Samurai Sword History

Although a history as long as that of the Japanese sword is filled with legends, stories, misrepresentations and disputes as to the accuracy of one fact or another, there is a general outline we can look at that encapsulates the main events and gives us some perspective relating to the study of the sword today.

The first swords made in Japan weren't the curved, flawless samurai swords that we're used to seeing. The straight, double-sided blades were copies of swords from China and Korea, and they broke in battle just as often. Swords at this time were worn to demonstrate style and status as much as for martial uses. This can be referred to as the Ancient Sword Period (Chokuto or Ken Period) and it covers events in Japanese sword history up to about 900 A.D. Very few swords from this period can be found today.

The Old Sword Period (Koto Period) from 900-1530 was the time when Japanese sword making evolved to an unprecedented level and solidified the Samurai sword as the finest sword ever made by man. Political events of this period fueled the forges all over Japan, and as the capital moved from place to place, the Emperor from one clan's control to another, and the civli wars raged on, sword makers refined their arts and produced the sharpest, most flexible sword ever seen. During this time is when the sword evolved into a single-sided blade with curvature. A legend from the Yamato province has it that a sword smith from the area, Amakuni, and his son, Amakura, were the first to forge the curved samurai sword that we know today.

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