Katana-kaji, the master artisans that craft the wonderful japanese sword katana or tohken. It is possible to trace the origins of tohken back to the Kojiki (Records of Ancient Matters) and Nihonshoki (Oldest Chronicles of Japan). These were considered sacred treasures rather than a weapon, offered to deities at Japanese shrines and buried in the tombs of royalty.
The Japanese katana evolved into their present form around the second half of the Heian period (11th century) with the rise of the samurai class. Even so, it was the naga-yari (japanese spear) and the yumi-ya (arrows) that were commonly used on the actual battlefield, while swords were more like a protective charm omamori.
Nowadays, katana are still used as before, a ceremonial gifts at Japanese temples and shrines, and treasured by enthusiasts as elite artifacts of Japanese craftsmanship. Katana-kaji must train for years to be certified by the Agency for Cultural Affairs of Japan. There are only about 300 katana-kaji masters in Japan.
Katana-kaji begin the process of making the katana by first creating the metal for the blade, the Jigane . Steel pieces called tama-hagane are made from iron powder. These are crushed into smaller pieces and heated to form one large piece. Heated further and repeatedly hammered, stretched, and folded, the steel takes shape as a Japanese sword. This 900-year-old forging process (tanren) continues virtually unchanged, creating jiigane of supple strength and superb texture.
Usually, steel is made of iron ores liquefied by heat, but nihon-toh is made in a different way. Tama-hagane pieces are never melted at high heat but only forged. This creates a quality feeling like no other metal.
Nihon-toh takes its distinctive appearance from hamon blade patterns shaped like waves. In the hardening process (yaki-ire), the heated body of the sword is quenched in cold water, causing quick cooling that alters the steel composition and creates striking patterns, which the swordsmith controls by coating parts of the blade with clay. Ornamental motifs depict nature scenes and town landscapes, revealing the artistry of the katana-kaji.