27|Shinto (新刀)

27 Shinto time line

The circle indicates the subject discussed here

The last chapter 26, stated that the Edo period is from 1603 to 1868.  This is according to the political history.  Also, when you look at the diagram above, Azuchi Momoyama period overlaps into Edo Period.  Some people think Azuchi Momoyama period is from 1575 to 1600.   Around this time, the division of the period has several opinions.  Sword made from around 1596 (Keicho Era, 慶長) to 1781 (Annei Era, 安永) is called Shinto.  The sword made after that until the Meiji period is called Shin-Shinto. 

After Toyotomi Hideyoshi almost united the country, the country could enjoy somewhat of a peaceful society.  This peaceful time changed the geographic distribution where swords smiths lived.  There are three major area where sword making took place.  Those are Kyoto, Osaka and Edo area.  Then the rest of swordsmiths were gathered around each big Daimyo’s (大名 feudal lord ) territory near their castles.

KyotoUmetada Myoju (梅忠明寿) group thrived.  Followed by people like, Horikawa Kunihiro (堀川国広 ), Kunimichi (国路 ), Kunisada (国貞), and Kunisuke (国助).

Osaka— Osaka became a commercial city and became the center of the commerce.  They made swords and distributed to the local area.  They produced swords like Tsuda Sukehiro ( 津田助広 ), Inoue Shinkai ( 井上真改 ).

Edo—-Tokugawa Iyeyasu is the shogun, many swords smiths gathered to Edo (Tokyo now, 東京).  Well know swords smiths are; Nagasone Kotetsu (長曽祢虎徹), Yasutsugu (康継), Noda Hannkei (野田繁慶).

By the time the grandson of Tokugawa Iyeyasu became Shogun (Tokygawa Iyemisu, around Kannei era 寛永1624 – 1643), swords smith’s geographical distribution spread to the other provinces.  In each big Daimyo territory, swordsmiths had their shop near their castle, and they fulfilled each Daimyo‘s demand.  By the Genroku (元禄, 1695) era, swords making technic declined and people demanded picturesque designs like Kikusui (菊水, flower design) and Fujimi (富士見, Mount Fuji).

Difference between Koto (before 1596) and Shinto (after 1596)  

Next part is about the difference between Koto and Shinto.   But keep in mind, there is always exceptions to this rule.

  1. The length of Shinto Katana is usually about 2 feet and 3 inches ±.   Wakizashi is 1 foot and 6 inches ±.   Shallow curvature.  Wide width.  Thick body.   Gyo-no-Mune. Chu-gissaki with a little bit stretched look.13 Mune drawing
  2. Koto sword feels light. Shinto feels heavy.
  3. Bo-hi ends around Yokote line. The Bottom of Hi ends round above Machi.27. Hisaki & marudome
  4. In general, carvings are less common. Yet some swordsmith is famous for its carving.  The design is fine and in detail.
  5. If it is mainly made with Nie, coarse Nie.
  6. Around Machi area (the bottom part of the illustration below), starts out with the straight tempered line, then Midare or different types of Hamon, then finish with Suguha (straight Hamon)  around Boshi (the top part of the illustration below). This type of Hamon is done in general, there is always an exception.  27 Keshou Yasuri & suguha
  7. All the area in Japan, sword material (iron) is the same kind.  Very hard, dark color, and glossy.
  8. The Nakago has a properly balanced shape.  The tip of Nakago it gradually  narrows  down.  The type of the Yasurime (file mark) is Kesho-Yasuri.  Engraved inscriptions shows name, area, and province, with an imperial era.27 Keshou Yasuri & suguha

26| Edo Period (1603 – 1867)

26 Edo period time lineThe circle indicate where we are discussing in this chapter.


Precisely speaking, after Sengoku Period (戦国時代) and before Edo Period (江戸時代) there was a time called Azuchi Momoyama Period (安土桃山) that is from around 1575 to 1600 (The timeline above does not show this.).  This was the time when Oda Nobunaga (織田信長), Toyotomi Hideyoshi(豊臣秀吉) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) lived.  After Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) won a war of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦い) against Toyotomi’s vassals (Toyotomi Hideyoshi was deceased by this time), he became a Shogun(将軍  ) in 1603.  This is the start of the Edo Period (江戸  ).

At the end of the Sengoku Period and during Azuchi Momoyama Period the economy improved a lot and a new culture flourished.  They created gorgeous and spectacular art objects, paintings, buildings, and interior decorations.  Tea ceremony started by Sen-no-Rikyu (千の利休 )、also, Kabuki started around his time.  This is somewhat similar to the European Renaissance——-strange enough this new art emergence happened at the same time in Japan and Europe.  Around this time, many Europeans came to Japan.  This was the time of the Exploration to the East by Europeans.  They were from England, Spain, Holland and Portugal.  The novel “Shogun” by James Clavell was staged around this time.  This novel is based on the real person, William Adams, and Jan Joosten Van Londersteyn*¹.   You can see Jan Joosten’s statue in Tokyo station today.  When I visit Japan every year, I stay at the hotel near Tokyo station,  I often pass in front of Yan Yoosten’s statue.   It is located inside the Tokyo station, underground in the midst of the extremely busy shops.  It is very easily missed unless you look for it.  There is another one outside of the Tokyo station. Tokugawa Iyeyasu, the Shogun hired William Adams and Jan Joosten (Japanese call him Jan Joosten, not his entire name) as his advisers and received information on Europe from them.  The Shogun treated them nicely.  The area where Jan Joosten lived then is now called Yaesu (八重洲 ) after Jan Joosten.  And William Adams changed his name to Miura Anjin and lived in Miura area.  The record of those two people is well kept.  If you are interested in you can find it easily.  Europeans brought many European goods and ideas.  Christianity became popular and widely spread.  It was accepted but later Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned it.  Today no religious restriction.

The Edo Period is after Tokugawa Iyeyasu became Shogun (1603) until the Meiji Restoration or the Meiji (明治) of 1868.  During the Edo Period, Tokugawa Bakufu (Tokugawa government) is the only entity who had the political power.  The Emperors existed but the political power was shifted to the Tokugawa Bakufu.   Gradually, ports for the European ships were limited, eventually, Spaniards were not allowed to come to Japan, then Portuguese were not allowed.  Japanese were forbidden to travel abroad.  By around 1640, the place called Dejima whichi is Hirato in Nagasaki prefecture (平戸、長崎  ) was the only place opened for a foreigner to do business with Japan and only Dutches were allowed.  Japan closed the country to the outside world until Meiji Restoration (1868).

During the Azuchi Momoyama period and very early part of Edo period, many  European ships visited Japan and many of their ships were wrecked near the shore around Japan.  One of the reason is that Japan is a volcanic island.  Even if the surface of the sea does not show anything sticking up from the bottom, there are lots of obstacles underneath such as mountains, huge hidden reefs.  The European did not have the waterway information that is common to the Japanese seaman.

Here is fun things to read for readers.  But don’t quote me the information below here.

The second reason why many ships were wrecked was that those ships were looking for gold.  When Marco Polo went to China, he heard from Chinese people that there is a small island further East.  This country is very wealthy and the Emperor’s palace is made of gold.  Yes, Japan mined a large amount of gold.  After Marco Polo went back to Italy, he wrote a book (late 1300) about his journey and published it.  In his book, he mentioned what he heard from Chinese about Japan.  This book was widely read in many countries in Europe.  When traveling to the East became possible, Europeans came to Japan to look for gold.  But it was too late.  By this time, the majority of the gold was mined by Fujiwara family in Oushu ( 奥州 ) area that is today’s Aomori, Akita, Fukushima, and Miyagi area that is the place big Tsunami happened a few years back.  And Toyotomi Hideyoshi owned gold mines and mined as much as human can mine then.  I checked into many websites and they stated that 1/3 of today’s world gold supply came from Japan that was mined in the past.   Don’t quote me on that.  Gold flowed out to outside Japan little by little over the centuries because the exchange rate between gold and silver was much cheaper in Japan compare to the rest of the world.  Now we don’t mine gold nor don’t own much gold.

It is said that the country name Japan comes from Marco Polo’s book.  He called our country “Jipangu”in his book, that means gold country.*² “Jipangu” eventually became “Japan”.  Japanese don’t call ourselves Japan.  “Nihon or Nippon”(日本 ) is our country name.

*¹ Weblio dictionary




25|Sengoku (戦国) Period Tanto

23 time line Sengoku Period

The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

25 Chukanzori Tanto

Chukan-zori (中間反り)————— The back of Tanto is straight.  Unlike Takenoko zori, Chukan-zori does not bend forward, or does not bend outward.    Hamon (刃文) Tempered line———–Sanbon-sugi (三本杉),  O-notare (大湾),  Yahazu-midare (矢筈乱), Hako-midare (箱乱),  Gunome-choji (五の目丁子),  Chu-suguha (中直刃).    Carving (彫物) —————Often grooves


24 Sannbon sugi,hako, yahazu, O-midare)

Tanto Length ———————— Tanto is one Shaku (12 inches ).  Standard size Tanto is called Josun Tanto. This is 8.5 Shaku (about 9 inches).  Longer than Josun is called Sun-nobi Tanto (寸延) Tanto.  Shorter than Josun is called Sun-Zumari Tanto (寸詰).

Takenoko-zori Josun (筍反定寸)  ———– This type of Tanto is made during Sengoku Period looks like Rai Kunimitsu of Yamashiro-den.   Hamon (刃文)———–Hoso-suguha (細直刃).  You see Katai-ha somewhere.  Below illustration.  Masame- hada appears Mune side.   Jitetsu (地鉄)———Whitish surface and sometimes Shirake –Uturi that is the whitish faint cloud-like effect on jitetsu.

 13 Middle Kamakura Period Tanto24 Suguha katai-ha

Sunnobi-tanto (寸延短刀)———-Looks like the one from the end of Soshu-Den. You may see Hitatsura at Sakizori area.  The condition of the Hitatsura shows on the lower part of Tanto, less on the upper part.

25 Sun-Nobi Tanto25 Hitatsura

Hirazukuri Takenokozori- Sunzumari-Tanto———–This is a unique Tanto for Sengoku-period.   Hirazukuri is flat sided sword without a Shinogi, Yokote line, or obvious Kissaki.   Takenoko-zori is the shape of the bamboo shoot, that means the back of the sword bends inward.   Sunzumari is shorter than 9 inches long (shorter than 8.5 shaku, 25 cm).  The width of the lower part of the blade is wide and thick, the width of the tip is narrow and thin.  It has sharp look.  Carving(彫物) ———Deeply carved Ken-Maki-Ryu (a dragon wrapped around a spear).   Hamon (刃文)———–Tempered line is wide.   Nioi base.  Irregular Hamon or wide Suguha (straight) and Chu-Suguha (medium straight).  Return is deep.    Jitetsu (地鉄)——fine and wood burl.

Moroha-Tanto (諸刃短刀)—————-Double-edged blade with a Hamon on both edges. Often Bonji (Sanscrit) is engraved.   About 9 inches long.   Hamon (刃文) ———Tempered line is wide.   Nioi base.  Irregular Hamon or wide Suguha ( Straight) and Chu-Suguha (medium straight).  Return is deep. Jitetsu地鉄——- Fine and wood burl.

25 Moroha Tanto
Moroha Tanto



24|Sengoku Period (戦国) Sword

23 time line Sengoku Period

The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

After Onin-no-Ran, Kyoto was in a devastated condition.  Distinguished sword smiths in Kyoto area were almost all gone.  Sengoku Daimyo (warlord or feudal lord) demanded a large number of swords from nearby.  During this time, Mino and Bizen were the active swordsmiths.  It was because Mino province was located in convenient place for many feudal lords.  Alos, Shizu group from Yamato Den (school) moved to Mino province.  Tegai Kaneyoshi from Yamato Den moved to Mino and many swordsmiths from Yamashiro and Yamato area moved to Mino.  Thus, Mino could supply the high demand for a large number of swords.  During this wartime, Samurai demanded the practical swords that do not bend, break and cut well, very practical sword.  Together with Mino, Bizen Osafune swordsmiths fulfilled the huge demand.

Chumon-Uchi and Kazu-Uchi-Mono.

Kazu-Uchi-Mono was a sword made just good enough for one battle. They were not made for permanent preservation.  Whereas Chumon-Uchi was an order made swords.  Sound shape, good forging, often engraved the swordsmith’s name and the name of a person who ordered.

24 Sword shape (Sengoku period )

Sugata (shape)————–shallow curvature, Low Gyo-no-mune, Chu-Kissaki with Fukura. The width and the thickness are not too wide not too thick.  In Mino-den, engraving is rare.  In Bizen-den, Bo-hi (straight groove) ends round above Machi ( refer to 4 Names of parts).

13 Mune drawing

Hamon (Tempered line波紋)————–Mino-Den ——–Mostly Nioi. Pointed Gunome (Sanbon-sugi), O-notare, Yahazu-midare, Hako-midare (box shape), Chu-suguha with Katai-ha, Mino Koshi-ba (Sugu-ha about 1 inch at the bottom, then irregular, top is Chu-suguha). Bizen-Den ———-Mostly Nioi. Wide tempered line. Koshi-hiraita-Midare.

Mino-Den Hamon


24 Sannbon sugi,hako, yahazu, O-midare)24 Suguha katai-ha

Bizen-Den Hamon

22Hamon (Koshi Hiraita midare)
from Sano Museum Catalogue



Boshi —————————Turn back deep, kaeri-yoru, Ko-maru

24 jizo-boshi Keri-yoru


Jitetu ( 地鉄)————-Mokume (wood burl) mixed with Masame (straght grain) often shows Masame on Shinogi area.  Sometimes, Mokume stands out.

Swordsmiths during Sengoku Period

Mino-Den————Magoroku Kanemoto (孫六兼元) Izuminokami Knesada (和泉守兼定)Bizen-Den—Yosouzaemon Sukesada (興三左衛門祐定) Norimitu (則光) Tadamitu(忠光)

24 Sukesada
Yosozaemon Sukesada ( Sano Museum) 与三左衛門尉祐定(佐野美術館蔵)

23| Sengoku Period(戦国時代) History

23 time line Sengoku Period

The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

Under political history, Sengoku Period (戦国時代),  is a part of Muromachi period.  But under sword history, we separate Muromachi period and Sengoku period (Warring States period).  Because the sword style changed and the environment of sword making changed a lot.

After Onin-no-Ran has started (21|Muromachi Period), the beautiful capital city, Kyoto was in a devastated condition.  The Shogun’s power only reached the very limited small area.  The rest of the counties were divided into 30 or so small independent countries.  The head of those independent countries was Shugo Daimyo (government officials, originally appointed and sent by the central government), and powerful local Samurai.  Each of those countries fought against each other to take over each other’s land.  At this time, vassals killed his superior and stole his domain, farmers revolted against their lords.  This is called “Gekoku-jo (lower class Samurai overthrow the superior)”.  This is the time of Sengoku period (Warring States period).  The head of the domain was called Sengoku Daimyo (warlord).  Sengoku period lasts about 100 years.  Little by little, after a long hard battles, stronger countries defeated less powerful countries and gained larger territory.  30 countries became 20 then 10 and so on.  Eventually, a few powerful big Sengoku Daimyo (warlord) were left.  Each of those tried to fight his way up to Kyoto and unite the country.  The first person who almost succeeded was Oda Nobunaga.  But he was killed by his own vassal, Akechi Mitsuhide, and Akechi was killed by his colleague, Toyotomi Hideyoshi.  After Hideyoshi defeated Akechi and a few more warlords, Toyotomi Hideyoshi almost completed to unite Japan.  But one more person was left.  That is Tokugawa Iyeyasu. Now, two big power clans were left.  One is Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the other is Tokugawa Ieyasu. Both knew that their opponents are smart and powerful Daimyo, any wrong move on your part would be a fatal mistake.  So they stayed co-existed amicably on the surface for a while, though Toyotomi Hideyoshi tried Tokugawa Ieyasu made his vassal but did not succeed.  For Tokugawa Iyeyasu, since he was younger, he knew that he could just wait until Hideyoshi’s naturally dies.  And that happened.  After Hideyoshi’s death, Tokugawa Ieyasu fought with the vassals who used to work under Hideyoshi and won at the war of Sekigahara  in 1600.  Then 1615 Tokugawa won against Hideyoshi’s son’s army.  After this time, Edo period started.  Edo period is called Edo period because Tokugawa Ieyasu lived in Edo, which is Tokyo now.

*Sengoku period is often depicted in TV’s and movies.  People who lived through the Sengoku period had a very hard time but it is the most interesting time for TV’s and movies.  Stories of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu are the most favorite stories in Japan.  Especially Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s story is one of the most popular ones.  He was born in a poor farmer family who became the top of Japan.  This is one fascinating success story.

Toyotomi Hideyoshi drawn by Mitsunobu Kanou in 1601 owned by Kodaiji-Temple

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 granted)Bizen Osafune Naomitu (備前長船尚光)
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.