Japanese swords

On the topic of the Norway bombing and how people tend to get slaughtered like sheep when they rely on someone else to do the defending for them, the Japanese have very strict weapons control both in legal and in actuality:

The Japanese even have laws against the mass production of steel swords, focusing it in a few sword smiths called national treasures. While this is mostly to ensure quality, something the Japanese government has done historically, it is also a form of weapons control.

The Japanese culture is even more based upon order and authority than the Germans are, so the people who smuggle in weapons, the Yakuza, are already labeled not part of mainstream society. While this is an example of how “weapon controls work” (meaning, for those that want guns, it doesn’t work), it is also an example of how a nation that is primarily built upon order and obeying social conformity rules, can function relatively well without weapons. They just lack independence on an individual or government level. Many Americans would love to live that kind of life, as we all well know. To be taken care of and to leave the dirty business of dying or killing to somebody else, out of sight, out of mind. This has the effect of, even if you include feminism, maintaining many “chauvinistic” attitudes. For example, in Japan it is still expected of a man to escort a woman home if the area is dangerous or it is at night. Firearms equalizes the difference the sexes generally speaking. Feminism without firearms, is basically meat without cooking. Yea, you can eat it, but it might not be a good idea given the risks.

Btw, the movie Tom Cruise starred in, the Last Samurai, tried to make the whole getting rid of the great and noble samurai class as somehow the fault of greedy Westerners. Wasn’t so. The Meiji Restoration was a local Japanese movement designed to restore power to the Imperial Family and adopt Western ways of egalitarianism, dress, and philosophical concepts. The Japanese method integrated both traditional values such as Shinto with Western values such as Christianity. And they did it without having to fight a war about it, because they fought that war in 1600 and the Western clans, those who first traded with Europeans and adopted Christianity first, lost. 2 hundred years later, their sons and descendants came back and got rid of the Tokugawa Shogunate (the winner of the previous clash, called the Armies of the East, because it was the Eastern Japanese clans that were the most traditional and not as open to Western ideas).

Due to the Japanese laws against the mass manufacturing of katanas, kendo and kenjutsu classes in Japan must use a zinc-aluminum-alloy iaito for training purposes: an iaito is a sword that is unsharpened and thus too blunt to cut… well most things. Zinc-alloy is much lighter than steel, thus there’s a tendency for it to shatter and hurt someone if used in contact with other swords. This means wooden swords (bokuto) are used more for training purposes and when contact is required. Laws of this nature has also raised the price of a Japanese katana forged in Japan to something like 5,000 to 10,000 US dollars: 500,000 to 1 million yen. Commercially, the market price is 1,000 to 2,000 USD for a Japanese katana forged in the traditional way, but not in Japan. Machine forged blades using high carbon steel that do not use traditional Japanese blade forging techniques (because we got machines to do that work for us), cost around 100-300 dollars at the entry level and 300-800 at the medium price point (folded steel upgrades). The hamon, or wave line on a blade that has been classically used to judge the worth of a sword’s steel and sharpness, is made by differentially hardening the back spine vs the edge of the sword. The reason why Japanese katanas are sharpened on only one end is because Japanese katanas are constructed from a layered steel system (laminated) where the spine is softer and designed to absorb force while the edge is hard and able to cut without chipping or denting. The hamon results from how the different sections of the blade are heat tempered, but the sword can also be made from folded steel which produces a soft spine and a hard edge that if not tempered at all, could still have the layered steel behavioral characteristics in cutting. Such blades meant for battle are usually constructed using 1095 steel, or one of the hardest steels around, for the edge and a softer lower HRC (55 or lower) steel for the spine and body. Sword steel, at minimum, must be 1045 high carbon. There is also spring steel or 9260 steel which is about on par with 1095 steel in terms of hardness and ability to retain shape. Spring steel is what is used in springs and other firearm components, as it is very durable and you can bend it at 90 degrees and it will return back to normal shape, with very low metal fatigue compared to other high carbon steels (which tend to become permanently bent at more than 45 degrees).

The only sharpened blade I’m probably ever going to buy is a wakizashi from Cheness.

They have a great price, hand tempered blade using clay (traditional), and with the steel being composed of spring steel, it is just as durable, if NOT MORE durable than the traditional Japanese construction. And there’s no room to draw a katana, which is around 40 inches in total length, in CQB. There is, however, for a wakizashi.

So here’s the comparison about security issues from before. Not only are Americans gun crazier than the Japanese… but we also tend to be sword crazier as well. There are far more quality steel blades in the US than there are in Japan, although the ratio is probably not as great as the firearms differential. And America is definitely more security conscious, on an individual level (in some states), than Norway is.

Might be something people can mention if they are ever in Japan, when people don’t understand America’s obsession with guns.

P.S. Cleaning firearms is surprisingly similar to cleaning swords because both are prone to rusting and other little issues. Discovered that while learning how to maintain a steel sword.

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2 Comments on “Japanese swords”

  1. JB Says:

    Very Interesting post. I to think the wakizashi is probably more practical these days. I don’t own a sword (couple of big knives from Nepal 😉 ) but I do own a Bokken which I love. It’s kind of like having a baseball bat behind the door thats more flexible in it’s application.

  2. ymarsakar Says:


    I started working with the sword because I wanted more wrist and grip strength. The stances were also useful for H2H using kung fu or aikido.

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