bending.
One of the metal bars was a soft iron that would keep the sword from breaking. The last metal bar was made of steel and allowed the blade to keep its incredible sharpness.
These bars would be heated up to 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit in order to melt them and forge them together. Then they would be hammered together into a slim and rectangular bar of metal.
From there they would pull the blade from the fire and place it into the water for rapid cool down. This causes the blade to contract due to the amounts of carbon within it.
The creation of this sword was believed to be so vital to the protection of Japan that Shinto priests would come and bless the process of swordmaking and even the swords themselves.
From a societal standpoint, the makers of these Japanese katanas were viewed as artists since they put their creativity and soul into the creation of their masterpieces. They were the rockstars and icons of Japanese society during that time period.
Katana samurai swords were the primary weapon of the Japanese warrior until around 1868 when they were replaced with Western weaponry.
The Resurgence of the Japanese Katana
The katana came back to popularity starting in 1935 as a symbol of rank within the Japanese military. While they weren't intended for use in combat, they were utilized in the Samurai spirit.
After the end of WWII, there was a prohibition placed on the creation of Samurai swords, but this ban was lifted in 1960. Today, swordsmiths are allowed to create katanas but must use the same techniques that have been in use over 700 years ago.
The Japanese samurai sword has also grown to iconic status on the big screen. Movies like Kill Bill and Deadpool have featured katana samurai swords front and center as the weapon of choice for the main character.
It is also heavily featured as the ultimate zombie-slaying weapon in the TV show The Walking Dead. Though its combat days may be over, the legacy of the katana samurai sword continues on through the film industry.
Add the Legendary Blade to Your Arsenal
Katana samurai swords are arguably the most popular and iconic swords in the world today. Created out of desperate need and wielded by noble and brave samurai warriors, the Japanese katana is a weapon that saved Japan and became a legend.
Click here and add this legendary sword to your collection today.