Katana\A Self-Portrait of the Japanese


Even when modern Japanese people first hold a katana, whilst fearful of its horrible

efficiency as a cutting weapon, they can also recognise its beauty. Non-Japanese people

can recognise this beauty too. However, we Japanese understand not only the beauty,

but also the sanctity of the Japanese sword. Why is this? The difference is because we

can sense the spirit of our ancestors.


The Japanese sword came to be known as ethe soul of the samuraif. This soul or spirit

derives from the ancient Japanese Yamato peoplefs word, tama. Tama means life, and

the powerful continuance of spirit after death. Even now, the phrase gtama wo toruh is

still used. This means eto take lifef. Our ancestors took this tama, or spirit, and infused it

into the sword. Kamikaze pilots would take their military swords into their confined

cockpits in order to raise their own spirits and invoke the protection of the spirits of our

ancestors. When a Japanese person holds a Japanese sword for the first time, they

experience various emotions. This is because they can sense this power of the spirit of

their ancestors.


Takayama Takeshi, a Japanese sword researcher, says that the Japanese sword has three

facets. In laymenfs terms it is a functional weapon, a spiritual protector for the warrior,

and has Japanese aesthetic. None is more important than the other. It is the combination

of these three things together that epitomise the Japanese sword.


The spirituality of the tea ceremony,flower arranging and calligraphy, along with an

intrinsic beauty are condensed into the Japanese sword. Our ancestors included all the

elements of creation in the Japanese sword. Therefore, the Japanese sword is not solely

for warriors; it is the heart of the Japanese people, carved out of steel in our own image.@


A special edition of Budo Tsushin magazine on the Japanese sword (Oct 1997) featured

an article entitled gWhen You Look at the Sword, You Can See the Character of the

Nationh.@ At that time the Japanese people had lost sight of themselves. My message

was to look to the sword to regain sight of who we are.


10 years after the publication of our first edition, bushido philosophy has become

popular. This is delightful. However, there are times when the government speaks of

bushido and the Japanese sword as the soul of the warrior for its own gains. When this

happens it is not the true form of the warrior, and the true image of the Japanese people

is obscured.


Letfs begin to talk about the Japanese sword again with todayfs young samurai and

Japanese sword enthusiasts from around the world.



Katana\why is the katana the soul of the samurai?


Chapter 1 prologue. The Origins of the Japanese People.


Why before the katana is there no relation to class? Author N. Okazaki wrote gbefore

the sword there are no two thingsh. The point he was trying to make, that was no two

things, all things are one. In todayfs usage this has become ebefore the sword everyone

is equalh. All classes, samurai, farmers, artisans and merchants were all seen as equal

before the sword. It is said that the sword has been a self-portrait of the Japanese people

since ancient times.