I while ago my main light cutter died a death. It was a pity but these things happen and so I set about saving up my pennies to replace it. In the end I decided to buy a so called 'Koto Katana' from a website called Kotokatana.com. It was based in the UK so this looked to be a good choice being as the last experience I had with customs was not favourable. I'd like to point out at this point that kotokatana.com isn't actually the company that produces these swords, they only supplied them until recently.

(photo from the manufacturers advert)

The original sword I had chosen wasn't available but after some chat with the person at the company's address he had selected one for me. I wasn't expecting anything special for what was 100 quid, just something that was sharp and produced decent audible feedback.

When I got the sword I gave it a good look over, starting at the tsuka which was wrapped in the way I had become accustomed to with factory made swords. It was a stretchy ito and it wasnt wrapped tightly enough. It moved when pushed with the finger and although it will last a while, I will probably end up having to lacquer it or something in order to get it to stay still. There were obviously no hishigami which was the main cause of the movement, and the same/rayskin panels were uneven in places and the wooden core shows in places. This is unfortunately part and parcel of most cheap production swords.

The menuki aren't the most premium looking and obviously golden painted. This is the sort of thing you expect though and so I didn't care.

The fuchi and kashira are plain. nothing to look at there but I honestly prefer a plain look to the overly tacky looking rubbish you sometimes get so along with the nice colour theme, this is a plus point.

Now, the whole thing is double pegged, however the pegs are mostly redundant being as the whole thing is rather sloppily and over zealously glued to the nakago. :/ In fact its coming out from between the fuchi and tsuka in some places and you can see it in the habaki. Not cool Koto. Not cool.

Moving on to the saya, it was tasteful enough, in fact it was a very pleasing red wine colour. Im a fan of dark reds and so I liked the saya.

The koiguchi of course was wood and not horn and I'm assuming the kurikata is wood too.
The shitodome on the kurikata were the same as the ones on the bottom of the kashira on the tsuka. They were the same golden colour as the menuki. *shrugs* aesthetics so far are what I would expect.

The sageo? pfft. I never use the sageo anyway so its not a problem that its cheap, too short and singed black at the ends.

The tsuba was actually rather pleasant to look at. That's my favourite part really. It serves a purpose and it looks nice enough without being garish.

Right, aesthetics aside, lets move onto the most important part, having a look at the sword from a practical point of view and assessing how it's likely to cut.

Unsheathing the sword at first glance the blade looks quite acceptable. Its got a nice amount of sori, not too much but enough to be useful and looks elegant. pretty really; but looking at the habaki I can see glue fastening it to the blade and to the seppa. Its not a good look and it doesn't fill me with confidence.

But still, there are parts that are going to be harder to fix.

Looking along the blade we can see the wirebrushed hamon and although I'm not a fan, this is a sword intended to cut up bottles/light targets and its function is more important than its form. Its also not the worst wirebrush I've seen.

The actual edge on the other hand seems rushed and on closer inspection I can see why. There's a secondary bevel. rather than one bevel from the shinogi along the hira to the ha, there is a secondary bevel like you would find on a pen knife. This was advertised as paper cutting sharp, its far from it and I'm not impressed.

There are also dings along the blade like its been roughly handled. There's nothing structurally dangerous but of course this is another thing Ill have to sort. The tip of the kissaki is also dinged which is a pity, the kissaki is one of the things I like about this blade with it being a little longer than usual in an o-kissaki style.

The bohi wasn't carved out symmetrically aright at the point where it meets the habaki. don't know why, but Im afraid I forgot to take a picture of this. I probably will do later.

I also noticed surface rust, actually within the bohi.

But... I dont want it to sound like I'm all bad news with this blade so Im gonna shortlist its good points.
  • Good curvature
  • O-kissaki
  • Correctly shaped tsuka as advertised
  • Tasteful/plain fittings
  • One of the better wirebrushed hamon Ive seen.
  • Sings nicely when hasuji is spot on (its very unforgiving) 
  • Good choice of colours.

Q: Would I recommend a koto katana again? 

A: No. I don't think so. I've heard some good things about them so maybe I just got a one off bad one that needs some work and if anyone else wants to confirm this, please do. The service I got from kotokatana.com (who are the supplier, not the manufacturer) was good though once we'd established what was going on with my order and the troubles they were having with the imports. They did wait a week though before a follow up call revealed that they hadnt received an order from their supplier for a while.

Bottom line? Maybe next time I'll save up some more pennies or risk buying from abroad but for now, if it will cut bottles I'll use it for the bottle curriculum. Its got a nice weight to it, should be fun.

If you're reading and you don't know what the bottle curriculum is, shame on you! head over to http://www.freestylecutting.com and find out.

I hope this helped anyone who was looking into buying a koto katana but please remember, this is my humble opinion only. I''ve provided photos so you can make up your own damn minds ;)

Stay cutting, be safe peeps.

4 Responses so far.

  1. I need to examine mine really closely now. Again I can't disagree with the customer service from Barringtons and he hand picked a sword for me based on our conversation.

    I'll go over it with a fine tooth comb this weekend and compare experience.

  2. Well like i said, appreciate it for it's good points. Mine could also just be a freak occurrence and also, Im still gonna use it to get through the bottle curriculum. :D Tachikaze is difficult with it for some reason, but I'll work it out. whe it sings, it sings well. Besides, yours is also a folded blade isnt it? if it does have anything like surface rust, learning how to polish and acid etc will really bring out its awesomeness. acid etched folded blades work really well. I haven't seen any pictures of yours actual blade.

  3. I bought the battle scene katana from blades uk, for the price I was pleasantly surprised. Handle wrapped tightly,double pegged,nice pattern in the steel,not as sharp as I would like but one hours work with a stropping block brought the edge to razor sharpness. Overall a nice addition to my collection.Also the service was superb.

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