A katana was one of two swords that Samurai wore in feudal Japan and was a very important part of their training, lifestyle, and beliefs. Because these weapons had such important significance, their construction and forging required the utmost care. Besides the type of steel and the actual forging method, it is critical for any master smith and student of the sword to understand the parts of a katana and the sword’s anatomy. If you’re curious about this aspect of Japanese culture, read on here for a breakdown from the experts at Swords of Northshire.
A traditional katana is crafted to equal about two shaku or 60cm. They have a slight curve and a single sharpened edge. The most important parts of a katana blade include
Mune: This is the back edge of the blade
Ji: The softest section of metal in the back of the blade
Ha: The harder section of the metal at the front of the blade
Kissaki: This is the slightly rounded tip of the blade
Shinogi: The ridgeline of the blade (not the same as the hamon line).
The hamon line is a very important part of the blade that naturally forms through the differential tempering process the metal undergoes. This line separates the higher temperature and lower temperature metal tempering. Some sword makers can be identified by the unique hamon line they create in their swords.
The tsuka is the handle of part of the katana and involves several intricately detailed components.
Mekugi: These are wooden pegs that adhere the tang of the blade to the hilt.
Samé: This is the material that covers the hilt of the sword. It’s traditionally ray skin.
Ito: This is a silk wrap that covers the samé for better grip of the hilt.
Menuki: A final, decorative charm that is wrapped into the ito. It covers the mekugi.
At the top of the tsuka, is a cap that ends the hilt called a kashira. On the other end of the blade lie the tsuba and the habaki. The tsuba is the guard of the sword and the habaki is the metal collar right underneath it that keeps the katana firmly sheathed.
While not technically part of the katana sword’s anatomy, the saya is a scabbard. These can vary in material and style. Many prefer lacquered wood, others like horns or bone. The important thing about the saya is that it’s made to protect the blade part of the katana.
Katanas at Swords of Northshire
With this knowledge of katana parts, you’re much better equipped to start shopping for a high quality sword. At Swords of Northshire, we’re experts on Samurai sword design and forging. Reach out to us with any questions you may have about katana parts, sword terminology, or Japanese weapons history.
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