Samurai Swords: A Compelling Subject for Scientific Researchers

Undoubtedly, the whole world has been immensely enthralled by the Japanese swords and their elegance, strength, sharpness, and resilience since the 8th century CE. These swords represent the symbol of prestige, dignity, and honor for the ancient Japanese samurai warrior’s caste or the members of the feudal military aristocracy. Besides their captivating history tales, many of the iconic swords have been preserved in numerous museums around the world. Interestingly, in Japan, they also have been designated as Japanese official national treasures. The Japanese swords museum has preserved a vast collection of the samurai artifacts including samurai swords, historical archives about ancient swords, and sword-crafting.

Ancient Japanese samurai swords are the source of fascination not only for the artists, wordsmiths, or the martial artists but they also have captivated the curiosity of cinematographers and scientific researchers. Ancient samurai katana and the modern katana swords have vastly been studied to examine their method of crafting, raw material used, and the reasons behind their bluntness strength and resilience. The hallmark sharpness and strength of these ancient swords signify their traditional art of sword crafting with the premium quality steel that has been used as a raw material.

The authenticity of the Japanese swords implies salient features of the special steel used in making the blades of the swords. The special steel also termed as tamahagane exhibits striking attributes i.e. it is hard sufficient to grasp an edge, at the same time, sufficiently flexible to survive the intense and harsh fight. The ancient Japanese swordsmiths have nailed the crafting of the samurai swords by folding the tamahagane up to several times to knock out all the existing impurities. Swordsmiths have used several grades of steel for distinct fragments of the blade, typically hard tamahagane for the cutting edge whereas flexible and softer for the spine. The swords were clay tempered to make it even harder and shaper.

Recent Trends in Metallurgical Studies using Japanese Samurai Swords

Japanese swords have been the exciting topic of interest for the Japanese as well as western metallographers. Enormous studies have been conducted to explore the functionality of the metallurgical features of the samurai katanas or to explore their correspondence with the historical perspective. In recent times, several explorations have been carried out to conduct the comparative analysis of the ancient Japanese samurai swords with the contemporary crafting of the modern swords. Neutron diffraction studies have revealed the astonishing features of the crafting process of ancient swords. A recent study conducted on the full-shape Japanese sword crafted around the Keicho era provided insight into the crafting phenomenon.

 

 

 

The study explicated that the blade ridge was crafted using ferrite and cementite, combining to form pearlite whereas the blade edge was composed of martensite and austenite. Several pieces of research have been carried out to estimate the carbon content used in the edge and ridge parts of the blades. Neutron transmission imaging techniques have also been implied for crystallographic microstructure analysis of the Japanese swords made in the Muromachi period. Many researches have been conducted using a synergic combination of neutron techniques to characterize the ancient katana swords. All these contemporary scientific researches have applauded the precision and meticulousness of the crafting techniques with which ancient Japanese traditional swordsmiths have crafted the Japanese samurai swords. Even in the 21st century, the contemporary world we are living in, scientists are still curious to investigate more and more about the historical background of the crafting techniques and methodologies of an ancient samurai katanas and to explore the non-destructive observation of the Japanese katana swords.  

Recently, scientists are using energy-resolved imaging with the help of neutron source to envisage crystallographic data across a wide range of samurai swords samples. They are in search of collecting historical evidence of the strength, sharpness, and resilience of these ruthless cutting swords. Not just restricted to the degree of hardening, scientists seem to be concerned in elucidating the wide spectrum of position-dependent crystallographic characteristics encompassing the degree of preferred orientation, crystallite size, and much more. Japanese swords possess extraordinary significance not just as an art and craft but also for metallurgical importance. One of the astounding milestones is going to be achieved by the Japanese scientists of the space program. Currently, the Japanese space program is engaging Japanese swordsmiths for designing space probe using the similar steelwork and the crafting techniques as being employed in the crafting of Japanese samurai katana swords.

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