Samurai Sword: Breakdown and Terminology

You’ll be forgiven for not remembering every single part of a samurai sword. Japanese is not an easy language to understand for most of us, so don’t worry too much if you forget what a Kissaki is.

You may be relieved to know that the vast majority of the Japanese population do not know Samurai Sword terminology, so even after reading this article, if you remember only a few of the parts, you’ll still know more than most people.

To make things easier, we’re going to divide this article up into three easy-to-digest sections, and I’ll give you my own personal tips (mnemonics) to aid with memorizing the bits and bobs.

So, without further ado, let’s get started.

The Handle and Scabbard

Samurai Sword Terminology

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. What about a picture with words on it?

  • Kashira: The Kashira is the very end bit of the sword, basically the butt cap. You might think of it as a money jar ‘KASHira’. Pronounced: Ka-shee-ra
  • Menuki: This part of the sword is ornamental and can depict almost anything. You can get dragons, sunsets, or really whatever strikes your fancy. They will most often be related to the theme of the sword. To help you remember, think about how many parts there are to the sword.  It would be a lot easier if there were a MENU to help remember them all. Pronounced: Meh-noo-ki
  • Tsuba: This one’s easy: it's the hand guard. This can be themed, decorated, or plain, depending on the style of the sword. Pronounced: Sue-bah
  • Seppa: The spacers on the sword. If you were a samurai, you might commit SEPPuku by thrusting the sword into yourself, all the way up to the Seppa. Pronounced: Sep-pa (a long double 'p')
  • Saya: Everyone should remember this one: it’s the wooden scabbard. Pronounced: Sai-yah
  • Kurigata: The cord is tied around this knob. Traditionally, it would be made from buffalo horn. There are no clever ways to remember this, you’re going to have to rely on brain power alone. Pronounced: Kooh-Reeh-Gah-Tah
  • Koiguchi: The koiguchi makes up the mouth of scabbard. I like to think of a Koi carp opening it’s mouth for food. Pronounced: Koy-Goo-Chee
  • Sageo: The sageo is the cord found on samurai swords. Only the very best sword SAGE can work out the OH-so-difficult knot used to tie the cord. Pronounced: Sa-Geh-Oh

Moving Up the Sword

Katana

  • Ito: The Ito is the handle wrap and holds it together. IT’s OH so hard to wrap properly. Pronounced: Eee-To
  • Fuchi: The fuchi is the handle collar. Pronounced: Fuu-Chee
  • Same: In Japanese the word for shark is the SAME as the word for rayskin. Pronounced: Sah-Meh
  • Mekugi: The peg that keeps the sword in place. Most modern swords will have two of these, but only one is required, the other provides a safety net. Pronounced: Meh-Koo-Ghee
  • Ha: The blade of the Katana. Laugh at your friends as they attempt to remember all the parts of the Samurai Sword. HaHaHa. Pronounced: Ha
  • Habaki: The blade's collar. Pronounced: Ha-Ba-Ki
  • Munemachi: The collar notch. Can be used for measuring the length of the blade, starting from the notch all the way to the tip. Pronounced: Moo-Neh-Mah-Chee
  • Bo-Hi: Used to lighten the sword, but sometimes called the blood groove. Pronounced: Boh-Hee

The Blade

Samurai Katana

  • Nakago: The tang of the blade. You should not oil this part of the blade. With time it’ll get a black protective patina. Pronounced: Nah-Kah-Goh
  • Sori: The curvature of the samurai sword. Soh-ree, your sword has been bent… Pronounced: Soh-Ree
  • Nagasa: The length of the blade. Pronounced: Nah-Gah-Sah
  • Hamon: The famous hardened edge of the samurai sword. Pronounced: Har-Mon
  • Boshi: The tip Hamon. Pronounced: Boh-Shee
  • Kissaki: The very tip of the blade. Pronounced: Kiss-Sah-Ki

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