The Japanese trace the lineage of their swords to almost 600 BC. This is later than the Indian period which boasts the history of the sword from 4000 BC. The exponent of the Japanese culture as far swords was concerned were the Samurai a class of warriors. The samurai was an elite class of warriors whose profession was to fight for the emperor. They came into prominence from about the 12th century and developed a number of swords of varied designs.
The Samurai used a variety of long swords. The blade was slightly curved with the edge on the outer side. The sword was light weight, but lethal and was used by the Samurai to behead the enemy in one single stroke. The length of the Japanese swords was measured in a unit called ‘Shaku’. This was roughly equal to about 30.3 centimeters.
The Japanese swords were classified according to their lengths. Generally the long swords used by the Japanese warriors had a length of 2 Shaku. The swords used by the Samurai were shorter than the Indian and oriental swords used by the Persians.
The Japanese used the swords not only for fighting, but also for rituals like Hara-kiri the art of disemboweling oneself. For this the Japanese used a shorter special sword and is peculiar to Japanese culture and nothing like this is seen any where else. The swords have now gone out of fashion as weapons of warriors. They can be found only with collectors and museums. But their study is essential to understand the evolution of the weapons of the soldier.