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How to know if a Katana is authentic?

For most people, touching a Japanese sword would be a source of great joy. However, how to know if a Katana is authentic? No one wants to get ripped off if they buy one, so we will give you the best tricks on how to tell if a katana is good.

Cheap Japanese swords how to tell the difference or how to know if a katana is a good one

Japanese swords are not just a fighting tool for samurai or other warriors, they are a true work of art.

However, to the untrained eye, cheap katanas or good katanas are not very different from each other. So we asked a Japanese acquaintance, who has a small store in Japan, just outside Kyoto, that sells Japanese swords, and he told us how to tell if a katana is good.

As Mr. Matsusake says, to be able to properly and perfectly evaluate a sword can take a lifetime, but fortunately he has explained some tricks and also to see what makes a sword unique and special, so we know how to know if a katana is original or not.

how to know if a Katana is authentic
Katana

THE GUNTO SWORD AND THE DIFFERENCE WITH THE TACHI KATANA ( How to know if a Katana is authentic?)

Let’s see the difference between the Guntō sword and the Tachi katana, to know exactly how to differentiate them and not to be sold a “pig in a poke” (It is a very famous saying in my country, and it means not to be sold something that is not).

The Guntō 軍刀 sword – How to know if a Katana is authentic?

The Guntō sword (軍刀), is a Japanese military sword.

The Guntō sword (軍刀), was a Japanese ceremonial sword made for the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy, following the introduction of compulsory military service in the year 1872.

Guntō swords were very common during World War II and were carried by Japanese military personnel.

how to know if a Katana is authentic
Guntō Sword

How to know if a Katana is authentic or if a gunto is handmade

To see how to know if a Katana is authentic, we must look inside. Although some gunto swords were handmade or partially handmade, most were assembled in factories from standard bars and quality.

Quality of a Japanese Guntō sword (軍刀) – How to know if a Katana is good?

The blade of the Guntō sword was of high quality.

If you know how to read Japanese and also know how to open the hilt of the sword, you can see a signature that will be on the inside of the hilt blade and so you can distinguish whether it is a handmade or machine-made sword.

  • Note: Today the Japanese government bans the gunto sword. Why? Well, because after all, it considers them mass-produced Japanese weapons / swords of no artistic value.

Katana Tachi 太刀 – How to know if a Katana is authentic.

The tachi katana (太刀) is very similar to normal Japanese katanas, but they were worn horizontally, with the point down behind a samurai’s back.

Japanese soldiers of World War 2 hung the swords on their hips, but pointed downward at the loops of the scabbard.

how to know if a Katana is authentic
Katana Tachi

Details of a Japanese sword to know if a katana is authentic

Japanese swords have many details that are difficult to see without proper lighting, so you need a good strong light source.

Let’s see one of the best ways to know if a katana is original.

It is traditional to know if a katana is original, to bow to it before a check of origin, although if the occasion is informal, it will probably look awkward (example in a normal Japanese katana store, if you are not an expert, better not try to bow too much, although you can pay your respects with a short and brief bow).

Steps to follow to find out if a katana is original

Step 1: Hold the katana, tip up, and push the handle out of the sheath with your thumb.

Step 2: Do not put your fingers on the metal, as the acid from the fingerprint will cause rust.

Step 3: Slide the sword along your back to make sure the scabbard does not scratch the blade.

Step 4: Once out, hold the sword upright with the arm extended and observe the curvature.

Note: For older blades, the location of the curve affected its cutting power and how quickly it could be pulled out.

how to know if a Katana is authentic
Katana

Once the steps are done, let’s see how to know if a katana is authentic with these features

With the features I am going to give you below, you will be able to know if a katana is original or authentic, just by looking carefully at the following:

The curvature on a Japanese katana for how to tell if a katana is original

It is said that the tip determined its piercing power and could vary from long and curved to short and angled.

The smith would also choose what type of backing to forge, from flat to 3-sided.

Appraisers would use all these characteristics to say what period and school of smithing the Japanese sword came from, but if you are just looking at a katana blade, you should know that these characteristics exist, you don’t need to be that expert.

how to know if a Katana is authentic
Katana

Tamahagane steel of a Japanese sword for how to know if a katana is original

Japanese swords are generally made of Tamahagane steel, ask the seller if you don’t know what steel it is made of, although it is best to check just in case.

The presence of carbon hardens the steel, but also makes it brittle.

Tamahagane has so much carbon that a sword made of untreated metal would break the first time it was used.

Each layer reduces the carbon content by about 0.2% until it is soft enough to withstand use.

If you count the actual number of times the blacksmith bends the steel, bending it 1000 times would reduce the carbon content to zero, making the steel unfit for a sword.

If you count the number of layers actually created in the metal, the number of “bends” grows exponentially.

  • Either way, the layers form a distinct pattern that appears after polishing.

The whistles of a Japanese sword for how to know if a katana is original

how to know if a Katana is authentic
Forging a katana

Making a katana blade takes months, but a whole Japanese sword takes even longer.

The blacksmith does polishing after polishing after finishing a sword, but then it is sent to a professional sword polisher.

The polisher uses a series of increasingly finer stones to bring out the details of the steel. Without a skilled polisher, the blade would look like a featureless piece of metal, and that is one of the things you should look closely at for how to know if a katana is original.

Many collectors only care about the blade itself, which is why many new Japanese swords are only sheathed in a shirasa, which is a plain wooden scabbard.

However, if the smith wants perfection, he will send his creation to a sheath maker.

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We are specialists in Japan, one of us graduated in Japanese culture, studying in Japan at Keio university, also with Japanese language course, and qualified in Japanese noken 3 (n3). We are a family of 4 and we love to travel. We love Japan, its culture, its people, its language, its cities, its small towns, its nature, its food, anime and manga, souvenirs.... EVERYTHING ABOUT JAPAN!

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