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A katana (刀) is a Japanese sword characterized by a curved, single-edged blade with a circular or squared guard and long grip to accommodate two hands. It was used by the samurai of ancient and feudal Japan.
The katana is generally defined as the standard sized, moderately curved (as opposed to the older tachi featuring more curvature) Japanese sword with a blade length greater than 60.6 cm (23.86 inches). It is characterized by its distinctive appearance: a curved, slender, single-edged blade with a circular or squared guard (tsuba) and long grip to accommodate two hands.
With a few exceptions, katana and tachi can be distinguished from each other, if signed, by the location of the signature (mei) on the tang (nakago). In general, the mei should be carved into the side of the nakago which would face outward when the sword was worn. Since a tachi was worn with the cutting edge down, and the katana was worn with the cutting edge up, the mei would be in opposite locations on the tang.
Western historians have said that katana were among the finest cutting weapons in world military history.