I’ve recently had the pleasure of examining my first antique Japanese katana. It was a deep experience for me to handle a weapon that was undoubtedly carried at one time by a Samurai warrior several hundred years ago… most likely during the Edo period of Japan. While not an exceptional example in terms of the mountings, they carry the mark of a skilled craftsman. Smelted iron with a clouds and waves motif decorated by nonume zogan gold overlay. The blade itself, however, carries the mark of mastery. The steel called ‘tamahagane’,smelted from the black sands of Japan, has such fine grain structure that it cannot be seen without the aid of contrasting light. The hamon pattern streaks like a line of fire across the blade and seems perfect to me in it’s repetitive patterns and fine detail. This pattern in the steel represents the chaotic boundary between hard and soft steel and is almost like the stormy meeting of two weather fronts in the Earth’s atmosphere. The hamon is controlled by the smith using the application of fine clay and, in this case, is an indicator of the masterful skill of the smith who heat treated this blade.
These pictures are not meant to ‘document’ this blade.. but to open a tiny window into the fine details of the Japanese sword. There is not a picture of the whole sword.. just a sumi ink brush outline. Use these details and let your imagination take you back.