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Japanese Sword Parts

Updated on June 2, 2013

The Tsuka or Hilt


The continuation of the hamon pattern onto the kissaki (tip).


The "hilt collar." A metal, often decorative piece between the tsuka-ito and the seppa.


The curvature of the cutting edge in the kissaki (tip).


The tempered side of the blade. During the quenching process, this side of the blade has less clay painted on it, thus it cools faster and forms a harder steel. The hasaki (cutting edge) is found on this side of the blade. Also called the yakiba.


The sharp edge of the blade. Made with a higher carbon steel than the back side of the blade, it is harder and can be sharpened to a finer edge than low carbon steel. It is brittle however and should only be used for cutting, and not blocking.


A bronze wedge shaped part at the base of the blade. Designed to fit snugly into the saya so that the sword will not fall out even if tilted downward.


Line separating the tempered area from the hiraji. Often referred to as the transition area between the two types of steel with the hamon being defined as the actual line, though this is less common.


The "blade pattern." A pattern running the length of the blade separating the yakiba and the rest of the sword that is the result of clay painted on on side of the metal during production. The clay allows the heated sword to cool at different rates causing the famous curvature of the katana. Often done in an artistic pattern such as waves. Some sources give the hamon as the actual line separating the tempered and non-tempered areas. In this case it's definition is switched with that of the habuchi.


The so called "blood grove." Pronounced "he." Three reasons are often cited for its purpose. The least likely is that it was meant to allow blood to flow off the sword more easily. More practically, the grove made the sword lighter making it easier to weild but was placed in such a way that the strength and structure of the blade was not weakened. Finally, it is believed by some that the grove created a pocket of air during a cut that left a wider more deadly gash that would be difficult to heal.


The area between the hamon and the shinogi. Also shortened to either "hira" or "ji."


The metal comprising the blade.


A seal of some importance (often a family crest) displayed on the saya. Pronounced "kah-moan."


The katana is a particular kind of long Japanese sword. It is not to be confused with tachi or ken which are both words meaning "sword" or "blade." The katana was made popular in feudal Japan as the favorite weapon of the samurai. It is worht nothing that one thing unique to the katana in the fencing world is that when sheathed it is worn on the belt with the blade facing up. This was one of the earliest distinctions between older tachi and the emerging katana style in the late 1300s and early 1400s.

The Kissaki


Tip of the blade. Not simply the point, this is the entire area beyond the yokote.


The mouth of the saya. Supposedly named for the Japanese fish the koi and the fact that the narrow opening of the sheath vaguely resembled a fish's mouth.


The end of the saya.


The continuation of the shinogi line onto the kissaki (tip).


The part of the saya where the segeo attached. Usually a protrusion with a whole in it.


Bamboo peg that connects the tsuka (hilt) to the nakago (tang). This peg is what holds the entire blade in place. Traditional designs have one, though contemporary katanas may have two makugi due to having a full tang.


The hole which the mekugi sits.


Metal decoration on the hilt set in the tsuka-ito.

The Monoushi and Kissaki within


Last several inches of the blade. There is no clear consensus of exactly how long this is. Sources say anywhere from 4 to 6 inches or measure it by fractions of the blade (fourth of the blade). The kissaki (tip) is within the monouchi.


The unsharpened back side of the blade. The steel heel is a lower carbon steel than on the ha (blade). This makes it softer but also less brittle, making it useful for blocking.


The cord used to secure the saya to the belt. Often made of silk.


Under-wrapping on the tsuka. Often made of shark or ray skin.

The Saya or Sheath


The curved sheath the katana is housed in. Pronounced like "sigh-uh."


One of two washers that sit on either side of the tsuba (handguard).


Line separating the hiraji and the shinogiji. The thickest part of the blade; often used for blocking.


Area between the shinogi and the mune. The hi (blood groove) is found within this area.


The handguard separating the hilt from the blade.


The handle or hilt of the sword.


The end of the tsuka.


The wrapping around the tsuka. Often made of silk, cotton, or leather.


The tempered side of the blade. During the quenching process, this side of the blade has less clay painted on it, thus it cools faster and forms a harder steel. The hasaki (cutting edge) is found on this side of the blade. Also called the ha.


Line separating the kissaki from the rest of the blade.

Demonstration of katana use by author

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