Katana

Katana of the 16th or 17th Century, with its saya. Handle (tsuka) of a katana of the 19th century given to an ambassador.

The katana (刀) is the Japanese backsword or longsword (大刀 daitō) of the type specifically in use after the 1400s (following the use of the tachi), although many Japanese use this word generically as a catch-all word for sword. Katana (pronounced [ka-ta-na]) is the kun'yomi (Japanese reading) of the kanji 刀 ; the on'yomi (Chinese reading) is tō. In Mandarin, it is pronounced dāo (this does not specifically refer to the katana. It is literally translated as 'knife,' and pronounced 'dao'). While the word has no separate plural form in Japanese, it has been adopted as a loan word by the English language, where it is commonly pluralised as katanas.

It refers to a specific type of curved, single-edged sword traditionally used by the Japanese samurai. The weapon was typically paired with the wakizashi, a similarly made but shorter sword both worn by the members of the buke (bushi) warrior class, it could also be worn with the tanto, an even smaller similarly shaped blade. The two weapons together were called the daisho, and represented the social power and personal honor of the samurai (buke retainers to the daimyo). The long blade was used for open combat, while the shorter blade was considered a side arm, and also more suited for stabbing, close combat (such as indoors), and seppuku, a form of ritual suicide. (In fact, seppuku was a right reserved for samurai in order to preserve their honor by taking their own life should the need arise.) The scabbard for a katana is referred to as a saya, and the handguard piece, often intricately designed as individual works of art especially in later years of the Edo period, was called the tsuba. Other aspects of the koshirae (mountings), such as the menuki (decorative grip swells), habaki (blade collar and scabbard wedge), fuchi and kashira (handle collar and cap), kozuka (small utility knife handle), kogai (decorative skewer-like implement), saya lacquer, and tsukamaki (professional handle wrap), received similar levels of artistry.

It is primarily used for cutting, although its curvature is generally gentle enough to allow for effective thrusting as well. Though it is intended for and was predominantly used with a two-handed grip, many extant historical Japanese sword arts include at least one or two single-handed techniques. It is traditionally worn edge up. While the practical arts for using the sword for its original purpose are now somewhat obsolete, kenjutsu and iaijutsu have turned into gendai budo — modern martial arts for a modern time. The art of drawing the katana and attacking one's enemies is iaido (also known as battōjutsu/battodo), and kendo is an art of fencing with a shinai (bamboo sword) protected by helmet and armour. Old koryu sword schools do still exist (for example, Kashima Shinto-ryu, Kashima Shin-ryu, and Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu, among others). Perhaps one of the more famous types of Japanese fencing was "Nitto Ryu" or the use of both the katana and wakizashi in tandem; a technique most famously used by Miyamoto Musashi, though the extensive popularization of this technique in anime, literature, and pop culture has strongly skewed modern perspective on its importance and prevalence.

The sword in Japanese society

The sword was considered the soul of the samurai. Although other weapons waxed and waned in popularity throughout history, the sword remained a constant. Although spears have survived since as far back as the 8th century AD, it was not until the large scale wars of the Onin period towards the end of the fifteenth century that the straight bladed spear, the yari, vied with the sword for the most popular weapon. The Japanese pinned an extraordinary amount of value on the sword. For much of Japan's history, only samurai were even allowed to carry swords, and a peasant carrying a sword was enough reason to kill the peasant and take the sword after a prohibition was issued in early Edo period. Ronin, needing money, would sometimes be forced to sell their swords, further adding to their highly dishonorable, sometimes vagabond status in Japanese society. They would be "soulless" in the eyes of a samurai.

Much of early Japanese culture revolved around swords. Elaborate methods for carrying, cleaning, storing, sharpening (or not sharpening), and wielding the sword evolved from era to era.

For example, a samurai entering someone's house might consider how to place his sheathed sword as he knelt. Positioning his sword for an easy draw implied suspicion or aggression; thus, whether he placed it on his right or left side, and whether the blade was placed curving away or towards him, was an important point of etiquette. As for the host, his long-sword was generally stored above the wakizashi on a rack called a katana-kake, curving upwards; in the manner it was worn, with the omote side showing (tsuka or handle ponting left). The Tachi on the other hand, had a stand, the tsuka was set in a groove at the base and the saya pointed upwards set in a notch at the top with the cutting edge down, again in the manner it was worn.

However, most samurai did not use their sword as a primary weapon; bow first, a spear next, and only then the sword. Drawing the sword was like letting one's soul blaze free and usually meant that the samurai was down to the last straw. To have fought till nothing but a surrender is possible, is defined as Ken ore, ya mo tsuki, (lit. "with swords broken and without an arrow") used as a proverb.


There is also another interesting fact about the Japanese sword. The back is thick and front end is razor sharp. The front end is made up of almost 3000 layers of metal forged precisely to give shape to blade. This gives the sword its cutting edge and the strength. The back end is soft, and so the sword is not brittle but flexible, while the front end is sharp and hard.

History of the Japanese sword

A display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London showing the katana and its various furniture.

Swords are critical in most feudal societies, and Japan was no exception. In the 6th century BCE the legendary Emperor Jimmu conquered much of Japan. At the same time, the Japanese learned the art of swordmaking from Chinese smiths. Early swords were in the style of Chinese swords, straight and single or double-edged.

One of the oldest known forms of kenjutsu dates the Kofun era (3rd and 4th centuries). The style, called Kashima no Tachi (鹿島の太刀), was created at the Kashima Shrine (in Ibaraki Prefecture). In the Heian Period (8th to 11th centuries) we see the development of sword-making, through techniques brought from the Russia and North part of Japan Hokkaido in those days Ainu's territory. The Ainu people used Warabite-tou(蕨手刀) Warabite sword and this sword influenced the Katana. According to legend, the Japanese sword was invented by a smith named 'Amakuni' in AD 700, along with the folded steel process. Among other modifications, the katana becomes single-edged, and better suited for slashing. This is also reflected in the styles of kenjutsu created during this period. From the Kashima shrine's Kashima no Tachi sprang the Kantō-nanaryū (関東七流 - also known as the Kashima-nanaryū 鹿島七流). In the same period, the Kyō-hachiryū (京八流) was created in the Kurama mountain (in Kyoto).

By the twelfth century, civil war erupted after a long period of decadence. For five centuries, Japan had its own dark ages, marked by continuous, brutal wars. The War of Onin (1467-1477) revolutionized Japanese armour.

During the Muromachi period, bloody wars were the norm, but the indolent shogunates also put a high value on art and culture, so the islands did not descend into barbarism. While many good swords were made during this period, the vast need for swords caused smiths to switch to production line methods. Furthermore, the ferocity of the fighting caused the highly artistic techniques of the Kamakura period (known as the Golden Age of Swordmaking) to be abandoned in favor of more utilitarian and disposable weapons. The export of katana reached its height during Muromachi period with the total of at least 200,000 katana being shipped to the Ming dynasty in official trades. The (ultimately failed) rationale behind this was to attempt to soak up the production of Japanese weapons and make it harder for pirates in the area to arm. As time progressed, the craft decayed under the needs listed above, and the introduction of guns, as a decisive force on the battlefield.

The famous failed invasion of Japan by the Mongols marked another point of evolution for the Japanese sword. Kokan Nagayama, in the book "The Connoiseur's Book of Japanese Swords", Kodansha International 1997, states on page 21 that the "Japanese warriors had never before encountered such an enemy (the Mongols), who was protected by leather armor and wielded a very stout sword -- clearly superior to theirs -- in a unique style of fighting." He added that certain Japanese swordsmiths started to adopt thinner and simpler temper lines due to their belief that " blades with wide temper lines reaching near to the ridge line look gorgeous, but tend to break." Unfortunately, Mr Nagayama did not quote the Japanese historical references that he derived his comments on the superiority of the Mongol (ie continental Chinese, Korean and other makes) sword over the Japanese sword. Other Japanese scholars had also highlighted that certain Japanese swordsmiths of this period, began to make blades with thicker backs and bigger points, as a counter-response to the Mongol threat.

In times of peace, swordsmiths had time and the inclination to return to the making of refined and artistic blades, and the beginning of the Momoyama period saw the return of high quality creations. As the techniques of the ancient smiths had been lost during the previous period of war, these swords were called shinto, literally 'new swords.' This gave the obvious name to the older blades as koto, 'old swords.' The blades that predated the curved blades introduced around 987AD were referred to as 'jokoto' or ancient swords. As the Edo period progressed, there came a decline in quality once again, for a variety of reasons, including the evolution of the samurai class into bureaucrats and policemen; other related arts did move forward from time to time, leading to beautiful engravings and decorations for weapons. The addition of these engravings known as 'horimono' were originally for religious reasons, and were simple and tasteful. It is often considered that the more complex work found on many shinto swords then is a corruption, where form no longer strictly follows function and thereby no longer achieves a pure form of beauty.

Under the isolationist Tokugawa Shogunate, guns and gunpowder were increasingly restricted and removed from circulation. By the middle of the eighteenth century, most young Japanese had never seen a gun, let alone actually seen one fired.

Towards the end of this period, swordmaking had fallen to another low, and due to the efforts of the master swordsmith Munetsugu at the turn of the 19th century, artistic merit once again returned to the craft. Munetsugu published opinions that the arts and techniques of the shinto swords were inferior to the koto blades, and that research should be made by all swordsmiths in the land to rediscover the lost techniques. Munetsugu travelled the land teaching what he knew to all who would listen, and swordsmiths rallied to his cause and ushered in a second renaissance in Japanese sword smithing. With the discarding of the Shinto style, and the re-introduction of old and rediscovered techniques, the swords of this time were now called 'shinshinto' meaning 'new-new swords.'

Japan remained in stasis until Matthew Perry's arrival in 1853 and the subsequent Convention of Kanagawa forcibly reintroduced Japan to the outside world; the rapid modernization of the Meiji Restoration soon followed.

The Haitorei edict in 1876 all but banned carrying swords and guns on streets, making samurai less distinguishable from commoners. Possession itself was not prohibited, so many katana were simply stashed away. Overnight, the market for swords died, and many swordsmiths were left without a trade to pursue, and valuable skills were lost. In time, the need to arm soldiers with swords was perceived again and over the decades at the beginning of the 20th century swordsmiths again found work. These swords, known as 'gunto', are often very low in quality with many being oil tempered or simply stamped out of steel and given a serial number rather than a chiselled signature.

Katana remained in use in some occupations, police sometimes using katana not only to catch criminals but to defend themselves from criminals who could be armed with katana as well. At the same time, Kendo was incorporated into police training so that police officers would have at least the minimal training necessary to properly use one.

"Type 95" Non Commissioned Officer's sword of the Second World War; made to resemble a Commissioned Officer's shin gunto, they were made of standard machine steel, with a metal, embossed and painted handle designed to look like a traditional tsuka.

Though this was a dark time for the katana, the craft was kept alive through the efforts of a few individuals, and notably the Gassan line of smiths who were employed as Imperial Artisans. These smiths, Gassan Sadakazu and Gassan Sadakatsu were kept busy producing fine works that stand with the best of the older blades for the Emperor and other high ranking officials. The students of Gassan Sadakatsu went on to be designated Intangible Cultural Assets, or more commonly known as Living National Treasures, as they embodied knowledge that was considered to be fundamentally important to the Japanese identity. In 1934 the Japanese government issued a military specification for the shin gunto "new army sword" the first version of which was referred to as a "Type 94 katana", and many machine- and handcrafted swords used in World War II conformed to this and later shin gunto specifications.

Under the United States occupation at the end of World War II all armed forces were disbanded and, except under several permits issued by police and municipal government, production of katana with edges was banned. This ban would be later overturned through the personal appeal of Dr. Homma Junji to General Douglas MacArthur. During their meeting, Dr. Homma produced blades from the various periods of Japanese history and General MacArthur was a quick student, being able to identify very quickly what blades held artistic merit and which could be considered purely weapons. As a result of this meeting, the general ban was amended so that the weapon grade gunto would be destroyed and swords of artistic merit could be owned and preserved. Even so, many katana were sold to American soldiers who had money to spend at a bargain price. Some were simply stolen. Others remained stashed away.

Due to this disarmament, as of 1958 there were more Japanese swords in America than in Japan: American soldiers would return from the Orient with piles of swords, often as many as they could carry. The vast majority of these 1,000,000 or more swords were gunto, but there were still a sizable number of koto, shinto and shin-shinto.

Swordsmiths had been increasingly turning to producing civilian goods after the Edo period but this disarmament and subsequent regulations almost put an end to the production of katana. A few smiths did continue their trade, and Dr. Homma went on to be a founding figure of the Nihon Bijitsu Hozon Token Kai, the 'Society for the Preservation of Art Swords', who made it their mission to preserve the old techniques and blades. With the efforts of other like minded individuals, the katana has arisen from its darkest day and many swordsmiths have continued the work begun by Munetsugu, re-discovering the old techniques and making the art swords produced by today's best smiths as good as many of the blades of old.

Some katana have been used in modern-day armed robberies. [1] However it is likely that most of these katana are sword like objects, as a basic, properly constructed katana is comparative in price to an inexpensive handgun.

Classification of Japanese swords

Several katana and wakizashi blades, illustrating the variations in length and curvature. The nakago are well visible.

Classification by length

All Japanese swords are manufactured according to this method and are somewhat similar in appearance. What generally differentiates the different swords is their length. Japanese swords are measured in units of shaku (1 shaku = approximately 30.3 centimeters or 11.93 inches; from 1891 the shaku has been defined as exactly 10/33 metres, but older data may vary slightly from this value). For more precise measurement, "sun", "bu", and "rin" (one-tenth, one-hundredth, and one-thousandth of a shaku respectively) may be used.

  • A blade shorter than 1 shaku (30 cm) is considered a tanto (knife).
  • A blade longer than 1 shaku but less than 2 (30–61 cm) is considered a shoto (short sword) and included the wakizashi and kodachi.
  • A blade longer than 2 shaku (61 cm) is considered a daito, or long sword. This is the category 'katana' fall into. However, the term 'katana' is often misapplied: a sword is only a katana if it is worn blade-up through a belt-sash called an obi (these 'katana' averaged 65 cm in blade length). If it is suspended by cords from a belt, it is called 'tachi' (average blade length of 75 cm) the tachi is worn cutting edge down.
  • Abnormally long blades (longer than 3 shaku or 90cm), usually carried across the back, are called ōdachi or nodachi. 'ōdachi' is also sometimes used as a synonym for katana.

A chisa-katana is simply a shorter katana. A katana was longer than two shaku in length (one shaku= about 11.93 inches). However, a chisa-katana is longer than the wakizashi, which was between one and two shaku in length. Chisa-katana were not common weapons since usually a katana was made for a shorter person or a wakizashi for a larger person. The most common reference to a chisakatana is a shorter katana that does not have a companion blade. They were most commonly made in the Buke-Zukuri mounting.

Classification by schools and provinces

Japanese swords can be traced back to one of several provinces, each of which had its own school, traditions and 'trademarks' - e.g., the swords from Mino province were "from the start famous for their sharpness". (Source: The connoisseur's guide to Japanese swords, by Kokan Nagayama, p. 217.) These traditions and provinces are as follows:

Classification by date of manufacture

Classification by mode of wear

Notes

  • Swords designed specifically to be tachi are generally koto rather than shinto, so they are generally better manufactured and more elaborately decorated. However, these are still katana if worn in modern 'buke-zukuri' style. The signature almost always appears on the side facing away from the body when the blade is worn, so it is possible to discern the smith's intention for the blade in this manner.
  • There are many varieties of wooden practice blades, including those made out of wood (bokken) and those made out of bamboo (often used for kendo practice, usually referred to as shinai).
  • Most of the various kinds of spears could come with blades made in the same style as the Japanese sword. The two main types are 'naginata', similar to a halberd in use, and a 'yari' which is more traditionally spear like. Although largely overlooked in Western literature, spears were the first resort of any samurai and most peasants, and the blades on the samurai spears were often of extremely high quality. However, despite this, the sword was still considered the soul of the samurai, not the spear.
  • The 'soul of the samurai' concept has its roots in the early Tokugawa Shogunate. While there has always been reverence for the sword, the official line of it being the 'soul' comes from a need of the Shogunate to provide high value gifts to retainers and noblemen. In older days, these gifts would be of land, but at the time of the Shogunate land was a scarce commodity. It is considered that this angle of the sword was played up by those in power in order to replace land in the role of a gift of great honor. It became traditional that Daimyo and the Shogun, and the members of their families, would exchange gifts of swords when meeting together or for special occasions such as weddings and births. As such, the art of 'kantei' (the ability to judge a sword for period, maker, and quality) became important, as this allowed specialists to appraise a blade and so place its value. Older swords by honored makers would then be reserved for very special gifts, in particular to the Shogun and his family or from the Shogun to show very special merit.

Manufacturing

Japanese swords and other edged weapons are manufactured by the Chinese method of repeatedly heating, folding and hammering the metal. This practice became popular from use of highly impure metals, stemming from the low temperature yielded in the smelting at that time and place. In order to counter this, and to homogenize the carbon content of the blades (giving some blades characteristic folding patterns), the folding was developed (for comparison see pattern welding), and found to be quite effective, though labour intensive.

The distinctive curvature of the katana is partly due to a process of differential quenching. The back of the sword is coated with clay, insulating it and so causing it to cool slower than the edge when the blade is quenched. This produces a blade with a hard edge and soft back, allowing it to be resilient and yet retain a good cutting edge.

This process also makes the edge of the blade contract less than the back when cooling down, something that aids the smith in establishing the curvature of the blade.

While some people believe that katana and wakizashi were constructed alike, this was not always the case. They were often forged with different profiles, different blade thicknesses, and varying amounts of niku. Wakizashi were also not simply a 'scaled down' katana, they were often forged in hira-zukuri or other such forms, which were very rare on katana.

On a related note, the daisho (pair of swords) was not always forged together. If a samurai was able to afford a daisho, it was often composed of whichever two swords could be conveniently acquired, sometimes by different smiths and in different styles. Even when a daisho contained a pair of blades by the same smith, they were not always forged as a pair or mounted as one. "True" daisho, containing a pair of blades that were made as a pair, mounted as a pair, and owned/worn as a pair, are therefore uncommon and considered highly valuable - especially if they still retain their original mountings (as opposed to later mountings, even if the later mounts are made as a pair).

Japanese swords are fairly uncommon today, but not so rare that genuine antiques cannot be acquired - from reliable sources at significant expense, of course. Modern katana and wakizashi are only made by the few licenced practitioners that still practice making these crafted weapons today. Most of the "type 98 katana's" from World War II do not exist today, as well as the older versions.

Manufacturing processes are described in greater detail in following subsections.

Composition

Traditional Japanese steel is popularly considered to be one of the best for creating swords, but the true reasons for this are artistic and not functional - contemporary western steels were and most modern steels are actually superior in strength and purity. The total composition varied from smith to smith and lode to lode of ore.

One more modern formula (from World War II):

The high percentage of carbon gave the blade strength while the silicon increased the flexibility of the blade as well as its ability to withstand stress.

Construction

Blacksmith Munechika (end of the 10th century), helped by a fox spirit, forging the blade ko-kitsune-maru ("Little fox"). The kami is represented by a woman surrounded by foxes. Engraving by Ogata Gekko (1859-1920), 1873. Engraving of the Edo era depicting forge scenes.


The forging of a Japanese blade typically took hours or days, and was considered a sacred art. As with many complex endeavors, rather than a single craftsman, several artists were involved. There was a smith to forge the rough shape, often a second smith (apprentice) to fold the metal, a specialist polisher, and even a specialist for the edge itself. Often, there were sheath, hilt, and tsuba (handguard) specialists as well.

The most famous part of the manufacturing process was the folding of the steel. Steel was repeatedly 'folded', bent over itself and hammered flat. This did several things:

  • It eliminated any bubbles in the metal.
  • It homogenized the metal, spreading the elements (such as carbon) evenly throughout - increasing the effective strength by decreasing the number of potential weak points.
  • It created layers, by continuously decarburizing the surface and bringing the surface into the blade's interior, which gives the swords their unique and beautiful grain. Despite widespread popular belief that the layered structure provides enhanced mechanical properties of the steel, this is completely false. Layers act as weld points which can only serve to weaken the integrity of the blade. (Bulat steel layering is an entirely different chemical effect, and does not apply to blades made in the Japanese fashion.)
  • It burned off many impurities, again helping to overcome the Japanese steel's poor quality and purify/strengthen the sword.

Contrary to popular belief, continued folding will not create a "super-strong" blade; once impurities are burnt off and the carbon content homogenized, further folding offers little benefit and will gradually burn out the carbon, leading eventually to a softer steel less able to hold an edge. The number of folds varied from sword to sword, but those with more than about a dozen folds are uncommon, and authentic swords with more than two dozen folds are completely unknown. It should be noted that a blade folded 12 times will have more than 4,000 'layers' underneath the initial blade to begin with, and that 20 folds would produce a blade with over a million layers. Beyond this number, the molecular structure of the blade is such that further folding would most likely serve no further purpose. Even before this point, more layers does not equal a better sword; though folding does burn off impurities and homogenize the blade, a very even and clean composition is obtained early in the process, and control of carbon content has a much greater effect on the blade's functionality. Thus, the best results were usually obtained at 8-10 folds.

Generally, swords were created with the grain of the blade (called 'hada') running down the blade like the grain on a plank of wood. Straight grains were called 'masame-hada', wood-like grain "itame," wood-burl grain "mokume," and concentric wavy grain (an uncommon feature seen almost esclusively in the Gassan school) 'ayasugi-hada'. The difference between the three normal grain types (masame-, itame-, and mokume-hada) is one of cutting a tree perpendicular to its direction of growth (mokume) at an angle (itame) or along the grain (masame), the angle causing the "stretched" pattern. The blades that were considered the most robust, reliable, and of highest quality were those made in the Mino tradition, esepically those of Magoroku Kanemoto. Bizen tradition, which specialized in mokume, and some schools of Yamato tradition were also considered strong warrior's weapons.

One of the core philosophies of the Japanese sword is that it has a single edge. This means that the rear of the sword can be used to reinforce the edge, and the Japanese took full advantage of this fact. When finished, the steel is not quenched or tempered in the conventional European fashion. Steel’s exact flex and strength vary dramatically with heat variation, and depending on how hot it gets and how fast it cools, the steel has vastly different properties. If steel cools quickly, from a hot temperature, it becomes martensite, which is very hard but brittle. Slower, from a lower temperature, and it becomes pearlite, which has significantly more flex but doesn’t hold an edge. To control the cooling, the sword is heated and painted with layers of sticky clay. A thin layer on the edge of the sword ensures quick cooling, but not so fast as to crack the sword steel (this makes the actual edge of the sword extremely hard martensite). A thicker layer of mud on the rest of the blade causes slower cooling, and softer steel, giving the blade the flex it needs (this makes the rear and inside of the sword into pearlite). When the application is finished, the sword is quenched and hardens correctly.

Eventually the Japanese began to experiment with using different types of steel in different parts of the sword. Examples are shown below:

The vast majority of 'good' katana and wakazashi are of 'wariba-gitae' type, but the more complex models allow for parrying without fear of damaging the side of the blade. The last generally accepted model, the 'shiho-zume-gitae', is quite rare, but added a rear support.

The 'makuri-gitae' is made using two steels, one folded more times than the other, or of a lesser carbon content. When both sections have been folded adequately, they are bent into a 'U' shape and the softer piece is inserted into the harder piece, at which point they are hammered out into a long blade shape. By the end of the process, the two pieces of steel are fused together, but retain their differences in hardness. To make han-sanmai-awase-gitae or shiho-zume-gitae, pieces of hard steel are then added to the outside of the blade in a similar fashion.

Anatomy of the katana

Nakago of a wakisashi blade Kissagi of a tachi blade, Bizen school, signed Kuni Osafune Yoshigake; Nambokusho era (14th century). The tanka which locks the blade is visible just under the tsuba (guard).

Each blade has a unique profile, depending on the smith, the construction method, and a bit of luck. The most prominent is the middle ridge, or 'shinogi'. In the earlier picture, the examples were flat to the shinogi, then tapering to the blade. However, swords could narrow down to the shinogi, then narrow further to the blade, or even expand outward towards the shinogi then shrink to the blade (producing a trapezoidal shape). A flat or narrowing shinogi is called 'shinogi-hikushi', whereas a 'fat' blade is called a 'shinogi-takushi'.

The shinogi can be placed near the back of the blade for a longer, sharper, more fragile tip or a more moderate shinogi near the center of the blade.

The sword also has an exact tip shape, which is considered an extremely important characteristic: the tip can be long (ô-kissaki), medium (chû-kissaki), short (ko-kissaki), or even hooked backwards (ikuri-ô-kissaki). In addition, whether the front edge of the tip is more curved (fukura-tsuku) or (relatively) straight (fukura-kareru) is also important.

It is important to point out that the kissaki (point) is not a "chisel-like" point, nor is the Western knife interpretation of a "tanto point" at all correct or Japanese. Such western knife blades feature a straight, linearly-sloped point whose sole advantage is being easy to grind and which only bears a superficial similarity to traditional Japanese kissaki. Kissaki are have a curved profile, and smooth three-dimensional curvature across their surface towards the edge - though they are bounded by a straight line called the yokote and have crisp definition at all their edges.

A hole is drilled into the tang (nagako), called a mekugi-ana. It is used to anchor the blade using a mekugi, a small bamboo pin that is inserted into another cavity in the Tsuka and through the mekugi-ana. Thus restricting the blade from slipping out. To remove the Tsuka you must remove the mekugi. Also, The swordsmith signature (mei) is placed on the nagako.

Decoration

Almost all blades are decorated, although not all blades are decorated on the visible part of the blade. Once the blade is cool, and the mud is scraped off, the blade has designs and grooves cut into it. One of the most important markings on the sword is performed here: the file markings. These are cut into the tang, or the hilt-section of the blade, where they will be covered by a hilt later. The tang is never supposed to be cleaned: doing this can cut the value of the sword in half or more. The purpose is to show how well the blade steel ages. A number of different types of file markings are used, including horizontal, slanted, and checked, known as ichi-monji, kosuji-chigai, suji-chigai, o-suji-chigai, katte-agari, shinogi-kiri-suji-chigai, taka-no-ha, and gyaku-taka-no-ha. A grid of marks, from raking the file diagonally both ways across the tang, is called higaki, whereas specialized 'full dress' file marks are called kesho-yasuri. Lastly, if the blade is very old, it may have been shaved instead of filed. This is called sensuki. While ornamental, these file marks also serve the purpose of providing an uneven surface which bites well into the 'tsuka', or the hilt which fits over it and is made from wood. It is this pressure fit for the most part that holds the tsuka in place during the strike, while the mekugi pin serves as a secondary method and a safety.

Some other marks on the blade are aesthetic: signatures and dedications written in kanji and engravings depicting gods, dragons, or other 'acceptable' beings, called horimono. Some are more practical, grooves for lightening and extra flex (as well as an intimidating sound, called tachikaze, when swung with force). Grooves come in wide (bo-hi), twin narrow (futasuji-hi), twin wide and narrow (bo-hi ni tsure-hi), short (koshi-hi), twin short (gomabushi), twin long with joined tips (shobu-hi), twin long with irregular breaks (kuichigai-hi), and halberd-style (naginata-hi). Contrary to popular belief, these grooves have nothing to do with improving the flow of enemy blood.

Polishing

katana kissagi before polishing

When the rough blade was completed, the swordsmith would turn the blade over to a polisher called a togishi, whose job it was to polish the steel of the blade to a glittering shine and sharpen the edge for battle. This takes hours for every inch of blade, and is painstaking work with different kinds of very fine stone. Early polishers used three types of stone, whereas a modern polisher generally uses seven. It almost always takes longer than actually crafting the blade does, and a good polishing makes a blade look better, while a bad polishing makes the best of blades look like gunto. More importantly, an unschooled polish can permanently ruin the blade geometry or wear the steel down to its core steel, both of which effectively destroy the sword's monetary, historic, artistic, and functional value.

One of the ways which blades can be judged is by what this polishing reveals: the crystal-like qualities of the blade become quite visible, and the hamon (incorrectly known in English as the temper line, where the sharp edge fades into the normal steel of the blade) shows the unique nature of the sword. Each blade is distinct in its hamon and the grain (hada) of its steel. The hamon, which is determined primarily by how the clay is applied, is often used as a kind of signature of the smith, above and beyond his own signature, and each tradition of swordsmiths often has a particular style of hamon it prefers over all others. Hamon vary from straight to wavy to shaped like crabs or zigzags, and in their wandering they reveal important facts about the blade itself. A good polishing reveals what speed the edge was cooled at, from what temperature, and what the carbon content of the steel is. This is because it displays either nioi, which is a mix of extremely fine martensite with troostite (another type of tempered steel), or the more crystalline and obvious nie, which contains a lot of less fine martensite.

Furnishings

An Edo era wakizashi. The tsukamaki (handle lacing) is off, showing the shark skin. Note the decoration of the saya. Elaborated tsuba of the Edo era wooden scabbard used to protect the blade when not worn for some time

From here, the blade is passed on to a hilt-maker. Hilts vary in their exact nature depending on the era, but generally consist of the same general idea, with the variation being in the components used and in the wrapping style. The obvious part of the hilt consists of a metal or wooden grip called a tsuka, which can also be used to refer to the entire hilt. The cross guard, or tsuba, on Japanese swords (except for certain twentieth century sabers which emulate Western navies') is small and round, made of metal, and often very ornate. (see related article on Koshirae)

There is a pommel at the base known as a kashira, and there is often a decoration under the criss-crossed wrappings called a menuki. A bamboo peg called a mekugi is slipped through the tsuka and through the tang of the blade, using the hole called a mekugiana drilled in it. This anchors the blade securely into the hilt. To anchor the blade securely into the sheath it will soon have, the blade acquires a collar, or habaki, which extends an inch or so past the cross guard and keeps the blade from rattling.

The sheaths themselves are not an easy task. There are two types of sheaths, both of which require the same exacting work. One is the shira-saya, which is generally made of wood and considered the 'resting' sheath, used as a storage sheath. The other sheath is the more decorative or battle-worthy sheath which is usually called either a jindachi-zukuri or a buke-zukuri, depending on whether it was supposed to be suspended from the obi(belt) by straps when the sword is mounted in Tachi-Koshirae or thrust through the obi if mounted as katana-koshirae, respectively. Other types of mounting include the kyu-gunto, shin-gunto, and kai-gunto types for the twentieth-century military, but these swords were generally mass-produced and highly inferior, and few true Japanese swords are mounted in these styles.

Technique

The katana is primarily a cutting weapon, rather than a stabbing one. The hilt of the katana is held two-handed with a small gap between the hands, generally as large as the grip permits, allowing for more leverage to be applied when cutting and more maneuverability when parrying another weapon. However, it is often used single-handed as well. Testing of swords, called tameshigiri, was practiced on a variety of materials (including people) to test the sword's sharpness and also practice cutting technique. Considering the broader case of Japanese swords, rather than the specific case of the shinto katana, technique varies over time depending on the style of fighting prevalent in military operations of the time.

In certain eras, the sword becomes longer and is intended for use from horseback. At the same time, footmen may accompany a horseman and be armed with shorter katate-uchi at their side. This is a katana with a shortened length and handle, intended for one-handed fighting only.

As armor and enemies changed over time, the shapes of blades changed from heavier profiles to lighter profiles, with different intentions for use in fighting.

The sword was mostly considered as the weapon of last resort on the battlefield though, being used only after the bow, or spear was no longer feasible. However, during the Edo period Samurai went about unarmored and armed with daisho, in which case it would be the first weapon to be used

In popular culture

Myths

Many myths surround Japanese swords, the most frequent being that the blades are folded an immense number of times, gaining magical properties in the meantime.

While blades folded hundreds, thousands, or even millions of times are encountered in fiction, there is no record of real blades being folded more than around 20 times. With each fold made by the maker, every internal layer is also folded, and so the total number of layers in a sword blade is doubled at each fold; since the thickness of a katana blade is less than 230 iron atoms, going beyond 20 folds no longer adds meaningfully to the number of layers in the blade.

Furthermore, while heating and folding serves to even out the distribution of carbon throughout the blade, a small amount of carbon is also 'burnt out' of the steel in this process; repeated folding will eventually remove most of the carbon, turning the material into softer iron and reducing its ability to hold a sharp edge.

Some swords were reputed to reflect their creators' personalities. Those made by Muramasa had a reputation for violence and bloodshed, while those made by Masamune were considered weapons of peace. A popular legend tells of what happens when two swords made by Muramasa and Masamune were held in a stream carrying fallen leaves: while those leaves touching the Muramasa blade were cut in two, those coming towards the Masamune suddenly changed course and went around the blade without touching it.

Kusanagi (probably a tsurugi, a type of bronze Age sword which precedes the katana by centuries) is the most famous legendary sword in Japanese mythology, involved in several folk stories. Along with the Jewel and the Mirror, it was one of the three godly treasures of Japan.

A common misconception is that Katanas magically sprung into existence in Japan, utterly isolated from the mainland. The technique of folding steel came from China, and contact with the mainland would affect how the katana evolved through the centuries.

In fiction

The katana appears in various works of fiction, including film, anime, manga, other forms of literature, and computer games. It is frequently used not only in Japanese settings, but also in other settings, often by non-Japanese creators; this popularity can be attributed partly to its status as an easily recognisable icon of Japan and partly to its high reputation as a formidable weapon in skilled hands. Three well-known appearances in Western culture are the Bride's signature weapon in Kill Bill (which was strongly influenced by Japanese samurai movies) and the katana used by the main character Connor MacLeod in The Highlander and the 1975 Tom Laughlin action/cult Western film Master Gunfighter.

It is the prime weapon of choice for Japanese heroes in historical fiction set before the Meiji period. Carrying a non-sealed katana is illegal in present-day Japan, but in fiction this law is often ignored or circumvented to allow characters to carry katana as a matter of artistic licence. For instance, some stories state that carrying weapons has been permitted due to a serious increase in crimes or an invasion of monsters from other dimensions. With this law in mind, katana are sometimes used for comic relief in anime and manga set in the present, although this is sometimes replaced by the use of a bokken having surprisingly comparable capabilities.

In many works, especially when magical or supernatural powers are significant story elements, katana are more than a match for any other weapons. In some cases, writers make a new weapon based on ideas from katana, as a signature weapon of heroes and villains. The lightsaber is an example of such a weapon. Leonardo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is also referred to as the Master of the Twin Katanas, though his swords are straight-edged and not true katana.

In Robert Jordan's fantasy series, The Wheel of Time, the lead character, Rand al'Thor, weilds a sword called "Callandor" which fits the description of a katana, albeit a magical one.

Comparisons with European swords

It is a commonly-encountered article of faith that katanas are intrinsically superior to European swords. This belief is frequently bolstered by roleplaying games that assign superior statistics to katanas, and also by many movies. However, these claims are largely based on misunderstandings about the manufacture and role of European swords, and comparing the schools on their worst examples instead of their best.

Because Japan was an iron-poor society, making a sword was an inherently expensive undertaking; the supply of swords was limited, and so it was in the smiths' interest to make the most of the materials they could afford. Europe also had superlative swordsmiths; Toledo steel swords from Spain are one example of legendary quality swords from outside Japan. However, the greater availability of iron made it practical to produce cheap, low-quality weapons in large quantities. Where Europeans had the choice between expensive good swords and cheap bad swords, Japanese had the choice between expensive swords, somewhat less expensive swords, or none at all.

Some European swords were also designed for different modes of combat. The katana's sharpness makes it an excellent cutting weapon. Katana are capable of damaging armor to a degree and even today Shinkendo masters perform the ancient helmet cutting ceremony. In this light, the different characteristics of certain European swords are due less to the limitations of their makers than to the requirements of their use. Attempting to establish the superiority of the one weapon over the other is ultimately meaningless without first defining the circumstances in which they are to be compared.

At the same time, many European sword types from the very beginning of the history of the sword, through the medieval period and the renaissance to the 20th century were designed for the same combat modes as Japanese ones, fighting against lightly-armored or unarmored infantry. Styles that relied on a single longsword for both offense and defense were well known - see e.g. Joachim Meyer's fechtbuch[2] - and disparities in weight have been greatly exaggerated; both longswords and katanas typically weighed between 1.0 and 1.5 kilograms (2-3 pounds).

Some famous katana smiths

  • Amakuni
  • Munechika
  • Rai Kunitoshi
  • Rai Kunimitsu
  • Soshu Masamune
  • Soshu Sadamune
  • Sengo Muramasa
  • Inoue Shinkai
  • Nagasone Kotetsu
  • Gassan Sadakazu
  • Yosozaemon Sukesada
  • Yamato Kaneuji
  • Bizen Saburo Kunimune
  • Etchu Norishige
  • Go Yoshihiro
  • Magoroku Kanemoto

Famous historic katana users

  • Ashikaga Yoshiteru
  • Tsukahara Bokuden
  • Iizasa Ienao
  • Miyamoto Musashi
  • Sasaki Kojiro
  • Okita Soji
  • Saito Hajime
  • Saigo Takamori

Fictional katana users

  • Ulrich Stern
  • Leonardo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
  • Ran "Aya" Fujimiya from Weiß Kreuz

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Joachim Meyer's fechtbuch[2] - and disparities in weight have been greatly exaggerated; both longswords and katanas typically weighed between 1.0 and 1.5 kilograms (2-3 pounds). Note: Noctilux is a f/1 or f/1.2 lens, Summilux is a f/1.4 lens, Summicron is a f/2 lens, and Elmarit is a f/2.8 lens in Leica lingo. Styles that relied on a single longsword for both offense and defense were well known - see e.g. These include the Panasonic DMC-FZ10, Panasonic DMC-FZ20, Panasonic DMC-FZ30 models. At the same time, many European sword types from the very beginning of the history of the sword, through the medieval period and the renaissance to the 20th century were designed for the same combat modes as Japanese ones, fighting against lightly-armored or unarmored infantry. Leica lenses are used on many Panasonic digital cameras and video recorders. Attempting to establish the superiority of the one weapon over the other is ultimately meaningless without first defining the circumstances in which they are to be compared. Leica M series with interchangeable lens bayonet style Leica bodies:.

In this light, the different characteristics of certain European swords are due less to the limitations of their makers than to the requirements of their use. Leica 35 mm series with interchangeable lens screw mount style Leica bodies:. Katana are capable of damaging armor to a degree and even today Shinkendo masters perform the ancient helmet cutting ceremony. Below is a list of cameras and lenses produced under the Leica name. The katana's sharpness makes it an excellent cutting weapon. The Leica company still produces a range of expensive, very high quality optical products, including compact cameras, M-System rangefinder cameras (direct descendants of the first Leica), R-system single-lens reflex cameras, digital cameras (in association with Panasonic) such as the Leica Digilux 2 / Panasonic DMC-LC1, binoculars, and spotting scopes. Some European swords were also designed for different modes of combat. In 1998 the Leica group split into 2 independent units: Leica Microsystems [1] and Leica Geosystems.

Where Europeans had the choice between expensive good swords and cheap bad swords, Japanese had the choice between expensive swords, somewhat less expensive swords, or none at all. In 1996 Leica Camera separated from the Leica Group and became a publicly held company. However, the greater availability of iron made it practical to produce cheap, low-quality weapons in large quantities. At this time, Leica moved its factory from Wetzlar to the nearby town of Solms. Europe also had superlative swordsmiths; Toledo steel swords from Spain are one example of legendary quality swords from outside Japan. In 1986, the Leitz company changed its name to Leica (LEItz CAmera), due to the strength of the Leica brand. Because Japan was an iron-poor society, making a sword was an inherently expensive undertaking; the supply of swords was limited, and so it was in the smiths' interest to make the most of the materials they could afford. The Leica Historical Society of America is the largest Leica collector and user group, boasting 2,000 members.

However, these claims are largely based on misunderstandings about the manufacture and role of European swords, and comparing the schools on their worst examples instead of their best. Lager, a former Leica employee. This belief is frequently bolstered by roleplaying games that assign superior statistics to katanas, and also by many movies. There are dozens of Leica books and collector's guides, perhaps the best known is the massive 3-volume Leica an Illustrated History by James L. It is a commonly-encountered article of faith that katanas are intrinsically superior to European swords. Leica cameras, lenses, accessories even sales literature are almost fanatically collected by enthusiasts. In Robert Jordan's fantasy series, The Wheel of Time, the lead character, Rand al'Thor, weilds a sword called "Callandor" which fits the description of a katana, albeit a magical one. There exist many fake Leica cameras, usually based on Soviet cameras, with the Leica name engraved on the top-plate.

Leonardo of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is also referred to as the Master of the Twin Katanas, though his swords are straight-edged and not true katana. Cameras carrying markings that show they were issued to the German army or airforce carry very high premiums. The lightsaber is an example of such a weapon. Very early examples of Leica cameras and rare accessories are highly sought after by camera collectors and can fetch extremely high prices. In some cases, writers make a new weapon based on ideas from katana, as a signature weapon of heroes and villains. Leica also carried in their catalogues focusing systems such as the Focorapid and Televit which could replace certain lenses' helicoid mounts for sports and natural-life telephotography. In many works, especially when magical or supernatural powers are significant story elements, katana are more than a match for any other weapons. Furthermore, certain LTM and M rangefinder lenses featured removable optical groups which could be mounted via adapters on the Visoflex system, thus making them usable as rangefinder or SLR lenses for Visoflex-equipped Screwmount and M rangefinder cameras, as well as being usable on Leicaflex and R cameras.

With this law in mind, katana are sometimes used for comic relief in anime and manga set in the present, although this is sometimes replaced by the use of a bokken having surprisingly comparable capabilities. Similarly Visoflex lenses could be used on the Leicaflex and R cameras with an adapter. For instance, some stories state that carrying weapons has been permitted due to a serious increase in crimes or an invasion of monsters from other dimensions. As an example, LTM (screwmount) lenses were easily usable on M cameras via an adapter. Carrying a non-sealed katana is illegal in present-day Japan, but in fiction this law is often ignored or circumvented to allow characters to carry katana as a matter of artistic licence. Leica's sometimes arcane catalogue of accessories belies a comprehensive if sometimes haphazard systems approach to photography. It is the prime weapon of choice for Japanese heroes in historical fiction set before the Meiji period. The Visoflex system was discontinued in 1984.

Three well-known appearances in Western culture are the Bride's signature weapon in Kill Bill (which was strongly influenced by Japanese samurai movies) and the katana used by the main character Connor MacLeod in The Highlander and the 1975 Tom Laughlin action/cult Western film Master Gunfighter. In addition, the optical groups of many rangefinder lenses could be removed, and attached to the Visoflex via a system of adapters. It is frequently used not only in Japanese settings, but also in other settings, often by non-Japanese creators; this popularity can be attributed partly to its status as an easily recognisable icon of Japan and partly to its high reputation as a formidable weapon in skilled hands. Leica lenses for the Visoflex system included focal lengths of 65, 180 (rare), 200, 280, 400, 560, and 800 mm. The katana appears in various works of fiction, including film, anime, manga, other forms of literature, and computer games. This was followed by a much more compact Visoflex II in 1960 (which was the only Visoflex version available in both LTM (screwmount) and M-bayonet) and the Visoflex III with instant-return mirror in 1964. The technique of folding steel came from China, and contact with the mainland would affect how the katana evolved through the centuries. A redesigned PLOOT was introduced by Leica in 1951 as the Visoflex I.

A common misconception is that Katanas magically sprung into existence in Japan, utterly isolated from the mainland. Moreover, until the 1964 introduction of the Leicaflex, the PLOOT and Visoflex were Leica's only SLR offerings. Along with the Jewel and the Mirror, it was one of the three godly treasures of Japan. This date is significant because that it places Leica among the 35 mm SLR pioneers. Kusanagi (probably a tsurugi, a type of bronze Age sword which precedes the katana by centuries) is the most famous legendary sword in Japanese mythology, involved in several folk stories. The earliest Leica reflex housing was the PLOOT, announced in 1935, along with the 200 mm f/4.5 Telyt Lens. A popular legend tells of what happens when two swords made by Muramasa and Masamune were held in a stream carrying fallen leaves: while those leaves touching the Muramasa blade were cut in two, those coming towards the Masamune suddenly changed course and went around the blade without touching it. Camera rangefinders are inherently limited in their ability to accurately focus long focal-length lenses and the mirror reflex box permitted much longer length lenses.

Those made by Muramasa had a reputation for violence and bloodshed, while those made by Masamune were considered weapons of peace. A coupling released both mirror and shutter to make the exposure. Some swords were reputed to reflect their creators' personalities. Rather than using the camera's rangefinder, focusing was accomplished via a groundglass screen. Furthermore, while heating and folding serves to even out the distribution of carbon throughout the blade, a small amount of carbon is also 'burnt out' of the steel in this process; repeated folding will eventually remove most of the carbon, turning the material into softer iron and reducing its ability to hold a sharp edge. Conceptually bridging the Rangefinder Leicas and the SLR Leicas was the Leica Visoflex System, a mirror reflex box which attached to the lens mount of Leica rangefinders (separate versions were made for the screwmount and M series bodies) and accepted lenses made especially for the Visoflex System. With each fold made by the maker, every internal layer is also folded, and so the total number of layers in a sword blade is doubled at each fold; since the thickness of a katana blade is less than 230 iron atoms, going beyond 20 folds no longer adds meaningfully to the number of layers in the blade. These include the Leotax, Nicca and early Canon models in Japan, the Kardon in USA, the Reid in England and the Fed and Zorki in the USSR.

While blades folded hundreds, thousands, or even millions of times are encountered in fiction, there is no record of real blades being folded more than around 20 times. A number of camera companies built models based on the Leica rangefinder design. Many myths surround Japanese swords, the most frequent being that the blades are folded an immense number of times, gaining magical properties in the meantime. No other lens has matched the Noctilux in its combination of speed, quality and longevity. However, during the Edo period Samurai went about unarmored and armed with daisho, in which case it would be the first weapon to be used. Introduced in 1976, this ultra-high speed lens is still being made today. The sword was mostly considered as the weapon of last resort on the battlefield though, being used only after the bow, or spear was no longer feasible. Leica has in its stable a particularly remarkable lens, the Noctilux 50 mm f/1.0.

As armor and enemies changed over time, the shapes of blades changed from heavier profiles to lighter profiles, with different intentions for use in fighting. Leica optics are particularly well-known for superior performance at maximum aperture, making them well-suited for natural-light photography. This is a katana with a shortened length and handle, intended for one-handed fighting only. There has been much controversy about this. At the same time, footmen may accompany a horseman and be armed with shorter katate-uchi at their side. Leica lenses developed a mythology -- that photographs taken with them were recognizable from photographs taken with other lenses. In certain eras, the sword becomes longer and is intended for use from horseback. From the 30s to the 50s, the Leica competed with the German Contax camera to be most sophisticated and best built camera on market.

Considering the broader case of Japanese swords, rather than the specific case of the shinto katana, technique varies over time depending on the style of fighting prevalent in military operations of the time. Leitz was also responsible for numerous optical innovations (first use of aspheric production lenses, first use of multicoated lenses, first use of rare earth lenses, to name a few). Testing of swords, called tameshigiri, was practiced on a variety of materials (including people) to test the sword's sharpness and also practice cutting technique. This and the high price of the optics made them less attractive to working photographers. However, it is often used single-handed as well. The optics were excellent, but Leica was slow to produce an auto-exposure model, and never made a version that supported auto-focusing. The hilt of the katana is held two-handed with a small gap between the hands, generally as large as the grip permits, allowing for more leverage to be applied when cutting and more maneuverability when parrying another weapon. The Leica SLRs were well-received.

The katana is primarily a cutting weapon, rather than a stabbing one. The current model is the R9, which now has an optional Digital Module back. Other types of mounting include the kyu-gunto, shin-gunto, and kai-gunto types for the twentieth-century military, but these swords were generally mass-produced and highly inferior, and few true Japanese swords are mounted in these styles. The R8 was re-designed and manufactured by Leica, featuring a larger body and a new, distinctive look. The other sheath is the more decorative or battle-worthy sheath which is usually called either a jindachi-zukuri or a buke-zukuri, depending on whether it was supposed to be suspended from the obi(belt) by straps when the sword is mounted in Tachi-Koshirae or thrust through the obi if mounted as katana-koshirae, respectively. They feature electronic shutter, except for the all-mechanical R6, whose only electronic part is the lightmeter. One is the shira-saya, which is generally made of wood and considered the 'resting' sheath, used as a storage sheath. Leica also produced a series of SLR (single-lens reflex) cameras beginning with the Leicaflex, followed by the SL, the SL2, and then the R series from R3 to R7, which were initially made in collaboration with the Minolta Corporation .

There are two types of sheaths, both of which require the same exacting work. This model has continued to be refined (the latest versions being the M7 and MP, both of which have frames for 28, 35, 50, 75, 90, and 135 mm lenses which show automatically upon mounting the different lenses); but the basic quality and simplicity of design has not changed. The sheaths themselves are not an easy task. In addition, it had a new rubberized focal-plane shutter, which is known for reliability and is probably the quietest focal-plane shutter ever made. To anchor the blade securely into the sheath it will soon have, the blade acquires a collar, or habaki, which extends an inch or so past the cross guard and keeps the blade from rattling. It combined the rangefinder and viewfinder into one large, bright viewfinder with a brighter double image in the center, and introduced a system of parallax compensation. This anchors the blade securely into the hilt. In 1954 Leitz unveiled the M3, a bayonet lens model, considered by many to be a design miracle for its combination of simple appearance with functional flexibility.

A bamboo peg called a mekugi is slipped through the tsuka and through the tang of the blade, using the hole called a mekugiana drilled in it. These models all had a functional combination of circular dials and square windows that was quite esthetically pleasing, although somewhat busy in appearance. There is a pommel at the base known as a kashira, and there is often a decoration under the criss-crossed wrappings called a menuki. The final version, the IIIg, included a large viewfinder with framelines, similar to the M3 finder, but still with the separate view- and rangefinder. (see related article on Koshirae). Leitz continued to refine the original design through to 1957. The cross guard, or tsuba, on Japanese swords (except for certain twentieth century sabers which emulate Western navies') is small and round, made of metal, and often very ornate. Also significant about the IIIa is that it is the last model made before Barnack's death, and therefore the last model he was wholly responsible for.

The obvious part of the hilt consists of a metal or wooden grip called a tsuka, which can also be used to refer to the entire hilt. The Leica III added slow shutter speeds down to 1 second, and the model IIIa added the 1/1000 second shutter speed. Hilts vary in their exact nature depending on the era, but generally consist of the same general idea, with the variation being in the components used and in the wrapping style. This model had a separate viewfinder (showing a reduced image) and rangefinder (showing an enlarged double image which was properly focused when it became one image). From here, the blade is passed on to a hilt-maker. The Leica II came in 1932, with a built in rangefinder coupled to the lens focusing mechanism. This is because it displays either nioi, which is a mix of extremely fine martensite with troostite (another type of tempered steel), or the more crystalline and obvious nie, which contains a lot of less fine martensite. In addition to the 50 normal lens, a 35 wide angle and a 135 mm telephoto objective were initially available.

A good polishing reveals what speed the edge was cooled at, from what temperature, and what the carbon content of the steel is. In 1930 came the Leica I Schraubgewinde with an exchangeable objective system based on a 39 mm thread. Hamon vary from straight to wavy to shaped like crabs or zigzags, and in their wandering they reveal important facts about the blade itself. The focal plane shutter had a range from 1/20 to 1/500 second, in addition to a Z for Zeit (time) position. The hamon, which is determined primarily by how the clay is applied, is often used as a kind of signature of the smith, above and beyond his own signature, and each tradition of swordsmiths often has a particular style of hamon it prefers over all others. Max Berek at Leitz, and was one of the reasons behind the success of the camera, the others being its compact size and reliability. Each blade is distinct in its hamon and the grain (hada) of its steel. The Elmar 50 mm f/3.5 objective (a 4-elements design influenced by the Zeiss Tessar) was designed by Dr.

One of the ways which blades can be judged is by what this polishing reveals: the crystal-like qualities of the blade become quite visible, and the hamon (incorrectly known in English as the temper line, where the sharp edge fades into the normal steel of the blade) shows the unique nature of the sword. The camera was an immediate success when introduced at the 1925 Leipzig, Germany Spring Fair as the Leica I (for Leitz Camera). More importantly, an unschooled polish can permanently ruin the blade geometry or wear the steel down to its core steel, both of which effectively destroy the sword's monetary, historic, artistic, and functional value. The concept was developed further, and in 1923 Barnack convinced his boss, Ernst Leitz II, to make a prototype series of 31. It almost always takes longer than actually crafting the blade does, and a good polishing makes a blade look better, while a bad polishing makes the best of blades look like gunto. Barnack's words, "Small negatives -- large images", would soon change the world of photography. Early polishers used three types of stone, whereas a modern polisher generally uses seven. Barnack believed the 2:3 aspect ratio to be the ultimate choice, leaving room for a 36-exposure film length.

This takes hours for every inch of blade, and is painstaking work with different kinds of very fine stone. Barnack used standard cinema 35 mm film, but extended the image size to 24 x 36 mm. When the rough blade was completed, the swordsmith would turn the blade over to a polisher called a togishi, whose job it was to polish the steel of the blade to a glittering shine and sharpen the edge for battle. Leitz Optische Werke, Wetzlar, in 1913. Contrary to popular belief, these grooves have nothing to do with improving the flow of enemy blood. The first prototypes were built by Oskar Barnack at E. Grooves come in wide (bo-hi), twin narrow (futasuji-hi), twin wide and narrow (bo-hi ni tsure-hi), short (koshi-hi), twin short (gomabushi), twin long with joined tips (shobu-hi), twin long with irregular breaks (kuichigai-hi), and halberd-style (naginata-hi). The Leica was the first practical 35 mm camera.

Some are more practical, grooves for lightening and extra flex (as well as an intimidating sound, called tachikaze, when swung with force). . Some other marks on the blade are aesthetic: signatures and dedications written in kanji and engravings depicting gods, dragons, or other 'acceptable' beings, called horimono. Leica Microsystems AG is the owner of the Leica brand, and grants licenses to Leica Camera AG and Leica Geosystems. It is this pressure fit for the most part that holds the tsuka in place during the strike, while the mekugi pin serves as a secondary method and a safety. The company, formerly Ernst Leitz Gmbh, is now three companies: Leica Camera AG, Leica Geosystems AG, and Leica Microsystems AG, which produce cameras, geosurvey equipment and microscopes, respectively. While ornamental, these file marks also serve the purpose of providing an uneven surface which bites well into the 'tsuka', or the hilt which fits over it and is made from wood. Leica is a camera produced by a German company of the same name.

This is called sensuki. 1978-1995. Lastly, if the blade is very old, it may have been shaved instead of filed. Leitz/Leica Focomat V35 - autofocus - 40 mm f/2.8 Focotar lens - colour or Multigrade (variable contrast) heads. A grid of marks, from raking the file diagonally both ways across the tang, is called higaki, whereas specialized 'full dress' file marks are called kesho-yasuri. ELCAN 20 mm enlarger lens (40x-75x enlargements) - Extremely rare. A number of different types of file markings are used, including horizontal, slanted, and checked, known as ichi-monji, kosuji-chigai, suji-chigai, o-suji-chigai, katte-agari, shinogi-kiri-suji-chigai, taka-no-ha, and gyaku-taka-no-ha. ELCAN 52 mm enlarger lens (20x-25x enlargements) - Extremely rare.

The purpose is to show how well the blade steel ages. Vincent electrical shutter (for enlarger) - Extremely rare. The tang is never supposed to be cleaned: doing this can cut the value of the sword in half or more. Leitz Focomat II (modified for American millitary), code EN-121A - Extremely rare. These are cut into the tang, or the hilt-section of the blade, where they will be covered by a hilt later. Available in "color" version with filter drawer and lighted enlargement factor scale. One of the most important markings on the sword is performed here: the file markings. Only very slender enlarging lenses will for the IIc helicals.

Once the blade is cool, and the mud is scraped off, the blade has designs and grooves cut into it. Kienzle or other colour heads sometime fitted. Almost all blades are decorated, although not all blades are decorated on the visible part of the blade. All the 6 cm and 60 mm Focotars appear to be the same optical design. Also, The swordsmith signature (mei) is placed on the nagako. First produced with Focotar 6 cm f/1:4.5 and focotar 9.5 cm f/1:4.5, later with Focotar 60 mm and V-Elmar 100 mm f1:4.5, still later with Focotar 60 mm and Focotar II 100 mm f/1:5.6. To remove the Tsuka you must remove the mekugi. Leitz Focomat IIc - 35 mm-6x9 formats, dual lens stage rather than turret, autofocus.

Thus restricting the blade from slipping out. Available in "color" version with filter drawer and lighted enlargement factor scale. It is used to anchor the blade using a mekugi, a small bamboo pin that is inserted into another cavity in the Tsuka and through the mekugi-ana. The early version has a single helical that will accommodate lenses of any make. A hole is drilled into the tang (nagako), called a mekugi-ana. Leitz Focomat IIa - 35 mm-6x9 format, dual lens turret on later versions that fitted a 5 cm Elmar f/1:3.5 or Focotar f/1:4.5, and a 9.5 cm f/1:4.5 Focotar, autofocus. Kissaki are have a curved profile, and smooth three-dimensional curvature across their surface towards the edge - though they are bounded by a straight line called the yokote and have crisp definition at all their edges. Many small design variations exist.

Such western knife blades feature a straight, linearly-sloped point whose sole advantage is being easy to grind and which only bears a superficial similarity to traditional Japanese kissaki. Available in "color" version with filter drawer and lighted enlargement factor scale. It is important to point out that the kissaki (point) is not a "chisel-like" point, nor is the Western knife interpretation of a "tanto point" at all correct or Japanese. The 1C helical will accommodate lenses of various makes. In addition, whether the front edge of the tip is more curved (fukura-tsuku) or (relatively) straight (fukura-kareru) is also important. The 50 mm exists in two versions. The sword also has an exact tip shape, which is considered an extremely important characteristic: the tip can be long (ô-kissaki), medium (chû-kissaki), short (ko-kissaki), or even hooked backwards (ikuri-ô-kissaki). The Focotar-2 is always the same formula, and so is the 5 cm version.

The shinogi can be placed near the back of the blade for a longer, sharper, more fragile tip or a more moderate shinogi near the center of the blade. Changes in Focotar name or focal length designation do not necessarily coincide with the optical formula. A flat or narrowing shinogi is called 'shinogi-hikushi', whereas a 'fat' blade is called a 'shinogi-takushi'. Produced first with Varob 5cm f1:3.5 lenses, later with Elmar 5cm f1:3.5, focotar 5cm f1:4.5, focotar 50 mm f/1:4.5, focotar 50 mm 2nd version f/1:4.5, Focotar-2 f/1:4.5. However, swords could narrow down to the shinogi, then narrow further to the blade, or even expand outward towards the shinogi then shrink to the blade (producing a trapezoidal shape). Leitz Focomat Ic - sometimes fitted with Kienzle colour head. In the earlier picture, the examples were flat to the shinogi, then tapering to the blade. Leitz Focomat Ib.

The most prominent is the middle ridge, or 'shinogi'. Leitz Focomat Ia - Same as Focomat 1C, that is with autofocus, but the head does not tilt back to allow for easy insertion of negative. Each blade has a unique profile, depending on the smith, the construction method, and a bit of luck. Leitz Valoy and Valoy II - manual focus, later versions of the Valoy II were grey in colour. To make han-sanmai-awase-gitae or shiho-zume-gitae, pieces of hard steel are then added to the outside of the blade in a similar fashion. Leica 105-280 mm f/4.2 Vario-Elmar-R zoom. By the end of the process, the two pieces of steel are fused together, but retain their differences in hardness. Leica 80-200 mm f/4.0 Vario-Elmar-R zoom.

When both sections have been folded adequately, they are bent into a 'U' shape and the softer piece is inserted into the harder piece, at which point they are hammered out into a long blade shape. Leica 80-200 mm f/4.5 Vario-Elmar-R zoom. The 'makuri-gitae' is made using two steels, one folded more times than the other, or of a lesser carbon content. Leica 75-200 mm f/4.5 Vario-Elmar-R - 1976-1984. The last generally accepted model, the 'shiho-zume-gitae', is quite rare, but added a rear support. Leica 70-210 mm f/4.0 Vario-Elmar-R zoom. The vast majority of 'good' katana and wakazashi are of 'wariba-gitae' type, but the more complex models allow for parrying without fear of damaging the side of the blade. Leica 35-70 mm Vario-Elmarit-R ASPH zoom - 2000 (only 200 was made).

Examples are shown below:. Leica 35-70 mm f/3.5 Vario-Elmar-R zoom. Eventually the Japanese began to experiment with using different types of steel in different parts of the sword. Leica 35-70 f/4.0 Vario-Elmar-R zoom. When the application is finished, the sword is quenched and hardens correctly. Leica 70-180 mm f/2.8 Vario-APO-Elmarit-R zoom. A thicker layer of mud on the rest of the blade causes slower cooling, and softer steel, giving the blade the flex it needs (this makes the rear and inside of the sword into pearlite). Leica 28 mm-70 mm f/3.5-f/4.5 Vario-Elmar-R zoom.

A thin layer on the edge of the sword ensures quick cooling, but not so fast as to crack the sword steel (this makes the actual edge of the sword extremely hard martensite). Leica 21 mm-35 mm f/3.5-f/4.0 Vario-Elmar-R zoom - 2002. To control the cooling, the sword is heated and painted with layers of sticky clay. Leica modular APO-Telyt-R 400/560/800 head. Slower, from a lower temperature, and it becomes pearlite, which has significantly more flex but doesn’t hold an edge. Leica modular APO-Telyt-R 260/400/560 head. If steel cools quickly, from a hot temperature, it becomes martensite, which is very hard but brittle. Leica 800 mm f/6.3 Telyt-S - 1972-1995 (sold including a free VW Fox).

Steel’s exact flex and strength vary dramatically with heat variation, and depending on how hot it gets and how fast it cools, the steel has vastly different properties. Leica 560 mm f/5.6 Telyt-R - 1966-1973. When finished, the steel is not quenched or tempered in the conventional European fashion. Leica 560 mm f/6.8 Telyt-R - 1971-1995. This means that the rear of the sword can be used to reinforce the edge, and the Japanese took full advantage of this fact. Leica 500 mm f/8 MR-Telyt-R. One of the core philosophies of the Japanese sword is that it has a single edge. Leica 450 mm f/5.6 Elcan-R, code C-329 - Extremely rare.

Bizen tradition, which specialized in mokume, and some schools of Yamato tradition were also considered strong warrior's weapons. Leica 400 mm f/2.8 APO-Telyt-R - 1992-1996. The blades that were considered the most robust, reliable, and of highest quality were those made in the Mino tradition, esepically those of Magoroku Kanemoto. Leica 400 mm f/5.6 Telyt-R. The difference between the three normal grain types (masame-, itame-, and mokume-hada) is one of cutting a tree perpendicular to its direction of growth (mokume) at an angle (itame) or along the grain (masame), the angle causing the "stretched" pattern. Leica 400 mm f/6.8 Telyt-R - 1968-1994. Straight grains were called 'masame-hada', wood-like grain "itame," wood-burl grain "mokume," and concentric wavy grain (an uncommon feature seen almost esclusively in the Gassan school) 'ayasugi-hada'. Leica 350 mm f/4.8 Telyt-R.

Generally, swords were created with the grain of the blade (called 'hada') running down the blade like the grain on a plank of wood. Leica 280 mm f/2.8 APO-Telyt-R - 1984-1997. Thus, the best results were usually obtained at 8-10 folds. Leica 280 mm f/4.0 APO-Telyt-R. Even before this point, more layers does not equal a better sword; though folding does burn off impurities and homogenize the blade, a very even and clean composition is obtained early in the process, and control of carbon content has a much greater effect on the blade's functionality. Leica 280 mm f/4.8 Telyt-V. Beyond this number, the molecular structure of the blade is such that further folding would most likely serve no further purpose. Leica 250 mm f/4.0 Telyt-R 2nd version.

It should be noted that a blade folded 12 times will have more than 4,000 'layers' underneath the initial blade to begin with, and that 20 folds would produce a blade with over a million layers. Leica 250 mm f/4.0 Telyt-R 1st version -. The number of folds varied from sword to sword, but those with more than about a dozen folds are uncommon, and authentic swords with more than two dozen folds are completely unknown. Leica 180 mm f/3.4 Elcan-R code C-303 - Extremely rare. Contrary to popular belief, continued folding will not create a "super-strong" blade; once impurities are burnt off and the carbon content homogenized, further folding offers little benefit and will gradually burn out the carbon, leading eventually to a softer steel less able to hold an edge. Leica 180 mm f/2.0 APO-Summicron-R. This did several things:. Leica 180 mm f/2.8 APO-Elmarit-R - 1998.

Steel was repeatedly 'folded', bent over itself and hammered flat. Leica 180 mm f/3.4 APO-Telyt-R - 1975-1998. The most famous part of the manufacturing process was the folding of the steel. Leica 180 mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 2nd version. Often, there were sheath, hilt, and tsuba (handguard) specialists as well. Leica 180 mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 1st version. There was a smith to forge the rough shape, often a second smith (apprentice) to fold the metal, a specialist polisher, and even a specialist for the edge itself. Leica 180 mm Elmar-R - 1976.

As with many complex endeavors, rather than a single craftsman, several artists were involved. Leica 135 mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 2nd version.
The forging of a Japanese blade typically took hours or days, and was considered a sacred art. Leica 135 mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 1st version - 1965. The high percentage of carbon gave the blade strength while the silicon increased the flexibility of the blade as well as its ability to withstand stress. Leica 100 mm f/2.8 APO-Macro-Elmarit-R. One more modern formula (from World War II):. Leica 100 mm f/4.0 Macro-Elmar-R helical version.

The total composition varied from smith to smith and lode to lode of ore. Leica 100 mm f/4.0 Macro-Elmar-R bellows version. Traditional Japanese steel is popularly considered to be one of the best for creating swords, but the true reasons for this are artistic and not functional - contemporary western steels were and most modern steels are actually superior in strength and purity. Leica 90 mm f/1.0 Elcan-R - Extremely rare. Manufacturing processes are described in greater detail in following subsections. Leica 90 mm APO-Summicron-R ASPH - 2002. Most of the "type 98 katana's" from World War II do not exist today, as well as the older versions. Leica 90 mm Summicron-R 2nd version -.

Modern katana and wakizashi are only made by the few licenced practitioners that still practice making these crafted weapons today. Leica 90 mm Summicron-R 1st version - 1969. Japanese swords are fairly uncommon today, but not so rare that genuine antiques cannot be acquired - from reliable sources at significant expense, of course. Leica 90 mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 2nd version - 1983. "True" daisho, containing a pair of blades that were made as a pair, mounted as a pair, and owned/worn as a pair, are therefore uncommon and considered highly valuable - especially if they still retain their original mountings (as opposed to later mountings, even if the later mounts are made as a pair). Leica 90 mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 1st version - 1964-1996. Even when a daisho contained a pair of blades by the same smith, they were not always forged as a pair or mounted as one. Leica 80 mm f/1.4 Summilux-R.

If a samurai was able to afford a daisho, it was often composed of whichever two swords could be conveniently acquired, sometimes by different smiths and in different styles. Leica 75 mm f/2.0 Elcan-R code C-341 - Extremely rare. On a related note, the daisho (pair of swords) was not always forged together. Leica 60 mm Macro-Elmarit-R dn2 version. Wakizashi were also not simply a 'scaled down' katana, they were often forged in hira-zukuri or other such forms, which were very rare on katana. Leica 60 mm Macro-Elmarit-R 1st version - 1972 - outside bayonet lens hood fitting. They were often forged with different profiles, different blade thicknesses, and varying amounts of niku. Leica 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-R 3rd version - 1997 (ROM contacts).

While some people believe that katana and wakizashi were constructed alike, this was not always the case. Leica 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-R 2nd version. This process also makes the edge of the blade contract less than the back when cooling down, something that aids the smith in establishing the curvature of the blade. Leica 50 mm f/1.4 Summilux-R 1st version. This produces a blade with a hard edge and soft back, allowing it to be resilient and yet retain a good cutting edge. Leica 50 mm f/2.0 Summicron-R 2nd version - 1977 - built-in lens hood, 3-cam and R-cam only version. The back of the sword is coated with clay, insulating it and so causing it to cool slower than the edge when the blade is quenched. Leica 50 mm f/2.0 Summicron-R 1st version - 1964.

The distinctive curvature of the katana is partly due to a process of differential quenching. Leica 35 mm f/1.4 Summilux-R. In order to counter this, and to homogenize the carbon content of the blades (giving some blades characteristic folding patterns), the folding was developed (for comparison see pattern welding), and found to be quite effective, though labour intensive. Leica 35 mm f/2.0 Summicron-R 2nd version - 1976. This practice became popular from use of highly impure metals, stemming from the low temperature yielded in the smelting at that time and place. Leica 35 mm f/2.0 Summicron-R 1st version - 1970. Japanese swords and other edged weapons are manufactured by the Chinese method of repeatedly heating, folding and hammering the metal. Leica 35 mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 3rd version.

217.) These traditions and provinces are as follows:. Leica 35 mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 2nd version. (Source: The connoisseur's guide to Japanese swords, by Kokan Nagayama, p. Leica 35 mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 1st version - 1964. Japanese swords can be traced back to one of several provinces, each of which had its own school, traditions and 'trademarks' - e.g., the swords from Mino province were "from the start famous for their sharpness". Leica 35 mm f/4.0 PA-Curtagon-R (Schneider-Kreuznach design). They were most commonly made in the Buke-Zukuri mounting. Leica 28 mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 2nd version - 1994.

The most common reference to a chisakatana is a shorter katana that does not have a companion blade. Leica 28 mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 1st version - 1970. Chisa-katana were not common weapons since usually a katana was made for a shorter person or a wakizashi for a larger person. Leica 28 mm PC-Super-Angulon-R (Schneider-Kreuznach design). However, a chisa-katana is longer than the wakizashi, which was between one and two shaku in length. Leica 24 mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R. A katana was longer than two shaku in length (one shaku= about 11.93 inches). Leica 21 mm f/3.4 Super-Angulon-R - 1968 (Schneider-Kreuznach design).

A chisa-katana is simply a shorter katana. Leica 21 mm f/4.0 Super-Angulon-R - 1968-1992 (Schneider-Kreuznach design). For more precise measurement, "sun", "bu", and "rin" (one-tenth, one-hundredth, and one-thousandth of a shaku respectively) may be used. Leica 19 mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 2nd version - 1990. Japanese swords are measured in units of shaku (1 shaku = approximately 30.3 centimeters or 11.93 inches; from 1891 the shaku has been defined as exactly 10/33 metres, but older data may vary slightly from this value). Leica 19 mm f/2.8 Elmarit-R 1st version. What generally differentiates the different swords is their length. Leica 16 mm f/2.8 Fisheye-Elmarit-R - 1970.

All Japanese swords are manufactured according to this method and are somewhat similar in appearance. Leica 15 mm f/2.8 Super-Elmarit-R ASPH - 2001. [1] However it is likely that most of these katana are sword like objects, as a basic, properly constructed katana is comparative in price to an inexpensive handgun. Leica 15 mm f/3.5 Super-Elmar-R - 1980 (Carl Zeiss design). Some katana have been used in modern-day armed robberies. 28-35-50 mm f/4. With the efforts of other like minded individuals, the katana has arisen from its darkest day and many swordsmiths have continued the work begun by Munetsugu, re-discovering the old techniques and making the art swords produced by today's best smiths as good as many of the blades of old. Tri-Elmar-M Asph.

Homma went on to be a founding figure of the Nihon Bijitsu Hozon Token Kai, the 'Society for the Preservation of Art Swords', who made it their mission to preserve the old techniques and blades. Macro-Elmar-M 90 mm f/4. A few smiths did continue their trade, and Dr. Apo-Telyt-M 135 mm f/3.4. Swordsmiths had been increasingly turning to producing civilian goods after the Edo period but this disarmament and subsequent regulations almost put an end to the production of katana. Elmarit 135 mm f/2.8. The vast majority of these 1,000,000 or more swords were gunto, but there were still a sizable number of koto, shinto and shin-shinto. Elmarit-M 90 mm f/2.8.

Due to this disarmament, as of 1958 there were more Japanese swords in America than in Japan: American soldiers would return from the Orient with piles of swords, often as many as they could carry. 90 mm f/2. Others remained stashed away. Apo-Summicron-M Asph. Some were simply stolen. 75 mm f/2. Even so, many katana were sold to American soldiers who had money to spend at a bargain price. Apo-Summicron-M Asph.

As a result of this meeting, the general ban was amended so that the weapon grade gunto would be destroyed and swords of artistic merit could be owned and preserved. Summilux-M 75 mm f/1.4. Homma produced blades from the various periods of Japanese history and General MacArthur was a quick student, being able to identify very quickly what blades held artistic merit and which could be considered purely weapons. Elmar-M 50 mm f/2.8 (collapsible). During their meeting, Dr. Noctilux-M 50 mm f/1. Homma Junji to General Douglas MacArthur. Summicron-M 50 mm f/2.

This ban would be later overturned through the personal appeal of Dr. 50 mm f/1.4. Under the United States occupation at the end of World War II all armed forces were disbanded and, except under several permits issued by police and municipal government, production of katana with edges was banned. Summilux-M Asph. In 1934 the Japanese government issued a military specification for the shin gunto "new army sword" the first version of which was referred to as a "Type 94 katana", and many machine- and handcrafted swords used in World War II conformed to this and later shin gunto specifications. 35 mm f/2. The students of Gassan Sadakatsu went on to be designated Intangible Cultural Assets, or more commonly known as Living National Treasures, as they embodied knowledge that was considered to be fundamentally important to the Japanese identity. Summicron-M Asph.

These smiths, Gassan Sadakazu and Gassan Sadakatsu were kept busy producing fine works that stand with the best of the older blades for the Emperor and other high ranking officials. 35 mm f/1.4. Though this was a dark time for the katana, the craft was kept alive through the efforts of a few individuals, and notably the Gassan line of smiths who were employed as Imperial Artisans. Summilux-M Asph. At the same time, Kendo was incorporated into police training so that police officers would have at least the minimal training necessary to properly use one. Elmarit-M 28 mm f/2.8. Katana remained in use in some occupations, police sometimes using katana not only to catch criminals but to defend themselves from criminals who could be armed with katana as well. 28 mm f/2.

These swords, known as 'gunto', are often very low in quality with many being oil tempered or simply stamped out of steel and given a serial number rather than a chiselled signature. Summicron-M Asph. In time, the need to arm soldiers with swords was perceived again and over the decades at the beginning of the 20th century swordsmiths again found work. 24 mm f/2.8. Overnight, the market for swords died, and many swordsmiths were left without a trade to pursue, and valuable skills were lost. Elmarit-M Asph. Possession itself was not prohibited, so many katana were simply stashed away. 21 mm f/2.8.

The Haitorei edict in 1876 all but banned carrying swords and guns on streets, making samurai less distinguishable from commoners. Elmarit-M Asph. Japan remained in stasis until Matthew Perry's arrival in 1853 and the subsequent Convention of Kanagawa forcibly reintroduced Japan to the outside world; the rapid modernization of the Meiji Restoration soon followed. R8/R9 DMR Digital Module R (DSLR). With the discarding of the Shinto style, and the re-introduction of old and rediscovered techniques, the swords of this time were now called 'shinshinto' meaning 'new-new swords.'. Digilux 2. Munetsugu travelled the land teaching what he knew to all who would listen, and swordsmiths rallied to his cause and ushered in a second renaissance in Japanese sword smithing. Digilux 1.

Munetsugu published opinions that the arts and techniques of the shinto swords were inferior to the koto blades, and that research should be made by all swordsmiths in the land to rediscover the lost techniques. D-Lux 2. Towards the end of this period, swordmaking had fallen to another low, and due to the efforts of the master swordsmith Munetsugu at the turn of the 19th century, artistic merit once again returned to the craft. D-Lux. By the middle of the eighteenth century, most young Japanese had never seen a gun, let alone actually seen one fired. Digilux 4.3. Under the isolationist Tokugawa Shogunate, guns and gunpowder were increasingly restricted and removed from circulation. Digilux Zoom.

It is often considered that the more complex work found on many shinto swords then is a corruption, where form no longer strictly follows function and thereby no longer achieves a pure form of beauty. Digilux. The addition of these engravings known as 'horimono' were originally for religious reasons, and were simple and tasteful. R8/R9 DMR Digital Module-R - 10 megapixel digital back for the R8/R9, making them the first 35 mm SLR cameras able to capture to film or digitally. As the Edo period progressed, there came a decline in quality once again, for a variety of reasons, including the evolution of the samurai class into bureaucrats and policemen; other related arts did move forward from time to time, leading to beautiful engravings and decorations for weapons. R9 - refinement of the R8 with 100g less weight and a new anthracite body finish. As the techniques of the ancient smiths had been lost during the previous period of war, these swords were called shinto, literally 'new swords.' This gave the obvious name to the older blades as koto, 'old swords.' The blades that predated the curved blades introduced around 987AD were referred to as 'jokoto' or ancient swords. All traces of Minolta gone.

In times of peace, swordsmiths had time and the inclination to return to the making of refined and artistic blades, and the beginning of the Momoyama period saw the return of high quality creations. R8 - complete redesign, this time in-house with production moved back to Germany. Other Japanese scholars had also highlighted that certain Japanese swordsmiths of this period, began to make blades with thicker backs and bigger points, as a counter-response to the Mongol threat. R7 - 1992 - yet more advanced electronics. Kokan Nagayama, in the book "The Connoiseur's Book of Japanese Swords", Kodansha International 1997, states on page 21 that the "Japanese warriors had never before encountered such an enemy (the Mongols), who was protected by leather armor and wielded a very stout sword -- clearly superior to theirs -- in a unique style of fighting." He added that certain Japanese swordsmiths started to adopt thinner and simpler temper lines due to their belief that " blades with wide temper lines reaching near to the ridge line look gorgeous, but tend to break." Unfortunately, Mr Nagayama did not quote the Japanese historical references that he derived his comments on the superiority of the Mongol (ie continental Chinese, Korean and other makes) sword over the Japanese sword. R6.2 - 1992- as R6 but with refinements, including a 1/2000th shutter speed. The famous failed invasion of Japan by the Mongols marked another point of evolution for the Japanese sword. R6 - 1988-92 mechanical shutter, relied on battery power only for the built-in light meter.

As time progressed, the craft decayed under the needs listed above, and the introduction of guns, as a decisive force on the battlefield. R5 and R-E - 1987 - revised electronics (R5 had TTL flash capability), the RE was a simplified model. The (ultimately failed) rationale behind this was to attempt to soak up the production of Japanese weapons and make it harder for pirates in the area to arm. Leica R4 [2]. The export of katana reached its height during Muromachi period with the total of at least 200,000 katana being shipped to the Ming dynasty in official trades. The R4 offered The R4S and R4S Mod2 were simplified models at slightly lower prices. Furthermore, the ferocity of the fighting caused the highly artistic techniques of the Kamakura period (known as the Golden Age of Swordmaking) to be abandoned in favor of more utilitarian and disposable weapons. The R4MOT differed in designation only; all R4s and up accepted motors and winders.

While many good swords were made during this period, the vast need for swords caused smiths to switch to production line methods. The R4 offered Program mode, Aperture and Shutter Priority, and Manual, with Spot and Centerweighted metering. During the Muromachi period, bloody wars were the norm, but the indolent shogunates also put a high value on art and culture, so the islands did not descend into barbarism. The R4 set the design for all cameras up to and including the R7. The War of Onin (1467-1477) revolutionized Japanese armour. R4MOT/R4/R4S/R4S Mod2 - 1980 - 1987 a new compact model based upon the Minolta XD11. For five centuries, Japan had its own dark ages, marked by continuous, brutal wars. The first few were built in Germany and then production was transferred to the Leitz Portugal factory.

By the twelfth century, civil war erupted after a long period of decadence. R3 - the first electronic Leitz SLR - 1976 to 1980, based upon the Minolta XE1/7. In the same period, the Kyō-hachiryū (京八流) was created in the Kurama mountain (in Kyoto). The SL2 would also be the last mechanical Leica SLR for 14 years. From the Kashima shrine's Kashima no Tachi sprang the Kantō-nanaryū (関東七流 - also known as the Kashima-nanaryū 鹿島七流). The SL2 was the swan-song of the Leicaflexes; the SL2 reportedly cost Leitz more to manufacture than it recouped in sales, and motivated the company to collaborate with Minolta for their next series of electronic cameras. This is also reflected in the styles of kenjutsu created during this period. Only about 1,000 SL2 MOTs were made.

Among other modifications, the katana becomes single-edged, and better suited for slashing. The Leica Solms museum has on display an SL2 MOT with Motor and 35 mm Summicron which survived a 25,000 foot fall from a Phantom II fighter jet: battered but in one piece, and deemed repairable by Leica. According to legend, the Japanese sword was invented by a smith named 'Amakuni' in AD 700, along with the folded steel process. Thought by some to be the toughest 35 mm SLR ever built. The Ainu people used Warabite-tou(蕨手刀) Warabite sword and this sword influenced the Katana. Leicaflex SL2/SL2 MOT - 1974 - refinement of the SL with more sensitive light meter and improved body shape. In the Heian Period (8th to 11th centuries) we see the development of sword-making, through techniques brought from the Russia and North part of Japan Hokkaido in those days Ainu's territory. Only about 1,000 SL MOTs were made.

The style, called Kashima no Tachi (鹿島の太刀), was created at the Kashima Shrine (in Ibaraki Prefecture). MOT model took a large and heavy motor drive. One of the oldest known forms of kenjutsu dates the Kofun era (3rd and 4th centuries). Leicaflex SL and SL MOT - 1968 - TTL selective-area metering, slightly taller body than its predecessor, long-lived and lovely to use. Early swords were in the style of Chinese swords, straight and single or double-edged. There was a great deal of pressure to introduce a Leica SLR because of the phenomenal success of the Nikon F (1959). At the same time, the Japanese learned the art of swordmaking from Chinese smiths. Leicaflex - 1964/5 - sometimes called the Standard - built-in external light meter, clear focusing screen with centre ground-glass spot.

In the 6th century BCE the legendary Emperor Jimmu conquered much of Japan. Program to facilitate custom-built combinations of metal finish, leather type, viewfinder magnification, and custom engraving. Swords are critical in most feudal societies, and Japan was no exception. A La Carte Program 2004 - present. The back end is soft, and so the sword is not brittle but flexible, while the front end is sharp and hard. The new MP is available in chrome and black paint and with viewfinders of .58, .72 and .85 magnification. This gives the sword its cutting edge and the strength. The Leicavit M is an accessory introduced with the new MP, allowing trigger wind with the right hand at speeds up to 2-2.5 frame/s.

The front end is made up of almost 3000 layers of metal forged precisely to give shape to blade. A notable improvement over the M6 was the modification of the rangefinder to eliminate flare. The back is thick and front end is razor sharp. A homage to the original MP, the new MP (this time standing for "Mechanical Perfection") cosmetically resembles the original (even down to changing the rewind crank back to a knob!) but is functionally closer to the M6 Classic.
There is also another interesting fact about the Japanese sword. MP - 2003 - current model (as of 2005). "with swords broken and without an arrow") used as a proverb. Same taller top plate and counter-clockwise shutter dial as the M6 TTL.

To have fought till nothing but a surrender is possible, is defined as Ken ore, ya mo tsuki, (lit. Comes in .58, .72, and .85 viewfinder formats, each with different brightline framelines. Drawing the sword was like letting one's soul blaze free and usually meant that the samurai was down to the last straw. Has TTL exposure, aperture priority and manual exposure, electronic shutter and two mechanical speeds of 1/60 and 1/125. However, most samurai did not use their sword as a primary weapon; bow first, a spear next, and only then the sword. M7 2002 - current model (as of 2005). The Tachi on the other hand, had a stand, the tsuka was set in a groove at the base and the saya pointed upwards set in a notch at the top with the cutting edge down, again in the manner it was worn. The added electronics added 2 mm of height to the top plate, and the shutter dial was reversed from previous models (traditionally, turning clockwise increased shutter speed).

As for the host, his long-sword was generally stored above the wakizashi on a rack called a katana-kake, curving upwards; in the manner it was worn, with the omote side showing (tsuka or handle ponting left). Supported TTL flash. Positioning his sword for an easy draw implied suspicion or aggression; thus, whether he placed it on his right or left side, and whether the blade was placed curving away or towards him, was an important point of etiquette. From 2000 the .58 viewfinder camera for eyeglass wearers are added to the line. For example, a samurai entering someone's house might consider how to place his sheathed sword as he knelt. With .72 and .85 viewfinder versions. Elaborate methods for carrying, cleaning, storing, sharpening (or not sharpening), and wielding the sword evolved from era to era. M6 TTL - 1998 - 2002.

Much of early Japanese culture revolved around swords. Only 3,130 of these cameras were made (all black chrome), so they are among the rarer non-commemorative M6's. They would be "soulless" in the eyes of a samurai. The 28 mm framelines are dropped in this model. Ronin, needing money, would sometimes be forced to sell their swords, further adding to their highly dishonorable, sometimes vagabond status in Japanese society. The M6 could be optionally ordered with a .85 magnification viewfinder for easier focusing with long lenses and more accurate focusing with fast lenses, such as the 50 mm f/1.0 Noctilux and 75 mm f/1.4 Summilux. For much of Japan's history, only samurai were even allowed to carry swords, and a peasant carrying a sword was enough reason to kill the peasant and take the sword after a prohibition was issued in early Edo period. M6 0.85 - 1998.

The Japanese pinned an extraordinary amount of value on the sword. Notable for its introduction of the 0.85 magnification finder, the first high-magnification finder since 1966, and the basis for the 0.85 cameras to follow starting in 1998. Although spears have survived since as far back as the 8th century AD, it was not until the large scale wars of the Onin period towards the end of the fifteenth century that the straight bladed spear, the yari, vied with the sword for the most popular weapon. A collector's edition of 1,640 cameras to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Leica M System. Although other weapons waxed and waned in popularity throughout history, the sword remained a constant. M6J - 1994. The sword was considered the soul of the samurai. Informally referred to as the M6 "Classic" to distinguish it from the "M6 TTL" models, and to indicate its "Classic" M3 dimensions.

. A breakthrough camera, finally combining the M3 form factor with a modern, off-the-shutter light meter with no moving parts and LED arrows in the viewfinder. Perhaps one of the more famous types of Japanese fencing was "Nitto Ryu" or the use of both the katana and wakizashi in tandem; a technique most famously used by Miyamoto Musashi, though the extensive popularization of this technique in anime, literature, and pop culture has strongly skewed modern perspective on its importance and prevalence. M6 - 1984 - 1998. Old koryu sword schools do still exist (for example, Kashima Shinto-ryu, Kashima Shin-ryu, and Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto-ryu, among others). Added rangefinder framelines for the 28 mm and 75 mm lenses. The art of drawing the katana and attacking one's enemies is iaido (also known as battōjutsu/battodo), and kendo is an art of fencing with a shinai (bamboo sword) protected by helmet and armour. M4-P - 1980 - 1986.

While the practical arts for using the sword for its original purpose are now somewhat obsolete, kenjutsu and iaijutsu have turned into gendai budo — modern martial arts for a modern time. Made in Canada. It is traditionally worn edge up. No self-timer. Though it is intended for and was predominantly used with a two-handed grip, many extant historical Japanese sword arts include at least one or two single-handed techniques. First M with hotshoe for electronic flash. It is primarily used for cutting, although its curvature is generally gentle enough to allow for effective thrusting as well. With stronger gears for the adaptation of a motor drive.

Other aspects of the koshirae (mountings), such as the menuki (decorative grip swells), habaki (blade collar and scabbard wedge), fuchi and kashira (handle collar and cap), kozuka (small utility knife handle), kogai (decorative skewer-like implement), saya lacquer, and tsukamaki (professional handle wrap), received similar levels of artistry. First M to be manufactured since 1975. (In fact, seppuku was a right reserved for samurai in order to preserve their honor by taking their own life should the need arise.) The scabbard for a katana is referred to as a saya, and the handguard piece, often intricately designed as individual works of art especially in later years of the Edo period, was called the tsuba. M4-2 - 1977 - 1980 (17,000 sets were manufactured). The long blade was used for open combat, while the shorter blade was considered a side arm, and also more suited for stabbing, close combat (such as indoors), and seppuku, a form of ritual suicide. Minolta later manufactured and sold an improved electronic version, the Minolta CLE with Auto Exposure, Off-The-Film TTL metering and TTL Flash metering, together with three M-Rokkor lenses, the 40 mm f/2, 28 mm f/2.8 and 90 mm f/4. The two weapons together were called the daisho, and represented the social power and personal honor of the samurai (buke retainers to the daimyo). The CL is also notable for being the only M-bayonet camera to have a vertically-traveling shutter.

The weapon was typically paired with the wakizashi, a similarly made but shorter sword both worn by the members of the buke (bushi) warrior class, it could also be worn with the tanto, an even smaller similarly shaped blade. Internal metering similar to the M5--CDS cell on a swinging stalk. It refers to a specific type of curved, single-edged sword traditionally used by the Japanese samurai. Also known as the Minolta CL, Leitz-Minolta CL, introduced with 2 lenses special to that model: the 40 mm Summicron-C f2 and 90 mm Elmar-C f4. While the word has no separate plural form in Japanese, it has been adopted as a loan word by the English language, where it is commonly pluralised as katanas. CL - 1973 - 1976 (the compact Leica). It is literally translated as 'knife,' and pronounced 'dao'). With the M4, last M camera to have a self-timer.

In Mandarin, it is pronounced dāo (this does not specifically refer to the katana. These restrictions also held true for the Leica CL (below). Katana (pronounced [ka-ta-na]) is the kun'yomi (Japanese reading) of the kanji 刀 ; the on'yomi (Chinese reading) is tō. For similar reasons, collapsible lenses could not be collapsed on the M5. The katana (刀) is the Japanese backsword or longsword (大刀 daitō) of the type specifically in use after the 1400s (following the use of the tachi), although many Japanese use this word generically as a catch-all word for sword. Certain wide angle lenses (early 21 mm f4.0 and f3.4) could not be used in the camera without modification because of the possibility of damage to the rear element of the lens or the meter arm. Ran "Aya" Fujimiya from Weiß Kreuz. The added functionality required a redesigned, larger body compared with the traditional M3 dimensions.

Leonardo from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. First Leica with a light meter, a mechanical swinging-arm CDS cell positioned behind the lens. Ulrich Stern. With added integral TTL lightmeter. Saigo Takamori. M5 - 1971 - 1975 (31,400 sets were manufactured). Saito Hajime. With the M5, last M camera to have a self-timer.

Okita Soji. Introduced the canted rewind crank (the previous Ms had rewind knobs). Sasaki Kojiro. With added rangefinder framelines for 35 mm and 135 mm lenses. Miyamoto Musashi. M4 - 1967 - 1975 (50,000 sets were manufactured); 1974 -1975 (6,500 sets were manufactured). Iizasa Ienao. In 1965 replaced by the MD (with no viewfinder at all), and the MDa (based on the M4) (1967), and finally the MD-2 (based on the M4-2) (1980).

Tsukahara Bokuden. A stripped version of the M2 for scientific/technical use, the M1 was a viewfinder camera with no built-in rangefinder. Ashikaga Yoshiteru. M1 - 1959 - 1964 (9,392 sets were manufactured). Magoroku Kanemoto. The M2 lacked the self-resetting film frame counter of its predecessor. Go Yoshihiro. The 0.72 magnification became the standard viewfinder magnification for future M cameras.

Etchu Norishige. A scaled-down and lower-cost version of the M3, the M2 had a simplified rangefinder of 0.72 magnification, allowing easier use of 35 mm lenses. Bizen Saburo Kunimune. M2 - 1958 - 1967 (88,000 sets were manufactured). Yamato Kaneuji. MP originally stood for "M Professional"; the camera was intended to be a photojournalist's camera. Yosozaemon Sukesada. The original MP was based on the M3 and could be fitted with a Leicavit trigger winding device.

Gassan Sadakazu. MP - 1956 - 1957 (Total 402 sets were manufactured). Nagasone Kotetsu. Early M3s lacked a frame preview selector lever to switch between framelines. Inoue Shinkai. The M3 advanced film via a lever rather than knob, the first M3s required two strokes to advance the film, after 1958 M3's were single-stroke. Sengo Muramasa. The price of this high magnification was that a 35 mm lens required "goggles" which fit in front of the view/rangefinder windows to facilitate a wider view.

Soshu Sadamune. The M3 has a .92 magnification finder, the highest of any M camera made. Soshu Masamune. In an advertisement from 1956, it was regarded as a "lifetime investment in perfect photography"; a statement that has proven to be true after more than fifty years since its release. Rai Kunimitsu. It was the first of the M series Leicas that are still manufactured today - the first interchangeable lens bayonet style Leica body. Rai Kunitoshi. M3 - 1954 - 1966 (Total 200,000 units manufactured) The M3 was introduced at the German Foto Kina exhibition in 1954.

Munechika. Leica IIIg - Produced till 1960 (Total 798,200 screwmount cameras had been made by then). Amakuni. Leica incorporates flash synchronization and a self timer. It burned off many impurities, again helping to overcome the Japanese steel's poor quality and purify/strengthen the sword. Leica IIIf - 1950. (Bulat steel layering is an entirely different chemical effect, and does not apply to blades made in the Japanese fashion.). Leica incorporates fast shutter speeds to the shutter design.

Layers act as weld points which can only serve to weaken the integrity of the blade. Leica IIIa - 1935. Despite widespread popular belief that the layered structure provides enhanced mechanical properties of the steel, this is completely false. Leica incorporates slow speeds to the shutter design in this model. It created layers, by continuously decarburizing the surface and bringing the surface into the blade's interior, which gives the swords their unique and beautiful grain. Leica III - 1933. It homogenized the metal, spreading the elements (such as carbon) evenly throughout - increasing the effective strength by decreasing the number of potential weak points. Leica introduces the rangefinder in the camera with this model.

It eliminated any bubbles in the metal. Leica II - 1932. Older swords by honored makers would then be reserved for very special gifts, in particular to the Shogun and his family or from the Shogun to show very special merit. From 1930 with interchangeable lenses. As such, the art of 'kantei' (the ability to judge a sword for period, maker, and quality) became important, as this allowed specialists to appraise a blade and so place its value. Followed by Leica Luxur and Leica Compur (a total of 60,586 was made of the Leica I, Luxur and Compur). It became traditional that Daimyo and the Shogun, and the members of their families, would exchange gifts of swords when meeting together or for special occasions such as weddings and births. Leica I - was introduced first time to the market at the 1925 spring fair in Leipzig, based on the Ur-Leica prototype developed by Oscar in 1913 and the Prototyp 1 developed in 1923.

It is considered that this angle of the sword was played up by those in power in order to replace land in the role of a gift of great honor. Leica CM Zoom. In older days, these gifts would be of land, but at the time of the Shogunate land was a scarce commodity. Leica CM 40 mm. While there has always been reverence for the sword, the official line of it being the 'soul' comes from a need of the Shogunate to provide high value gifts to retainers and noblemen. Leica Minilux Zoom. The 'soul of the samurai' concept has its roots in the early Tokugawa Shogunate. Leica Minilux 40 mm.

However, despite this, the sword was still considered the soul of the samurai, not the spear. C3. Although largely overlooked in Western literature, spears were the first resort of any samurai and most peasants, and the blades on the samurai spears were often of extremely high quality. C2. The two main types are 'naginata', similar to a halberd in use, and a 'yari' which is more traditionally spear like. C1. Most of the various kinds of spears could come with blades made in the same style as the Japanese sword. Z2X.

There are many varieties of wooden practice blades, including those made out of wood (bokken) and those made out of bamboo (often used for kendo practice, usually referred to as shinai). The signature almost always appears on the side facing away from the body when the blade is worn, so it is possible to discern the smith's intention for the blade in this manner. However, these are still katana if worn in modern 'buke-zukuri' style. Swords designed specifically to be tachi are generally koto rather than shinto, so they are generally better manufactured and more elaborately decorated.

'ōdachi' is also sometimes used as a synonym for katana. Abnormally long blades (longer than 3 shaku or 90cm), usually carried across the back, are called ōdachi or nodachi. If it is suspended by cords from a belt, it is called 'tachi' (average blade length of 75 cm) the tachi is worn cutting edge down. However, the term 'katana' is often misapplied: a sword is only a katana if it is worn blade-up through a belt-sash called an obi (these 'katana' averaged 65 cm in blade length).

This is the category 'katana' fall into. A blade longer than 2 shaku (61 cm) is considered a daito, or long sword. A blade longer than 1 shaku but less than 2 (30–61 cm) is considered a shoto (short sword) and included the wakizashi and kodachi. A blade shorter than 1 shaku (30 cm) is considered a tanto (knife).

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