“Where there’s muck there’s brass,” goes an old English saying – meaning that dirty jobs often yield rewards. However, the exotic object that one man found in a dumpster wasn’t just a valuable score. No, this was something beautiful. But it was also rather alarming. In fact, you might say that it was the stuff of legends…
A redditor known as teamlazerhawk purportedly found the strange item in a college dumpster. Why it was dumped, no one knows. But whatever its hidden history, commenters reacted with envy and disbelief when teamlazerhawk posted photos of it on the image-sharing site imgur.
Indeed, in June 2016 teamlazerhawk wrote on imgur, “For the last month, I have had a temp job with a university which basically involves saving as much stuff as we can from entering the waste stream. While I have found all manner of great and awful things (smart phones, gaming consoles, computers, dildos, teeth), this one seemed especially unique and worthy to share with you fine folks.”
However, more than one imgur user seemed to suspect that the object had a dark and unsavory history. And perhaps, they suggested, that was why somebody dumped it. “Yaa, that is murder weapon,” wrote emirbytes. “Congrats OP now u’re a suspect.”
Apparently unfazed by potential future legal issues, though, teamlazerhawk had already had a closer look. Yes, he took the object out of the felt-lined box and held it in his hands. “Wow, feels legit!” he wrote. Now, just in case you have no idea what it is, the box and the envelope with Japanese writing on are big clues.
Furthermore, the object slid apart… but this will be no surprise to those who recognize what it is. For those who are still scratching their heads, here’s another clue: did you ever see that Quentin Tarantino movie starring Uma Thurman in a bright yellow tracksuit?
Obviously, the object slides apart because it consists of two parts – a handle and a sheath. Holding it by its handle, then, teamlazerhawk removed the sheath to expose the terrifying metal blade beneath. The object is, of course, a sword… but not just any sword.
In fact, the sword that teamlazerhawk found abandoned in a college dumpster is a katana – the preferred weapon of a Samurai warrior. As elegant as they are deadly, katanas have been a part of Japanese culture since feudal times. Today, they continue to be manufactured for use in martial arts such as iaido, kendo and ninjutsu.
In the West, however, the katana has a place in popular imagination thanks to Hollywood. For example, Uma Thurman’s Beatrix “Black Mamba” Kiddo from the 2003 martial arts blockbuster Kill Bill used a katana to chop up her enemies. Likewise, Danai Gurira’s Michonne survived various zombie onslaughts in The Walking Dead thanks to her trusty katana.
The sword itself consists of a distinctive curved blade with a circular or squared guard. Its grip is long, allowing it to be held with two hands. And traditionally, generations of Samurais wore the sword in a sash called an obi.
However, no one knows for certain when the first katana was made. Designed for a quick draw in close-quarters combat, the sword is thought to have been developed during the 14th and 15th centuries to replace a type of long sword called a tachi. In fact, the katana was so efficient, a skilled samurai could draw and strike in one move.
Of course, the katana was just one part of the Samurai’s armory. The Japanese word daishō (which literally means big-little) refers to paired swords, one large, one small, which only Samurais were allowed to wear. Plus, potential companions of the katana included a sword known as a wakizashi and a dagger called a tantō.
Such were the weapons recovered by a trash man in 2012. “Daito, Wakazashi, and Tanto respectively,” wrote a commenter called Buttforce after the trash man’s sister, Kitlana Rsaendy, shared a photo of them on imgur. “Display blades, a lot thicker than real ones would be,” wrote Buttforce. “Nice though!”
What exactly, then, was teamlazerhawk’s sword? Was it a genuine katana or a mere fake made for display purposes? And what was its true value? In a long and detailed discussion on reddit, commenters debated whether there even was such a thing as a “fake” katana.
For one thing, the sword did not have a proper guard, or tsuba. “If this were a true katana for actual and practical use, it would have a guard, kashira, the ray skin wrapped handle, etc,” observed one commenter called LunarWulfe. “Still looks nice though.”
Other users made different assertions. “Just because it didn’t have a guard doesn’t make it not legit,” wrote Rokku0702. “Guards weren’t always on the blade, especially when carrying swords became illegal and Ronin had to hide their sword blades in canes and staves. It’s still an odd thing to just… throw away, however.”
But whether or not this katana was made for actual use, it was clearly supposed to be cared for. Indeed, the little wooden box contained several items for exactly that purpose. For example, a small bottle of what is probably clove and mineral oil is used for preserving the blade. Applied to the blade’s surface, it prevents the onset of rust.
And according to harp_player, the puff ball (properly known as an uchiko) contains “small chips of soft stone which shed a fine powder on the blade when tapped across the sides.” When used with rice paper, the powder cleans and polishes the surface of the blade.
Moreover, the envelope with Japanese writing contained what appeared to be a certificate. And according to several imgur users, it indicated that the sword was manufactured in 2007. Still, there was no clear consensus as to whether or not it was built for display purposes only.
At the end of the day, however, what really matters is surely not whether the sword is “genuine,” but whether it can hack up zombies effectively. And until the undead apocalypse, we won’t know for sure. For now, then, this katana will make a very attractive display piece. As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.