Made in Japan iaito = Superior?


A lot of folks want to buy their iaito in Japan mainly because :

  • someone told them to go there
  • who can build a katana / iaito better than the Japanese ?
  • the big players on the iaito market (in Japan) let you choose your ideal length of blade/tsuka or you can build one from scratch
  • made in Japan = good quality stuff 🙂

I the last, let’s say 6 years, i met a lot of practitioners and i’ve noticed  that a lot of them (do i dare to say most ?)  are really ‘uneducated’ when it comes to the sword itself. Something that rather surprised me as a non practitioner.

They mix up or even don’t know the names of the basic parts. The length of their blade need to be xx shaku but when asking if that’s the nagasa or measured from tsuba to tip they look at me like they have seen a ghost, etc

In other words, they know how to use the sword as a ‘tool’ but that’s about it and there’s very little interest to know more about the when, why,where …

They’re also the first to say that the ‘Chinese made iaito’ are rubbish 🙂

And while i need to agree in big lines on bullet  2 & 3, point 4 is something i want to talk about today.

I’ve seen a lot of poorly build iaito’s coming out of Japan. Not to say that while some of them  has a label that says “proudly made in japan”, they have never been in Japanese (workers) hands at all. Or most of the parts are bought in China and than assembled in Japan.

Few days ago, a client dropped an iaito of one of his students because the tsuba was a bit loose. The overall finish of the iaito looked ok (nice tsukamaki, good balance, ..)  and besides the moving tsuba there wasn’t anything else to be noticed until…. i took the sword apart 🙂


Ok looks like someone stuffed the habaki with some wood to get it tight…

Ok looks like someone stuffed the habaki with some wood to get it tight…



Ow ok…if you need a piece of wood like that, you defenitely have a problem with the fit of the habaki


That doesn’t look like a ‘traditional’ construction as well to me…

As soon as i started to remove the tsuka there was another ‘ohno’ moment :


The tsuka was filled up with a lot of ‘supportive’ elements 🙂 In fact, whithout those , the tang is dancing like a rockstar in that tsuka…

I’ve also noticed something ‘weird’ on the way the tsuka is constructed :


Looks like it was cut & glued from the side …. Anyone else noticed a tsuka construction like this or have a proper explenation that i don’t know of ?

Like said in the beginning, this iaito had an ok overal finish and was good balanced but if this was an iaito sold by a Chinese manufacturer, people would definitely label it with  a “see i told you a  Chinese katana is rubbish” stamp. “That'”s why a Japanese made is more’s all in the details..”

Where i want to go with all of  this : it’s not because it’s coming from Japan that it is superiour to a Chinese or Western made…