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Page 17

History and the blade from 1781 to present

During the Shinshinto (1781-1876) period sword production was nearly at a stand still as older swords were refitted, and sword mounting and fitting became a prosperous business.  The status of the sword was finally one of social standing and costume rather than as a combat weapon.


In 1876 all civilians were ordered to give up carrying swords entirely this lead to the Satsuma rebellion by the Samurai of the day. Swords of this era are very poor quality. The few sword smiths left literally went out of business. Japanese military expansion into Asia at the beginning of this century again gave raise to the craft of sword making. Hand crafted swords of this period are known as Gendaito (modern swords), they are made the traditional way by creating a folded hard core and surrounding it in a soft casing, but the craft had already been lost twice and sword smiths today are still recovering.  Many of the swords we see today are from the Second World War and are made from steel but not folded.  Although the steel is good quality and usually individually made, they are not made in the traditional way. 

There are 13,000 recorded Japanese sword smiths throughout history.  Given that each sword smith made approximately 200 blades, it is estimated that 2.5 million swords have been made.  Many have been lost, but interestingly, there are reputed to be more Japanese swords in the USA than in Japan. As with many things the Japanese do the swords smiths throughout history are well documented and recorded. This makes sword collecting and appreciation an interesting but expensive pastime.


The history of the Japanese sword follows closely the story of war and peace in Japan. Much the same way as weapons technology affects our lives today.  The Japanese sword is one of the three sacred treasures of the imperial throne and remains the supreme symbol of the Japanese martial spirit, and of the Samurai (and nations) vigour and pride . The other two scared objects are a mirror and jewels


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