The circle represents the time we discuss in this section
GENKO 元寇 (1274 and 1281)
The grandson of Genghis Kahn, Kublai Kahn, attempted to invade Japan twice in 1274 and 1281. Both times, a strong typhoon hit Japan. Mongols sent a large number of soldiers with all kinds of supplies on a huge number of ships to Japan. Those ships had to stay side by side and front and back very close to each other in the limited area of Kyushu‘s shore. When the strong wind came, ships were swayed, hit each other, and capsized. Many people fell into the ocean, drowned, and lost supplies in the water. Even though Mongol soldiers landed and fought with the Japanese army, they did not have much choice but to leave Japan because of the typhoon and ships wrecking. As a result of this strong wind, Japan was saved and looked as if Japan won.
This is the time the famous Japanese word, “Kamikaze” (divine wind) was created. Actually, Mongols had many superior weapons than the Japanese. They had guns, while the Japanese did not. Their group fighting method was much more superior and effective than the Japanese one-to-one fighting method.
After the Mongolian invasion, the need for changing the style of the Ikubi Kissaki sword became obvious. When swords were used in a war, the area most frequently damaged was the Kissaki area. Japanese soldiers used mostly Ikubi-kissaki swords in this war. An Ikubi-kissaki Tachi has a short Kissaki. When a damaged area of the Kissaki was whetted out, the top part of the Yakiba (tempered area) disappears, and the Hi (a groove) goes up too high into the Boshi area (top triangle-like area). Short Ikubi-kissaki becomes even shorter, and the Hi goes up too high into the Boshi area. Aesthetically, it is not appealing. Functionally, it does not work well. To compensate for the flaw, a new style began to appear in the latter part of the Kamakura period.
During the latter part of the Kamakura period, the swordsmiths began to create a new swords style to compensate for this fault. Also, the pride and confidence had grown among people after driving the Mongols away, which reflected on the swords’ appearance. Generally speaking, the Hamon and the shape of the body became stronger and showier.
Kamakura area became a very prosperous place under the power of the Hojo family. A large number of swordsmiths moved to Kamakura from Bizen, Kyoto, and other places during this time and created a new style. This is the beginning of the Soshu Den (Soshu is the Kanagawa area now). Many famous top swordsmiths appeared during this time.
One of the famous swordsmiths is Goro-Nyudo Masamune (五郎入道正宗). The Masamune’s tomb is in the Honkaku-Ji temple in Kamakura. That is about a 5 or 6 minutes’ walk from the Kamakura train station.
While I was attending the sword study group of Mori Sensei (teacher), one of the students I studied with was the 24th generation of the direct descendants of Masamune. Although he does not bear the name of Masamune, he has been making wonderful swords in Kamakura. He also makes superb kitchen knives. The name of his shop is “Masamune Kogei (正宗工芸),” and it is located a short walk from Kamakura station. To find his place, ask at the information center in the train station.