The katana is a type of Japanese sword, also commonly referred to as a “samurai sword”. In the strictest sense, the term katana in Japanese is applied to any kind of single-edged sword, of any origin; contrary to common belief outside Japan, the Japanese word does not necessarily refer to a Japanese sword. But incorrectly or habitually, some Japanese and Western sword lovers define katana as the standard size moderately curved (as opposed to the older “tachi” style featuring more curvature) Japanese sword with a blade length of greater than 60 cm (23.6 inches).

The katana is characterized by its distinctive appearance: a curved, slender, single edged blade, circular or squared guard, and long grip to accommodate two hands. It has historically been associated with the samurai of feudal Japan, and has become renowned for its sharpness and cutting ability.


The katana originated in the Muromachi period (1392–1573) as a result of changing battle conditions requiring faster response times. The katana facilitated this by being worn with the blade facing up, which allowed the samurai to draw and cut their enemy in a single motion. Previously, the curved sword of the samurai had been worn with the blade facing down.

The length of the katana’s blade varied considerably during the course of its history. In the late 14th and early 15th centuries, katana blades tended to be between 70 and 73 cm (27.6 and 28.7 inches) in length. During the early 16th century, average length was much closer to 60 cm (23.6 inches), but late in the 16th century, it was again approximately 73 cm (28.7 in).

The katana was paired most often with the wakizashi or shōtō, a similarly made but shorter sword, both worn by the members of the warrior class. It could also be worn with the tantō, an even smaller similarly shaped knife. The katana and wakizashi when paired with each other were called the daishō and they represented the social power and personal honor of the samurai.

Sword Parts