A type of Japanese sword (nihontou), and is often called a "samurai sword" because of its historical associations with feudal-era Japan.
The katana is characterized by its distinctive appearance: a curved, slender, single-edged blade, circular or squared guard, and long grip to accommodate two hands (the hilt is often given a distinctive wrapping of silk known as tsukaito).
The sword preceding the katana is called a tachi. The general difference between a tachi and a katana is how they are carried. The tachi is suspended from one’s waist belt with the cutting edge facing down, while the katana is thrust through the waist belt, edge facing up. Also, in general the tachi is more curved and longer than the katana.
- Touken Collection (JP): Difference between Tachi and Katana
- Wikipedia: Katana
- Wikipedia: Koshirae (Japanese sword components)