Swords have been an integral part of Japanese culture for thousands of years, later becoming symbols of power, honor, and prestige.

In this article, we are going to share the stories behind some of Japan’s most famous swords.


First on this list is the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, which is also known as the “Grass-Cutting Sword”.

It is one of the three Imperial Regalia of Japan, along with the Yata no Kagami (a mirror) and the Yasakani no Magatama (a jewel).

According to myth, the sword, originally known as Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi, was first wielded by the god Susanoo, who pulled it from the tail of the eight-headed serpent Yamata-no-Orochi. Susanoo then gave the sword to his sister Amaterasu, the sun goddess, as a peace offering after he had caused trouble in her domain.

Many generations later, during the reign of the 12th Emperor Keikō, the sword, along with fire strikers, were bestowed upon the renowned warrior Yamato Takeru by his aunt Yamatohime-no-mikoto, the Shrine Maiden of Ise Shrine, with the intention of safeguarding her nephew during times of danger.

The legend states that later on, during a hunting expedition, Yamato Takeru was lured onto an open grassland by a treacherous warlord who wanted to eliminate him. The warlord then set the grass on fire with flaming arrows in order to prevent his escape.

In desperation, Yamato Takeru used the Ame-no-Murakumo-no-Tsurugi to cut back the grass in an attempt to stop the flames from spreading, and to his surprise, he discovered that the sword gave him the power to control the wind in the direction of his swing.

By using the fire strikers, Yamato Takeru enlarged the fire in the direction of the warlord and his men, and used the sword’s winds to sweep the blaze toward them, ultimately winning the battle. In honor of his victory, he renamed the sword Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi, meaning “Grass-Cutting Sword”.

It’s said that Yamato Takeru later fell in battle against a monster, after he ignored his wife’s plea to take the sword with him.

The sword’s exact appearance and location are unknown, as it is considered a sacred object and is not on public display. It is believed to be kept in the Atsuta Shrine in Nagoya, but this has not been confirmed by the Japanese government.

In Western culture, the term “tsurugi” specifically refers to a straight, double-edged Japanese weapon that was used in ancient times, in contrast to curved swords like the katana, a term which literally means “one-sided blade”.

However, in Japanese, the words tsurugi (剣) or ken (剣) are used to refer to various types of long, double-edged swords from around the world.


Muramasa swords refer to swords which were forged by the legendary swordsmith Sengo Muramasa, who lived during the Muromachi period (1392-1573) in Japan.

The katana swords crafted by Muramasa were initially associated with and favored by the Tokugawa shogunate, led by Tokugawa Ieyasu.

However, during the Bakumatsu period (1853-1868), Muramasa swords were believed to bring curses upon the shogunate, leading anti-Tokugawa activists known as shishi to desire them. Despite the fact that the Muramasa school did not typically produce swords used by the imperial family, Prince Arisugawa Taruhito, the commander-in-chief of the Imperial Army during the Boshin War (1868-1869), wielded a Muramasa sword against the Tokugawa shogunate.

According to some legends, Muramasa was completely insane and liable to sudden outbursts of aggression.

Consequently, it was thought that these destructive attributes were transferred from the expert sword maker into the swords which he crafted. As a result, the swords would “possess” their users, transforming them into crazed and lethal warriors, akin to Muramasa himself.

His swords have become quite popular in modern pop culture and are often portrayed in movies and video games.

Honjo Masamune

The Honjo Masamune sword is said to have been crafted by the master swordsmith Goro Nyudo Masamune during the 13th century.

According to legend, Masamune was not only a skilled swordsmith but also a wise and virtuous man who had the ability to imbue his swords with his own virtues, giving them magical properties and unique attributes.

The most famous of Masamune’s swords is the Honjo Masamune, which is believed to have been created in the late 13th century. The sword changed hands many times over the centuries and was eventually acquired by the Japanese government, which designated it as a national treasure.

During World War II, the Honjo Masamune was taken by American soldiers as a war trophy, but it was later recovered and returned to Japan.

Today, the sword is held in the Tokyo National Museum and is considered to be one of the most important cultural artifacts in Japan.

Although the swords made by Goro Nyudo Masamune were originally considered tachi, a style which predated the katana and was slightly larger in size, when the katana grew to prevalence, many Masamune swords were later converted into katanas by shortening the tang and these are the only versions known to still exist.

Kogarasu Maru

The Kogarasu Maru is the last sword on this list. It’s is said to have been created by the famed swordsmith Amakuni during the Heian period (794-1185 AD). According to lore, Amakuni was the first person to create a curved blade, and he is often considered to be the godfather of samurai swords.

The sword gets its name from a legend which says it was created from a raven that landed at the feet of Emperor Kanmu during his reign from 781 to 806. The name translates to “little crow.” According to the story, the raven claimed to be a messenger from the Ise Grand Shrine. At some point after that, Emperor Suzaku presented the sword to the Taira clan as a reward for successfully suppressing a rebellion started by Fujiwarano Sumitomo.

The type of blade on the Kogarasu Maru sword is sometimes referred to as Kogarasu Zukuri due to its distinctive sugata, or shape. The blade is double-edged and curved, measuring around 62.8 cm in length. One edge is shaped in the traditional tachi fashion, but the tip is symmetrical, and both edges are sharp, except for the last 20 cm of the concave edge nearest the hilt, which is round.

The Kogarasu Maru serves as a link between the ancient double-edged Japanese ken, which was influenced by the Chinese jian, and the traditional Japanese tachi, a sword that predated the more well-known katana.