22|Muromachi Period Sword

21 Muromachi period Timeline

The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

Long strife between North and South Dynasty ended.  Even though the government was corrupted at the later part of the Muromachi Period, at least until the “Onin-no-Ran”, (refer 21 Muromachi period historyMuromachi period was a rather peaceful time.  Nanboku-Cho style longs word became useless and they were shortened.  This is called Suriage.  In general, Muromachi period was a declining time for sword making.

Tachi and Katana

Until the end of the Nanboku-Cho period, the sword was suspended from the waist, cutting side faces down.  Swordsmiths inscribed their names facing out when it was worn.  That means when you see the inscription, the cutting side comes right.  This is called Tachi.  Around Muromachi period, swords were worn inside the belt, the cutting side up, and the inscription of the name facing out when it is worn.  That means when you see the inscription, the cutting side comes left.  This is called Katana.  Samurai usually wore one pair of swords together called Dai-Sho(大小), that means large and small.  Longer one is Katana and the shorter one is Wakizashi.  In general, Tachi is longer and Katana is shorter, Wakizashi is even shorter but longer than Tanto. The difference between Tachi and Katana comes from the way it was worn, not the length.

2b Tachi & Katana difference

O-Suriage ( shortened 磨上げ)

When the shortened (suriage) sword was appraised as a valuable one, Hon’ami family (Connoisseur family generation to generation) judged the make of the sword and wrote sword smith’s name on the front side of the hilt and signed the connoisseur’s name on the back of the hilt.  When the sword was shortened a lot, it is called O-Suriage.

 Shu-Mei (朱明 )———————————————————-name written in Vermilion Kinpun-Mei (金粉名 )———————————————-name lacquered in gold powder  Gin-Zougan (銀象嵌 )————————————————————-name inlaid in silver Kin-Zougan (金象嵌 )—————————————————————name inlaid in gold

Shape (Sugata 姿)———Usually approximately 2 feet 3 or 4 inches (71cm) long. The shape of the Muromachi period Katana is somewhat like Heian period Tachi style.  But Muromachi Katana is not as grand, not as graceful as Heian period sword.  They are Koshizori.  Koshizori shape means the highest curvature comes lower than the center of the blade.  Suitable length and shape for wearing inside the belt. The width and the thickness of sword is well balanced with the length.  Small Kissaki.

Hirazukuri-Wakizashi———–Hirazukuri means a flat surface with no Shinogi and no Yokote line.  Usually One foot and 1 or 2inches long.  No curvature.  Hirazukuri-Wakizashi appeared During Muromashi time.


22 Muromachi sword shape

Hamon (tempered line 刃文) ———————- Nioi base. Tempered are is well balance to the width of the blade.  Koshi-hiraita-midare mixed with Choji midare.

22Hamon (Koshi Hiraita midare)
from Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)


Boshi ————– Midare-komi, short turn back. Midare is irregular wave like hamon pattern.  Look at the illustration above.

Jitetsu (地鉄  area between tempered line and Shinogi)————Soft look, large grain pattern, Jiutsuri (faint smoke or cloud-like effect) shows.

Horimono (carvings 彫物) ———- Bo hi (single groove), Soe hi (narrow groove), Futasuji hi (double narrow groove), Sanscrit, Tokko- tsuki –ken, Tsume-tuki-Ken, Names of God, Dragon.  Carvings became elaborate.

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji20 Tokko, tume Ken







Sword Smiths during Muromachi Period

Bizen ———-Osafune Morimitsu (長船盛光) , Yasumitsu (康光), Moromitsu (師光)Yamashiro Den———————————————–Yamashiro Nobukuni (山城信国)


22 Muromachi sword from Sano
From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission permitted)Bizen Osafune Naomitu (備前長船)
Ise Masashige (伊勢正重) Family owned.               Classified as Juyo Token(重要刀剣)


21|Muromachi Period

18 Nanbokucho time line

The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

Ashikaga Takauji(足利尊氏) was the one of the main people who ended Kamakura Bakufu and started Nanboku-Cho period – North and South dynasty -(refer to 18 Nanbokucho – history).  His grandson, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (often called Shogun Yoshimitsu) built a new beautiful Palace at Muromachi (室町) in Kyoto.  This palace became the center of the government called Muromachi Bakufu (室町幕府), therefore, we call this time Muromachi period.  Ashikaga Yoshimitsu built famous “Kinkakuji Temple” (golden pavilion)*.

In Muromachi period, emperor’s power became weak, instead shogun (将軍) held all the political power. Little by little, several groups of samurai who were called Shugo Daimyou (守護大名), started to gain the political power and economic power by holding the important offices in the Muromachi Bakufu (government).  They also owned large land.  Some of the names of Shugo Daimyo were Hosokawa family, and the Yamana family.

Ashikaga family made a great effort to make the Muromachi Bakufu a sound political power through the political maneuver.  Yet by the time Ashikaga Yoshimasa (grandson of Yoshimitsu) became the Shogun, the Bakufu was corrupted very badly.  Shogun Yoshimasa did not pay attention to his job as a politician.  Instead, he was chasing women (his mother had to scold him for that), spend a huge amount of money to build a Silver Pavilion called “Ginkakuji” and retreated himself in there.  Shogun Yoshimasa did not have an heir.  Therefore his brother, Yoshimi was decided to be the next Shogun.  But later, Yoshimasa’s wife Hino Tomiko (日野富子)* had a son, Yoshihisa (義尚).  Now, brother Yoshimi (義視) allied with the Hosokawa (細川), Yoshihisa, the son allied with the Yamana (山名) and several other smaller groups of Samurai allied with either side, started a big battle.  This is called Onin -no-Ran (応仁の乱) at 1467 and spread all over and continued for 11years.

As a result of this battle, beautiful Kyoto was burnt down to ashes, the authority of Muromachi Bakufu was reduced to the only a small surrounding area.

*Kinkakuji Temple (金閣寺) Golden Pavillion—————-Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満) built Kinkakuji in 1397. Rinzai-shu (臨済宗) school Buddhistic Temple, it was originally built as his second house.  It is designated as the world heritage.  It was burnt down by the arsonist in 1950, rebuilt in 1955.  The novelist Mishima Yukio wrote the novel  “Kinkakuji” dealing with the Golden Pavillion and as an arsonist.  The famous quote, “The gold bird (Houou in Japanese, it is a Chinese phoenix) on the roof of the Kinkakuji temple is stationary but fly through the space of the time eternally”

*Hino Tomiko (日野富子)——————The wife of Shogun Yoshimasa.  She took advantage of her political privileges to raise a large amount of money, then loaned them to the high officials with high interest.  She also invested in rice commodity market to raise the price of rice and sold with a high profit.  The corruption reached to an uncontrollable level.



20 | Nanboku-Cho Tanto

18 Nanbokucho time line

The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section

The type of Tanto during Nanboku-Cho Period was called  Hirazukuri-Kowakizashi-Sunnobi- Tanto.   Hirazukuri means flat sword without Yokote line and without Shinogi. Ko-Wakizashi means shorter sword. Sunnnobi Tanto means longer Tanto. This is called Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto.  Because the majority of this type of shape was made around Enbun, Jyoji Imperial era.  Each time the Emperor changed, Japan changed the names of the era.  Enbun was from 1356 to 1361, Jyoji was from 1362 to 1368.

20 Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto


Shape (Sugata 姿) ——-Usually approximately 1 foot 1 or 1 foot 2 inches long.  Sakizori (curved at the top.  Look at the illustration above).  Wide width and thin body.  Fukura Kareru (No Fukura). Shin-no-Mune.


20 Fukura20 Shin-no-Mune

Hi, Horimono (Goove and engraving 樋, 彫刻) —– Groove on Mune side.  Bonji (sanscrit, refer 17 Bonji Suken), Koshi-bi (Short goove) and Tokko- tsuki Ken, or Tumetuki Ken (see below). Ken (spear) was curved wide and deep at the upper part, lower part was curved shallow and narrower.  This is called Soshu-bori.

20 Tokko, tume Ken

Hamon (Tempered line) —– Narrow tempered area at the lower part, it gradually grows wider as it goes up higher then it becomes Bodhi design.  Hamon in Kissaki area is Kaeri Fukashi (turn back deep) as illustration below.  Coarse Nie. O-Midare (large irregular pattern).

20 Hitatsura

From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)


Jitetsu or Jihada —– Loose wood grain pattern called Itame.  Yubashiri (refer 17 Yubashiri, Chikei.jpg), Tobiyaki (Irregular patches of tempered metal) appears.  Crowded Tobiyaki is called Hitatsura (illustration above).

Nakago (Tang) —- Short Tanago-bara.

20 Tanago Bara

Sword-smiths during Nanboku-Cho Period Soshu Den(school)

Soshu Den ———————————————————-Hiromitu( 広光) Akihiro (秋広) Yamashiro Den ————————————————–Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重) Bizen Den ——————————————————— Kanemitu (兼光) Chogi (長義 ) Arima Province ——————————————————Hojoji Kunimitsu (法城寺国光 )


20 Hiromitu (Sano Museum)

19|Nanboku-Cho (North and South dynasty) Period Sword

18 Nanbokucho time line

                           The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

During Nanboku-Cho period, Samurai demanded large, elaborate and practical swords. Soshu Den style — elaborate, large, and impressive  —became the most popular style. Nanboku-Cho period was the height of the Soshu Den.  Many sword smiths moved to Kamakura and forged Soshu Den style swords.  Other schools and provinces also made Soshu Den style swords in their own places.

19 Nanboku-Cho Period Sword shape

Shape (Sugata 姿)—-Originally the length of the swords were 3, 4, 5, feet long, but shortened to approximately two and a half feet in the later time. Shortening a sword greatly is called O-Suriage.  Nanboku-Cho sword has a shallow Kyo-zori (also called Torii-zori) shape (refer 6. Heian period)highest curvature comes around the center of the body.  Wide body, high Shinogi, and narrow Shinogi-Ji (refer 4 Names of parts) and thin body.  High Gyo-no-Mune or Shin-no-Mune, sometimes Maru-Mune (round back).

19 Nanboku-cho 3 kinds Mune

Hi, Horimono (groove and engraving 樋, 彫刻)—– On Shinogi-Ji (refer 4 Names of parts) area, often appears Bo-hi (one groove), double hi, Bonji (Sanscrit), spear, Dragon engraved

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji

Hamon (Tempered line) —– Lower area of the body shows narrow tempered line, higher area of the body shows wider showy tempered line.  Course Nie.  O- Midare (large irregular), Notare-Midare (wavy irregular), Gunome-Midare (repeating pattern of half circular and irregular mix).  Inazuma, Kinsuji (refer 15 Late Kamakura Period sword) action appears


19 Hamon Notare 319 Mamon choji gunome

*From Sano Museum Catalogue ( Permission granted).


Jitetu or Jihada (between tempered line and Shinogi) (4 Names of parts)——Wood grain pattern (Itame 板目). Tobiyaki (patchy tempered spot in jihada) appears.

Boshi, Kissaki —– O-Kissaki (Stretched long Kissaki). Fukura kareru (no Fukura). Midare-Komi (tempered line continues into Boshi), with kaeri fukashi (look at the illustration above),  sometimes Ichimai (tempered entire Boshi).  Look at the above illustration.

Sword-smiths during Nanboku-Cho Period Soshu Den (school)

From Soshu————————————————————Hiromitu (広光) Akihiro (秋広  ) From Yamashiro ————————————————–Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重)  From Bizen (called So-den Bizen)————-Chogi (長儀 )group, Kanemitu (兼光 ) group From Chikuzen —————————————————————Samoji (左文字 ) 19 Chogi photo from Sano book

18|Nanboku(Yoshino) Cho Period —— North and South Dynasty (1333-1393)


18 Nanbokucho time line

The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section.

After Jokyu-no-Ran (11|Jokyu-no-ran ), the power of the Imperial court declined significantly. The Hojo clan who were the main power during the Kamakura period began to have the financial difficulty and started to lose the control over the local lords. One of the reasons was that the cost incurred by the Mongolian invasion. The Kamakura Bakufu (government) could not reward the local lords who worked hard at this war. The local lords became very dissatisfied with the Kamakura Bakufu. Seeing this as a chance, the Emperor Go-Daigo twice attempted to attack Kamakura Bakufu but failed both times and he was exiled to Oki island. Meantime, Ashikaga Takauji (足利尊氏) and several other groups of Samurai who were opposing the Kamakura Bakufu, gathered their power and succeeded in destroying the Kamakura Bakufu (1333). This ends the Kamakura period. The Emperor Go-Daigo, who had been exiled to Oki island returned to Kyoto and attempted established political reforms. This is called Kenmu-no-Chuko (建武の中興).  This new policy failed to satisfy the most of the ruling class.  Taking advantage of this situation, Ashikaga Takauji attacked Imperial court in Kyoto, deposed the Emperor Go-Daigo and placed the other branch of the Royal family on the imperial throne.  But the Emperor Go-Daigo insisted upon his legitimacy, moved to Yoshino (located the South of Kyoto) and established a rival Imperial court.  Thus began the North and the South dynasty.  Much strife between the North and the South and also, both side had their own problems within themselves.  Eventually more Samurai group went under the control of North dynasty.  About 60 years later, Southern dynasty was compelled and accepted the Ashikaga clan’s proposal. Thus, established the North Dynasty as the legitimate imperial court.  This 60 years is the time called Nanboku-Cho or Yoshino-Cho period.  During Nanboku-Cho period, Samurai demanded larger and showy, and practical swords.  Soshu Den was its height of their prominence.  That does not mean only Soshu group made all the swords.  Other schools and other provinces also made Soshu Den style swords.

Early Soshu den time (that is late Kamakura period), Yukimitu (行光), Masamune (正宗) and Sadamune (貞宗) were representative swordsmiths.   Middle Soshu den time (that is North and South dynasty time), Hiromitu (広光), Akihiro (秋広) were representative swordsmiths.  Late Soshu den time (that is Muromachi period), Hiromasa (広正), Masahiro (正広) was the representative swordsmiths.


17 | Late Kamakura period Tanto ——- Early Soshu Tanto


The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

17 Soshu Tanto

Sugata (Style 姿)

1. Slightly longer than Takenoko-zori (usually 10 inches long). Hirazukuri shape.  The width became a little wider than middle Kamakura period tanto.   ( Those are all described in 13 Tanto Middle Kamakura period).

2. Chukanzori (back of the sword is straight), Hirazukuri wide Mihaba (width) with the meaty surface, Fukura kareru.

3. Saki-zori (top part bend to back), Hirazukuri Fukura Kareru. (refer 9 Middle Kamakura – Yamashiro school)

17 Three Tanto9 Boshi Fukura

Hi (樋)and engravings(彫刻)————-Often Hi (groove) is on Mune side, sometimes Ken (spear) and Bonji (Sanskrit) are curved inside wide Hi. (Refer 13 Tanto Middle Kamakura period for Hi, refer 9 Middle Kamakura- Yamashiro school).

17 Bonji Suken          17 Gomabashi Hi

Hamon (tempered line 刃文) ————- Hamon is almost same as the Late Kamakura period sword.   (refer 15 Late Kamakura Period (2)  Some Tanto may have wide Hamon and others may have narrow Hamon. Often see the Tanto with the narrow Hamon at the bottom,  wider Homon at the top, widest and most showy around Fukura area.

15 Late Kamakura Soshu Hamon17 Masamune Hamon

Jitetu (the area between Hamon and Shinogi 地鉄) ——-Jitetu is superior.  Lot of Ji-nie (Nia work on Jitetu ) and Yubashiri and Chikei

17 Yubashiri, Chikei

Late Kamakura Period Early Soshu Den (style) Sword Smiths

Soshu den (school) ——————–Yukimitsu (行光), Masamune (正宗), Sadamune (貞宗) Yamashiro Den (school)———————–Rai Kunitsugu (来国次), Rai Kunimitsu (来国光) Yamato Den (shool) —————————————————- -Taema Kuniyuki (当麻国行) Ettchu Province ———————————————————-   Ettsu Norishige (越中則重) Chikuzen province————————————————-    Chikuzen Samoji (筑前左文字)


17 Enju Kuniyoshi
Enju Kuniyoshi – was family sword
17 Masamune Tanto
Masamune Tanto- Sano Museum Catalogu

16|The Revival of Yamato School

15TimelineThe circle represents the time we are discussing in this section

Yamato province (it is Nara prefecture presently) is the area where sword making started originally.  In early days, they forged swords with their primitive skills.  A large number of swordsmiths lived in this area.  Their style is similar to that of Yamashiro school. At the end of the Kamakura period, Kamakura government started to have financial problems.  Armed monks from Kofuku-Ji temple called Nanto Sohei (Armed monks who lived south side of  Kyoto)* demanded more and more swords to arm themselves.  This demand of the swords revitalized the Yamato School that led to increasing the number of the swordsmith.   As a result, Yamato School became prosperous.

*Nanto Sohei(南都僧兵)———Around the 11th century, Buddhist temples became powerful under the protection of JoKo(former Emperor).  Those temples had a large number of Sohei  (low-level monks who also acted as soldiers) under them.  For the power struggles between the temples, Sohei went to battles fields. Nanto Sohei were monk soldiers of Kofukuji temple.  The aristocrats were afraid of the dignity of God and Buddha, and also did not have enough spirit to suppress them, they had to depend on samurai.  That gave samurai a chance to be a powerful group among the center of the ruling class.

Shape(Sugata姿) —————-1. Graceful Yamashiro style retained. 2. Shinogi is high.  3. Mune is thin.  4. Some group of Yamato school has shallow Sori (curvature).

16 Yamato sword cross section

Hamon (Tempered line)——-Narrow tempered line. Nie base (沸). Chu-suguha-hotsure(frayed medium straight 中直刃ほつれ), Ko-choji-midare (small clove-like pattern and irregular mixture 子丁子乱), Ko-midare ( fine irregular子乱), Ko-gunome-komidare (small  irregular continuous half circle 小五の目小乱). Yamato school forged sword mainly straight grain, therefore, the tempered line often shows double straight line called Nijyu-ha, Hakikake ( Dirt trace left by the broom) and Uchinoke (Crescent-shape line).

16 Hamon Yamato

Boshi (鋩子)———-Inside the Boshi area, straight grain pattern also appears. Yakizume, Kaen(refer 13 Tanto Middle Kamakura period), O-maru, Ko-maru, Nie-kuzure (refer 15 Late Kamakura Period)

13 Hamon and Hi15 O-maru Ko-maru Niekuzure



Jihada or Jitetsu (the area between shinogi and hamon )——Mostly Masame hada (straight grain pattern 柾目肌). Fine ji-nie, Chikei, and Yubashiri shows.(refer 15 Late Kamakura Period).

16 Masame Hada

Nakago (Hilt)——————Often shows the finishing file design as shown below which is called Higaki yasuri (檜垣)


16 Higaki Yasuri

Names of the Yamato School Sword-smiths

Taima(当麻) Group————–Taima Kuniyuki(当麻国行) Taima Tomokiyo(当麻友清) Shikkake (尻懸) Group———————————————–Shikkake Norinaga (尻懸則長) Tegai (手掻) group —————–Tegai Kanenaga (手掻包永) Tegai Kanekiyo(手掻包清) Hoshou (保昌) group——Hosho Sadamune (保昌貞宗)Hosho Sadayoshi ( 保昌貞吉)

16 Shaya Ensou

15|Late Kamakura Period Sword

15TimelineThe circle represents the time we are discussing in this section

Beginning of Soshu style

After the Mongolian invasion, that is the later part of Kamakura period, a new style started to emerge.  Kamakura area became prosperous under the rule of Hojo(北条).  Many swords smiths moved to Kamakura. Fukuoka Ichimonji (福岡一文字)Sukezane, Kunimune group moved from Bizen. Kunituna and his group moved from Yamashiro.  They are the origin of Soshu school (相州).  A star sword smith, Goro-Nyudo-Masamune (五郎入道正宗) appeared during this time.

15 Soshu sword with explanation

Shape (Sugata 姿)——-long Kissaki (O-kissaki 大切先).  Top of Hi ends lower.                 Hamaguri- ha was eliminated (became thinner).  Original length was 3 feet or but mostly shortened later time to 2 feet and 3 or  4 inches.  This is called O-Suriage(大磨上)

15 Kissak shape of 4

15 Hi ends lower

Hamon——————–You see narrow Hamon and wide Hamon.     

Narrow Hamon ——-Suguha (straight) mixed with Ko-choji (small clove) and Ko-gumome (continuous half circle like).  Small Nie base. (First drawing)

Wide Hamon———–Notare (wavy) midare, O-gunome. Nie base.  Ashi-iri (short line goes inwar Inazuma (lightning-  like line), Kinsuji (gold line like)  appears on tempered line.  But Inazuma and Kinsuji requires trained eyes to detect.  It is hard to see for beginners.(Second drawing)

15 Late Kamakura Soshu Hamon

Boshi —————The Hamon from the lower part of the body of the sword continues into Boshi area then turn back a little or Yakizume. You may also see O-maru  (large round), Ko-maru (small round), Kaen (flame like) and Nie-kuzure. Refer Chapter 13 for Yakizume and Kaen.

15 three boshi name

Jihada or Jitetu (between Shinogi and tempered line)—— Strong Ji-nie (地沸), that is a sand-like small dots appears other than the tempered line. Yubashiri (cluster of Ji-nie),  Kinsuji (lined Nie looks like golden line), Inazuma  (lightning like irregular line) and Chikei (similar to Kinsuji appears on Ji-hada).

15 Yubashiri, Chikei, Inazuma

Late Kamakura Period Soshu School Sword Smiths

From Bizen—————— Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane, Kunimune moved to Kamakura From Yamashiro —————————     Touroku- Sakon- Kunituna moved to Kamakura

Those above three are the beginning of Kamakura swordsmiths.                 Later,Tosaburo-Yukimitu and his son, famous Goro-Nyudo-Masamune appeared.

Masamune Juttetsu  

Those who made Soshu Style in the other province

From Yamashiro (山城)———–Rai Kunitsugu (来国次), Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重)From Ettshu (越中) province ——————-Gou- no-Yoshihiro (郷義弘), Norishige (則重)From Mino (美濃) province ——————————————–Kaneuji (兼氏), Kinjyu (金重)From Chikuzen (筑前) province ————————————————–Samoji (左文字)

15 Masamune (Sano) 15 Masamune hamon (Sano)     Goro-Nyudo-Masamune(正宗)                           Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館図録) Permission granted                                   *Because Masamune lived in Kamakura which is a beach town, he was inspired by ocean wave.  Therefore his Hamon sometimes looks like wave design.

15 Masamune, Yoshioka Ichimonji

14|Late Kamakura Period (history)


14 Timeline The circle represents the time we are discussing in this section


GENKO 元寇  (1274 and 1281)

The grandson of Genghis Kahn, Khubilai Kahn attempted to invade Japan two times in 1274 and 1281.  Both times, a strong typhoon hit Japan.  Mongol sent a large number of soldiers with all kinds of supplies on their huge numbers of ships.  Those ships had to dock side by side and front and back very closely at the limited area of shore.   When the strong wind came, ships were swayed, hit each other and capsized.  Many people were drowned and lost supplies in the water.  Even though they landed and attacked Japan, because of the typhoon and ships wrecking, they left Japan.  As a result Japan won.   Actually, Mongol had much superior weapons than Japanese.  They had guns, Japanese did not.  Their group fighting method was much more superior and effective than Japanese individual  fighting method.  This is the time the word “Kamikaze” (God wind)  was created.

After the Mongolian invasion, the need for the changing the style of the Ikubi Kissaki became obvious.  When swords were used in a war, the most frequently damaged area was a Kissaki area.  Japanese soldiers used mostly Ikubi Kissaki swords in this war.  The Ikubi Kissaki Tachi has a short Kissaki, therefore, when the damaged area of the Kissaki was polished down for repairing, the top part of the Yakiba (tempered area) disappeared and the Hi (groove) goes up too high in the Boshi area (top triangle-like area).  Functionally, short Ikubi Kissaki becomes even shorter, and Hi goes up too high into a Boshi area became a flaw.  To compensate for this flaw, a new style began to appear in later part of Kamakura period

14 Ikubi kissaki Damadge


During later part of Kamakura period, the swordsmiths began to create a new style of swords to compensate for this fault.  Also, people’s enthusiasm (that was raised by driving back Mongolian) reflected on the surface of swords.  Generally speaking, Hamon and a shape of the body became showy and stronger looking.

Kamakura became a very prosperous place under the power of Hojo family.  A large number of swordsmiths moved to Kamakura from Bizen, Kyoto and other places during this time and created a new style.  This is the beginning of Soshu school (presently Kanagawa area).  Many famous top swordsmiths appeared during this time.  One of the famous swordsmiths is Masamune.  Masamune’s tomb is in Honkaku-Ji temple that is about 5 minutes walk from the Kamakura train station.  When I was attending the sword study group of Mori Sensei(teacher), one of the students I studied with was the 23rd generation of direct descendants of Masamune.  He still makes swords in Kamakura.  He also makes wonderful kitchen knives.


13|Tanto(dagger) Middle Kamakura Period


It is very rare to see a tanto (dagger) made during the Heian period.                            Middle Kamakura period, a large number of wonderful tanto were made.  They were called takenoko-zori shape.  Takenoko means bamboo shoot.  The back of the dagger curves inward slightly.

13 Middle Kamakura Period Tanto

Sugata (shape)———-Hirazukuri , it means no shinogi, no yokote line, as you see above illustration.  Standard tanto size is about 10 inches.  The width is not too wide not too narrow.  The Body is slightly thick.  High Gyo-no-mune (行の棟) and Shin-no-mune (真の棟)


13 Mune drawing


Hamon (刃文) —————- Tempered area is narrow.  Nioi base.  Irregular straight line(suguha midare) or straight line with small choji (suguha-choji).  Tempered edge line may show a frayed look.

Boshi(tempered line at Kissaki area) ———Yakizume.   Kaen.   Niekuzure

13 Hamon and Hi


Engravings (彫刻 ) ———- Often different kinds of engravings are done at the lower part of the body of Tanto.  They are groove (double or single), Sanskrit, spear(Suken), dragon, etc,.  For Sanskrit and spear, look at the illustration inside Chapter 9.

13 Hamon and Hi

Tanto Swords Smiths during Middle Kamakura Period

Awataguchi group(粟田口)———————————–Awataguchi Yoshimitu (粟田口吉光 )Rai group (来) ——————————————————————–Rai Kunitoshi(来国俊)Soushu Group (相州) ——————————————-Shintougo Kunimitu (新藤五国光)Bizen group (備前) ———————————————————Bien Kagemitu (備前景光)Bungo no Kuni Group (豊後の国) ———————-Bungo-no-kuni Yukihira (豊後の国行平)===============