Samurai Myths and Legends: Are Katanas Illegal? (2023)

In Part 3 of our "Samurai Facts vs. Samurai Myths and Legends" series, Samurai Swordsmanship authors Masayuki Shimabukuro and Carl E. Long answer the age-old question: Who would win during a samurai staring contest?

Samurai Myth No. 1

On the battlefield, two samurai would often face each other for hours before the first attack was executed.

Fact: Hours? Perhaps a few minutes felt like hours when lives were hanging in the balance. However, it’s doubtful that warriors spent hours posturing and assessing each other’s abilities—at least not in a dueling situation. Armies may have spent hours facing each other in preparation, but duels were generally fought quickly.

Samurai Myth No. 2

(Video) Why Samurai Hardly Used the Katana #Shorts

Samurai would occasionally test the quality of their blades by cutting down peasants who happened to be walking by.

Fact: Throughout history, civilized societies have been plagued with individuals who engaged in aberrant behavior. It certainly has happened, but it wasn’t done by the majority of samurai. The samurai’s position was to protect the people and see to their welfare.

Samurai Myth No. 3

A cut executed with poor technique will bend a sword’s blade.

Fact: Absolutely. If the hasuji is off by even a slight angle, a sword can bend. If the left hand is improperly aligned during a nukitsuke (drawing cut), it can cause the blade to twist, as well. All techniques must be learned under the guidance of a qualified instructor who corrects the swordsman’s technique.

Samurai Myth No. 4

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It’s impossible to break a sword’s blade during normal cutting practice.

Fact: Every sword is different. A well-made carbon-steel blade is certainly less likely to break because of poor technique or target resistance than a stainless-steel sword is. But every sword has the potential to bend or break if the technique isn’t exact.

Samurai Myth No. 5

Owning a katana is illegal for the ordinary Japanese citizen.

Fact: Ordinary citizens in Japan have the right to own Japanese-made blades that are registered with the Nihon Token Kai (Japanese Sword Association). These swords must exhibit historical or cultural significance. A certificate of authenticity and ownership permit are necessary. In Japan, sword smiths are allowed to produce only two swords a month as cultural artifacts. Each sword smith’s work is evaluated and rated by the token kai, and the prices are then adjusted. Unlicensed swords or those made by unlicensed smiths are confiscated, and the owner may be charged with possession of an illegal weapon.

Samurai Myth No. 6

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Jujitsu techniques were designed to battle the samurai’s sword.

Fact: Actually, jujutsu techniques were employed as a complement a samurai’s arsenal. As any soldier knows, combat takes place at many ranges—first at long range, then at close quarters when all else has failed. It’s at this close range that jujitsu techniques were used to arrest or control one’s opponent or to defend against an opponent if a long sword couldn’t be used. Most jujitsu techniques can be better understood if examined as a complement to short-bladed weapons techniques. Jujitsu techniques were designed to overcome an opponent at close range, not necessarily his sword at close range.

Samurai Myth No. 7

The karate concept of “one strike, one kill” originally came from the Japanese sword arts.

Fact: The aim of any martial arts technique is to achieve maximum effectiveness. This wasn’t a foreign concept to the Okinawan people, who had their own weapon arts. This misconception came from the adaptation of kendo rules to karate competition during the introduction of karate to Japan.

The Ministry of Education insisted that karate authorities develop a set of competition rules before the art could be recognized as an official “Japanese budo” or form of physical education on the mainland. The karate authorities adopted the ippon shobu rules that had been established for kendo. They were based on the presumption that to be considered a full point, a strike had to be technically sufficient to kill an opponent.

(Video) Is The Katana Overrated? - Loadout

Samurai Myth No. 8

The hakama (baggy trousers) is designed to hide the footwork of the swordsman.

Fact: This is a fallacy. The hakama comes in many forms: field hakama, riding hakama, undivided hakama, hakama with leggings and so on. Each style was worn by the samurai on different occasions. Some formal hakama were designed to prevent any fast movement of the feet at all. Most samurai would tie up the bottom of their hakama so as not to restrict their leg movements during battle. This misconception probably comes from modern budo teachers who allow only the senior members of their dojo to wear a hakama, thus supposedly “hiding” their advanced footwork.

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

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Is it illegal to own a Japanese katana? ›

While katana are illegal in Japan unless they are certified as important cultural properties or art objects, other types of swords are legal to own and carry in the country. These include: Wooden swords or bokken, which are used for sword training and martial arts practice.

When were katanas banned in Japan? ›

The Sword Abolishment Edict (廃刀令, Haitōrei) was an edict issued by the Meiji government of Japan on March 28, 1876, which prohibited people, with the exception of former lords (daimyōs), the military, and law enforcement officials, from carrying weapons in public; seen as an embodiment of a sword hunt.

Is it still illegal to carry a sword in Japan? ›

Carrying a knife with a locking blade, or a folding blade longer than 5.5 cm (around two inches), is illegal in Japan. The same goes for swords, which are also illegal to carry in Japan without a special permit. If you wish to purchase a sword in Japan, consult with the shop to arrange shipment to your home country.

Are samurai still illegal? ›

However, the cultural legacy of the samurai exists today. The descendants of the samurai families also exist today. It is illegal to carry swords and arms in Japan. That is why the samurai cannot exist today.

Are katanas legal in USA? ›

North America (USA and Canada)

Legally Katana are lumped in the same category as knives and governed by state rather than federal laws, though as with knives, a collector must be over 18 years old OR have their parents implicit permission to buy or own a Katana.

Can I buy a katana in Japan and bring it to USA? ›

This is crucial because some of these swords are not allowed to leave Japan. This could be because of historical significance. If there are no issues with you bringing the sword or katana outside of Japan, you should be issued paperwork to bring with you to show customs when traveling home.

Do yakuza still use katanas? ›

Even though Yakuza is not using swords anymore in modern world this old tradition of amputating fingers is still in use.

Can you carry a katana in public in Japan? ›

Can you walk around Japan with a katana? But the famous Japanese swords have actually been banned in public since 1876, when the Meiji restoration abolished the warrior class. Even today, katanas are covered by the Swords and Firearms Possession Control Law, which forbids carrying them out in the open.

Why are katanas so weak? ›

A katana loses viability against armor of any kind, because its big advantage – deep cuts – is negated pretty effectively by metal armor. A katana is too specialized; it lacks a level of defensive ability because its design is so hyper-focused on cuts.

Are katanas legal in Texas? ›

Under Tex. Penal Code § 46.01 (2012), it's legal to own and openly carry knives, along with throwing stars (and any other type of throwing knife), swords, spears, switchblade knives, pocket knives, and Balisongs (butterfly knives).

Can I walk around with a katana? ›

It has been illegal to carry a sword in public for a long time. However, many people who practice martial arts in Japan need to transport their swords back and forth from their home to the dojo.

How much is a katana in Japan? ›

An authentic handmade katana in Japan is called a nihonto. Often these cost around 10,000 to $25,000 and sometime even more. Basically, Katanas are expensive, and when it comes to an authentic samurai Katana, things get even more expensive.

Are there any true samurai left? ›

Although samurai no longer exist, the influence of these great warriors still manifests itself deeply in Japanese culture and samurai heritage can be seen all over Japan - be it a great castle, a carefully planned garden, or beautifully preserved samurai residences.

Can I be a modern day samurai? ›

The samurai warriors do not exist today. It is illegal to carry swords and arms in Japan. However, the cultural legacy of the samurai exists today. The descendants of the samurai families also exist today.

Can an American become a samurai? ›

How can you become a Samurai? In the Edo era, samurai's life was ruled by the shogunate, therefore the only way to become a samurai was to be born in the samurai family, adopted by a samurai family with the permission of authorities, or get married to a samurai.

Can katanas cut bullets? ›

The sword wins, cutting the bullet in two. And with no dents, scratches or nicks in the blade. Of course, the soft slug is hitting hard steel edge-on, but nonetheless it's nice to see some movie science that is actually true for a change.

Do airports allow katanas? ›

As explained on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website, swords are prohibited from carry-on luggage but not "checked" luggage. Swords, including katanas, rapiers, fencing foils, etc. must be checked at the gate, and they must be packaged properly to protect inspectors from injury.

What swords are illegal in the US? ›

Any kind of concealment for bladed weapons is a misdemeanor. Bladed weapons in most states where they are legal to carry, are usually illegal if they're longer than five inches. Concealed blades, like cane swords, are always illegal.

Can katanas leave Japan? ›

To legally export the sword from Japan to other countries, we will have to apply for its permit to the Agency for Cultural Affairs(Bunkacho) and return the original registration paper to the Board of Education. It normally takes around 2-4 weeks to receive this permit.

Can you take a samurai sword on a plane in Japan? ›

Can I bring these on board the aircraft? No swords (including replicas) or other weapons that could be used in a hijacking can be brought on board the aircraft. Please place them in your checked baggage.

Can I put a katana in my luggage? ›

Checked Bags: Yes

Any sharp objects in checked baggage should be sheathed or securely wrapped to prevent injury to baggage handlers and inspectors.

What is the rarest katana? ›

Kamakura Katana – $418,000

From records, there are only 125 Kamakura katanas proven to exist, but few are in anywhere near such good condition.

What is the most cursed katana? ›

What is the most cursed sword in the world? The Muramasa is a Japanese Katana sword known as cursed and demonic. It is a real historical sword surrounded by terrifying legends and stories.

What is a straight katana called? ›

The chokutō (直刀, "straight sword") is a straight, single-edged Japanese sword that was mainly produced prior to the 9th century. Its basic style is likely derived from similar swords of ancient China. Chokutō were used on foot for stabbing or slashing and were worn hung from the waist.

Can I bring my gun to Japan? ›

Under Japanese law, possession of firearms is illegal without a special license. Importing them is also illegal. The same rules apply to some kinds of knives and certain other weapons, like crossbows.

Should you carry your passport with you in Japan? ›

You must carry your U.S. passport or Japanese Residence Card (Zairyu Kado) with you at all times. In Japan, you may be taken in for questioning if you do not have your passport or Japanese residence card to show your identity and status in Japan (e.g., as a visitor, student, worker, or permanent resident).

What type of katana does law have? ›

Kikoku (trans. "Demon Wail") is Trafalgar Law's katana.

Can katanas cut through bone? ›

Katanas are sharp and strong enough to cut cleanly through bone, metal, armor, and probably even the sun, if only someone could get close enough.

Is there any sword better than katana? ›

The longsword is a longer, heavier sword with more stopping power, while the katana is a shorter, lighter sword with a stronger cutting edge.

What happens if a samurai loses his sword? ›

According to the Bushido Shoshinshu (the "Code of the Warrior"), a samurai was supposed to commit seppuku (also harakiri, "belly cutting", a form of ritual suicide) upon the loss of his master.

Can you carry a katana on your back? ›

Experts say there are four ways to carry a katana on your back: The first would be the traditional way that some Ninjutsu masters still use today. This involves untying the sageo or cord from the saya or scabbard and using it to wrap around the body and tie the saya to the ninja; tsuka or handle end up.

Why are gravity knives illegal? ›

A knife is not illegal because it is designed to open by the force of gravity and lock into place; the knife is illegal when it actually does open by the force of gravity and locks into place by means of a procedure used by the District Attorney's office to identify a gravity knife, called the “wrist flick test.”

Is it legal to walk around with a sword? ›

So while it may be legal in some specific circumstances, carrying a sword in public is typically illegal. If you are facing weapons charges, you should speak with a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible.

Should a katana be upside down? ›

The katana is unique in the sense that it's the only sword worn with the cutting edge facing up. Normally, swords are worn with the cutting edge fading down to minimize the risk of self-injury. Whether it's Japan, Korea, China or elsewhere, people have worn swords with the cutting edge facing down for centuries.

How many times should a katana be folded? ›

Each time the block is hammered out and folded back, layers are formed. By folding only fourteen times, over 16,000 layers are produced.

How much is a katana in USA? ›

How much does a real Katana cost ? A Katana made in Japan with the famous Tamahagane steel by a Japanese blacksmith in the tradition usually costs between $5,000 and $15,000.

Can a sword cut a bullet? ›

You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site. So basically, this proves that you can totally split a bullet with a sword. Sure, you'd need to hold the sword perfectly still and aim the bullet precisely at the middle, but it can be done.

What is the sharpest katana ever made? ›

The Honjō Masamune represented the Tokugawa shogunate during most of the Edo period and was passed down from one shōgun to another. It is one of the best known of the swords created by Masamune and is believed to be among the finest Japanese swords ever made. It was made a Japanese National Treasure (Kokuhō) in 1939.

When was The Last Samurai killed? ›

Saigō and his remaining forces withdrew to caves on Shiroyama, which overlooked Kagoshima Bay, where Saigō was killed on 24 September 1877.

Who was the very last samurai? ›

Saigo Takamori, the “Last Samurai” (January 23, 1828 – September 24, 1877) Saigo Takamori, remembered as “The Last Samurai”, was a low ranking samurai official born in Kajiya-cho in the castle town of Kagoshima, Satsuma Domain on January 23, 1828.

Who is The Last Samurai on earth? ›

Saigo Takamori of Japan is known as the Last Samurai, who lived from 1828 to 1877 and is remembered to this day as the epitome of bushido, the samurai code. Although much of his history has been lost, recent scholars have discovered clues to the true nature of this illustrious warrior and diplomat.

Can a samurai marry? ›

Samurai of all ranks had to get permission to marry in order to ensure the cohesion of the retainer band, to guard against collusion, and to guarantee that the betrothed couple came from households of more or less equal status. Samurai were supposed to marry other samurai.

Can a samurai be a girl? ›

Long before the Western world began to view Samurai warriors as inherently male, there existed an impressive group of Female Samurai, every bit as powerful, smart and deadly as their male counterparts. They were known as the Onna-bugeisha (meaning female martial artist).

Why did Japan get rid of the samurai? ›

As modern militaries emerged in the 19th century, the samurai were rendered increasingly obsolete and very expensive to maintain compared to the average conscript soldier. The Meiji Restoration ended their feudal roles, and they moved into professional and entrepreneurial roles.

Is there a black samurai? ›

Yasuke, (born c. 1550s), Black samurai who served the daimyo Oda Nobunaga in Japan during the Sengoku (“Warring States”) period. He was the first known foreigner to achieve samurai status.

What does white mean in Japan? ›

White in Japanese (Shiro)

In Japanese culture, white is a sacred color. It can be associated with priests and brides, especially in the Shinto tradition where it's associated with physical and spiritual purity.

What race is samurai? ›

samurai, member of the Japanese warrior caste. The term samurai was originally used to denote the aristocratic warriors (bushi), but it came to apply to all the members of the warrior class that rose to power in the 12th century and dominated the Japanese government until the Meiji Restoration in 1868.

Can I buy a katana in Japan and take it home? ›

Any katana or samurai sword that you are hoping to purchase and bring home must have a torokusho. This is a license issued by the Education Board at a Toroku-shinsa-kaijo 登録審査会場 in Japan. This can be a timely process, but it's the only way you'll be able to legally bring a sword or katana home.

Do we need license for katana? ›

Yes, it is required to have a driving license to drive Suzuki Katana.

Can you have a katana in your house? ›

Modern produced katanas are illegal. Not at all. To quote from the site you linked, Samurai and other curved swords are legal, AS LONG AS they have been handmade using traditional production methods.

How much is a real katana in Japan? ›

An authentic Katana that is handmade in Japan is called nihonto. Often, these would usually cost around $12,000 to $25,000 and higher. In general, swords are entirely on the expensive side, and when it comes to an authentic Samurai Katana, things get even more pricey.

Are katanas cheap in Japan? ›

An authentic handmade katana in Japan is called a nihonto. Often these cost around 10,000 to $25,000 and sometime even more. Basically, Katanas are expensive, and when it comes to an authentic samurai Katana, things get even more expensive.

Can a 16 year old own a katana? ›

Even though these swords are not weapons, you must be at least 18 years old to purchase.

Can you carry a katana in public in California? ›

Some types of concealable swords, such as stick swords or Zatoichi-style katana, are illegal to buy, own, or transport in California and New York State.

Can a katana be used for stabbing? ›

Generally, katana is designed for cutting, but it was widely used for stabbing too. This depended mainly on the length of the tang (the handle). The katana could be easily used for cutting if it was made for using with both hands. It was used for stabbing when the katana was made for using with one hand.

Can you touch a katana? ›

#3) Touching the Blade With Your Hands

You probably won't touch the sharp edge of your katana's blade -- not regularly, at least -- but you may touch the smooth side or dull edge of the blade, believing it's harmless and poses no risk of damage. But touching any area of your katana's blade isn't a good idea.

Can you pull a katana from your back? ›

Yes. But, really, the better question is, can you DRAW a sword from your back? If it's longer than your reach, then your outstretched arm won't unsheathe it. You will have to pull the “saya” or sheath away which you have to do if the katana is on the hip as well.


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