The Best Katana – Authentic Katanas
The best katana in my mind are the ones made hundreds of years ago, the Nihonto (日本刀, nihontō) blades, which means a ‘Japanese sword made in Japan by a Japanese swordsmith under the original forging methods’.
I believe these are best not because of their durability, which actually in some cases at the time was inferior to modern katanas, but because they were the foundation forges to many great swords in production today and their purpose of being produced in that time was for much greater causes than those forged today.
In ancient Japanese times these blades were forged with the utmost dedication and meant to be a life long companion to any Samurai. Whether it be to avenge a loved one’s death or to overthrow a dictator’s oppression on their people, these blades were meant for purposes beyond being a wall hanger or back yard cutter.
If anyone ever wants to see a ton of actual authentic katanas they need to check out the Japanese Sword Museum in Tokyo Japan. This place is probably number 1 on my bucket list. I’ve browsed their site numerous times checking out all the ancient katana swords they have there and can’t wait for the day I actually get to go there in person.
To buy one of these katanas from the ancient times you would have one heck of a time finding one, and even if you do, you’ll be paying $20,000+ for an authentic katana from hundreds of years ago and the use beyond it being a wall hanger or museum piece now is practically nothing.
There are however some great katanas being produced in modern times under the old forging methods that are actually functional. I’ll run through the best katana by price point, some of which you may have already noticed in my other katana reviews post.
My personal list of the best katana swords on the market today will include:
- Sky Jiro – Ume Blossom Katana <$10,000
- SON – Premium Tamahagane <$5,000 <— HIGHLY RECOMMEND
- Thaitsuki – Tonbo Sanmai <$3,000
- Thaitsuki – Roiyaru Sanmai <$2,500
- Hanwei – Praying Mantis <$2,000
- Hanwei – Tori Elite <$1,000
Now let’s get into each of these katana swords in more depth…
Best Katana Under $10,000 (Appears to be out of stock)
You ever hear the saying “If I’m paying that much for it the thing better be made of gold”? Well in this case it isn’t gold this katana is made from but the next closest thing, silver; well ok sterling silver, which is why it comes in at a price a couple thousand dollars lower than $10,000 at a price of around $7,000. If I am ever planning on actually spending $10,000 on a katana it had better have all the fittings made of gold though.
This katana is one of those I mentioned when I said there are still some katanas being produced under the ancient standards. It comes from the reputable Sky Jiro forgery and is being sold by SOTE where they use top of the line folded Tamahagane steel treated with clay tempering for differential hardening followed by an intensive show-grade polishing job.
The sterling silver fittings (Kanagu) on this authentic Japanese katana really make it stand out plus provide the benefit of focusing the balance of the blade more towards the tsuka. This gives you more control over the swing of the blade. The tsuba is iron and modeled after 300 year old authentic Japanese metallurgy and craftsmanship.
To be a $7,000 katana it has to be more than just having silver fittings. Yes the fittings are the only thing silver on it otherwise a blade forged from silver would be too soft and non-functional.
The tsuka is wrapped in cream stingray skin then covered in brown leather. I prefer leather over nylon for the sole fact that I believe it provides a better grip during training. The saya is beautiful in itself as well with a red lacquer finish giving it a smooth look.
Since this katana is one of the ‘collector grade’ katanas, the number of these forged is very limited so don’t be surprised if you’ll have some difficulty finding it. The craft time is longer and there’s a Kinzan Master Smith Signature on the Nakago so you know that the utmost precision and dedication goes into making this blade. It truly earns its position as the best katana under $10,000.
- Blade Length: 28″
- Tsuka: 11.5″
- Material: Tamahagane
- Price: Usually ~$7,000
Best Katana Under $5,000 (HIGHLY RECOMMEND)
If you’ve already read my post on the “types of katanas” you know Tamahagane blades are in my top choice for having a quality blade forged in the traditional Japanese methodology. What makes these blades so durable is their composition, the blades have a high carbon core to ensure optimal sharpness and ability to hold an edge, and are then encased in tough low carbon composite to reduce the brittleness of the blade.
Swords of Northshire offers a line of premium hand crafted clay tempered tamahagane blades that are unmatched for their price range. A lot of time and effort goes into making these blades (2 months to be exact) with such quality, the polishing alone is a 25-30 day process by an experienced polisher resulting in a beautiful cloudy hamon.
The blades are full tang ‘battle ready’ and due to their immense quality can handle cutting bamboo, small trees, bones, iron and copper wire. SON offers a wide range of these premium katanas (as observed in the photo above) and offers customization of each blade so you can have a one of a high quality sword.
If you want a serious blade for your collection then these are the ones to go with.
- Overall Length: 40.9″
- Blade Length: 27.9″
- Tsuka: 10.6″
- Weight: 2.2 lbs.
- Price: Usually ~$3,700
Best Katana Under $3,000 (HIGHLY RECOMMEND)
Thaitsuki Nihonto is a Japanese forgery that is known for high end katanas and wakizashis. They produce their swords in smaller batches to create an exclusive feeling for those who buy one of their swords. When looking at the Thaitsuki katanas there are two styles they offer them in: the Maru and the Sanmai.
- The Maru katanas are forged from a single steel with a hardness that usually ranges from 40 to 60 HRC. These tend to hold an edge pretty well however are not made of folded steel, though it is still hand forged. The Maru are the lesser expensive of the Thaitsuki swords.
- The Sanmai are the higher quality katanas that are made from three time folded steel over a 40 to 60 HRC core. This allows for a hard edge yet more durability throughout the rest of the blade so that when it makes contact with a target it will be able to absorb some of the shock without breaking. Since each is handmade, no two sanmai swords will look identical, giving each their own grain pattern and unique look and feel.
The best katana I suggest for this price range is the limited edition Thaitsuki Tonbo Sanmai Katana. These are highly collectable (as well as functional) and as a result usually are tough to find in stock and have longer wait times so if you do find one under $3,000 (and want it) jump on the deal.
The Thaitsuki Tonbo yields a blacked copper tsuba with a silver dragonfly design that’s engraved on the inlay. On this katana you’ll find silver Seppa (spacer), Habaki (blade collar), and dragonfly Menuki (handle ornament). The tsuka is layered in black Japanese silk & rayskin which combined with the silver fittings makes for a nice dark on silver contrast look.
It is hand forged folded high carbon steel (1025 layers), clay tempered with a hardness of 60 HRC (edge) and 35 HRC (body) and comes hand polished with an excellent hada. I read somewhere that only 100 were imported to the US making these even tougher to find, click the link below to see more info and if any are left in stock or have been sold out already.
- Overall Length: 41 3/8″
- Blade Length: 29″
- Tsuka: 11.5″
- Weight: 2.9 lbs.
- Price: Usually ~$3,000
Best Katana Under $2,500
My next recommended katana also is from the Thaisuki forgery, the Thaitsuki Roiyaru Sanmai (Triple folded steel) made from 1024 layers. A beautiful katana that is quite functional having the durability and edge to cut through bamboo without any issue.
The Thaitsuki Roiyaru also has silver fittings, though not to the extent of the katana we just reviewed for $7,000. On this katana you’ll find silver Seppa (spacer), Habaki (blade collar), and flower Menuki (handle ornament), the Tsuba however is made of brass.
It is forged in Koto style which was an early forging method during the Edo period and a can be disassembled for cleaning. I do however strongly suggest not taking it apart unless you have experience in disassembling and reassembling katanas. If you do this process incorrectly you not only chance ruining your katana but even worse is risk harming yourself.
The bo-hi on the blade only runs partially down the blade, which is unique however I’m not sure the exact reasoning for it. Since the bo-hi (groove) usually is placed to control weight and balance past the tsuba my guess is that the way the blade is weighted is that there only needed to be some weight reduced closer to the tsuba but I’m not positive.
Thaitsuki when they first started caught some heat for being overpriced and not worth the money they were asking. After much backlash from buyers the switched up their manufacturing process and started placing a lot more emphasis on really taking the time to forge quality pieces that actually warrant the price they charge for them (since it’s still not all that cheap).
I think most today would agree that Thaitsuki now vs Thaitsuki 10 years ago is a completely different company and really upped their game.
Overall the Thaitsuki Roiyaru Sanmai is just one of many katanas they offer, each in their own style, forge, and price tag. The sheer aesthetics, forging process, and the ability of easy disassembly makes it (in my mind) the best katana under $3,000.
- Overall Length: 41.5″
- Blade Length: 29″
- Tsuka: 11.5″
- Weight: 2.5 lbs.
- Price: Usually ~$2,500
Best Katana Under $2,000
Like a mantis snagging a fly, the Hanwei Praying Mantis katana snatches its place as best katana under $2,000 for a few reasons beyond its amazing green nature themed aesthetic appeal.
The first and biggest of which is the unique steel used in this katana – L6 Bainite Steel. Bainite is a high-carbon special purpose low-alloy steel. This means it’s highly resistant to bending, almost to the point of near unbreakability (I say ‘near’ because we all know everything has its limits).
Another perk to the Bainite composition is that these blades can be lighter and thinner yet still remain stronger than conventional steel or 1086. Where most folded steel katanas have a softer outside with a hard core to prevent breakage they don’t have the springy reaction that this katana has, meaning it can flex more than a normal blade without altering the shape. Blades such as the Praying Mantis made with Bainite are excellent for tameshigiri as well as general sword work.
Now since this is made from Bainite steel you will not find a Hada on the blade. The hada is the grain pattern that you’ll find on folded katanas, so if that is something you absolutely want then this may not be the best katana for you.
The green silk ito looks great on the white rayskin wrapped tsuka with the golden praying mantis menuki. The tsuba is made of copper and from what I’ve read online is that it isn’t as worn as the promotional images released by Hanwei appear it to be.
As with some of the others on this list, the Praying Mantis katana has a bo-hi running the full extent of that blade providing for lighter swings. This not only looks beautiful but is a functional katana exceptionally strengthened by its L6 Bainite steel forge.
- Overall Length: 41″
- Blade Length: 29″
- Tsuka: 11″
- Weight: 2.5 lbs
- Price: Usually ~$1,700
Best Katana Under $1,000
If you read my other post on katana reviews then I think you know which katana will take this spot as the best katana under $1,000…you got it the Tori Elite!
Now there are a lot of great swords out there but honestly we can’t all have the Ferrari of katanas so we find the best katana within our price range. If you happen to be able to afford one of the previous katanas I mention on this page then go for it. I have friends that have some of these more expensive katanas (hence my familiarity with them) and they will vow anyone who’s got a few thousand to buy one of the more expensive katanas.
The reason I love the Tori Elite is that it is practical, yes it’s still almost $1,000 however it is worth every penny. This is my primary katana and favorite that I own.
The balance point on this blade is 5″ down from the tsuba which for me is perfect. At this balance point it is easy to recover from each swing quickly without wearing your arms out. The bo-hi runs the entire length of the blade which allows for lighter faster cuts.
The biggest perk of the Tori Elite that places it on my list as the best katana under $1,000 is the steel composition used in forging the blade. It uses ASSAB K120 C Swedish steel which is from as you’d guess…Sweden where their iron ore quality is exceptional and has lesser impurities than steel that may be coming form other countries.
As wonderful of a sword as the Tori Elite is it must be know that it is not Nihonto since it’s not made in Japan nor made by a Japanese swordsmith. The Tori Elite is a Paul Chen design produced by Hanwei which is based in Dalian China, so if you’re looking for Nihonto you’re probably best looking at one of the previous swords I mentioned.
I do provide more of an overview on my earlier post talking about the top 3 katana reviews as determined by my friends and I if you would like to read that as well.
- Overall Length: 40″
- Blade Length: 28.5″
- Tsuka: 11″
- Weight: 2.6 lbs
- Price: Usually ~$1,000
Just because I believe these are some of the best quality blades for the price ranges I’ve assigned them to doesn’t mean everyone will agree. Each student of various martial arts practices in their own way and has their own preference for the sword type they like. Additionally I do not own each of the swords I mentioned here, though I have used some mentioned.
My post here on the best katana is merely meant to be an expression of my thoughts of what I’ve seen in-person or online and isn’t intended to be professional advice by any means. If you are hesitant on what katana to get I always recommend talking with your sensei to find a sword that truly will be the best katana for you. Good luck in your search!