The katana, a sword so mystical it captivates sword lovers worldwide. Its elegant shape and remarkable strength underscore centuries of traditional Japanese craftsmanship and a master’s dedication to swordmaking. Underneath its majestic yet deadly form is a structure no sword enthusiast can readily appreciate. That’s the tang or nakago.
Experts say a katana isn’t a katana if it doesn’t have a full tang. So, what’s a full tang katana, and where can you buy one? Relax as we shed light on these riddles.
What’s a Full Tang Katana?
The katana is the most iconic Japanese sword. It has several elements working together to give this bladed weapon its characteristic form, strength, durability, and slashing ability.
The tang is a blade’s unseen section covered by a handle. Swordsmiths design the tang with various features to secure the handle and other sword elements.
Some swords and knives have short to medium-length tangs. Not the katana. You can only call a katana as such if it is full tang.
Hence, a full tang katana IS an authentic katana.
The katana’s nakagohas two holes (mekugi-ana) to fit wooden pegs (mekugi) and secure the hilt or tsuka. These features allow katana owners to disassemble the sword for hassle-free maintenance. Cleaning, polishing, and sharpening the katana is more convenient without the tsuka covering the nakago.
A full tang katana features an inscription (mei), including the swordsmith’s name, the katana owner’s name, and the date of sword completion.
Full-tang Japanese swords have unparalleled strength and longevity. Because the tang extends almost near the edge, the katana has remarkable balance.
Unsurprisingly, samurai warriors of feudal Japan had no issues wielding the sword, slashing their way through enemies and cutting them like blades of grass.
Alt-text: The two sides of a katana’s nakago. Image by J. Smith with Creative Commons SA 2.5.
Where to Buy a Full Tang Katana
As mentioned, a katana isn’t one if it doesn’t have a full-length nakago. Unfortunately, enterprising entities have learned to imitate this feature and passed them on as authentic swords. Hence, buying a full tang katana can be challenging if you don’t shop at trustworthy shops. Here’s a partial list of where to buy a full tang katana.
You don’t have to visit Japan to buy an authentic full-tang katana. You can log into Tozando’s official website and pick your blade. This 1989-established Japanese sword store offers an exciting array of antique and newly-forged blades. You can also find modern fine art katana in their collection.
For example, you could get a Shinto-era katana with an unsigned nakago (mumei). Interestingly, this piece is an ancient long-bladed Tachi, the katana’s predecessor. Swordsmiths shortened the Tachinakagoto accommodate the katana’s tsuka. Hence, Tozando names this full-tang katana suriage.
Like Tozando, Aoi-Art has a physical store in Tokyo and a robust online presence. Travelers can visit their shop and marvel at 17th-century katanas and other antique blades.
As of this writing, this full tang katana store has about 142 katanas in its collection. Their latest addition is an NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon Token-certified katana with an unsigned nakago created by the legendary swordsmith Fukuoka Ichimonji.
Here’s another store worth buying a full tang katana. Ginza Seiyudo has a shop in Tokyo’s Chiyoda-ku district, allowing sword enthusiasts to marvel at their collection from 10 AM to 7 PM. Like other authentic katana shops, Ginza Seiyudo offers NBTHK-certified blades, fixtures, and accessories.
For instance, you can get the Rai Kunitoshi-forged katana featuring a nakago with ornate kattesagari file pattern. If you want a different nakago file pattern, the Bizenkoku-ju-Osafune Katsumitsu katana’s kiriyasuri style should fit the bill.
Located in Tokyo’s bustling Shibuya District, Tokyo Nihonto fascinates the sword-loving crowd with its remarkable collection of antique and modern Japanese blades. Founded only in 2023, this shop has become synonymous with high-quality, authentic full tang katana swords and other Japanese blades.
You could get a Muromachi-period katana forged by legendary swordsmith Masayuki. The tang of this katana has exceptional patterns, perfect for displaying on a stand. The Bishu Osafune Sukesada katana is another emblematic piece. It doesn’t have a tsuka, allowing its nakagoto stand in full splendor.
While Tokyo and Kyoto remain popular destinations for aspiring full tang katana owners, the number of online shops continues to grow. Weeding the deceitful from the trustworthy stores is necessary. You will want to get your authentic katana only from reputable sellers. You might want to research the store’s credibility before visiting.
A full tang katana is THE authentic Japanese katana. It’s a feature as emblematic as the sword’s characteristic shape, beauty, and function. Nakagomight feature varying details, but the function and benefits stay the same. A full tang sword, like the katana, is incredibly strong, stable, well-balanced, and durable. These attributes make the katana as formidable in the feudal years as it is elegant and functional in the modern times.