The Japanese sword was basically designed as a weapon, but Japanese sword smiths imbued qualities of grace and beauty into the blades as well as functional superiority. The intricate patterns of surface and texture formed by their highly developed forging and tempering technique were done only in Japan. In the past, the Japanese looked at swords as a spiritual symbol of temples, shrines, and samurai. Nowadays, the Japanese regard the sword as a cultural art object made of steel.
Varieties of the appearance of swords are closely related to historical events. Texture, contours and tempering designs are characteristics of a particular school(den，伝) of swordsmiths. This is a series of lectures that discuss the history of each period then talk about the swordsmiths school (den,伝) that were active in a particular province at the time. Because of that, each section starts with the history of that time. It is necessary to discuss the history to show the flow of the events that affect the shape and style of the swords.
Because the subject matter covers many centuries, I will concentrate on “Koto” (古刀) that is from Heian period (平安時代 794 – 1133) until the end of Sengoku period(戦国時代16th century). These lectures will be discussed with my illustrations and photos of my father’s sword* and others.**
*My father took the photos of his swords and they were his swords at the time the photos were taken. But after his death, they are no longer owned by my family.
**Some photos are from Sano Museum Catalogue. The permission to use was granted by the Sano Museum.