Importance of Samurai Swords in Japanese History
The Samurai, along with the Chonin and the Kuno, were an important part of Japanese culture up until the end of the Edo period. They were usually men from poor families seeking to rise in social rank. Samurai served a feudal lord or daimyo during periods of peace and would form groups called Ikki that worked together to better themselves.

Warriors trained as children, learning military tactics and martial arts such as swordsmanship, archery, horse riding, and swimming. Warriors often carried a long sword called a katana in combat (although other weapons are sometimes used). Early Samurai wore helmets made of solid iron that protected the head but left the face exposed. 

They wore a type of armor called lamellar, which is made up of small interlocking plates. This was lighter and less protective than later plate armor called "do". (Samurai in plate armor) The Samurai often carried two real swords: a long sword and a short sword called a "Wakizashi". 

The long sword was used in battle, while the Wakizashi was often used to commit ritual suicide called seppuku, which actually means "belly ripping", in the event that they were defeated or dishonored. Over time, the Samurai became more trained as mounted archers and began to use spears for combat.

What are Samurai Swords?

A samurai saber is a type of long, curved blade with a handle. It has been used throughout history in a variety of different cultures and countries. These swords are characterized by their distinctive appearance and use of swords in combat, the two-handed technique called iaijutsu that they employ, the wearing of clothes called "hakama" or "haidate", and the carrying over one's head called "tsuba". 

The Japanese word for samurai is usually translated as "those who serve" or "those who protect." The weapon comes from ancient Japan well before the beginning of recorded history. It is thought that they were used as early as the 7th century. The swords, which had a variety of uses, were created by artisans who worked with steel. 

The Japanese most likely learned how to work with it from China and Korea; however, there is also evidence that shows that they were making steel as early as 500 BC. To create these blades, swordsmiths would start with a high-carbon steel bamboo "makihana". They liquified the metal and removed any impurities through repeated folding and hammering. Then the sword cooled slowly.

Swords Used by the Samurai Warriors

Armed with a sword, the samurai were responsible for two very important things. Firstly, they protected Japan from foreign invaders and rebels. Secondly, freemen had the ability to take revenge on their clan members should they be dishonored. The most difficult characteristic of sword fighting was that any weapon could be useless if unable to properly wield it. 

This is because some swords are designed with clever curves in order to make arrows deflect off them while others focus on broad edges which can easily repel an incoming attack. It’s hard to imagine how much more difficult samurai life would have been without such effective protection against enemies and threats from within.

Samurai Sword

  • Katana

One example of such a sword is the katana sword, traditionally used by the samurai clan. As a result of its popularity, this sword became very influential in Japanese culture as it was used to honor both warriors and gods. If a warrior was disarmed or dishonored by his own weapon, he would commit suicide. The finding of this type of sword led the samurai to believe that their gods were angry at them and that their soul was destined for an unhappy afterlife.

  • Wakizashi

Another type of sword was used by those who traveled around Japan for business or just for sightseeing purposes. This short sword was called the wakizashi, meaning "side insertion.  In this case, the blade itself was about three feet in length and only about two inches wide. 

The shape of this sword makes it ideal for cutting and slashing but not so much for slicing. This might be why it was used by travelers instead of samurai warriors. The wakizashi’s primary purpose was to be a backup weapon that could be drawn quickly in case of an attack by surprise. 

It would also make a decent dagger while still having the ability to serve as a sword in dire situations. For this reason, those who carried one were often referred to as yamabushi, meaning mountain folk–a slang term for people living in the mountains or near waterfalls who like nature and solitude.

  • Tanto 

Those who were given permission to carry a sword in public usually traveled with a tanto, which was the most common sword found among them. The average length of this type of sword was between 10 and 20 inches, making it very useful for stabbing or thrusting. It was not ideal for cutting because it had a weak point around its center ridge. 

These samurai swords were strong and durable. The tangs on these swords were also rather short, making them easily concealable in saya or obi. The tanto was also a very practical sword to use during indoor fights rather than the long katana that required plenty of space to maneuver. The small size of the tanto also made it very easy to conceal, which allowed for an easy surprise attack against someone unarmed or without a proper weapon.

Samurai sword

  • Tachi 

The tachi began being used sometime around the late 12th century and is known as the long samurai sword. It is said that this type of weapon was developed due to trade with neighboring cultures, particularly China and Korea, who had longer swords than those used by any natives of Japan at the time.

The tachi' fighting style was derived from these foreign styles and is practiced by samurai to this day. The katana was a much more popular style of sword, but it did not have quite the same prestige as the tachi. It was also used more often than the tachi in combat, but it was accepted as a secondary sword to be used for cutting. 

The blade of a katana would be shorter than those featured on tachi and would be proportionally thick and heavy compared to the longer blades utilized on the latter weapon.

  • Nagamaki 

The nagamaki has become known as an extremely effective weapon among the samurai and has been said to have been developed as far back as 300 years prior to its appearance in Japan (around 905 AD). They were mostly used by foot samurai and were typically ceremonial weapons that would be given as a gift. The earliest known mention of these weapons was in the late Heian Period during the late 10th century AD. 

The nagamaki would have been very rare at the time and it is thought that they might have been used by aristocrats for hunting or ceremonies, but most likely for ceremonial purposes only. Throughout history, there are no documented battles where these samurai swords have been effectively used to combat an opponent face-to-face.

Also Read: Sword Anatomy - Parts of a Sword

Historical Importance of Samurai Swords

A samurai sword is an iconic symbol of Japan that has a long and rich history. Today, you may associate these swords with violence, but the original intent was to use them as tools for cutting down enemies and protecting the people of Japan. You could say that the samurai saber was the first special forces tool invented by the Japanese.

The Meiji Restoration, which officially began in 1868, ushered in a period of westernization and modernization for Japan. As a result of this time, samurai swords became outdated. The militaries of Japan were outfitted with modern rifles and machine guns while their weapons of choice became swords as they made their way into history books and movies.

But although many people associate the samurai saber with violence, these swords were better ornamental objects than dangerous instruments used for fighting wars (which is actually pretty amazing). The wakizashi is the most famous and iconic of these swords, but there were also many other types of blades used by warriors, including katana and tanto.

Because of the importance attached to these weapons to the Japanese people's history and culture, certain restrictions – including rules regarding who could own a specific type of blade – were imposed upon them. Certain families kept their blades for life, passed them down through generations, and buried them with their ancestors after their own deaths.