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The Legend of the Samurai
The Samurai were a feudal military caste that assumed power in the 12th century Japan. They were the guardians and administrators of the great Japanese feudal families, the Daimyos. The word Samurai meant guard, and was used to describe anyone bearing arms, but later became the name used for these legendary noble knights. The Samurai reigned for several centuries until 1867 when Emperor Meiji abolished the Tokugawa Shoggunate and returned ruling power to the throne.
The Samurai followed a Bushido code of respect and mastery of the sword. The code was based on honor, bravery, and service. The Samurai were ready to die at a moments notice for their code.
The primary weapons of the Samurai were the Daisho. These two swords, the Katana (long sword) and the Wakizashi (short sword), originally called the Tanto were worn through the belt. An earlier version of the Katana worn suspended fromo an intricately braided belt was called the Tachi.
The guards (Tsuba), pommels (Kashiri), and handle ornaments (Munuki) were elaborately decorated on the sword. The handles (Tsuka) were usually Rayskin covered with a silk cord wrap (Tsukaito). Blades were laboriousely heat treated showing a visible temper line (Hamon) above the edge (Yakiba). The scabbard was made of wood. Some swords had extra small knives (Shuriken) and throwing stars mounted on the guard.
The sacred sword was called the Soul of the Samurai (Nippon-To) and were only made by very skilled craftsmen. They are highly treasured collectibles today.