19 | Nanboku-Cho Tanto(南北朝短刀)

53-red-timeline-nanboku-cho

The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section

During the Nanboku-Cho Period, a type of Tanto called Hirazukuri-Kowakizashi-Sunnobi-Tanto was made.  Hirazukuri means a flat sword without the Yokote line and without Shinogi.  Ko-Wakizashi means a shorter sword.  Sun-Nobi Tanto means longer than standardThis is also called Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto.  It is called this way because the majority of this type Tanto was forged around Enbun, Jyoji Imperial era.  In Japan, a new imperial period starts when a new emperor ascends to the throne.  The Enbun era was from 1356 to 1361, and the Jyoji period was from 1362 to 1368.

20 Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto

Shape (Sugata 姿) ——- The length of a standard size tanto is approx. one shaku.   Shaku is an old Japanese measurement unit for length and, one shaku is very close to 1 foot.

8.5 sun (the sun is another old Japanese measurement unit for length) is approximately 10 inches.  This is the standard size tanto called Josun Tanto.  Anything longer than Josun Tanto is called Sun-nobi Tanto.  Anything shorter than Josun is called Sun-zumari Tanto.

Most of the Nanboku-cho tantos are longer than Josun Tanto,  approximately 1 foot 2 inches long.  Therefore they are called Hirazukuri Ko-wakizashi Sun-nobi Tanto.

Saki-zori (curved outward at the top.  See the illustration above).  Wide width and thin body.  Fukura Kareru (no Fukura means less arc).  Shin-no-mune.  See the drawing below.

20 Fukura           20 Shin-no-Mune

Hi, Horimono (Goove and engraving , 彫刻) —– A groove or grooves on the mune side.  Bonji (Sanscrit, described in Chapter 16 Late Kamakura Period  (Early Soshu-Den Tanto 鎌倉末短刀)Koshi-bi (Short groove),  Tumetuki Ken, Tokko-tsuki Ken (see below) appear.  Ken (dagger) is curved widely and deeply in the upper part and shallower and narrower in the lower part.  This is called Soshu-Bori (Soshu carving).

20 Tokko, tume Ken

Hamon (Tempered line) —– The narrowly tempered at the lower part gradually becomes wider toward the top.  Then a similar wide hamon goes into the Boshi area.  Hamon in the kissaki area is Kaeri-fukashi (turn back deep).  See the illustration below shows.  Coarse Nie. O-midare (large irregular hamon pattern).

20 Hitatsura
From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

Jihada —– Loose wood grain pattern called Itame.  Yubashiri (discussed in  17 Yubashiri, Chikei.jpg), Tobiyaki (Irregular patches of tempered metal) appears.  Crowded (busy) Tobiyaki is called Hitatsura (illustration above).

Nakago (Tang) —-—- Short Tanago-bara.  Tanago-bara means the shape of the belly of a Japanese fish Tanago (bitterling).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 )

20 Hiromitu (Sano Museum)

18| Nanboku-Cho Period Sword (南北朝太刀) (North and South Dynasty Sword)

0-timeline - size 24 Nanboku-cho

                           The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

During the Nanboku-Cho period, Samurais demanded large, elaborate, and impressive, yet practical sword.  The Soshu-Den style sword in Nanbochi-Cho time was just that.  This type was the most popular style then.  The Nanboku-Cho period was the height of the Soshu Den.  Many swordsmiths moved from other provinces to the Kamakura area and forged the Soshu-Den style swords.   Other schools and regions outside the Kamakura area also made the SoshuDen style swords in their own places.

19 Nanboku-cho Sword style

Sugata (姿: Shape)———-The original length of swords was 3, 4, or 5 feet long, but shortened to approximately two and a half feet long at a later time.  A significantly shortened blade is called O-Suriage.

The Nanboku-Cho style sword has a shallow Kyo-zori (also called Torii-zori).  Refer Chapter 5 Heian Period Sword.  The highest curvature comes around the middle of the body: a wide-body, high Shinogi, narrow Shinogi-Ji.  Refer to Chapter 3, Names of parts.   The thin Kasane (Kasane is the body) is a distinctive feature for the Nanboku-cho style.  High Gyo-no-mune or Shin-no-mune, sometimes Maru-Mune (round back).

19 Nanboku-cho 3 kinds Mune

Hi (樋: groove) and Horimono (彫刻: engraving) —  Often, a single hi (Bo-hi), double hi, Suken (dagger), Bonji (Sanscrit), Dragon are engraved on the Shinogi-Ji area.  Refer to Chapter 3 Names of  parts

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji

Hamon (刃: Tempered line) —- The lower part of the body shows a narrow tempered line; gradually, the tempered line becomes a wider and showy.  Course Nie.                              O-midare (large irregular hamon), Notare-midare (wavy irregular hamon), Gunome-midare (a mix of repeated half-circular and irregular hamon).  Inazuma, Kinsuji (refer to Chapter 14 Late Kamakura Period Sword) also sometimes appears.

19 Hamon Notare 319 Mamon choji gunome19 Hitatsura Hamon Hiromitsu

*From Sano Museum Catalogue ( Permission granted).

Jihada (地肌: Area between shinogi and tempered line)  Refer to Chapter 3 Names of parts——Woodgrain pattern (Itame 板目). Sometimes Tobiyaki (a patchy tempered spots) appears on jihada.

 

Kissaki (切っ先) and Boshi (Tempered line at Kissaki area) —– O-Kissaki (long and large kissaki). Fukura kareru (less arc).  Midare-komi (body and boshi have a similar tempered line), with kaeri fukashi (hamon deeply turns back), sometimes Hitatsura (entirely tempered).  See the above illustration.

Sword-smiths during Nanboku-Cho Period Soshu Den (school)

From Soshu———————————————————Hiromitsu (広光)  Akihiro (秋広)  From Yamashiro ————————————————–Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重)  From Bizen (called So-den Bizen)————-Chogi (長儀 )group  Kanemitsu (兼光 ) group  From Chikuzen —————————————————————-Samoji (左文字 ) group

19 Chogi photo from Sano book

The distinctive characteristics of the Nanboku-Cho period sword on the photo above      

  • The engraving trace of Suken on the nakago indicates this area was once a part of the main body.
  • Large and Long kissak

17| Nanboku-cho Period History (南北朝歴史 1333-1392)

0-timeline - size 24 Nanboku-cho

            The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section.

After Jokyu-no-Ran (10| Jokyu-no-ran (承久の乱) 1221, the power of the Imperial Court declined significantly.  The successor, the Hojo clan with a dominant power during the Kamakura period, also began to have financial difficulty and started to lose control over the regional warlords.  One of the reasons was the cost incurred by the Mongol invasion.  The Kamakura Bakufu (government) could not reward well to those warlords who worked hard during the war.  As a result, they were very dissatisfied with the Bakufu.  Seeing this as a chance, Emperor Go-Daigo attempted to attack the Kamakura Bakufu two times but failed both times.  He was exiled to Oki island.  Meantime, Ashikaga Takauji (足利尊氏) and several groups of anti-Kamakura samurais gathered arm forces and succeeded in destroying the Kamakura Bakufu (1333).  This war ends the Kamakura period.

Emperor Go-Daigo, who had been exiled to Oki island, returned to Kyoto and attempted political reforms.  This reform was called Kenmu-no-Chuko (建武の中興).  His reform, however, failed to satisfy most of the ruling class.  Taking advantage of this situation, Ashikaga Takauji attacked the Imperial Court in Kyoto, deposed Emperor Go-Daigo, and placed a member from the other branch of the Imperial family on the throne. 

Emperor Go-Daigo, however, insisted upon his legitimacy, moved to Yoshino in the South of Kyoto, and established another Imperial court.  Thus began the Northern and the Southern Imperial Courts.  With much strife between these rival courts and their problems within each Court,  more Samurai groups began moving to the Northern dynasty.  About 60 years later, the Southern dynasty was compelled to accept the Northern Dynasty’s proposal.  Consequently, the Northern Dynasty became the legitimate imperial Court.  These 60 years are called Nanboku-cho or Yoshino-cho period. 

During the Nanboku-cho period, Samurais demanded larger and showy, yet practical swords.  Soshu Den was its height of their prominence.  However, the Soshu group was not the only group that made all the swords. Other schools and provinces of the different areas also made Soshu Den style swords.

Well-known Early Soshu-Den Swordsmith In the Late Kamakura Period

Tosaburo Yukimitsu (藤三郎行光)   Masamune (正宗)      Sadamune (貞宗)

18 Masamune photo    18 Masamune hamon (Sano)

Masamune from Sano Museum Catalog (permission granted)

Well known Middle Soshu-Den swordsmiths (North and South dynasty time )

Hiromitsu (広光)    Akihiro (秋広)

18 Hiromitu photo 20 Hitatsura Hiromitsu Hitatura )

Hiromitsu from Sano Museum Catalog (permission granted)