The Japanese sword (Nihonto) – part 2


Since fighting and wars continued throughout Japan, there was a big demand for swords. The intensity of warfare also led to the development of the Uchigatana. These kind of swords could be worn with the edge up so to combine drawing and slashing actions in a single stroke. Uchigatana were about 61cm (24 inches) long and could easily be used with 1 hand and were practical for indoor fighting where tachi were not.

Later on, in the beginning of the Momoyama period (1568-1603), there was the evolution of the Uchigatana into a pair of blades that could be worn at the waist. The large sword was called a katana and the shorter one a wakizashi. The blades of these swords had a wider hamon and appeared in a more flashy way than was known on the tachi swords. The steel was more brighter and shiny and the texture of the steel was different of that of the Koto (old school) blades. The were no longer recognizable as having come from one of the five main schools and are sometimes considered as the 6e, the Shinto school.

Blades that date back from the Meiji times are called Gendaito or modern swords. Many of these blades were mass produced for officers in the imperial army. A lot of these swords had no hamon and were of a poor quality. The had the shape and the look of the traditional swords but didn’t had any hallmark when compared to the traditional hand forged tamahagane blades. The were not differentionally hardened and didn’t show any interesting grain pattern or texture in the blade. When any kind of these swords are found these days, the government requires that they need to be destroyed.

To prevent the production of ‘cheap’ Japanese swords with no aesthetic value on a large scale, the Japanese government decided to regulate the making of real swords. Following rules are still in effect today:

  1. Only a licensed smith can make a Japanese sword. The definitions of a katana : any cutting instrument with a blade over 15 cm (6 inches) with a hamon and a rivet hole in the tang.
  2. A licensed smith can produce a maximum of two long swords (over 61cm or 2 feet) or 3 short swords per month
  3. All swords must be registered with the police

Many smiths today can easily produce double and if they could register them, they could be making more money so this law is a burden on the younger smiths and in a lot of cases a barrier to attract new people to this craft.


  • Ninjya

    The Japanese eariest myth literature Kojiki said that the iron and steel God “Susanoo” got the holy and imperial treasure sword blade named “Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi” from the tail of huge eight headed dragon in Izumo.This is seemed to be the origin of japanese sword story.This sword was called Kusanagi-no-tsurugi.The other two treasures with it, was called Three holy sacred treasure, and was proof of emperor’s imperial throne.
    In izumo, Yasugi Works makes raw material of authentic japanese sword still now.