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History of Sakabatō

The Sakabatō (Reverse-Blade Sword) is the last of the strange swords forged by master swordsmith Arai Shakkū and the main weapon used by Himura Kenshin in the series.

However, unlike all his previous known works, whose designs all contain elements that make them tools not of combat, but of gruesome death, the Sakabatō is designed as a simple katana with its blade forged on the opposite side than normal, making it a sword ill-fit for killing. Features of the blade have it depicted as a shinto era katana, and its hamon in an extremely rare recreated hitatsura notare midare on both sides of the blade, making it hard to differentiate the cutting edge from afar. Its fittings are humble and simple, but vary upon depictions throughout.

Forged as a holy sword, the last of Arai Shakkū's blades were made in offering to honor the new peace that the Meiji Era would bring, and for him and its wielder, the end of his career of creating weapons for violence and death, and for Kenshin, the end of his days as a hitokiri, and the promise to never take another human life again.

Like with all manufacture of holy swords, two copies of the Sakabatō were made, a kageuchi (Shadow Performer) and a shinuchi (Star Performer), as was the custom. However, each copy eventually makes its way into the hands of Himura Kenshin.

Sakabatō Kageuchi

Given to Himura by Arai Shakkū immediately after the Battle of Toba-Fushimi, Sakabatō Kageuchi served as the rurouni's trusted sword for ten years afterward. Its hilt is without decoration and set in a simple, oval handguard and the sword itself is worn in a black steel sheath. The sword was broken in May of 1878 when Kenshin dueled Seta Sōjirō in Shingetsu Village.

Despite only being the kageuchi or shadow of the true sakabatō, this sword possessed superior quality than a normal Japanese sword, having easily broken one used by Saitō.

Sakabatō Shinuchi

While the kageuchi was given away, the Sakabatō Shinuchi was prepared for and given to the Hakusan Shrine in Kyoto as the temple's holy sword. Of stronger forge than Kageuchi, the shinuchi was hilted and sheathed in a shirasaya mount for storage and adorned with paper charms. After Himura took possession of Sakabatō Shinuchi with the permission of Shakkū's son Arai Seikū, using it against Sawagejō Chō of the Juppongatana, the wooden hilt is unable to withstand being used for Kenshin's Hiten Mitsurugi-ryū: Ryūkansen Tsumuji and crumbles, revealing a hidden engraving. On the steel inside the hilt, Shakkū had engraved a short poem reading "Slashing myself, I have trained countless blades. My son reviles, but for my grandson, I bleed." After transferring shinuchi into kageuchi's old hilt and a new steel sheath, it becomes Kenshin's new sakabatō until 1882 when he passes it on to Myōjin Yahiko as a genpuku gift. In the non-canon OVA Samurai X: Reflection, Yahiko in turn passes the sword on to as his own genpuku gift.

As a testament of its quality, when this sword clashed with Sojiro's Kikuichimonji Norimune, which was far superior to the Nagasoni Kotetsu which snapped the Kageuchi Sakabatō, on an even battoujutsu, it wasn't even scratched while landing a crack on Sojiro's sword.

In the Rurouni Kenshin: Hokkaido Arc, Yahiko gave the sakabato back to Kenshin. Kenshin then takes and uses the sword while in Hokkaido.