Kenshin vs. Shishio museum exhibit displays Sakabato and Mugenjin.

Within anime/manga Rurouni Kenshin, Himura Kenshin and Shishio Makoto can be considered two sides of the same coin. They’re both supremely skilled swordsmen who worked as assassins for the government, but while protagonist Kenshin’s realization that violence only creates sorrow leads him to vow to never again take a life, Shishio descends further and further into blood-soaked madness.

The pair’s personalities are reflected in their swords, with Kenshin’s Sakabato having what would ordinarily be the katana’s striking edge left dull and unsharpened, while Shishio’s Mugenjin is crafted to kill as efficiently as possible.

Both swords were fictional weapons created for the manga, until a few years ago when Japanese swordsmiths created an actual Sakabato. Now a real-life Mugenjin has been crafted too, and both blades are currently on display in a special museum exhibit.

Titled Kenshin vs. Shishio: Rurouni Kenshin and the World of Japanese Swords, the exhibit is being held in the town of Seki, Gifu Prefecture. During the samurai era, Seki’s smiths earned a reputation for producing some of the finest swords in the country for the warrior class, and even now the city is known for high-class cutlery of non-combat natures.

The venue for the exhibit is the Seki Sword Tradition Museum (Seki Kajidenshokan in Japanese), about a five-minute walk from Sekiterasumae Station on the Etsumi-Nan Line. Signs emblazoned with images of Kenshin and Shishio around town and in front of the museum let you know you’re in the right place.

The exhibition is being held on the second floor, and the first sword you’ll encounter as you come into the room is the Sakabato (逆刃刀), with the Mugenjin (無限刃) behind it.

▼ Officially, the real-life version of Kenshin’s sword is called the Sakabato Shinuchi
(逆刃刀真打), Shinuchi meaning “Truly Forged” in Japanese.

The Sakabato was just as beautiful as it was the last time we saw it. This was our first time to lay eyes on the Mugenjin, though, and it’s a fearsome blade to behold.

From across the room, you might not immediately spot what makes it so suited to Shishio’s merciless nature, but as you get closer…

you’ll see it has a serrated edge.

Part of what makes katana such compelling works of art is their mix of grace and power. They’re bladed weapons, first and foremost, but their shine and undulated hamon tempering lines give them an almost liquid visual quality. Looking at the Mugenjin, though, there’s a strong intimidating aura, as it’s hard not to imagine the sawtooth edge ripping through its target instead of making a clean cut.

Within the anime, the Mugenjin’s design is said to enable the sword to self-sharpen as it slices so that it never dulls, no matter how many people Shishio cuts down with it. We’re not sure the design would have that effect in the real world, but it’s still an amazingly impressive work of swordsmithing. We asked Fujiwara no Kanafune, one of the craftsmen who helped make the real-life Mugenjin (and the 26th generation of swordsmith to bear that name) how he produced the one-of-a-kind katana edge, but he only told us “That’s a secret.”

By the way, there’s one more Rurouni Kenshin-related sword at the exhibit, which is right next to the character artwork of Saito Hajime.

Saito is yet another swordsman who appears in the series, and on display in the case beside his picture is his sword.

However, this sword wasn’t made because of Rurouni Kenshin. Unlike Kenshin and Shishio, Saito Hajime was an actual historical figure, a samurai who lived in Japan during the Edo period and was a high-ranking member of the Shinsengumi special police force, and on display at the museum is the sword of the real-life Saito, creating a unique mixing of the anime/manga series and actual Japanese history.

The Kenshin vs. Shishio: Rurouni Kenshin and the World of Japanese Swords exhibit is going on now and runs until March 30.

Museum information
Seki Sword Tradition Museum / 関鍛冶伝承館
Address: Gifu-ken, Seki-shi, Minamikasugacho 9-1
Open 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
Admission: 500 yen
Exhibition website

Photos © SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!
[ Read in Japanese ]