STUDY OF JAPANESE SWORDS” IS SOLD ON AMAZON.
By clicking below, it will take you to that chapter directly. Part 2 is a detailed part of the corresponding chapter.
26 | Over view of Shin-to (新刀) — Ko-to & Shin-to Difference
This chapter shows the handling and viewing process of the sword examination.
- Wear white gloves or hold a handkerchief in each hand.
- Bow lightly. Hold the Tsuka (hilt) with your right hand and the Saya (scabbard) with your left hand. Pull the Saya out. Doing this, the back of the Saya faces the floor, and the Ha faces up. The Mune should be resting on the inside of the Saya. Pull the blade carefully. Do not let the Ha touch the inner wall of the Saya to avoid accidentally getting scratches.
- Set down the Saya on the left of the sword. Prepare the sword tool.
- Using the sword tool, push the Mekugi (peg) out of the Tsuka.
5. Pull and place the Tsuka and put Mekugi in the hole of the Tsuka so that you won’t lose it.
6. Pull the Habaki (metal piece just above the Tsuka, a gold piece in the picture left) and set them down on the right.
- Hold the Nakago with your right hand. With Washi (Japanese rice paper), or handkerchief or tissue paper, support under the blade with your left hand.
- Using the light reflection on the blade’s surface, look at Jigane, Hamon, Boshi, and Mei, etc. To see Hamon, Jigane, and Boshi well, move the sword up, down, or sideways or rotate it to reflect the light in the right position.
- When you finish looking at the sword, bow lightly and reassemble it by reversing the process.
Chapter 64 is a detailed chapter of 30｜Bakumatsu Period, Shin Shin-to. Please read chapter 30 before reading this chapter.
The circle Above indicates the time we discuss in this chapter.
Swords made between the Tennmei era (天明 1781) and the end of Keio era (慶應) are called Shin Shin-to. Please see the timeline above. It was the time Japan was moving toward the Meiji Restoration. It was the Bakumatsu time. During the time, sword making was active again. Below are the well-known swordsmiths in the main areas.
Musashi no Kuni (武蔵の国: Tokyo today)
Suishinshi Masahide (水心子正秀) ———- When Suishinshi Masahide made Yamashiro Den style swords, the shape was similar to one of the Ko-to time swords; Funbari, elegant shape, Chu-suguha (medium straight), Komaru-boshi, fine wood grain. When he forged the Bizen style, he made a Koshizori shape, just like a Ko-to by Bizen Osafune. Nioi with Ko-choji, and Katai-ha (Refer to 30| Bakumatsu Period Sword 新々刀). I wrote in my sword textbook that I saw Suishinshi in November 1970 and October 1971.
Taikei Naotane (大慶直胤) ————-Although Taikei Naotane was within the Suishinshi group, he was among the top swordsmiths. He had an amazing ability to forge all kinds of different styles of swords wonderfully. When he made a Bizen Den style, it looked like Nagamitsu from the Ko-to time with Nioi. Also, he did Sakasa-choji as Katayama Ichimonji had done. Katai-ha appears. My note on the textbook says that I saw Naotane in August 1971.
Minamoto no Kiyomaro (源清麿) —————— Kiyomaro desired to join the Meiji Restoration movement as a Samurai; still, his guardian realized Kiyomaro’s ability as a great swordsmith and helped him become one. It is said that because Kiyomaro had a drinking problem, he was not so eager to forge swords. At age 42, he committed Seppuku. Kiyomaro, who lived in Yotsuya (a part of Shinjuku, Tokyo, today), was called Yotsuya Masamune because he was as good as Masamune. His swords were wide width, shallow Sori, stretched Kissaki, and Fukura–kareru. Boshi has Komaru-boshi. Fine wood grain Ji-gane.
Settsu no Kuni 摂津の国 (Osaka today )
Gassan Sadakazu (月山貞一) ——- Gassan was good at Soshu Den style and Bizen Den style, but he could make any kinds of style. He was as genius as Taikei Naotane. One needs to pay attention to notice a sword made by Gassan from a real Ko-to. He also had an amazing ability in carving. His hirazukuri-kowakizashi forged in Soshu Den style looks just like a Masamune or a Yukimitsu. He forged the Yamashiro Den style with Takenoko-zori with Hoso-suguha or Chu-suguha in Nie. He also forged the Yamato Den style with Masame-hada.
This chapter is a continued part of Chapter 29| Bakumatsu Period History (幕末). Please read Chapter 29 before reading this chapter.
The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section
The last part of the Edo period, around the Tenmei era (天明), from 1781 to 1868, is called Bakumatsu. During this time, the economy in Japan began stagnating.
The several Tokugawa Shogun in different generations tried to perform financial reforms, but each time, it succeeded somewhat, but it never solved the core fundamental economic problems.
Tokugawa Bakufu tried mostly to impose fiscal restraint on the government, forced people to lead a frugal life, and banned even a small luxury. You know this only shrinks the economy and get things even worse. On top of it, they raised the prevailing interest rate, thinking that may solve the problem. It was a typical non-economist solution. The interest rate should be lowered in a situation like this. As a result, lower level Samurai became more impoverished, and farmers revolted often. In addition, many natural disasters struck the farming area. The famous Kurosawa movie “Seven Samurai” was staged around this time. As we all know, “Magnificent Seven” was a Hollywood version of the “Seven Samurai.”
Yet little by little, a small cottage industry began to grow, together with the improved farming productivity led by the local leaders. Merchants became affluent, and towns-people in the city became wealthier. However, the gap between rich and poor became wider. And the problem of Ronin (unemployed Samurai) became severe to the level where it was almost dangerous to society.
The Edo Towns-people’s Culture
During this time, novels were written for ordinary people, too, instead of only for the upper-class. In the past, the paintings were related to religion and only for the upper class. Now they became for ordinary people too.
The Bakumatsu time was the golden time for “Ukioe (浮世絵).” Kitagawa Utamaro (喜多川歌麿1753-1800) was well-known for portraits of ladies. Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849 葛飾北斎) and Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858 安藤広重) were famous for scenery woodblock paintings. Maruyama Okyo (円山応挙) drew pictures using the European perspective method. Katsushika Hokusai’s daughter also drew some of her paintings in perspective. Her name is “Ooi, 応為 “．Only a few of her works are left now. It is said that even her genius father was surprised at her ability to draw.
Though the number was small, some people learned the Dutch language. The Netherlands was one of the only two countries that were allowed to enter Japan then. Those people translated the European medical book into Japanese using French and Dutch dictionaries, and they wrote a book called “Kaitai Shinsho (解体新書)”．After this book was translated, European history books, economy books, political books were translated. New ideas emerged from those books and influenced the intellects.
In society, schooling was thriving. Each feudal domain ran its schools for the sons of the Daimyo’s retainers. Children of the towns-people went to a school called Terakoya (寺子屋: an unofficial neighborhood school) to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic.
Pressure from the Outside World
Even though Japan was in Sakoku state(鎖国: national isolation policy), people knew what was happening outside of Japan. Since the early 17th century, messengers from Russia came to Japan to demand trades (1792 and 1804). In 1808, English ships came to Nagasaki. In 1825, Tokugawa Bakufu ordered to fire guns at any ships that came close to Japan. In 1842, when England won the Opium War against the Qing dynasty, Bakufu decided to supply foreign ships with food and fuel. They were afraid to have the same fate as Qing. In 1846, the U.S. sent Japan a fleet commander to open diplomatic relations, but the Bakufu refused. The U.S. needed Japan to open the ports to supply food, water, and fuel for their whaling ships in the Pacific Ocean.
In 1853, a fleet commander, Perry*, arrived at Uraga (浦賀: a port of Japan) with four warships displaying American military power to open the country. Tokugawa Bakufu did not have any clear policy on handling such a situation and realized it is difficult to maintain the isolation policy any longer.
In 1854, “the Japan-U.S. Treaty of Amity and Friendship” was signed. After that, Japan made treaties with England, Russia, France, and the Netherlands. That ended over 200 years of Sakoku (national isolation policy), and Japan opened several ports for foreign ships.
However, those treaties caused many problems. The treaties were unequal. It caused Japan a shortage of daily necessities; as a result, the prices went up. Also, a large amount of gold flowed out of Japan. It was caused by the difference in the exchange rate of gold to silver between Japan and Europe. In Japan, the exchange rate was gold 1 to silver 5, but in Europe, it was gold 1 to silver 15.
On top of these problems, there was another problem; who should be the next Shogun after Shogun Tokugawa Yesada (徳川家定), since he did not have any heir.
At a chaotic time like this, many feudal domains opposing each other wanted a Shogun whose political idea was on their side. Many other problems already had caused big battles among domains, and there were also other reasons for them to oppose the Bakufu.
Now the base of Tokugawa Bakufu began to fall apart. The Choshu-han (Choshu domain) and the Satsuma-han (Satsuma domain) were the main forces against the Tokugawa Bakufu. In the beginning, they opposed each other. But after many strained incidents, they decided to reconcile and went after the Bakufu together since they realized it was not the time to fight among themselves. England, realizing Bakufu did not have much power any longer, started to be closer to the Emperor’s side, whereas France sided with Tokugawa. England and France almost started a war in Japan.
In 1867, Tokugawa Yoshinobu issued “the Restoration of Imperial Rule (Taisei Hokan, 大政奉還).” In 1868, the Tokugawa clan left the Edo Castle, and the Meiji Emperor moved in. It is now called Kokyo (皇居: Imperial Palace). The present Emperor lives there.
Many well-known political figures were the driving forces and played an active role in toppling the Tokugawa Bakufu. Ito Hirobumi (伊藤博文), Okubo Toshimichi (大久保利通), Shimazu Nariakira (島津斉彬), and Hitotsubashi Yoshinobu (一橋慶喜) are among those. They established a new government system, the Meiji Shin Seifu (明治新政府), centering around the Emperor.
The original Edo-jo (Castle) was lost by a big fire, yet the original moat (you can see several swans), massive stone walls, a beautiful bridge called Nijyu-bashi (二重橋 below) are still there. Big garden areas are open to the public and free to walk around. This area is famous for beautiful cherry blossoms. The Imperial Palace is in front of and a walking distance from the Marunouchi side of Tokyo station.
Today, the Japanese like the historical dramas of the Meiji Ishin (Meiji Restoration) time, and we see them on TV and in movies quite often. Those are stories of Saigo Takamori (西郷隆盛), Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬), and Shinnsen-Gumi (新撰組). Though it was fiction, the Hollywood movie “Last Samurai” was staged around this time with a real historical character, Saigo Takamori.
Imperial Palace (From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository ).
Commodore M.C. Perry came to Japan two times with four warships. In 1853, he brought the sovereign diplomatic letter from the president of the U.S. The following year, he came back and demanded the answer to the letter. After the expedition, Perry wrote a book about his journey, “Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan, Under the command of Commodore M.C. Perry, United States Navy by order of the Government of the United States.” In his book, he mentioned Japan very favorably; the beautiful scenery and people’s ingenuities, lively, active women, and drawings.
Even though it was a long, tough negotiation between Edo Bakufu and Perry, there were several fun moments. Perry displayed and presented Japan with a 1:4-scale model steam locomotive, a sewing machine, etc. The Japanese had a Sumo match and gave him gifts like silk, lacquer wares, etc. The Japanese prepared elaborate banquets for the American diplomats. Perry also invited the Japanese officials for his feast. The biggest hit was when Perry served a dessert at the end of the dinner. Perry printed each guest’s family crest on a small flag and put it on the desert.
Before starting his expedition, he had anticipated tough negotiations lying ahead. So, he had studied Japanese beforehand and discovered that the Japanese would enjoy parties a lot. He brought skilled chefs and loaded the ship with some livestock to Japan for future parties. He entertained Japanese officials with whiskey, wine, beer, etc. Initially, the U.S. wanted Japan to open five ports, whereas Bakufu was willing to open only one port. In the end, both sides agreed on opening three ports.
This chapter is a continued part of chapter 28 Shin-to Main 7 Regions (part B). Please read chapter 28 before reading this chapter. Below are the regions 3,7.
The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section
We find many famous swordsmiths in Edo also. They were Yasutsugu(康継), Kotetsu(虎徹), Noda Hankei (野田繁慶), Hojoji Masahiro (法成寺正弘), and their followers.
Two photos below are swordsmiths from Musashi (武蔵: Tokyo).
Yasutsugu From Sano Museum Catalogue. Permission granted to use
Characteristics of Yasutusgu (康継) ——- shallow curvature; Chu-gissaki (medium Kissaki); Hamon of wide Notare, Midare, or O-gunome (sometimes double Gunome); a trace of Soshu Den and Mino Den; and woodgrain pattern mixed with Masame on Shinogi-ji.
Kotetsu (虎徹) from Sano Museum Catalogue, (permission granted to use)
Here is the famous Kotetsu. His formal name was Nagasone Okisato Nyudo Kotetsu (長曽祢興里入道虎徹). Kotetsu began to make swords after he passed 50 years old. Before that, he was an armor maker.
The characteristics of Kotetsu ———————– shallow curvature and wide width, wide tempered line with Nie. Small irregular Hamon at about the Machi area, becoming wide Suguha like Notare at the upper area. Fine Nie, Komaru–boshi with a short turn back. Ji-hada is fine wood grain and burl. Sometimes, you see O-hada (black core iron show through) at the lower part above the Machi area. The illustration above shows a thick tempered line with Nie, which is the typical Kotetsu’s characteristic. Once you see it, you will remember it. The next region is 7, skipping 4, 5, and 6.
- Satsuma (Kyushu)
Miyahara Mondonosho Masakiyo (宮原主水正正清) from Sano Museum Catalogue, (permission granted to use).
Miyahara Mondonosho Masakiyo was highly regarded by the Shimazu family of Satsuma Han (Satsuma domain in Kyushu). Later he was chosen to go to Edo to forge swords for Shogun Yoshimune.
Mondonosho Masakiyo’s characteristics————-Well balanced sword shape, shallow curvature, and wide and narrow Hamon mixed with squarish Hamon and pointed Hamon as shown in the photo above. He engraved the Aoi crest (the hollyhock crest of the Tokugawa family) on Nakago.
This chapter is a continued part of chapter 27| Shinto Main 7 Regions (Part A). Please read chapter 27 before reading this section.
The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section
Chaptern 27, Shinto Sword — Main Seven Regions (Part A ：主要７刀匠地) and Chapter 28, Shin-to Main Seven Regions (part B 主要７刀匠地)described an overview of the seven main regions. This chapter and the next chapter show the representative swords from these regions. They are Yamashiro (山城 in Kyoto), Settsu (摂津today’s Osaka), Musashi (武蔵 Edo), Satsuma (薩摩 Kyushu). But Echizen (越前) and Kaga (加賀), Hizen (肥前) are skipped.
With the Ko-to swords, the shape, Hamon condition, Kissaki size, the length, and the shape of the Nakago, etc., indicate when the sword was forged. In Ko-to time, the Bizen swordsmiths forged the Bizen Den swords; the Yamashiro swordsmiths forged the Yamashiro Den swords, the Mino swordsmiths forged the Mino Den sword. But with the Shin-to-time swords, that is not the case. The Den and the location of a swordsmith often do not match. For Shin-to sword, we study the swordsmiths and their main seven regions and their characteristic.
Regarding the swords made in the Ko-to time, if a sword has a wide Hamon line with Nie, usually, its Ji-hada shows large wood grain or large burl grain. Also, when you see a narrow Hamon line, it usually has a fine Ji-hada.
However, with Shin-to swords, if a sword has a wide Hamon with Nie, it often has small wood grain or small burl grain pattern on Ji-hada. And if it has a narrow Hamon line, it may have a large wood grain pattern Ji-hada. That is the Shin-to characteristic.
Here is an exception; some of the early Soshu Den swords during the late Kamakura period show wide Hamon with Nie with small burls on Ji-hada. Because of that, whether it is Ko-to or Shin-to is confusing. Even so, other features like Ji-hada or other parts should indicate the Shin-to or Ko-to.
- Yamashiro (山城: Kyoto)
Horikawa Kunihiro (堀川国広) From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)
Horikawa Kunihiro (堀川国広)
Horikawa Kunihiro was considered a great master swordsmith among Shin-to swordsmiths. He forged his swords in many styles with different characteristics. Hamon types are O-notare, O-gunome, Togari-ba (pointed hamon), Chu-suguha with Hotsure (frayed look), Hiro-suguha with Sunagashi effect, Inazuma, or Kinsuji appears. Kunihiro liked to make his sword shape look like O-suriage (shortened Nanboku-Cho style long sword). Kunihiro‘s blade gives you a massive feeling. Kunihiro‘s swords often have beautiful carvings on them; designs include a dragon, Sanskrit letters, etc. Since his swords are in many different styles, there is no general characteristic on his swords other than that Hamon is mainly Nie. His Ji-hada is finely forged.
Iga-no-Kami Kinnmichi (伊賀守金道) Dewa Daijyo Kunimichi (出羽大掾国路) Both Juyo Token (重要刀剣), once my family owned, photos were taken by my father.
Iga-no-Kami Kinmichi ( 伊賀守金道)
Kinmichi family is called the Mishina group. Refer 27|Shinto Sword — Main Seven Regions (Part A 主要７刀匠地). Iga-no-Kami Kinmichi received the Japanese Imperial chrysanthemum crest.
The characteristic of Kinmichi ——- wide sword, shallow curvature, extended Kissaki, Sakizori (curvature at 1/3 top), wide tempered line, Kyo-yakidashi (refer 27|Shinto Sword — Main Seven Regions (Part A 主要７刀匠地), Hiro-suguha (wide straight Hamon), O-notare (large wavy), Yahazu-midare, Hako-midare (refer 24| Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代短刀). Boshi is Mishina-boshi, refer 27|Shinto Sword — Main Seven Regions (Part A 主要７刀匠地). Fine wood burl, Masame appears on Shinog-ji area.
Dewa Daijo Kunimichi (出羽大掾国路)
Dewa Daijo Kunimichi was the best student of Horikawa Kunihiro. The right photo above. Like Kunihiro, the shape of the sword looks like a shortened Nanboku-cho sword. Shallow curvature, wide-body, somewhat stretched Kissaki, and Fukura-kareru (less arch in fukura). Wide tempered line, large Gunome, Nie with Sunagashi, or Inazuma shows. Double Gunome (two Gunome side by side) appears. Fine Ji-hada.
- Settu (摂津) Osaka (大阪 )
Settu (Osaka) has many well-known swordsmiths. They are Kawachi-no-Kami Kunisuke (河内守国助), Tsuda Echizen-no-Kami Sukehiro (津田越前守助広), Inoue Shinkai (井上真改), Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (一竿子忠綱), etc.
The Settsu (Osaka) sword’s main characteristic ———— The surface is beautiful and fine, almost like a solid look with no pattern or no designs surface. The below two photos are of the Settsu sword.
Ikkanshi Tadatsuna from Sano Museum Catalogue. Permission granted to use.
Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (一竿子忠綱)
Ikkanshi Tadatsuna was famous for his carvings. His father was also a well-known swordsmith, Omi-no-Kami Tadatsuna (近江守忠綱). Ikkanshi Tadatsu was the second generation of Omi-no-kami Tadatsuna. Therefore he was also known as Awataguchi Omi-no-Kami Fujiwara Tadatsuna (粟田口近江守藤原忠綱), as you see in the Nakago above photo.
The characteristics of Ikkanshi Tadatsuna —————- longer kissaki and Sakizori (curved at a higher part of the body), wide tempered line with Nie. Osaka Yakidashi (transition between the Suguha above Machi and Midare is smooth. Refer to 27|Shinto Sword — Main Seven Regions (Part A 主要７刀匠地) for Osaka Yakidashi. O-notare with Gunome, Komaru-boshi with a turn back, and very fine Ji-hada with almost no pattern on the surface.
Inoue Shinkai (井上真改) from “Nippon-to Art Swords of Japan” The Walter A. Compton Collection
Inoue Shinkai (井上真改)
Inoue shinkai was the second generation of Izumi-no-Kami Kunisada (和泉守国定), who was a student of Kunihiro.
The characteristic of Inoue Shinkai’s swords ——-Osaka Yakidashi, the tempered line gradually becomes wider toward the top. O-Notare and deep Nie. Very fine Ji-hada with almost no design on the surface.
Chapter 60 is a Continued part of Chapter 26 |Over view of Shinto (新刀概要). Please read Chapter 26 before reading this section.
The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section
The difficulty of Shin-to Kantei
Regarding the swords during Ko-to time, one can tell the approximate period when they were made by looking at the style and the shape. Several conditions indicate what period and which Gokaden (五ヶ伝) created the particular sword by looking at several points, like how the Hamon showed or how the Ji-gane appeared. But with the swords in the Shin-to time, that does not work.
Even though there are some differences among the Shin-to swords made in the early Edo period, which is around the Keicho (慶長: 1596 ~) era, the middle Edo period that is around the Kanbun (寛文: 1661 ~) era, and the late Edo period that is Genroku era (元禄: 1688 ~), the differences are not much.
The same is true about the Gokaden (五ヶ伝) during the Shin-to time. In the Ko-to time, Bizen swordsmiths forged swords with Bizen characteristics. The blades Yamato swordsmiths made usually showed the Yamato Den characteristics. But in the Shin-to time, a swordsmith of one particular Den sometimes forged the style of another Den’s features. As a result, it is hard to determine who forged a specific sword.
For Shin-to, we study the characteristics of seven main locations. The following chapters will go over them.
In and after the Genroku era (元禄1688 – 1704), some picturesque Hamon became a trendy style. Some swordsmiths made picturesque Hamon on Wakizashi or short swords. Since it became very popular, especially among foreigners, most of them were exported outside of Japan around the Meiji Restoration time. Very few are left in Japan today.
The swordsmiths those who made picturesque Hamon
Yamashiro area ——————————————-Iga-no-kami Kinmichi (伊賀守金道), Omi-no-kami Hisamichi (近江守久道)
Settsu (摂津) area ———————————Tanba-no-Kami Yoshimichi (丹波守吉道) Yamato-no-Kami Yoshimichi (大和守吉道)
Below are examples. Fuji is the Mount fuji design. Kikusui is chrysanthemum in the water.
This chapter is a detailed part of Chapter 25 Edo Period History (江戸時代歴史). Please read Chapter 25 before reading this section.
The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section
Battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原合戦)
Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉), the most powerful man during the Sengoku period (and Momoyama period), died in 1598. At that time, his heir, Hideyori (秀頼), was only five years old. Before Hideyoshi’s death, he set up a council system that consisted of the top five Daimyos to take care of the jobs for Hideyori as his regents until he grew up to be an adult.
At Hideyoshi’s death bed, all the five Daimyo agreed to be the guardians of Hideyori. But, little by little, Ishida Mitsunari (石田三成) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) began disagreeing with each other. In 1600, finally, those two main Daimyo clashed, and the Battle of Sekigahara broke out. One side is called Seigun (the western army), led by Ishida Mitsunari, and the other, Togun (the eastern army) by Tokugawa Ieyasu. All the Daimyos in the country took either Tokugawa or Ishida Mitsunari’s side. It is said that the Mitsunari’s Seigun had 100,000 men, while the Tokugawa’s Togun, 70,000 men. Ieyasu had fewer soldiers, but he won in the end. Ieyasu became the Toyotomi clan’s chief retainer, which means that he was virtually the top person because Hideyori was still a child.
In 1603 Ieyasu became the Shogun. Now Ieyasu seized control of Japan, and he established the Tokugawa Bakufu (government) in Edo and eliminated the council system.
Toyotomi Hideyori was still there with his mother, Yodo-gimi (淀君or Yodo-dono淀殿), in Osaka Castle, which Hideyoshi built before he died. After a while, the relationship between Hideyori-Yodogimi, the Osaka side, and Ieyasu, the Edo side, became awkward. Yodo-gimi was a very proud and headstrong person with good reasons. She was a niece of Oda Nobunaga, the wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and the mother of Hideyori, the head of the Toyotomi clan. Later, her pride got her into trouble and led to the destruction of the Toyotomi clan.
Siege of Osaka: Winter (1614) and Summer ( 1615) Campaigns
During the 15 years between the Battle of Sekigahara and Osaka Castle’s Siege, the tension between the Tokugawa Bakufu and Toyotomi clan built up little by little. Before the Battle of Sekigahara, the Toyotomi clan ruled Japan. After the Sekigahara, the Tokugawa Bakufu began to rule Japan. The Toyotomi clan lost many top advisers and vassals in the battle. As a result, all the power of the Toyotomi’s centered around Yodo-gimi.
By the time of the siege, Hideyori grew up to be a fine man, but Yodo-gimi had overprotected her son and controlled him. She even did not allow Hideyori to practice Kendo (Japanese traditional martial art of swordsmanship), saying it was too dangerous.
She persistently acted as if the Toyotomi clan was still in supreme power. Tokugawa Ieyasu tried to calm the friction by having his grand-daughter, Sen-hime, married to Hideyori. A few advisors suggested Yodo-gimi yield to Tokugawa, but she insisted that Tokugawa had to subordinate himself to Toyotomi. A rumor began to spread that the Toyotomi side started to hire and gather many Ronin (Samurai without a lord) inside the Osaka Castle. Several key persons tried to mediate the Toyotomi clan and the Tokugawa but failed.
Finally, Ieyasu led his army to Osaka, and in November 1614, began a campaign to siege the Osaka Castle (the Winter Campaign). It is said that the Toyotomi side had 100,000 soldiers, but some of them were just mercenaries. However, Osaka Castle was built almost like a fortress itself, very hard to attack. The Tokugawa army attacked hard and fired cannon every day, but they realized that the castle was so solid that it was a waste of time to continue.
Eventually, both sides went to a peace negotiation. They agreed on several items of the treaty. One of them was to fill the outer moat of the Osaka Castle. But the Tokugawa side filled both the outer and the inner moats. That made the Toyotomi side angry, and they became suspicious that the Tokugawa might not keep the agreement.
Another agreement was the disarmament of the Toyotomi clan. Yet the Toyotomi side kept having their soldiers inside the castle. Tokugawa gave the last ultimatum to Toyotomi’s side to dismiss all soldiers from the castle or move out from the castle. Yodo-gimi refused both.
After that, another siege started in the summer of 1615 (the Summer Campaign). It is said that the Toyotomi had 70,000 men, and the Tokugawa had 150,000 men. Both sides had several battles here and there, but the fights did not go well for both sides in the beginning because of the thick fog, delayed arrival of troops, miscommunications, etc. The last battlefield was in Osaka Castle. The Toyotomi decided to stay inside the castle, but soon a fire broke out from inside and burned the castle. Yodo-dono and Hideyori hid inside the storage building, waiting for Ieyasu’s answer to the plea for their lives. They hoped their daughter-in-law could achieve the bargain. But It was not accepted, and they both died inside the storage building.
Nene and Yodo-gimi
Nene was the lawful wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi. She was a brilliant and sensible person but not a high born. Everybody respected her, including Tokugawa Ieyasu. Even Hideyoshi often followed her opinions on political matters. She helped Hideyoshi to climb up his ranks. However, Nene could not bear a child. Toyotomi Hideyoshi went around other women everywhere, hoping to get his heir, but nobody could have his child except Yodo-gimi. Naturally, a rumor went around about who the true birth father was. The speculation indicated several men, and one of them was Ishida Mitsunari.
伝 淀殿画像（It is said to be a portrait of Yodo-dono but no evidence.）Owned by Nara Museum of Art Drawn in 17th century Public Domain: Yodo-dono cropped.jpg from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository
Here are several pictures of 2019 San Francisco Sword Show that I attended last weekend. It was a such a pleasure meeting several of you guys. Mr. Yoshihara brought his grandson to this meeting as debut as a new sword maker. It is nice to see a next generation of sword maker.