Katana blade, Kunihisa of Osaka

Katana blade, Kunihisa of Osaka

Katana blade
Kunihisa of Osaka
Japan
1922
Steel
Museum no. M.192-1935

This is the celebrated, one-edged long-sword of the Japanese warrior class of the feudal period. Both a superbly crafted weapon and a powerful symbol, it is an authentic liaison of function and form. Only samurai were allowed to carry long-swords and they created an elaborate culture of handling individual blades: a samurai's soul was believed to reside in his katana and every gesture made with it was susceptible to meaningful interpretation. The samurai were disbanded in 1876 as a gesture of Japan's rejection of hermetic feudalism and embrace of international modernism. The symbolic value of the katana endured, however. Swords were banned after the end of the Second World War to indicate humility, but legal production began again in 1953. The katana's essential principles of efficient function with symbolic form were adopted by Japanese industrial designers, including Komin Yamada whose exquisite Global kitchen knives maintain an ancient tradition of highly skilled blade-making.

Stephen Bayley, Guest Curator