Hi there, Kanji fans! I received a question about the Japanese kanji on the katana sword!

KansaiChick is here for help!(*’▽’)/

This kanji phrase is on the blade of the katana sword that I has just got. What does it mean?

meanings of kanji on the samurai katana sword the last samurai

Nice! It looks new and clean. It says 今古有神奉志士.  I looked up this phrase and I found out some info!

Katana Sword with 今古有神奉志士 in “The Last Samurai”

今古有神奉志士 is the engraving on the Katana (Samurai Sword) in the movie “The Last Samurai (2003)”. In this movie, the Samurai 勝元(Katsumoto) explained about the meanings of this phrase.

He gave this sword to Nathan before the final war and he said, “(The kanji on it means that) I belong to the warrior in whom the old ways have joined the new.”

Oh, OK! (*´▽`*)

But, WAIT A MINUTE!! Σ(・ω・ )/

今古有神奉志士 is obviously not like that! If you know some meanings of Japanese kanji, you can figure it out.

That Katsumoto’s line is not the meaning of the phrase. He didn’t translate it. He just said what he wanted to tell Nathan without explanation, just like we do all the time in real life. lol

So, what does the kanji phrase mean??

Kanji Phrase on this Blade is Written in Chinese Style

Katsumoto is Japanese. But not many Japanese people can read this kanji phrase today. Because this is like a poem written in Chinese style. Ancient Japanese people learned tons of things from Chinese books.

Japanese kids today, however, learn only a bit of classic Chinese at high school. In the text books, we use so many small symbols to show the order to read those Chinese sentences in Japanese way like below.

ex) 勿以前小而不為 (Chinese)
→ 善の小なるを以て為さざること勿れ (How to read Chinese in Japanese way)
→ 善いことが小さな事だからといって、やらないということがあってはならない。(Translation to today’s Japanese)

As you can see, “今古有神奉志士” doesn’t have any symbols telling the order to read.

Meanings of Each Kanji on the Blade

Let’s see the meanings of each Japanese kanji in this phrase! I show only some parts of meanings that I think Katsumoto used here.

今 (ima) : now, present
古 (古い furu-i, inishie) : old, ancient times
古今 (kokon) : from the past to present, all ages
有 (有る a-ru) : exist
神 (kami, shin) : god, spirit
奉 (hou, 奉る tatematsuru) : serve, revere
志 (shi, kokorozashi) : will, motive
士 (shi) : samurai, gentleman
志士 (shishi): a samurai who lived through his belief of what were right for Japan at the end of Edo era

This idiom 志士 is important, right? (*’▽’) Because that’s the main theme of this movie!

Translation by KansaiChick

We never know the exact meanings of the phrase unless asking the person who wrote this. But here is my guess.


→ 古今、神奉の志士有り。

→ 今も古も(ずっと変わることなく)、精神を貫く志士がいるのだ。

There still are and always were 志士(shishi) who serve what they believe. Samurai spirit never dies. (And I, Katsumoto, admit you are one of the Samurai like us.)

Again, 志士 means a samurai who lived through his belief of what was right at the end of the Edo era in Japan.

This is it!! (*´▽`*)

By the way, I also found some people tried to translate this phrase.

Translation Type A:
In all times and places, there is a pious swordsman.

Translation Type B:
A swordman who reveres gods of all ages.

Translation Type C:
Gods of all ages (hereby) present (this) to a swordsman.

What do you think??

Thank you so much for the question again!

Today’s Kanji Shirt is “Samurai”! Samurai Spirit never dies…!

samurai kanji shirt

Other Questions on Japanese Kanji


  1. Carlton Taylor

    I have a ww2 katana that is somewhat unique. It is obviously hand forged and folded , clay hardened and signed but some rust has partially obscured signature. There is no blood groove on the blade and Im interested in having it translated. I believe its a pre ‘35 but not sure. It is not a machine made sword and I believe it to be officers, leu or capt. and possibly ceremonial and the blade is not sharpened all the way back. Can I send you pictures?

  2. hsu

    Hi, I propose this translation: A real samurai (志士) reveres the gods (神奉) in his past and future (今古) existences (有, sanskrit bhava).

    Can you help me with the meaning of these two kanji (archaic, I believe) in the saya of my katana? I’m sending them to your e-mail. Thank you very much


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