The samurai sword, also known as the katana, has a rich history dating back from ancient Japan. The sword, which typically exceeds 23 inches in length, is known for its curved single-edge blade and long grip. It gained popularity among waring clans in 12th century Japan and has traditionally been a sword associated with an elite group of Japanese swordsman.

NOVA recently put together a documentary entitled “Secrets of the Samurai Sword,” which breaks down the history of the sword, its construction and the warriors who used it.  Here are a few of the highlights.

History of the Samurai People

The samurai quickly rose to the status of elite swordsman and as early as the 12th century had established themselves as the knights of Japan.  Between the 12th century and the 16th century, they were active in a number of armed clashes, insurrections and battles over control of Japan.

According to the documentary, the samurai were treated with great reverence and up until the 17th century could could legally kill any common person who did not show them sufficient respect. However, along with this respect came a set of ethics that could prove fatal to the samurai himself.

They lived by their own moral code, called Bushido, which deemed a death by enemy to be dishonorable; for this reason, the Samurai would often commit suicide if death on the battlefield appeared unavoidable.

The documentary also details the painstaking process of constructing a samurai sword.  During the construction of the sword, which can last up to 3 months, over 15 men, from steel forgers to sword polishers, will work on it.  Eventually, it returns back to the original swordsmith, who will have the final say on whether or not it is worthy of a samurai warrior.

Jonny Bear

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