What is Samurai??
In Japanese, Samurai is usually used as same meaning as bushi or buke, which refers to the military nobility of medieval and early modern Japan. Samurai was usually used as lower government official who worked for higher ranked Japanese Court Officials.
The word samurai was later used to describe the lower rank official bushi, who had specialized in martial arts. From the end of 12th to mid-19th century, Japan was under the rule of the Samurai Class. Samurai can be aptly described as the warriors of Japan. Only 10% of the Japanese population were Samurai; they were the lower ranked government officials. It was later in history that they gained enough military power to rule the nearby areas before they became the ruling class.
What is the Samurai Sword?
In Japanese, the Samurai Sword is called Katana, and they were one of the traditionally made Japanese sword of the samurai, or bushi class of feudal Japan. The katana have significant features such as a curved, slender and single-edged blade with a guard and long grip. Katana has wide varieties of lengths and each length has different names such as Tachi (Long Katana), Kodachi (Shorter Katana often used by female), and Tanto (Short Katana). Katana is referred as the Spirit of Samurai because Katana is often passed generation to generation in the family tree and the only bushi class is allowed to wear them. The katana is usually the most important family heirloom. It became the representative spirit of the samurai.
If you go to a Japanese museum, you can see many different kinds of Katana on display. In Japan, there is a series of katana called “Tenka Goken”. Tenka means the whole country, whereas goken means 5 swords,. These are the 5 most famous swords in Japan because of their historical background and the beauty of the sword itself.
The picture above shows the Doujikiri Yasutsuna. It is the one of the National Treasures of Japan. According to the legend during the Heian period, it is believed that an oni (a kind of demon) in Mt. Ooe near Kyoto called Shuten Doji. At that time in Kyoto, many kidnaps of young man and princesses occurred and after the search people found out that Shuten Doji and his clan of oni were the suspects, so the Emperor at that time summoned the samurai leader Minamoto no Raiko to hunt them down. He hunted them successfully and cut off the head of Shuten Doji with his sword- which led to its name today: Doujikiri.
Doujikiri Yasutsuna National Tresure Owned by Tokyo National Museum
Onimaru Kunitsuna Owned by the Imperial Family
Mikazuki Munechika National Tresure Owned by Tokyo National Museum
Ootenta Mitsuyo National Tresure Owned by the Maeda Ikutokukai in Ishikawa
Jyuzumaru Kanetsugu Important Cultural Property of Japan Owned by Honkouji Temple in Hyogo
If you visit Tokyo National Museum, you will be able to see two of Tenka Goken. More information on Tokyo National Museumo available here.
The most well known type of Japanese armor is called “Touse Gusoku”. Gusoku means armor and Touse means recent, so it means the most modern armor at that time. The Touse Gusoku has a wide variety of colors and designs, because the Gusoku is designed for individuals.
The Japanese Sword Museum
4-25-10, Yoyogi, Shibuya
10:00 – 16:30 (entrance closes at 16:00)
Closed on Monday and New Year's Holiday
Adult 600 yen
Student 300 yen
7 min walk from Sanguubashi Station on Odakyu Line
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If you are interested in Japanese swords and armors and actually want to buy some for yourself, here is a few shops you can actually go to and see them by yourself and you can choose your own set of sword and armor for yourself!!!
The Japanese Sword
3-8-1, Tranomon, Mitato-ku, Tokyo
Weekday 9:30 – 18:00
Saturday 9:30 – 17:00
Closed on Sunday, National Holidays, Summer Holidays and New Year's Holidays
4 min walk from Tranomon Station Exit 2 on Ginza Line
5 minwalk from Kamiyacho Station on Hibiya Line
9 min walk from Uchisaiwaichou Station on Toei Mita Line
JCB, Diners, American Express, UC, VISA
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Samurai Store is a shop which sell many types of actual samurai swords and armors!!
It has two branches in Tokyo and Yokohama. At the Tokyo Gallery you can see many types of swords and armors. At Yokohama branch you can actually wear real samurai armor with 3000 yen. Tokyo branch has wider selection of samurai armors compare to Yokohama!! Before go to both branches reservation is required so contact them in advance!!
Samurai Armor Tokyo Central Gallery
2-1-15, Sotokanda, Chiyoda, Tokyo
Make A Reservation
A few min walk from Akihabara Station on JR Yamanote Line
A few min walk from Ochanomizu Station on JR Chuo Line / Marunouchi Line
A few min walk from Ogawamachi Station on Toei Shinjyuku Line
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Samurai Store(Samurai Armor Yokohama)
Inside of the Yokohama Osanbashi Pier International Ship Terminal
1-1-4, Kaigandouri, Naka-ku, Yokohama city, Kanagawa
10:30 – 19:30
May be closed earlier on weekdays.
50 min train ride from Tokyo Station
Tokyo to Yokohama via JR Tokaido Line, then from Yokohama to Nihon Odori Station via Minatomirai Line.
30 min from Edo
12 hours from Nihonbashi (which is considered as the start point for travelers in Edo)
25 hours from Hakone Gate
4 hours from Nihonbashi
8 hours from Hakone Gate
By Black Ships (the name given to Western Vessels arriving Japan in 16th and 19th centuries)
30 days from San Francisco, but you have to transfer to JR Line or Keikyu Line at Yokosuka...
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The Ultimate Hidden Spot
If you are a huge fanatic of Japanese Samurai Swords and Armors, there is a great museum in Tochigi Prefecture, that you should definitely pay a visit. At the Samurai Sword Museum, there are 1600 collections of swords and armors. 100 swords with 200 rare collections of artifacts are put on exhibit. It will be an absolutely fantastic place to visit to learn a lot about the beauty of Japanese swords and armors.
Of course, Tochigi Prefecture offers more than that! There are interesting Ninja tours available too! If you are interested, please click here!
Samurai Sword Museum
20- 9, Oneda, Moka City, Tochigi
0285- 74- 2846
9:00 – 16:00 (close at 17:00)
Closed on Monday
20 min from Kugeta Station on Moka Line
Every weekend and on most public holidays, Moka Line operates a classic steam locomotive only one round trip per day. Do not miss it!!
If you want to buy Katana, you need to know many things about custom and shipping etc. Please let us know. We offer you the Katana shopping tour. We will take you to the good shops and help you to buy good Katana.
You want to know Samurai more, Kamakura is the good place.
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