Samurai and Nihontō
Foreigners who never visited once Japan, probably in their imagination has words like "Samurai", "Katana", "Ninja". Certainly long time ago was common for samurai wearing Nihontō ( Japanese Sword ), but in the modern Japan of course there are no samurai, and nobody walks carrying a sword on his belt. However, when we are going to talk about Japan, unquestionably it is impossible not to mention the samurai and their sword.
The history of the samurai dates back to the Heian period.
During the Heian period, personnel guard who served the high-ranking persons came to be called "samurai".
It was an era when basically the man who was carrying a sword at his side was called “Bushi”, but it seems that the high-ranking bushi were defined as “Samurai”.
The Samurai in the Heian period has a position like bureaucrat, but still retains the original meaning which is to "serve a person".
When Heian period ends and Muromachi period starts, those who serve the “Ashikaga Clan” (involved in the Muromachi Shogunate) was called “Samurai”.
With the destruction of Ashikaga family, Japan entered in the period of the "Warring States".
In that rampant war, the definition of Samurai gradually changed, and people began to call Samurai those was fighting during the Warring States period.
During the Heian and Muromachi period, it was essential to have a high ranking position to be called Samurai, but during the period of the Warring States be called Samurai was a meritocracy.
In this period also the common peoples, if they had some good fighting skills was able to become a samurai.
Era changes, and when Edo Era comes the hierarchy of samurai has been established.
The hierarchy of samurai (士農工商) was a class system, and it has been established by the Edo Shogunate.
Bushi/warriors (士) was the highest position followed by the farmers (農), the artisans (工) and the tradesmen (商) at the lowest position.
With this class system, all of the bushi came to be called Samurai. But with the collapse of the Edo Shogunate caused by the Meiji Restoration, the Samurai figure disappeared from history.
The Nihontō is the Japanese sword forged using its unique traditional manufacturing method.
However, it began to be called Nihontō from the end of the Bakumatsu period onward.
Previously it was called differently depending on the category (eg. “Tachi”, “Uchigatana”,…)
The history of the Japanese Sword is old, and it seems that the prototype was made during the Kofun Period.
It seems that the origin was the "WarabiTeGatana", a sword used by "Emishi" (also known as "Ezo", a population which lived in the north-east area) during the Kofun period, but even today the truth has not been resolved.
From a peaceful period, with the gradual increase of the “wars”, it seems that “WarabiTeGatana” has then developed into Nihontō.
Therefore, when we talk about the Nihontō, the samurai presence is inseparable.
Person who goes into battle, in other words, if there were no "Samurai" the Nihontō would have no reason to exist.
So, can we say that it’s merit of samurais if nowadays we have National Treasures like the Nihontō?
Especially in Kyoto, which was the ancient capital, there are still many Nihontō.
Our shop, “Mononofuya” also has a showroom of Nihontō in Kyoto.