Katana

Katanas are a type of Japanese sword, but nowadays the term is internationally used to talk about all Japanese swords in general. They are considered as the best swords ever created, they have a curved shape and they are many different types and sizes.

Strictly talking a katana has around 70 cm, the longest ones are called tachi and were used by cavalry. The short versions are called wakizashi and kodachi, which are equivalent to our daggers. Samurais where equiped with a katana for the face to face fights and a short wakizashi to kill by surprise without being seen.


This is a katana forged 900 years ago by Sanjo Munechika, and is one of the oldest katanas in the National Museum (Ueno Station at Tokyo

It can be appreciated how dedicated, simple and well done were the Japanese tools on those times while at Europe we had huge and rough swords.

Nowadays katanas are created by some artists, people from the Mukansa clan seem to be the best. Two of the Musakansa family members are Living National Treasures selected by the Japanese Government.

If you wanna by a katana, you can find average katanas at some hidden shops at Asakusa (Tokyo). I took one video inside of one of those shops.

Next, some videos were the sharpness of the katana edge can be appreciated.


At this last video there is a little explanation about how katanas are made.

15 Comments
  • Sergio

    March 30, 2007 at 4:43 am

    Hi Héctor! The video from the bottle is awesome. I had already seen it in the Spanish blog version. Still, nice one.

    Llevo más de dos años enganchado a tu blog casi a diario (mi novia está harta de que le hable del “tío ese de Japón”), también desde que me piré de España como tú, pero nunca había comentado. Pero es que el otro día conocí a tu amigo Albert en la ESA, la verdad es que le reconocí de tu blog y fue un cachondeo. Eres un crack, tío, ¡suerte y sigue así!

    Prostata: si te molesta que escriba en castellano aquí borra el comentario.

  • Luca

    May 8, 2007 at 2:05 am

    I’d still love to see a fight between a Japanese Samurai and a European knight.

  • John

    May 15, 2007 at 1:14 pm

    Luca, you’re an idiot.

    1 – different sword techniques
    2 – western euro. armor is too thick for slashing weapons
    3 – the knight has the advantage of a shield
    4 – medieval swords were too thick and heavy and could break after repeated smashings against another sword
    5 – you’re just a silly nerd

  • Samurai Dave

    June 10, 2007 at 2:50 am

    I really like the egg test 🙂 The katana on the first video looks like a cheap “made in china” thing…of course it’s hard to tell from this little clip.

  • Gibson

    June 16, 2007 at 12:31 am

    HAHHAHa euro armor has some gaps. Samurai can move faster and with a good thrust with a katana it can rip up a limb. Plush the katana can be use for defense too

  • Oliver

    July 1, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    Well, Europeon Knights are by no means a match for Samurais….Not only In Grace, but speed and Power of Slashes….as a matter of fact, it is proven that a Katana is the most temperate Sword around!!

  • Tom²

    August 7, 2007 at 11:25 pm

    @Lucas – be careful what you wish for : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xDV5fontZbc

    @John – take that broomstick out of your **** ! This is actually a very relevant question, just as much as the trendy pirateVSninja hypothetical fight.

    …Although for me it is very clear that, 1 on 1, the clumsy armored knight gets his *** kicked lightning-quick.
    It gets really interesting if you imagine a battle between whole armies, though ! ^^

  • […] He started his “career” as a samurai when he fought at Sekigahara’s Battle, one of the most important battles in Japanese history. Miyamoto’s people loose the battle but he managed to survive and start a life dedicated to the katana and the “bushido” (The way of the warrior). He wandered many years all around Japan, he fought many people, the legend says that he had more than 60 duels and he was never defeated. When he was old, he developed his own fighting style and he even wrote books about “the way of the warrior”, the most famous of them is called “The book of the five rings”. […]

  • SoScooter.com

    December 11, 2007 at 9:25 am

    WOW! That is amazing… I’ve also heard of someone dropping a piece of paper onto the blade of a Katana (on the flat side) and it just being cut under its own weight.

  • Karasu-kun

    January 21, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    Isn’t Mukansa a “rank” given to the swordsmith by the government? I thought that Mukansa was “without competition”, or “not submitted” or somesuch, not a clan. Are you talking about someone specific here?

  • […] Even having an army with guns, boats, planes and all that kind of useless stuff, they can’t shoot or attack, they can’t even defend themselves. In fact, if you think about it, they have even less power than the National Police. For example, when Mishima Yukio captured the commandant of the Ichigaya Camp, headquarters of the Eastern Command of Japan’s Self Defence Forces. They could not stop him, and they had to call the police! The army had to call the police in order to stop five civilians armed with katanas, sounds stupid right? But rules are the rules, and sometimes rules are stupid. I wonder why they don’t respect the Article 9, that it’s a nice rule instead of playing with riddles. […]

  • Musashifan

    January 21, 2009 at 5:35 pm

    I was just wondering if Musashi Miyamoto’s actual sword is kept in any museums or private collections?

  • arisblaze

    May 7, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    A samurai & a knight face off & who’d win? In a army battle anything goes, but in a duel it depends on circumstances & skill. Personally, I’d bet on the samurai. They’re aren’t as encumbered by heavy armor and least likely to tire first. What’s more their training won’t have them strike unless they’re sure of victory (so whle the poor knight is trying to hack his nimble enemy to pieces, the samurai is spotting all of his opponents weak points). What’s more, there’s a very good chance that the knight would be disarmed before he ever drew blood.

    Samurai came from the very same era as the sickle & chain (aka kusari-gama) and the martial art ai kido (both of which were designed to pull the sword out of the enemy’s hands). There’s also something called a sword-breaker- so have fun with this.

  • Aethelwulffe

    November 11, 2012 at 4:55 pm

    If you think that a knight in armor is clumsy, try wearing a riveted mail hauberk (no gaps) vs a full period set of japanese armor.
    Two, the katana thrust needs to be pretty squared up to make it thought the mail, and it isn’t a great thrusting point. That doesn’t happen very often. In an edge shot, the mail just laughs at it. If the Katana was so great at cutting through metal with what now-adays is still a pretty primitive mild steel (and no better than medieval crucible steel or Wootz steel such as in an Ulfbercht or Toledo weapon (much less a rapier or epee…which were contemporaries) I would have a katana in my toolbox instead of a SawsAll.
    Three, Japanese never fought a foreign army….and the Buddhists rebels in Japan had no problem holding off those mighty katanas. The Mongols were defeated by typhoons in both invasions, not the katana.
    Four, there are NO accounts of any particular outcome of a battle being due to the katana. It DID come up against metal armors throughout it’s history, which was a good reason for the bow, and NOT the sword to be the primary weapon of the Samurai.
    Five, tactics that were already archaeic in Europe, such as the cavalry charge came only in the Edo period (long after the flintlock musket). Guns and arrows had trumped swords for a long time in Japan.
    Six, Two lines of melee infantry: One set uf superman Japanese Roboknights armed with single sword or a florentine combo like katana and wakazashi and in full armor vs. the other side’s weekend warriors armed with *any* shortsword and heater/kite type shields and decent helmets (no other armor) will push the Samurai over with their shield wall, and have time to do perverted things with them before charging the archers…We actually call this “doing a Number Six” in the SCA.

    A few last things: The katana has good balance ONLY if used in two hands. Frankly, I find it slow as crap compared to a bastard sword that uses a counterbalance on the pommel. Argue the metal contruction all you want, I have swung weapons that are compositionally balanced the same as a “real” katana. The mass is evenly distributed. A good edge weapon has good tip mass, counterbalanced with the pommel. This gives it what we call a “sweet spot”. Same mass as a katana, but the mass is distributed differently. You can smack the HELL out of something with a short sword. Wanna test it? Set up a force meter, then compare a katana’s impact to that of a longsword. No comparison at all. Neither one slicing through mail and a gambeson, but the hard hitter can deflect the edge of a shield and let you get a little tip smack into someone’s face or neck to do the job.
    If you really want to form an opinion, feel free to come and play with us: http://www.sca.org/geography/findsca.html
    We will let you see just how “clumsy and unskilled” European fighters were. Be prepared to change all your opinions about ninjas and Samurai and learn to respect the shield and spear. You will come to grips with why the Mongols could have snuffed anyone they wanted to (of course they never actually hit the forests, archers, and heavy cavalry of Western Europe). Why the Samurai and not the Kubudai? Answer: Anime!

  • Connor

    January 9, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Aethelwulffe you know nothing about the Samurai, first the Samurai did fight a foreign army, they invaded Korea in the 1500s, they did fight the mongols, it was not just the typhoons, they wen’t out on boats and killed some on there ships, held them off and did not run. Second, the bow was there main weapon yes, until they started fighting more on foot, then it became the sword. Your making them out to be pretty bad warriors, they were NOT, the were very skilled, look at the Shimazu clan of Kogoshima, the were some of the best Samurai around, just look at the Satsuma rebellion. Oh and I also hate Anime, I like the real Samurai and Shinobi not that fake ass crap. Your so biased. I am not saying the knight coud not kill a Samurai, the knight was very skilled too, I enjoy reading about them too, but I hate people saying that the Samurai were crap warriors.