Rare hand-colored photos of Japanese samurai in the late 1800s

Mashable (by Alex Q. Arbuckle):

The military-nobility caste known as samurai — roughly meaning “those who serve” — emerged in medieval Japan as provincial warriors, and rose to control the country in the 12th century.

As the enforcement arm of the ruling shogunate, the samurai were elevated to a position of privilege. They followed a code of honor called bushido, informed by Confucianism and Zen Buddhism. Bushido emphasized martial fearlessness, discipline and loyalty, as well as general kindness.

These photos, made in the years after Japan finally opened its ports to international trade, capture samurai in their final days. With the 1868 Meiji Restoration and the end of feudalism, carrying swords was prohibited to all but the new national armed forces.

The samurai class was dissolved, but bushido survived as the national moral code of the new Japan.


c. 1865

c. 1865

Two samurai in firefighter dress.

c. 1864


c. 1867



c. 1880

c. 1880





c. 1865



c. 1865

c. 1860

How to Forge the Hattori Hanzo Katana from ‘Kill Bill’

Given the gravitas that the katana wielded by Uma Thurman’s Black Mamba character in the cult Kill Bill franchise was afforded, it is no surprise that the weapon — forged in the films by the legendary Japanese blacksmith Hattori Hanzo — still captures the imagination of blade enthusiasts worldwide.

In the Man at Arms: Reforged YouTube series, Baltimore Knife and Sword enlisted the help of master armorer and engraver Ilya Alekseyev, accompanied by a five-man swordsmithing crew, to recreate the awe-inspiring blade by which no small number of baddies met a gruesome end in Quentin Tarantino’s epic.

Watch the video above and explore the rest of the series here.

A robot and Japanese sword master square off in the Yaskawa Bushido Project

In a matchup you do not come across everyday, a programmed Motoman-MH24 industrial robot and five time world record holder, samurai master Machii Isao face off to determine the better sword wielder. Commissioned by Yaskawa Electric Corporation, the robot’s manufacturer, the video depicts the advancement of technical engineering, coupled with the incredible skill of Isao.

Check out the amazing footage by hitting play on the video above.

Historical Japanese swords turn into battle-hardened Blade Boys in new mobile game

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RocketNews 24:

These days, one of the quickest and most popular methods for stocking a video game with a cast of attractive anime-style characters is to pick a class of item and anthropomorphize the heck out of it. There’s currently no hotter mobile game than Kantai Collection, in which players command a fleet of pretty girls who’re all modeled after World War II-era Japanese warships. If naval history isn’t your thing, you can also find titles featuring comely cars and moe mushrooms.

There’s a new entry in the subgenre though, and judging from its all-pretty boy roster of characters, it’s been designed with female otaku gamers in mind. As such, it’s no surprise that the men of Touken Ranbu are all based on something long and hard…plus sharp, as they’re all anthropomorphized swords.

Smartphone game publisher DNN released Touken Ranbu, or Violent Blade Dance, on January 14. With such a warlike title and development being handled by Nitro Plus, the same unit behind busty anime mascot Super Sonico, you might expect Touken Ranbu to be a testosterone-dripping smorgasbord of boobs and swordfights, but the truth is very different.

In recent years, there’s been a surge of interest in historical samurai among young Japanese women, who find themselves drawn to their old-school stoicism and gallantry. More than anyone else, it’s for that demographic that Touken Ranbu’s cast of dudes with smooth facial features and elaborate hairdos was crafted.

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The game’s plot actually starts in 2205, when historical revisionists stage a literal attack on the past in order to alter Japan’s history. The player steps into the role of the saniwa, an entity with the power to awaken the souls of inanimate objects and imbue them with fighting strength. As such, it’s your job to transform the swords of Japan’s feudal era into an army of Touken Danshi, or Blade Boys.

▼ Mikatzuki Munechika, the Heian Era sword (left) and Blade Boy (right)

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Early reviews describe the game as easy to pick up and play, with a streamlined system for equipping characters with special items and simple combat system. While the player assembles squads of up to six members and issues commands to advance or retreat in battle, the Blade Boys will do the rest of their fighting more or less automatically.

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Female otaku in Japan are generally drawn to male characters with tragic pasts, and Touken Ranbu’s theme gives the creators ample sadness to mine. Since the cast all started as inanimate killing instruments, they’ve seen numerous deaths, oftentimes including those of their owners. A few were even used for seppuku, the samurai act of ritual suicide, and carry the psychological burden of having been party to the act.

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As a result, gamers can expect plenty of scenes in which they try to help the Blade Boys work through their emotional baggage. But while many games would use this as a springboard to a romantic relationship, Touken Ranbu keeps such rumblings of the heart low-key, which should help it appeal to the widest possible female fanbase in Japan.

By never definitively stating who the characters have a crush on, Nitro Plus can simultaneously appeal to the three major groups of pretty boy game fans, the fujoshi(who want to see the guys hook up with other guys), the danjo kapu mono (coming from danjo kappuringu mono, or “heterosexual coupling fans”), and the “dreamers”(who’d like to imagine themselves as the object of the affections of the hot guys on screen).

▼ Mixed in among the 19 sword-based characters announced so far is Otegine, who’s actually a Muromachi Period spear.

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The lack of explicit romantic content means that as long as they can get past the female-oriented character designs, heterosexual male gamers should be able to get some enjoyment out of Touken Ranbu’s story too. Serving as world view director and main writer is Yuri Shibamura, who wrote the script for video game-tuned-anime Gunparade March.

Also contributing to the project is Norimitsu Kaiho, whose previous credits include a handful of Guilty Gear games and episodes of mecha anime TV series Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet.

Regardless of which facet of the game strikes your fancy, Token Ranbu can be downloaded here directly from DMM.

New video “Ikusa” from Wagakki Band mixes rock, traditional instruments, and swords!


RocketNews 24:

Since the release of Wagakki Band‘s first original song “Hanabi” last year, we’ve been holding our breath waiting for more. Okay, that’s not completely true–we’ ve been sneaking little gasps since then–but we were definitely excited to hear the the group was recording both the opening and closing song for the new anime Sengoku Musou, based on the game of the same name. But unless you actually tuned in to watch the show you’d be hard pressed to find the song–until now!

Today, the band released a music video for “Ikusa,” the show’s opening theme song. Check it out below but be careful that you’ve cleared your room of pointy objects first so you don’t hurt yourself headbanging.


Opening with a crunchy guitar riff, thunderous drums, and the haunting voice of the shakuhachi, it’s obvious that this track is full steam ahead–a clear fit for an anime about people stabbing each other with swords. Sengoku Musou, also known as Samurai Warriors outside of Japan, started earlier this month and is based on the long-running video game series of the same name. Tapping the Wagakki Band to do both the opening and closing songs was both an obvious and brilliant choice!

Though the opening song, titled “Ikusa,” hasn’t been released for purchase yet, the band just released a music video featuring the musicians performing in a war-torn landscape. It also shows them fighting each other, because who doesn’t love sword fights??

“Ashigaru Stormtrooper”: Bandai to release Samurai Stormtrooper collectible action figure



Bandai has unveiled official images of its upcoming Ashigaru Stormtrooper, and the collectible looks unabashedly badass.The 7-inch figure will launch in May 2015 and come packaged with an old-school E11 blaster rifle and an even more old school Katana. The Samurai connection makes sense when you consider that filmmaker George Lucas took inspiration from Akira Kurosawa epics like Seven Samurai and The Hidden Fortress when he first developed the script for the original Star Wars.

Retail for the Ashigaru Stormtrooper is listed at 9,504 yen (around $65).

Bandai   Samurai Stormtrooper Action Figure

Bandai   Samurai Stormtrooper Action Figure

Bandai   Samurai Stormtrooper Action Figure

Bandai   Samurai Stormtrooper Action Figure

Bandai   Samurai Stormtrooper Action Figure

Bandai   Samurai Stormtrooper Action Figure

Bandai   Samurai Stormtrooper Action Figure

Watch this world-class swordsman play Fruit Ninja… IRL


Things don’t get more samurai than Japanese swordsman Isao Machii. The world-famous swordsman was probably best known for being fast enough to slice a speeding pellet in half mid-flight. If he can do that with such ease, I’m pretty sure he can slice a watermelon or two in half. Perhaps even a barrage of various fruits, a la Fruit Ninja.

Machii is the Guinness World Record holder for a number of different sword skills. The swordsman recently took the Fruit Ninja challenge in front of crowd in Los Angeles. There, a variety of fruits were propelled at Machii as he sliced through them like butter with a katana.

The 41-year-old swordsman made real-life fruit slicing look so easy, you’d think you were finger-swiping an app. Check out the video below and gaze upon his skills for yourselves.




Product Design: Samurai Vodka’s bottle design is a cut above the rest

RocketNews 24:

Back in 2009 an interesting design for a bottle of Samurai Vodka was posted on Behance, a website where graphic artists and designers can showcase their works. More recently, it was picked up by a Reddit user, thus sending the clever design by Arthur Schreiber viral around the world. And quite frankly it deserves to be seen in all four corners.

If you’re like me, your first thought was probably: “Where can I buy this?” Unfortunately, Samurai Vodka is fictitious rice vodka created by Schreiber to add context to his bottle design.  However, he does state that he is open to offers for any beverage maker looking to acquire it. Considering the attention it’s been getting recently, that might not be a bad investment.

Now your second thought might be: “Hey, wait a minute. Isn’t the top half of the bottle sliding the wrong way?” This bothered several Reddit users as well. Some imagined that an upward strike might cause the top half of the bottle to momentarily slide upwards, but someone posted a video demonstrating how that’s not the case. This video has also become my favorite of the month.

This reminds me to post my design concept for Ninja Vodka. It’s disguised as a regular bottle of Smirnoff, but the vodka inside can suddenly disappear without a trace… usually when I get dumped by my girlfriend.

Source: Behancereddit (English) via Byokan Sunday (Japanese)

Check out this link:

Product Design: Samurai Vodka’s bottle design is a cut above the rest


Learning Edo-era blade polishing techniques from a Japanese master

2014.01.11 sharpening 9

RocketNews 24:

We recently visited Tokyo Polishing Master Craftsmen Institution in the Asakusa area of Tokyo where they are celebrating their 20th year. The school has seen more than 700 graduates go through the program to become professional sharpeners in their own right.

The president of the school, 83-year-old Kosho Fujiami, is the very definition of a sharpening master, having practiced the craft since he was 5 years old. He learned polishing styles that people have been using since the Edo period when the art form was mainly used by samurai to sharpen their swords.

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Fujiami told us that samurai took great care to learn how to sharpen their swords and keep them polished. Their swords were one of their most important tools and had to be kept in the best of shape. For people now, cooking knives are one of the most important things we use on an everyday basis, he said. So this ancient practice of blade sharpening is still very relevant to the modern world.

There used to be lots of professional blade sharpeners in Tokyo during the Edo period and even in the early Showa era. Now there are hardly any left and this school is one of the few places to learn techniques that have been practiced for over 300 years.

We asked Fujiami about the skills required to polish a blade. “The act itself is very simple. You hold the blade to the sharpening stone at a certain angle and scrape it against the stone…that’s it,” he told us.

But to truly master this skill, Fujiami stressed that you need to practice it over and over again.

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There are three kinds of polishing stones and which one you use depends on the type of blade you want to sharpen. After figuring out which stone to use, you then have to figure out what the original angle of the blade was. Taking that angle into account, you firmly grasp the handle of the blade with your right hand and place the face of the blade onto the polishing stone. Put a lot of pressure onto the blade as you grind it on the stone away from your body, then ease up when you slide it back towards you. Repeat this motion slowly and carefully to gradually polish the blade back to its original sharpness.

▼Some of the polishing stones

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▼Practice blades

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People from all walks of life, from housewives to white-collar workers to students, have gone through the school. The course takes about 300 to 400 hours and most people complete it in under a year.

We met one graduate of the school who is now practicing the skill in Los Angeles. Fujiami told the student that since Japanese cuisine is all the rage around the world, there might be a big demand for blade polishing since many Japanese foods require fine knife work with the sharpest of blades. The graduate opened up a speciality knife shop in L.A. and apparently is doing quite well.

Although courses are only available in Japanese, this school welcomes anyone who wants to learn the art of polishing. Fujiami said he would love to spread this Japanese art to other countries. And from 10 AM to 4 PM on everyday except Mondays, they invite you to come and watch them work their magic. If you’re interested, check out the school’s website and directions:

Tokyo Polishing Master Craftsmen Institution
Address: 3rd Floor 2-29-15 Asakusa bashi, Taito-ku, Tokyo
Less than 5 minutes walk from JR or Toei subway Asakusabashi stations

▼A look at the school from the street

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Check out this link:

Learning Edo-era blade polishing techniques from a Japanese master