Rare 12th Century Samurai Sword Found In Attic

Published January 31, 2018
Updated February 1, 2018

The sword was pulled from the attic decades ago, but a recent ceremonial cleaning revealed it was a priceless heirloom from the 12th century.

Kohoki Bade

TwitterThe kohoki blade pulled from the attic of the Kasuga Taisha shrine.

If you’ve ever thought that your attic was just full of old junk, you may want to think again.

A rusty blade pulled from an attic decades ago was just revealed to be one of the oldest Japanese samurai swords in existence.

The sword was found covered in rust, in the attic of the Kasuga Taisha shrine in Japan. Though the discovery of the sword actually took place in 1939, it was only this year that the shrine’s officials realized what the blade actually was.

During a ceremony that takes place every 20 years, the officials sharpened the blades to honor the traditional ceremony of shrine building. When the blade was cleaned, the sword was discovered to be from the 12th century, making it one of the oldest in existence.

Full Sword

The Asahi Shimbun/Getty ImagesThe kohoki blade is believed to be from the 12th century.

The 32-inch sword, known as a kohoki, was likely an heirloom sword, made for a samurai and passed down through his family.

Experts believe it was crafted during the Heian Period (794-1185) and given to the shrine as a gift sometime between the Nanboku-cho Period (1336-1392) and the Muromachi Period (1338-1573).

The blade has a characteristic curved shape, which helped experts date it, as ancient Japanese swords, found in ruins or other temples, were known to be straight. As well as the blade itself, experts have been studying the handle and the exterior portions of the sword.

Though there is no craftsman signature, some experts believe that the blade could have been made by a famed swordsmith known as Yasutsuna, as blades known to have been made by him carry some of the same patterns as the kohoki.

Along with the kohoki, 12 other blades were found in the Kasuga Taisa shrine’s attic, though none as ancient or valuable as the kohoki.

After it was cleaned and examined, the sword was placed on display at the Kasugataisha Museum at the Kasuga Taisha shrine, where it will stay through the end of March.


After reading about the kohoki discovery, check out some other sword discoveries, like the sword found in the lake where Excalibur was rumored to have been dropped, and the Viking sword discovered on a Norwegian mountaintop.

Katie Serena
Katie Serena is a New York City-based writer and a staff writer at All That's Interesting.
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