Katana Lexicon

banniere lexique

The katana is a Japanese sword with a very specific vocabulary. Knowing this will help you choose a katana in an informed way.

The katana blade

The blade is the most important part of your sword. The samurai believe that in it lies the soul of your weapon.

Here are the terms to master:

  • Nagasa The nagasa refers to the length of the blade. It is measured from the Mune Machi located just in front of the guard, also called Tsuba. We finish the measurement at the point.
  • Sori: is the measurement of the curvature of the blade. To do this, we start from the two ends of the blade. The sori gives key information about the time of manufacture of the blade.
  • Shinogi :Precisely, it is the non cutting edge of the blade. It starts at the blade and ends at the flat of the blade.
  • Hamon The Hamon is defined as the hardening line of the blade. It determines the cutting edge of your sword. The Hamon is a very effective method but also risky. It increases the price of the blade.

  • Boshi The Boshi determines the line of temper of the Hamon which is spread on the tip of the blade (Kissaki). The Boshi is visual and is revealed after a meticulous polishing of the blade.

  • Kissaki It is simply the tip of the katana. Its size varies according to the katana.
  • Ha It is defined as the edge of the blade. It depends strongly on the method of sharpening and the steel used for manufacturing.

  • Bo-Hi This is the beautiful carved line found inside the katana. The Bo-Hi is an ingenious way to reduce the weight of the blade while making it inconspicuous. This technique allows for smoother handling and reduces wearer fatigue.
  • Nakago It is said to define the silk of the katana. This part is invisible to the naked eye because it extends under the handle. However, the blade’s bristle ensures that the blade does not break during use. The blade has a solid anchor point that prevents it from moving and breaking during impacts.

The joint between the handle and blade

Tsuba Habaki Seppa
  • Tsuba: she is the guard of the katana. Its function is to protect the hand of the samurai. In addition, it prevents the blade from slipping out of the wearer’s hand. Finally, by its aesthetics, the tsuba embellishes the sword.
  • Habaki: this part helps to maintain the blade. It reduces the vibrations felt in the hand of the samurai when he crosses the sword.
  • Seppa: made up of 2 washers, the seppa is a real joining piece between several elements: the habaki and the tsuba on one side; the tsuba and the handle on the other.

The handle of the katana

The handle of the katana is essential for a good grip of the sword. It also has a unique style for each model you choose.

A quality katana handle will have good adhesion, grip and durable materials. Here are the terms to master:

  • Fuchi It is a structure that will strengthen your katana. The Fuchi has a traditional look with elaborate carvings. Each craftsman may have his own technique that will give a unique fuchi.

  • Same : it is the leather of stingray. It allows your ito to hold well while absorbing powerful blows.
  • Tsuka-Ito : it is the string that winds the same of your katana. Depending on the katana, you will have materials like cotton, suede, polyester and many other materials. These materials will differ depending on the price of your sword.
  • Mekugi Its function is to fix the blade to the handle. It brings an additional protection to the good holding of your blade.

  • Menuki It is a decorative piece on the handle of the katana. Its role is primarily decorative. It slightly improves the grip. However, it contributes to the identity of the room and gives it a traditional look.
  • Kashira It is the pommel of the katana. It allows to fix the whole handle, also called the tsuka. There is often an engraved pattern on the sword to identify it.

Scabbard of the katana

The scabbard has the role of protecting the blade while playing a safety role. It brings a certain aestheticism to the sword.

It plays a practical role in helping the blade slide during drawdown. You can recognize all parts of the katana scabbard by learning the basic vocabulary:

  • Saya : it is the entirety of the sleeve. The scabbard is made to fit snugly around the waist. The scabbard will often be appreciated by collectors for its decorative aspect. Some sheaths are therefore very aesthetic.

  • Shitadome and Kurigata These parts are very useful to hang the sword on the belt. A good Shitadome and Kurigata hold the scabbard firmly without it moving.

  • Sageo The sageo is the rope that allows you to hang your Japanese sword on your belt. The color of the Sageo is often matched to the handle of the katana.

Other Samurai swords

When we speak about Japanese sword we say “ nihonto “which refers to the whole range of swords forged in the Japanese tradition.

The Wakizashi


The Wakizashi is a more minimalist version of the katana. This Japanese sword is between 30cm and 60cm in size. It can be worn in conjunction with the katana. This weapon was not only reserved for samurais because it could be carried by rich merchants.

Unlike the katana, it can be wielded with only one hand. Samurai preferred this blade for fighting in enclosed spaces. More maneuverable and smaller, this blade could be very useful in close combat.

The Tanto


The tanto is a small Japanese katana that can be single or double edged. The size of its blade is less than 30 cm. It is less curved than its counterparts and acts as a dagger.

The tanto was used by the samurai as a weapon of war.

The Bokken


The bokken is a wooden sword used for training. It imitates the shape of the katana. It is used for practices like aikido, laido, j├┤d├┤, kendo, etc. Thanks to the famous Miyamoto Musashi, it even became a weapon of combat, mainly used in kenjutsu.

You have now acquired the basic vocabulary to talk about katana.