How to Display a Katana in the right way


Katana design and purpose evolved with the changing times. Known for its sharpness, curvature, and distinctive forging techniques, a katana was not just a weapon but a mark of a samurai's identity. Today, while its combative importance has waned, its cultural and artistic significance shines brighter than ever. Here's a guide for those new to this intricate world, ensuring that the sword is displayed with the dignity it deserves.

Correct Way to Display the Katana (Uchigatana) and Tachi

While they might look similar to the untrained eye, there are specific rules in how one should display the katana (uchigatana) and tachi.

Correct way to display Katana (Uchigatana):  When displaying katana, the edge should face up and the tsuka (handle) should be on the left. In this way, the mei is also facing front (even it's underneath the tsuka).  

Katana displayed in correct way, edge upward and handle to left

The handle direction is not arbitrary. When we look at the way a katana is traditionally wielded. The right hand is the controlling force when holding a katana. Whether you're sheathing or drawing the sword from the saya, the initiation begins with the right hand. A well trained samurai could, in mere moments, draw and execute a strike if the katana is within easy access of his right hand.

So in display, this orientation with the handle to the left, is a subtle message of peace. When displayed in this manner, it suggests to guests that the sword is rendered harmless, as drawing it becomes less intuitive and slightly cumbersome. It's a sign that while the sword's power is acknowledged, it is also kept in check.

The etiquette extends beyond just displays. For instance, when entering someone’s house, one should remove the katana from its obi (belt) and lay it to their right side, with the blade's edge facing inward. Traditionally, drawing the katana is done from the left; hence, positioning it on the right side means it remains accessible but not good for a swift draw, a gesture to show peace.

Correct way to display Tachi: Older than the uchigatana, the tachi has a more pronounced curve. Tachi should be displayed with edge face, and handle facing left.

Tachi displayed in the correct way, edge downward and handle to left

The difference is because tachi was mainly used on horse back, and it was wear with edge face down, so when displaying it, we follow the same rules. Uchigatana was wear with edge facing up, hence when displaying it, the edge should facing up too. 

comparison of wearing katana and tachi
Image source

Tachi could also be vertically placed on a special katana stand, with the Kissaki (the katana's tip) aiming top and the Tsuka (handle) on the ground.

different ways to tachi display

Daisho / Katana Set Display:

Daisho set display

There are various theories, but in the case of displaying two swords, it is correct to hang the Wakizashi / Tanto on the upper tier and the Uchigatana / Tachi on the lower tier. When samurai went out, they first inserted the Wakizashi (small) into their belt, and then inserted the Uchigatana (big) with the blade facing upwards into their belt. It was easier to wear a Japanese sword when the Wakizashi (small) was on the upper position, same rule applied when displaying the daisho set. 

Also, although it is not a strict rule, remember that it is a principle not to place a Uchigatana / Tachi and Wakizashi / Tanto that are not in pairs on the same sword stand.

Display Katana Blade and Saya

display katana with saya

When you need to display the katana blade and saya together in a 2-tier stand, you should place the blade in the top, and saya in the bottom.

Finding the Right Place to Display Your Katana

The location you choose to display your katana plays a crucial role in both its preservation and the respect it commands.

Away from Direct Sunlight: Prolonged exposure can fade the sword's intricate designs and, over time, compromise the metal.

Stable Environment: Places with minimal temperature fluctuations and moderate humidity levels (around 40%-50%) help prevent rusting and degradation.

Safe from Mishandling: It should be away from high-traffic areas to minimize the risk of accidental touches or knocks.

Storage and Maintenance When Not On Display

If you decide not to display your katana or are rotating it with other pieces:
Shirasaya: This is a plain wooden scabbard and hilt. Store your katana in a shirasaya to protect it from external elements and maintain its edge. Shirasaya is not designed for display but for protection and preservation.

Regular Maintenance: Regardless of how you display or store it, a katana requires periodic maintenance. Ensure it's free from fingerprints (which can cause corrosion), dust, and other contaminants. Every now and then, the blade should be oiled using a light mineral oil to maintain its luster and prevent rust.

In conclusion, displaying a katana is a blend of art, tradition, and science. By understanding its historical significance and adhering to the guidelines above, you not only showcase its beauty but also extend its lifespan, ensuring that future generations can appreciate its majesty and legacy. Respect, after all, is at the heart of the samurai code.

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