The Katana was a single-edged, curved Japanese sword, thirteen inches of folded steel and sharper than any razor. It was the Close-Range weapon of the Samurai.
- Short Range
- Length: 30 inches
- Weight: 2.5 to 3 lbs
- Folded Steel Blade
The Katana is characterized by its distinctive appearance: a curved, slender, single-edged blade; a square or circular guard and a long grip to accommodate two hands. The blade is made from a specialized Japanese steel called Tamahagane, which combines hard, high carbon steel for the cutting edge and sides, and tough, low carbon steel for the core and back. This gives the blade a hard edge, while allowing it to absorb blows without shattering.
The gentle curvature of the blade adds to the weapons cutting power by focusing the force of the blow on a smaller area. This curve is achieved during quenching: the sword maker coats the blade with several layers of a wet clay slurry, putting a much thinner layer on the front of the blade. When the blade is thrust in water, the front of the blade cools more quickly and hardens, while the slower cooling in the back of the blade reduces lattice strain on the spine, causing the blade to curve backwards.
The Katana is a slashing sword, although in several clips, the Samurai used it to stab an opponent to finish them off. The katana is worn at the waist with the "edge up" so that it can be drawn from the scabbard and cut the opponent in one swift motion.
The Boshin War was the beginning of the end of traditional Samurai; yet the Katana was still effectively used in combat by both sides. The exception was when Gatling Guns were able to stop traditionalist units used by the Shogunate Army. The Shogun attempted to modernize, but the Imperialist rebels modernized earlier in the conflict and used their technological superiority to win the war. The Katana was seen by Imperialists as a sidearm; used only in shock Banzai Charges and only to be deployed as a close ranged ambush.
The Katana was used as late as World War 2, as the Japanese still believed that swords can be effective in modern combat. The Japanese used Katanas and Bayonets in Banzai Charges to surprise the modern American soldiers; however most Banzai charges were costly at best and rarely were effective since Americans had machine guns and a Thomson Submachine Gun was issued to each 5 man squad. On July 7, 1944 during the Battle of Saipan; the Japanese forces realized they were losing the battle, and so in desperation led a 3000-4000 man Banzai Charge. The charge was surprising, but was a failure as the Americans successfully counter attacked: the majority of the Japanese were killed while 2000 Americans died on that day. Two days later, the Japanese officially surrendered. During the Battle of Iwo Jima; General Samaji Inouye opposed the idea of using Banzai Charges due to the clear evidence that they were mostly ineffective. Despite this; Captain Samaji Inouye led a 1000 man Banzai Charge on 8 March 1945 that resulted in 347 American casualties (90 deaths) and 784 Japanese deaths.
After the war, the losing Imperial Japan had to surrender and destroy millions of swords as part of the peace treaty. The current state of Japan no longer issues katanas into the military but many traditionalist swordmakers still sell katanas and sword schools are still intact and popular across the country. Some Yakuza groups still use swords in their assassinations.
In the episode Viking vs Samurai, the katana was tested against the viking great axe. The first test was on three poles called tatami poles which had the same density as human flesh. He cut through all three in one swing, resulting in three kills in just under a third of a second.
It was then tested on a stack of pig carcasses to determine its slashing power. In one downward slash, the katana cleanly cut through two pigs, earning it the title of a "Two Body Blade." After seeing this test, the viking experts said that the katana would need to be tested against a pig wearing viking ringmail. When tested, the katana made no damage against the pig, only managing to scratch the ringmail.
- Some historians argue that the Katana's metallurgy is over-exaggerated and that it was on-par with European Broadswords.
- Some historians claim that the Katana was actually a sidearm and not as famous or iconic as popculture implies. The Yari spear was believed to be the dominant melee weapon of Japan.
- Chinese armies had a similar sword known as the Changdao; a longer variation of the Dao.