The History of the Samurai Sword

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    Earliest Swords

    • The first swords used by samurai were based on Korean and Chinese swords, and featured straight, double-edge blades.

    The True Samurai Sword

    • Legend says the swordsmith Amakuni developed the first true samurai sword after being shamed by the performance of the standard swords. The new sword, based on a divinely inspired dream, had a curved blade and a single edge.

    Types of Swords

    • The samurai carried two swords: the katana and the smaller wakizashi. Warriors named their katanas, believing their true warrior spirits lived within the swords.

    Swordmaking

    • Samurai swords were forged from steel and specially heat-treated for quality. They were tested by cutting through the bones of corpses.

    From Weaponry to Fine Art

    • During Japan's hundred years of civil war, which began in 1467 and ended in 1568, so many samurai swords were made that quality and artistry suffered. During the ensuing peaceful Edo period, which lasted from 1603 to 1867, the true samurai sword was brought back, and its craftsmanship was elevated to a fine art.

    Prohibition of Swords

    • The samurai class was disbanded in 1876, and the possession of samurai swords was prohibited. To preserve their art, samurai sword masters continued their craft in secret and concealed their creations in walking sticks.

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