I didn't know the first thing about swords. However about 7 years ago, my father in law gave me a World War II Japanese Officers Sword. To me, it looked like some sort of Army surplus item. That was until I started to look into the history of it and others.
There are two types of swords. They are handmade and machine made. The handmade swords are a lot more valuable than the machine made swords. The one I have is machine made. It was brought back by a GI from Okinawa. To him, it was a souvenir of the war. It sat in his closet until he gave it to my father in law shortly before his death. It was then passed on to me.
For some time, I just left in my closet. One day, I came across an article on the Internet about swords. It spurred my interest to get it out and examine it. To my amazement, I found that the blade was in excellent shape except for one small niche on it. When I removed the handle, I discovered Japanese marks on both sides of the blade in the handle area. I took pictures of it and emailed them off to a professional. I discovered that it was made in 1939 and that it had the signature of the man who made it by machine. His name was Take Hisa. As I researched his name, I did come across it as a sword maker before World War II. To this date, I have discovered nothing else about the name or the man.
PBS and Nova have aired a documentary on the mystic of the Samurai Sword. Some of the highlights were based on the overall construction process of the sword. There will also be a lot of history in the use of the sword throughout the program.
The sword is basically made up of two types of steel. The Samurai sword is designed for both piercing and slashing. The word for Sword in Japanese is called nihonto. The making of the sword is an art form all to itself. There have been many precious and beautiful swords made. Some are made for show alone. Still others were made for one reason only and that being the art of war. The struggle for land in about 200 BC brought the rise of the Samurai.
Emperor Keiko was the first to be called a Shogun ( barbarian subduing General). His son was Yamoto. It is he, that the major idea of the Samurai comes from. Samurai practiced the way of "Bushido" (the way of the warrior). The philosophy of the Bushido was "free from fear." Even the fear of death. The Samurai moved from being fighters on horseback to fighters on foot. Although they used spears and the bow, their number one weapon was the sword. They would polish it and care for it. A great honor was bestowed on it and it's value. The sword was held in very high honor, the samurai was ranked at the top of the social order. Only landowners and emperors were higher in prestige.
The swords maker would always place markings on the steel. Some would have the date of the swords beginning and their name as well as the families name that helped make it. Sometimes the design would be to show the greatness of the family in ownership of the sword.
Down through the years like anything else, the design of the sword would change. Some went from very straight to a slight curve in them. Also, some swords would use carbon in their structure. Some would combine iron and carbon to make the sword stronger.
Regardless of its makeup, the sword was considered very precious to those that used them. As time went on, the makeup and designs of the sword became even more important to the owners.
Some swords today are worth thousands of dollars. Although now they are mainly for show. Right after World War II, many swords were rounded up and destroyed. People trying to bring them back into the country would have them taken away and destroyed. However, still many of them like the one that I have still existed. There are many collectors that still place a very high value on them. Some are valuable because of how and who made them. Still, others are just appreciated for their beauty. There are still sword makers today. However, they are made for different reasons than as before. Many swords today are used for showpieces or for special occasions.