Legendary 1,000-Year-Old Katana Still Looks as Flawless as When It Was First Constructed


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Make your way to the Tokyo National Museum and you’ll see a beautifully constructed katana that still looks flawless despite being 1,000 years old. Known as the Mikazuki Munechika, this special sword was crafted by the legendary Sanjo Munechika. He was considered one of Japan’s most skilled swordsmiths in the Heian period (794 to 1185 CE). Munechika was so fond of his creation that he attached his name to it—in addition to the term mikazuki, which is the Japanese word for “crescent moon.”

So, why is this katana named crescent moon? It has to do with a motif found on the blade. The process of creating a katana requires that the sword get very hot and then rapidly cools. Called quenching and tempering, this technique strengthens and hardens the steel. In doing so, it causes there to be unique markings on the material. The Mikazuki Munechika has symbols that look like halved moons.

During its long history, the katana has been in the possession of some powerful people. Its former owners include the 16th-century samurai warlord Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the Tokugawa shoguns who ruled during the Edo period (1600 to 1868 CE). Since being acquired by the country's national institution, you can find it on display in certain themed exhibitions.

The Mikazuki Munechika katana is one of Japan's most renowned swords. Part of what makes it so popular is that it is in remarkable shape after 1,000 years.


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Crafted by legendary swordsmith Sanjo Munechika, it has marks on its blade resembling crescent moons.


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The Mikazuki Munechika is on view in certain exhibitions in the Tokyo National Museum, but if it's not on display, you'll certainly see other amazing katanas, too.

This 1000 year old Katana looks as good as it did the day it was made from r/pics


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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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