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Famed Weapons and Samurai of Japan


Japanese culture has many myths and legends dating back centuries, and many of them feature famous warriors and weapons. The sword has become so symbolic in Japan that one of the more significant blades of history, the Kusanagi, is one of the imperial regalia of Japan today. Here, we'll take a look at a few of the more historically renowned swords of the East and samurai of Japanese legend.


Famous Swords


Japanese legend states that the a weapon called the “Sword of the Gathering Clouds of Heaven” was given to Ashinazuchi by a god who had been exiled from the heavens. The weapon was a gift to aid the warrior in defeating the Yamata-no-Orochi, an eight-headed snake that had attacked his clan. By luring the monster into a trap using eight vats of sake behind eight gates, he trapped the monster's heads and cut them off one by one. Later, the weapon was given to a Japanese prince, Yamato Takeru.


Takeru was ambushed while traveling through an enemy lord's territory. His horse was killed and burning arrows were launched into the field of long grass around him. In an attempt to cut down the grass to keep the fire at bay, Takeru learned to use the sword to control the wind, and send the inferno back towards the enemy lord's army, routing them. After this event, he renamed the blade to Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, or “Grass-cutting Sword.” The sword later became lost, and was reported to have been stolen by a monk whose ship later sank at sea. The sword was reported to have been washed ashore and recovered by priests. Because the imperial regalia of Japan are not shown by their retainers, the existence and nature of this sword are under debate.




Other famous swords which are confirmed to have existed, many to this day, were created by the renowned smith Masamune. Widely regarded as the most talented weaponsmith in Japan (or indeed the world) to have ever lived, Masamune created many famous weapons for the nobles of his time. According to one legend, he once challenged a rival smith to a contest to see whose swords were superior. Their chosen weapons were held under a waterfall, and the leaves falling from the trees into the river above were cut. When leaves hit his rival's blade, they were sliced perfectly in half, and observers though Masamune had been beaten. However, when the leaves fell onto Masamune's sword they were not only split in two, but actually reformed as they traveled downstream.


Masamune created one very famous weapon, widely regarded as one of the most perfect blades ever forged: the Honjo Masamune. This katana was made into a national treasure during the 1900s, and was so well-regarded that it was used to symbolize the Shogunate during the Edo period of Japan. Passed down from one ruler to the next, it takes its name from the renowned general Honjo Shigenaga. In the legend, Shigenaga was attacked by enemy forces who possessed the Masamune, and was struck so hard that his helmet was split in half. However, he survived the assault and took the weapon as his prize, but was later forced to sell it for a hundredth of its price. It passed from owner to owner through history, and today its exact location is unknown, having been lost in the mid-twentieth century.


Famous Samurai


Some Japanese weapons became famous through the bearers that wielded them. Perhaps one of the most famous swordsmen to have ever lived in Japan is Miyamoto Musashi. Musashi was a ronin, or masterless samurai, and is credited not only for his amazing swordplay but as an artist, writer, and teacher. Late in life, he wrote The Book of Five Rings, which described strategy and tactics. He won a large number of duels against other renowned swordsmen, and created a unique style of swordplay known as Niten-ryu, or “Two Heavens as One.” The teachings of Niten-ryu are designed to allow the user to effortlessly wield two swords as if they were one, with each weapon (longsword and shortsword) being considered one half of the full style. We carry a complete line of Musashi swords, and there are musashi style swords by several manufacturers. You can easily tell the Musashi style swords by the name and the double ring hand guard or tsuba.


Takeda Shingen was a famous warlord during the Sengoku period of Japan, during which individual clans were vying for control of the nation as a whole. Takeda Shingen's legacy lives on today with a festival in his name, featuring a parade and actors portraying his exploits. We have a number of Japanese helmets and Japanese armor featuring Takeda Shingen. Checkout our complete line of Japanese samurai armor.