Närbild av svärd med blått handtag och gulddetaljer.

March 30 2017 – January 7 2018

Katanas – Japanese swords in fact and fiction

The Japanese sword is often associated with quality, effectiveness and precision. We are fascinated by the combination of lethal violence and artistic accomplishment – or is our fascination perhaps tinged with fear?

From representing the identity of a warrior in samurai culture, the sword went on to become the weapon of choice for film heroes in Hollywood – the significance of the katana has changed both with time and with growing international awareness. Interest in the Japanese sword remains as strong now as ever, despite the fact that it has existed in its current form for around 1,000 years.

The soul of the samurai

In Japanese tradition, the sword could have a significance that was almost religious. It formed part of the imperial regalia and could represent a divine presence at Shinto shrines. Despite the fact that several different social groups were able to bear the sword, most people tend to associate the Japanese sword with the samurai.

The sword was the object that most clearly showed who the samurai was – a warrior and a part of society’s elite. During Japan’s Edo period (1603-1867), only these warriors were permitted to bear two swords, and at least one sword was always carried, even when they went to bed. The sword was considered to be an extension of the samurai and was described as the samurai’s soul.

I utställningslokalen var ett golv fyllt med låtsas blod och i en monter syns fyra filmaaffischer, bland annat Kill Bill

Swords from the museum's collection

The Royal Armory's chamber collections contain a number of Japanese swords that were added to the collections during the 19th and 20th centuries. This may seem strange, but Karl XV in particular was a great collector of weapons. Having non-European weapons represented in the collections has also been common since the 16th and 17th centuries.

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