The Samuri Sword - Historical Information

Katana (Samurai Sword), Swordsmith: Saneyuki of Takeda,
Bunyo Province, 1600s
The Samuri Sword

The history of the Japanese sword, spanning some 1,500 years, is one of a warrior’s virtue, valour, and strength. Described as ‘the living soul of the samurai’, the Japanese sword has been venerated for its lethal beauty over the centuries. Made from elemental earth and given life through fire and water, they were often believed to possess power and spirits of their own. The katana was often ornately decorated to reflect the prowess of its owner. This particular sword, forged by Saneyuki in the seventeenth century, has its saya (scabbard) elaborately decorated with shark skin that has been lacquered and sanded to produce a spotted pattern. This is unique for the practice was generally restricted to tsuka (grip) adornment. The katana was often referred to as the warrior’s soul, holding names bestowed upon them by their wielder, and were believed to directly influence the outcome of a battle. The sacred bond between warrior and sword only ended in death. As Miyamoto Musashi wrote around 1645: ‘Training for killing enemies is by way of many contests: fighting for survival, discovering the meaning of life and death, learning the Way of the sword, judging the strength of attacks and understanding the Way of the “edge and ridge” of the sword’.

Card written by Makoto Harris Takao and Susan Broomhall for “Stories of Emotions and Scottish Objects”, a research partnership between the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions and the Stirling Smith Art Gallery and Museum.

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