32|The process of making a sword

As a part of the sword study, it is necessary to know the construction process of sword making.  But it is a very involved process and each swordsmith has his own secrets, this chapter only explains the very basic procedure.  Anybody interested more detailed explanation, please refer to the book written by a famous swordsmith, Mr. Yoshihara Yoshindo and DVD  as below.  You should be able to buy this book and DVD from Amazon.  If not, contact me.  I can order from the author directly.

The art of the Japanese Sword ————-The Craft of Swordmaking and its Appreciation by Yoshihara Yoshindo, Leon and Hiroko Capp, published by Saviolo Edizioni.

DVD:  Katana / On Ko So Shin —–Katana Project  by Yoshihara Yoshikazu(吉原義一)

Tamahagane (玉鋼  )

In old early sword making time, swordsmiths himself created the steel for sword material by collecting the iron sand and refined himself.  By the Kamakura period, steel making was done by a separate entity.  Swordsmiths buy steel called “Tamahabane” from a steelmaker.  “Tamahagane” is the most important part of the sword making.  “Tamahagane” is the steel made with the Tatara process, that is a unique Japanese smelter.

Kawa-gane(側金) and Shin-gane(芯金 )

The Japanese sword is made from two types of different hardness steel.  Kawa-gane is for outer steel.  Shin-gane for inner steel.  Kawa-gane is harder steel which contains about 0.6% carbon contents.  Shin-gane is a softer steel which contains about 0.25% carbon contents.  Japanese swords are made with the harder steel outside and  softer steel inside therefore,  does not bend, does not break.

Kawagane (outer steel側金) —– Shita Gitae (Base forging 下鍛)

Heat up a piece of Tamahagane —– Hit with a hammer and make a flat piece—– While Tamahagane is still hot, quench in water quickly —– Break into small pieces —– Separately, forge a rectangle plate from Tamahagane —– Connect this plate with a handle (or a lever called Teko) —– Stack up the previously broken metal pieces on a Teko (handle or lever) carefully and closely.

32 Pile up drawing

—– Cover the stacked up Tamahagane with ashes and clay for protection purpose —– Heat this up in the furnace —– Take it out from the furnace, hit with a hammer —– Repeat this process many times to stretch out Tamahgane about twice as long —— While Tamahagane is still hot, make a notch in the center and fold back into half —– Continue the same process of heat up, hammer to stretch out, fold back (half in sideways and half in length wise alternatively approximately 6 or 7 times depends on the original carbon contents  in Tamagahane).  This process reduces the carbon contents to the desired level.


32 folding drawing


Kawagane (outer steel側金) —–Age Kitae (Finish forging上鍛 )

After Shita Gitae, the block of Tamahagane is chiseled to divide into two or three sections —– quench in water —– Cool down —– break into pieces where marked before —– repeat heating, folding, hammering  6 or 7 times, depends on the original carbon contents in Tamagahane.  This process is for Kawagane ( 側鉄 )

Purpose of heating hammering and folding

  • Each time the heating and folding process is done, Tamahagane loses carbon contents. For outer steel, ideal carbon contents should be approximately 0.6%. If the carbon contents are higher, steel is hard and as a result, the sword can crack.   If it is too low, the sword will be too soft and can bend. A swordsmith judge by his eye to determine the right amount of carbon contents. This is the professionalism and the art of the swordsmith.
  • Removing the slag and impurity from Tamahagane.
  • Each heating and folding processes create many layers of thin steel that create the Jigane pattern (surface patterns like wood grain, burl look, straight look or mixture of those)

Shingane (inner steel 芯金 )

Shin-gane is the inner metal.  By having the softer inside, the sword has flexibility.  Having hard outer steel, it prevents to crack or break.  To make the Shin-gane steel, mix softer steel with Tamahagane.  Repeat the same process as Kawa-gane.

Sunobe (素延 )

Sunobe is the process to wrap the Shin-gane with the Kawa-gane then weld two pieces together by heating, hammering and stretch out to make a steel bar like.  There are several ways to wrap the Shin-gane, but the most common way is called Kobuse (甲伏). Illustration below.

32 Kobuse drawing


Hizukuri (火造 )

Hizukuri is to make the final shape from Sunobe by heating and hammering.  At this point, Ha (cutting edge ) gets thinner, Shinogi side gets higher, and starts to form the shape of a sword.

Arashiage (荒仕上げ  )

This process is rough finishing.

Tuchitori (土取)

Mix clay, pine tree ash, ground stone and water. Paint this muddy mixture on the sword.  Around Hamon area, remove a thin layer of the muddy mixture a little, then dry out.  By doing Tuchitori process, Hamon appears and cutting-edge hardens at the same time.

Yaki-Ire (焼入れ)

After the muddy paste is dried, heat up the sword evenly in the furnace.  Judging by the color of the heated sword, pull out the sword from the furnace then quench into the water.  Usually, this process is done after the sun goes down so that the swordsmith can see the color of the metal and can judge the temperature of the heated sword better.  This is the most important process since all the work done up to this point may be ruined if he fails to judge the precise color of the heated sword,  water temperature  and the timing of quenching.




31| Shin Shin-To (Bakumatsu Period 1781-1867)

30 Timeline (Bakumatsu)

The circle indicates the subject we are discussing in this chapter

The end of the Edo period is also called Bakumatsu (Later part of Bakufu).  Look at the circled area of the timeline above.  The swords made during this time is called Shin Shin-To.  They are also called Fukko-To style (復古, means revival). The shape of the sword, Hamon, Boshi, etc, is a copy of the Ko-to and Shin-to.  The characteristics of Shin Shin-To (新新刀) and well-known swordsmiths are those below.

The characteristic of Shin Shin-To

  • Katana, Wakizashi, Tanto, they all tend to be the similar or copy of the previous shape
  • Many swords often have Hi or detailed engraving.
  • Unlike previous time, one swordsmith make several styles like Soshu style, Bizen style, Shin-to style forging.
  • Often shows Katai-ha (refer 24Sengoku period sword.docx).



24 katai-ha                                                                Katai-Ha

  • Not tight Nioi, the entire surface looks like Nioi.
  • Yakidashi (2,3 inches above Machi) is often Suguha (straight line), even though the rest is irregular Hamon. Boshi is often irregular Midare.
  • Engravings are detailed but more realistic than the previous time.

Settsu (Osaka area)——–Gassan Sadayoshi (月山貞吉)  Gassan Sadakazu (月山貞一)  Gassan family are famous for detailed carvings.

Musashi no Kuni (Tokyo area)——Suishinshi Masahide ( 水心子正秀 ) Taikei Naotane (大慶直胤)    Minamoto Kiyomaro (源 清麿 )   Taikei Yoshitane ( 大慶義種) is famous for his carvings.

img075Minamoto Kiyomaro (源清麿)  Previously owned by my family


Tosa no Kuni (Shikoku area)———Sa Yukihide (左行秀)

Satsuma no Kuni (Kagoshima area)——-Oku Motohira (奥元平 )


Meiji Ishin-To

Right before the Meiji Revolution time, long swords (approximately 3 feet) with no curvature were made. Well known ones are the one owned by Saigo Takamori or Sakamoto Ryoma (Both are famous historical characters during Meiji Restoration). They are also called Kinno -To.



30| Bakumatsu Period History (1781 – 1867)

30 Timeline (Bakumatsu)The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this chapter


Bakumatsu time is within the Edo period.  As you can see the above timeline, it is not so clear-cut to divide the period.  Azuchi-Momoyam Period (安土桃山) is from 1573 (Oda Nobunaga (織田信長) deposed Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa 将軍足利義昭) till 1614 (Tokugawa Iyeyasu killed Toyotomi Hideyori, (Hideyoshi’s son at Osaka Winter War). Azuchi Momoyama Period was a short time when Oda Nobunaga(織田信長), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉) and Tokugawa Iyeyasu(徳川家康) were actively maneuvering politically for their survival During this time, the society was flourished culturally and economically.  After a long period of wartime, people could see the country is almost united finally.  The story of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Iyeyasu is the most popular story for Japanese.  Often the stories around this time are depicted on TV programs, in movies and novels.  The Edo period was the time the Tokugawa family ruled Japan.  Their government is called Tokugawa Bakufu.  Throughout the Edo period, the direct line of the Tokugawa family, usually the first born son became a Shogun.  Yet the Emperor co-existed at the same time.  They did not have political power.  But the emperor family had some status their own as an Emperor.  During the Edo period, it was a very peaceful time.  Unlike previous time, there were no wars.  Long last Edo period (last approximately 260 years) became stagnated in the later part.  We call the later part of the Edo period the Bakumatsu (幕末) time. This means the later part of the Edo Bakufu.  As I explained in a previous chapter (26 Edo Period History (1603 – 1867).docx   Japan  closed the country to the outside world (This is called Sakoku).  The only place Japan could contact with other countries was the place called Dejima in Nagasaki area (Southern part of Japan).  During Bakumatsu time, several European ships came to Japan asking and demanding us to open ports for water and other supplies for whaling ships and some country wanted to trade with us.  Those countries were England, Russia, America, and France etc.   In 1853 Perry came to Japan with four warships demanding to open the ports for water, fuel and other supplies for U.S. whaling ships.  At the end of the Edo period, (Bakumatsu time), Tokugawa Bakufu was facing the political and systematic difficulty in governing the country.  Also, intellectual people were afraid that we may get into a trouble like the one in China, the Opium War(1840 -42) in which China was controlled by England at the end.  Russian government sent us the messenger officially to open up for trades (1792).  The pressures to open the county were building up and surrounding us.  It became obvious that Japan can no longer continue to close the country.  At the time like this, Perry appeared with four big warships at the place called Uraga (Kanagawa prefecture) and demanded to open the country.  This four ships really scared Japanese and excelled the big anti-Bakufu movement.  The Meiji Revolution was triggered by Perry’s warships.  Soon Tokugawa Bakufu made treaties with several countries and opened a few ports for trades.  The Bakufu’s authority was lost, Japan was divided into several different political groups and they fought chaotically for their different opinions.  The Meiji Restoration continued on.  1868, the Emperor moved to the Edo castle in Edo (now Tokyo), started a Meiji Shin Seifu (new government) center around the Meiji Emperor and Tokugawa Bakufu ended.





29|Main Seven Areas of Sinto Sword (part2)

27 Shinto time line
    The circle indicate the subject of this chapter

28 map with number

 2  Settu (摂津 ) at Osaka ( 大阪 )

Settu, Osaka created more Wakizashi than Katana. They tend to make slightly Sakizori ( outward curvature above half way) and slightly stretched BoshiSettu Osaka sword also has Yakidashi like the previous Yamashiro Kyoto sword, except the area where Suguha changes to Notare (wavy pattern) is smooth.  This is called Osaka Yakidashi.  Illustration below.

Osaka Boshi—– Hamon continues up to Yokote line, then Komaru with a turn. Jitetsu —–Very fine, almost solid like surface especially Shinogi-ji (the area between ridgeline and back) is solid like surface.  This is called Osaka-Tetsu (iron)

29 Osaka Yakidashi Komaru Boshi

Well known swordsmiths in Settsu area are Osaka-Tsuda –Sukehiro (大阪津田助広), Sukenao (助直). Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (一竿子忠綱 )


Awataguchi Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (粟田口一竿子忠綱 ) Previousely family owned


3.Musashi ( 武蔵 ) at Edo ( 江戸 )

Both Katana and Wakizashi have shallow sori (less curvature).  Often top area tends to narrow down.  Often but not always, unlike Settsu or Yamashiro, Hamon starts out the same design as the rest of the entire design except a little bit gentler.  Boshi is the same as Kyo-Boshi.  Jitetsu is almost the same as Kyoto.  Masame shows on Shinogi-ji.

Well known swordsmiths in Musashi area are Nagasone-Okisato-nyudo-Kotetsu (長曽根興里入道虎徹), Noda Hannkei (野田繁慶  ).


Nagasone-Okisato-nyudo-Kotetsu (長曽根興里入道虎徹) Previously family owned

4. Echizen ( 越前 ) and Kaga (加賀 )

Many sword makers of Echizen and Kaga moved from Mino (美濃 )area.  Their style of Echizen Yasutsugu  is similar to Mino style.  Because of that, the sword made in this area are called Echizen- Seki, and Kaga-Seki. (refer to 24|Sengoku Period (戦国) Sword. )

Well known swordsmith in Echizen is Echizen Yasutsugu (越前康継 )

5.  Hizen (肥前)

Both Katana and Wakizashi have well-balanced shape. Hizen area tends to make a sword with Chu-Suguha-Hoture (medium width straight Hamon with the frayed look) with fine Nie (沸). Boshi has a standard and ordinary clean line with the tempered line of uniform width. Shinto sword with Chu-Suguha is often made by Hizen Tadayoshi (肥前忠吉). Very fine Ji-tetsu (surface), sometimes called Nukame-Hada.

29 Hizen Tadayoshi Boshi

Well known swordsmith in this area is Hizen Tadayoshi ( 肥前忠吉)


6.  Satsuma (薩摩 )

The sword made in Satsuma has a sound shape on both Katana and Wakizashi. Kissaki (the point area) is stretched. Yakidashi (a few inches of the tempered area above Machi ) is small irregular that is similar to Koto. Hamon is O-midare with coarse Nie. Togari-ba (pointed design) appears with coarse Nie. Mino school often have Togari-ba. One of the characteristics of this region is Satsuma-nie. It means that the coarse Nie around Hamon continued into Ji-hada area.  Inside Hamon, sometimes shows a thick line shaped like lightning.  This is called Satsuma-no-Imozuru (sweet potato vine of Satsuma). This is the biggest characteristic of Satsuma sword. Boshi has a narrow tempered line with the small irregular pattern, similar to Koto, this is called Satsuma-Boshi. On  Jitetsu (surface) Satsuma-gane (薩摩金) sometimes shows that is a dark line like Chikei .

29 Satsuma Togari-ba

Well know swordsmiths of this area are Izunokami Masafusa (伊豆守正房  ),  Ichinohira Masayoshi ( 一平安代 ), Mondonosho Masakiyo (主水正正清 )

28|Main Seven areas among Shinto Sword (Part 1)

27 Shinto time line
The circle indicate the subject of this chapter

There are seven prosperous areas where a large number of swordsmiths were living and actively making swords.  Top three are Yamashiro (山城) at Kyoto, Settu ( 摂津 ) at Osaka, Musashi (武蔵  ) at Edo, Hizen (肥前 ) at Saga, Satuma (薩摩 ) at Kagoshima, Echizen ( 越前 ) at Fukui, and Kaga ( 加賀 ) at Kanazawa.  Each of these swordsmiths has its own local characteristics common among themselves.  To know each of that characteristic of this area is the easiest way to understand Shinto. But keep in mind that each swordsmith has his own way of making the sword.  The following descriptions are only general guidelines.

Below is the map of Japan.  Since Hokkaido was a provincial area and swords were not made there during Edo period, omitted from this map.

28 map with number1.  Yamashiro (山城 ) Kyoto

Yamashiro Shinto sword has a solid and strong look.  Hamon at the bottom part of the blade above Machi ( 区) area shows Suguha (straight hamon), this is called Kyo-Yakidashi (京焼出), that means to start out with straight Hamon.  Then abruptly changes to the design of O-Midare (大乱).  O-Midare changes to quiet look below Yokote line about 1 or 2 inches, then continues into Boshi with a wavy Hamon.  Boshi design is Komaru-Boshi.  Ji-hada is somewhat rough (this depends on the swordsmith).  Masame-hada (straight grain pattern) may show on Shinogi-Ji (the area between back and ridgeline).  Among Yamashiro Shinto, there was a group called Mishina ( 三品) group.  They are Mino (美濃 ) related, therefore, Boshi often is Jizo boshi (地蔵鋩子), this is called Mishina Boshi ( 三品鋩子).  Therefore, Boshi often is Jizo boshi (地蔵鋩子), this is called Mishina Boshi.

28 Kyo-Yakidashi, kyo, Mishina-Boshi

Well known swordsmiths in Yamashiro area are Umetada Myoju (梅忠明寿), Horikawa Kunihiro (堀川国広  ), Dewadaijyo Kunimichi ( 出羽大掾国路 )


Iganokami Kinnmichi (伊賀守金道) Previousely Family owned

continue to part two next chapter.



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 (Tennmei Era, 天明) 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 History (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 1614.  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), Tokugawa Iyeyasu 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  his statue side 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 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.  In Japan today, there is 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 ship 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.  Marco Polo never visited Japan himself.  This book was widely read in many countries in Europe.  When traveling to the East became possible for Europeans, they 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 Northern part of Japan) 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