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Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Blade and Mounting for a Sword (Katana)

Blade and Mounting for a Sword (Katana) MET sfsbx11s2

Blade and Mounting for a Sword (Katana)

This katana is a Japanese sword with a curved, single-edged blade with a circular guard and long grip to accommodate two hands. The associated lacquered wood scabbard and sword is worn in a waist sash with the cutting edge facing up. A samurai could draw the sword and strike the enemy in a single motion.

A katana is a traditionally made Japanese sword that was used by the samurai of ancient and feudal Japan. The popularity of katana amongst samurai came from the quicker draw of the sword which was well suited to combat where victory depended on quick responses. The katana further facilitated this by being worn thrust through a belt-like sash (obi) with the sharpened edge facing up.

Samurai

The Samurai were the military nobility of medieval Japan, and by the end of the 12th century, they became associated with the middle and upper levels of the warrior class. A samurai was usually associated with their lord and was trained as an officer in military tactics and strategy. While the samurai numbered less than 10% of then Japan’s population, their teachings became pervasive in society.

Reflections

  • How did traditional Samurai with their heritage of Samurai codes react to the emergence of western firepower?
  • How did the samurai culture of the tea ceremony, ink painting, rock gardens and poetry integrate with their warrior training?

Explore Arms and Armor Collection in the Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

Blade and Mounting for a Sword (Katana)

  • Title:               Blade and Mounting for a Sword (Katana)
  • Date:              19th century
  • Geography:    Japanese
  • Materials:       Steel, wood, lacquer, iron, gold, copper-gold alloy (shakudō), rayskin (samé), leather, windmill palm leaves
  • Culture:          Japanese
  • Dimensions:   L. 41 9/16 in. (105.5 cm); L. of blade 35 1/6 in. (89.1 cm); L. of cutting edge 27 5/8 in. (70.2 cm) D. of curvature 13/16 in. (2.1 cm)
  • Museum:        Metropolitan Museum of Art – MET

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“Wake from death and return to life.
– Japanese Proverb

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Photo Credit: 1) Metropolitan Museum of Art [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

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