Are there fake Japanese swords?
Yes, there are fake Japanese swords out there and we’re not talking about “sword-like-objects” or “wall-hangers” which are just intended for display or cosplay. What we’re referring to are swords made in China that’s being passed off as “antique” swords “made in Japan”!
Most of the Japanese style swords available in the market today are made in China and we’ve been very honest with the origin of our products and the type of steel we use. We classify our products as “shinken”, the basic translation of which is “martial arts sword” made in the modern era that can be of non-Japanese origin. There are shinkens made in China, Korea, USA, Europe, etc. We’ve never used the term “made in Japan” for our swords, but unfortunately, there are a lot of unscrupulous merchants claiming that the swords they are selling are “authentic” and are “made in Japan”. While some are true, most are not. It could be intentional so they can make a profit, or they just didn’t do enough research about the swords they are selling. They may fool the beginner collector, but they cannot fool us. We’re writing this short article so you’ll be educated and won’t lose your hard earned money.
So what are these fake Japanese swords and how are they different from our martial arts swords? Even though they’re both made in China, there are big differences between them. Our hand forged swords are specifically made for martial arts training. Mainly for “tameshigiri” (cutting practice) or for iaijutsu/iaido training. Our swords are made for its intended use and they are not just for display. These fake Japanese swords may bear some resemblance to our swords, but how they are made is very different. First of all, they are not antiques. They’re also newly-made swords that have been artificially aged by burying it in dirt so it would rust. Others apply some aging techniques. The blades are not hardened, in fact they are as soft as the blade of a sword-like-object or a wall-hanger.
How do you spot a fake Japanese sword?
Most of these fake Japanese swords have a fake hamon or temperline. Not the wire brushed kind, but the acid etched kind and it doesn’t even look nice.
ACID ETCHED HAMON
Another thing that sets our swords apart from these fake Japanese swords is the “hada” or grain in the steel. Most of our swords are made of mono-steel, which is made of one type steel, it’s not laminated or folded so there’s no hada present. We do have blades in our 1050 Series that are folded producing layers in the steel, but they are done by the method called “pattern welding”. Different types of steel are combined together and then folded to create this pattern. For our Elite Series, which are folded, laminated, or a combination of both may also have a hada (our other Elite Series are just laminated so no hada is present), and it looks very different than those fake Japanese swords. You can visit this page to see how our Elite Series swords are made. With the fake Japanese sword, the “hada” is done in a different way. They’re neither really folded nor pattern welded, but acid etched. Below are photos of how acid etched grain looks like. Compare it with our Folded 1050 Series and our Elite Series; you’ll see that with the fake Japanese swords, the acid has eaten the metal. While most merchants use the terms “damascus” or “zebra pattern” to describe this appearance, we have never used it in any of our swords because that would be incorrect.
ACID ETCHED “HADA”
GEISHA’S BLADE PATTERN WELDED “HADA” (1050 FOLDED SERIES)
GEISHA’S BLADE REAL “HADA” (T10 ELITE SERIES)
Next is the fittings. Fake Japanese swords have very ugly “fancy” fittings that are not historically accurate nor do they look Japanese. It looks Asian, but it’s not Japanese. It can have designs of animals, flowers, dragons, or people.
The tsuka (handle) on fake Japanese swords mostly comes without any handle wrapping and usually matches the theme on the saya. When the handle does come wrapped, it is very badly done and the tsukaito (cord) looks like a shoelace.
Another common thing that these fake Japanese swords share is an inscription or engraving either on the blade or nakago (tang) which looks nothing like Japanese. We’re not even sure if the characters are readable or translates to rubbish.
We hope that the images we provided here will help you in identifying a fake Japanese sword from a Japanese style martial arts quality sword.