Katana forging process (Photo: Alessio Pompeo)



Katana forging process (Photo: Alessio Pompeo)
Alessio Pompeo   - 4 min read

Man is like a sharp blade

A samurai once said: "In man there are two dispositions, one internal, the other external, in order to be effective they must be together. It's like the blade of a sword: after sharpening the blade, it is put back into the scabbard." The sword is taken out of its sheath to dry it well and then put back in. If one always keeps the sword unsheathed, no one will approach him and he will have no allies. On the other hand, if one always keeps the blade in the sheath, it ends up rusting, becoming unusable, and the one who keeps it will be ridiculed.

Yamamoto Tsunetomo from "HAGAKURE - The Secret Code of the Samurai"

A bit of history:

The Katana, perhaps the most distinctive symbol of ancient Japan, the mythical sword wielded by legendary Samurai, a symbol of power and honor.

Its history dates back to the Muromachi period (1392-1573), when the way of fighting changed radically. During this period, warriors began to carry the Katana with the blade facing upwards, in order to cut the enemy with a single stroke. Along with the Katana, the Samurai used to carry another type of shorter sword called Wakizashi in the obi (belt), mostly used to finish off unarmed enemies or to commit seppuku. With the Meiji period (1868-1912), the Samurai caste was declared extinct and it was forbidden to carry the Daisho (a pair of two swords carried inside the obi) in public. Nowadays, sword production continues at very low rates, only to continue the tradition. It is estimated that in Japan there are 300 swordsmiths, of which only 30 are active in the whole country.


In Tenri, where the oldest road in Japan, the "Yamanobe" (which runs along the eastern edge of the Nara basin), is located, we find the workshop of Futo Masataka. Here it is possible to witness a demonstration of the traditional techniques of Katana forging, which have been passed down for over 1000 years.

Crafting techniques:

The manufacturing process requires great skill and precision and several months of hard work. The blade is manually forged from an alloy of steel, mainly composed of iron and carbon Tamahagane (jewel steel), which is folded, hammered, and tempered multiple times to create a sword that is said to "never break, chip, or bend."

Once the blade is obtained, it is polished to make the sword artistically beautiful to look at. In fact, the sword is assigned to a Toshigi (one who takes care of this process). This process takes several weeks. The process is divided into two phases:

"Shitaji togi" in this phase, all the defects that could make the blade fragile in some points are corrected

"Shiage togi" in this phase, the characteristics of the blade are enhanced

Once the work is finished, the sheath and handle are created from wood. And this is where the last figure comes into play, Sayashi (the mounter).


The atmosphere in the workshop is truly magical: the rhythmic sound of the hammer striking the metal, the intense heat of the furnaces shaping the steel, the absolute concentration of the master while working dedicating body and soul to this project, drag you into the era of the Samurai. The approach of the master in this ancient art taught me the importance of dedication, patience, and the pursuit of beauty in the simplicity of things. It has been an incredible experience for me to see with my own eyes this ancient tradition, of which I had only read about in books or manga.

Getting there

From Nara Station it takes about 30 min with the Sakurai Line
Get off at Tenri station and from there it's about a 15-minute walk

Alessio Pompeo

Alessio Pompeo @alessio.pompeo

my name is Alessio, I currently live in Italy. My passion for Japan is born when I was child with Manga and Anime, growing up I became passionate about Japanese culture and traditions. I spend a lot of time studying perfecting my communication skills in the Japanese language. I would like to spon...