History of Japanese Katana Engraving


The history of swords dates back to the first records of Japanese katana, Wakizashi, Tachi and other styles of swords. However, in the beginning, engravings were not used often. Sword smiths were dedicated to the swords’ forming, strength, and function. As the times changed, sword smiths became more advanced, the demand for katana grew, as did the skills of the smiths. The fitting of ornaments and engraving started to become more and more intricate and meaningful with time. Sword smiths also started incorporating engraving into their work.

History of Japanese Katana Engraving

Keep scrolling to learn more about the history of Japanese katana engraving.

What is Sword Engraving? 

Sword engraving is the process of printing some visible pattern or test on different surfaces or the katana. It is mainly about printing some patterns on the blade, especially between the Hamon line and the Blood grove. It can be done near the Habaki emplacement. Sword engraving is a service that the katana holder can only get by requesting it prior to katana making. This process is varied from one swordsmith to another.

The First Engraving on Katanas 

If you look at the traditional culture of sword making, Japanese katana were often engraved with three things:

  • Initials of the sword smith who created it;
  • The place or province where the katana was designed(two characters);
  • Often, date or an honorific such as “respected.”

Whether or not the date and honorific were incorporated generally depended upon the period and the ruler during the time the sword was made, as customs and methods changed over the period.  Some lesser-known smiths used to falsely engrave the name of famous smith to increase their katana sales. Engravings were often inscribed into the tang of the katana, so it was hidden underneath the Tsuka (handle). The engravings were often at visible places such as blades, which is more common now for engraving as most sword smiths won’t take the katana apart, and many use them for display purposes.

History of Japanese Katana Engraving - engraved katana

Advanced Engravings on Katanas 

After the Edo period, ornamentation and engraving improved further. The simple and beautiful engravings called “horimono” were added to swords, either religious or pure aesthetics.  Historically, these engraving includes gods, mystical beings, dragons and nature-related elements such as plants, flowers and animals.

Techniques of Engravings on Katanas 

Sword Engraving is made physically; this way requires a high capability level not to alter the blade surface since it is difficult to recover a mix-up, regardless of whether it is in the pattern or the application of the process. If you want to get katana with custom engraved, you can get it by requesting in from the sword smith.

Nowadays, various techniques are applied to material types used in katana construction. These include the following process:

  • Hand Sword Engraving
  • Electrical Chemical Sword Engraving
  • Laser Sword Engraving


The katana-making process is the most vulnerable to customization because the katana holder can request whatever he needs to engrave on the sword. This process may cost extra fees, which can differ according to the sword smith and material type.


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