Literature and Mythology

Things you need to know about Himura Kenshin’s Sakabato Sword

Himura Kenshin, wielding the Sakabato

What is the Sakabato?

The Sakabato, or the Reverse-Blade Katana, is a weapon used in a manga and anime series, Rurouni Kenshin. Also known as Samurai X, this Japanese series featured a former assassin known as Hitokiri Battosai. However, after his work against the military dictators, Battosai disappears and become Himura Kenshin.

Although Kenshin’s combat techniques were formerly lethal, he had modified these techniques in accordance with his pledge never to kill again. Consequently, he fights using the Sakabato. In the story, the Sakabato is the last among the strange swords forged by a fictional blacksmith, Arai Shakku. Interestingly, unlike all the swords he had forged, Sakabato has a reverse blade that was ill-fit for killing.

In real life, though Sakabato swords were produced for the purchase of the anime series’ fans, there were no recordsof them being used historically in Japan. But, there were such weapons found with reversed-blades such as Tanto knives, which were labeled as kubikiri.

No swordsmanship school employs such sword, although reverse-blade weapons were evident in Deoksu Royal Palace in Korea. At one point, Korea invaded Japan, so the possibility that the Sakabato was developed based on Korean examples remain open. However, as previously mentioned, there were no historical records exist to support the theory.

What Does Sakabato Look Like?

Forged as a holy sword, the Sakabato was made as an offering to honor the new peace brought by the Meiji Era. There are two copies of the Sakabato: First is the Sakabato Kageuchi (Shadow Performer), and the second one is the Sakabato Shinuchi (Star Performer). Himura Kenshin eventually wielded these two copies of Sakabato.

Sakabato Kageuchi

After the battle at Toba-Fushimi, Arai Shakku gave the Sakabato Kageuchi to Kenshin. Despite being the shadow of the real Sakabato, Sakabato Kageuchi possessed qualities that were above a normal Japanese sword.  It has a simple hilt, without any decoration. Also, this Sakabato has an oval handguard and worn in a black steel sheath.

This Sakabato served as Kenshin’s trusted sword for about ten years. However, in May 1878, Sakabato Kageuchi was broken. It was after Kenshin dueled with Seta Sojiro, the fastest member of the Juppongatana, in Shingetsu Village.

Sakabato Shinuchi

Sakabato Shinuchi is far greater than the Kageuchi in terms of quality. In fact, when Shinuchi clashed against the Kikuichimonji Norimune sword of Sojiro, Kenshin’s sword wasn’t even scratched. Also, unlike Sakabato Kageuchi, the Sakabato Shinuchi was initially given to the Hakusan Shrine as the temple’s holy sword. Afterward, the sword came into Kenshin’s possession.

With the permission of Arai Seiku, Shakku’s son, Kenshin, had used the sword against Sawagejo Cho, one of the members of Juppongatana. During the battle, the hilt was unable to withstand Kenshin’s Hiten Mitsurugi-Ryu (Flying Heavenly Sword Style). With that, the hilt crumbled and revealed a hidden engraving written by Shakku. It was a short poem that says: ‘Slashing myself, I have trained countless blades. My son reviles, but for my grandson, I bleed.’

After that, Kenshin then transferred Shinuchi into the Kageuchi’s old hilt and becomes his new sword. In 1882, Kenshin passed the Sakabato to Myojin Yahiko as a gift. In the Samurai X: Reflection, a non-canon OVA, Yahiko then gave the Sakabato to Kenshin’s son, Himura Kenji.

The Sword’s Film Appearances

Rurouni Kenshin (2012)

Rurouni Kenshin’s film poster, 2012

Aside from its manga and animated series, the series was then adapted into a film. In 2012, Rurouni Kenshin: The Origin was released. It was directed by Keishi Otomo, starring Takeru Satoh as Kenshin, and Emi Takei as Kaoru Kamiya.

The film focuses on the fictional events during the Meiji period, telling the story of the Samurai wanderer, Himura Kenshin. After participating in the Bakumatsu war, Kenshin, formerly known as Battosai, wanders the countryside of Japan to protect those who need protection.

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno (2014)

Rurouni Kenshin Kyoto Inferno film poster, 2014

Rurouni Kenshin: Kyoto Inferno is the sequel of the Rurouni Kenshin: The Origin. This 2014 Japanese live-action film was the second among the three series of Kenshin’s story, directed by Keishi Otomo.

In the story, Himura Kenshin goes against the evil Makoto Shishio, who attempted to overthrow the Meiji government. Kenshin then struggles to save his country while keeping his vow never to draw the sword again.

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends (2014)

The Legend Ends film poster

‘The Legend Ends’ is the third among the series of Kenshin’s story. It was a Japanese live-action film released in 2014, directed by Keishi Otomo.

The story follows the protagonist, Kenshin Himura, who now trains with his old master and learns his final technique. Meanwhile, Shishio had set sail to return in Japan to spread chaos.

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