A Japanese sword (日本刀 nihontō) is one of several types of traditionally made swords from Japan. Swords have been made from as early as the Kofun period, though generally “Japanese swords” refer to the curved blades made after the Heian period. There are many types of Japanese swords that differ by size, shape, field of application and method of manufacture. Some of the more commonly known types of Japanese swords are the katana, wakizashi, odachi, and tachi.
The word katana was used in ancient Japan and is still used today, whereas the old usage of the word nihontō is found in the poem, the Song of Nihontō, by the Song dynasty poet Ouyang Xiu. The word nihontō became more common in Japan in the late Tokugawa shogunate. Due to importation of Western swords, the word nihontō was adopted in order to distinguish it from the Western sword (洋刀 yōtō).
Meibutsu (noted swords) is a special designation given to sword masterpieces which are listed in a compilation from the 18th century called the “Kyoho Meibutsucho”. The swords listed are Koto blades from several different provinces, 100 of the 166 swords listed are known to exist today with Soshu blades being very well represented. The “Kyoho Meibutsucho” also listed the nicknames, prices, history and length of the Meibutsu with swords by Yoshimitsu, Masamune, Yoshihiro, and Sadamune being very highly priced.
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