The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section
Introduction Of The 5 Main Sword School (Den)
There are five main sword schools (Den). They are Yamashiro Den (山城), Bizen Den (備前), Soshu Den (相州), Yamato Den (大和) and Mino Den (美濃). During the Heian period, Yamashiro Den was the main school. Also, there was a school called Ko-Bizen (means old Bizen) that is a part of Bezen Den but we treat them separately. Their style was a little different than Bizen Den we see later. They were somewhat close to Yamashiro Den. During the Heian period, Yamashiro Den was the most active sword school. Swordsmiths lived around the Kyoto area, the capital city of Japan then. In the early Kamakura period, Yamashiro Den continued their style similar to the one during the Heian period. Bizen Den appeared in the middle Kamakura period. Soshu Den appeared in the late Kamakura period in the Kamakura area. Mino school appeared Muromachi period
Early Kamakura Period (鎌倉) (1192 – 1218)
We divide the Kamakura period into 3 stages. early Kamakura, middle Kamakura, late Kamakura period. In the early Kamakura period, the sword style is almost the same as the one during the Heian period, the previous time. Yamashiro Den was the active sword school in the early part of the Kamakura period.
Middle Kamakura Period (1219 – 1277)
In the middle Kamakura period, we have three different styles to talk about. Yamashiro Den style, Bizen Den style, and Ikubi kissaki style (猪首切先) sword. Ikubi Kissaki is a new style. We say there are no mediocre swords among the Ikubi-Kissaki (猪首切先) swords. As I described in the previous section, the Kamakura government (鎌倉幕府) had political and military power, yet the Emperor still existed in Kyoto(京都). Emperor Gotoba raised an army and attacked the Kamakura government in order to regain the political power back. This war (1221) is called Jyokyu-no-Ran (承久の乱). The live experience from this war changed the shape of the sword to sturdier-looking shape, that is what we call Ikubi-kissaki style.
Late Kamakura Period (after Mongolian Invasion— (1274 and 1281)
In this section, adding to the Yamashiro Den and Bizen Den, Soshu Den started to appear. After the Mongolian invasion (that is called Genko (元寇) in 1274 and 1281), a longer Kissaki and a longer in length and wider sword started to appear. Soshu Den swordsmiths forged this type of swords.
Engravings on Sword
Carvings have three meanings in Ko-To time. One is to reduce the weight of the sword. They are Hi, Bohi (single groove), Gomabashi (wide, narrow, short or long grooves). The second is for religious purposes. For that reason, swordsmiths often carve the Buddhistic figures. The third is for decoration. In shin-To time, carvings became mainly decoration purposes.
Suken Bonji (sanskrit) Gomabashi Hi