20 | Nanboku-Cho Tanto

18 Nanbokucho time line

The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section

The type of Tanto during Nanboku-Cho Period was called  Hirazukuri-Kowakizashi-Sunnobi- Tanto.   Hirazukuri means flat sword without Yokote line and without Shinogi. Ko-Wakizashi means shorter sword. Sunnnobi Tanto means longer Tanto. This is called Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto.  Because the majority of this type of shape was made around Enbun, Jyoji Imperial era.  Each time the Emperor changed, Japan changed the names of the era.  Enbun was from 1356 to 1361, Jyoji was from 1362 to 1368.

20 Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto


Shape (Sugata 姿) ——-Usually approximately 1 foot 1 or 1 foot 2 inches long.  Sakizori (curved at the top.  Look at the illustration above).  Wide width and thin body.  Fukura Kareru (No Fukura). Shin-no-Mune.


20 Fukura20 Shin-no-Mune

Hi, Horimono (Goove and engraving 樋, 彫刻) —– Groove on Mune side.  Bonji (sanscrit, refer 17 Bonji Suken), Koshi-bi (Short goove) and Tokko- tsuki Ken, or Tumetuki Ken (see below). Ken (spear) was curved wide and deep at the upper part, lower part was curved shallow and narrower.  This is called Soshu-bori.

20 Tokko, tume Ken

Hamon (Tempered line) —– Narrow tempered area at the lower part, it gradually grows wider as it goes up higher then it becomes Bodhi design.  Hamon in Kissaki area is Kaeri Fukashi (turn back deep) as illustration below.  Coarse Nie. O-Midare (large irregular pattern).

20 Hitatsura

From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)


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

Nakago (Tang) —- Short Tanago-bara.

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 ) Arima Province ——————————————————Hojoji Kunimitsu (法城寺国光 )


20 Hiromitu (Sano Museum)

19|Nanboku-Cho (North and South dynasty) Period Sword

18 Nanbokucho time line

                           The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

During Nanboku-Cho period, Samurai demanded large, elaborate and practical swords. Soshu Den style — elaborate, large, and impressive  —became the most popular style. Nanboku-Cho period was the height of the Soshu Den.  Many sword smiths moved to Kamakura and forged Soshu Den style swords.  Other schools and provinces also made Soshu Den style swords in their own places.

19 Nanboku-Cho Period Sword shape

Shape (Sugata 姿)—-Originally the length of the swords were 3, 4, 5, feet long, but shortened to approximately two and a half feet in the later time. Shortening a sword greatly is called O-Suriage.  Nanboku-Cho sword has a shallow Kyo-zori (also called Torii-zori) shape (refer 6. Heian period)highest curvature comes around the center of the body.  Wide body, high Shinogi, and narrow Shinogi-Ji (refer 4 Names of parts) and thin body.  High Gyo-no-Mune or Shin-no-Mune, sometimes Maru-Mune (round back).

19 Nanboku-cho 3 kinds Mune

Hi, Horimono (groove and engraving 樋, 彫刻)—– On Shinogi-Ji (refer 4 Names of parts) area, often appears Bo-hi (one groove), double hi, Bonji (Sanscrit), spear, Dragon engraved

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji

Hamon (Tempered line) —– Lower area of the body shows narrow tempered line, higher area of the body shows wider showy tempered line.  Course Nie.  O- Midare (large irregular), Notare-Midare (wavy irregular), Gunome-Midare (repeating pattern of half circular and irregular mix).  Inazuma, Kinsuji (refer 15 Late Kamakura Period sword) action appears


19 Hamon Notare 319 Mamon choji gunome

*From Sano Museum Catalogue ( Permission granted).


Jitetu or Jihada (between tempered line and Shinogi) (4 Names of parts)——Wood grain pattern (Itame 板目). Tobiyaki (patchy tempered spot in jihada) appears.

Boshi, Kissaki —– O-Kissaki (Stretched long Kissaki). Fukura kareru (no Fukura). Midare-Komi (tempered line continues into Boshi), with kaeri fukashi (look at the illustration above),  sometimes Ichimai (tempered entire Boshi).  Look at the above illustration.

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

From Soshu————————————————————Hiromitu (広光) Akihiro (秋広  ) From Yamashiro ————————————————–Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重)  From Bizen (called So-den Bizen)————-Chogi (長儀 )group, Kanemitu (兼光 ) group From Chikuzen —————————————————————Samoji (左文字 ) 19 Chogi photo from Sano book

18|Nanboku(Yoshino) Cho Period —— North and South Dynasty (1333-1393)


18 Nanbokucho time line

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

After Jokyu-no-Ran (11|Jokyu-no-ran ), the power of the Imperial court declined significantly. The Hojo clan who were the main power during the Kamakura period began to have the financial difficulty and started to lose the control over the local lords. One of the reasons was that the cost incurred by the Mongolian invasion. The Kamakura Bakufu (government) could not reward the local lords who worked hard at this war. The local lords became very dissatisfied with the Kamakura Bakufu. Seeing this as a chance, the Emperor Go-Daigo twice attempted to attack Kamakura Bakufu but failed both times and he was exiled to Oki island. Meantime, Ashikaga Takauji (足利尊氏) and several other groups of Samurai who were opposing the Kamakura Bakufu, gathered their power and succeeded in destroying the Kamakura Bakufu (1333). This ends the Kamakura period. The Emperor Go-Daigo, who had been exiled to Oki island returned to Kyoto and attempted established political reforms. This is called Kenmu-no-Chuko (建武の中興).  This new policy failed to satisfy the most of the ruling class.  Taking advantage of this situation, Ashikaga Takauji attacked Imperial court in Kyoto, deposed the Emperor Go-Daigo and placed the other branch of the Royal family on the imperial throne.  But the Emperor Go-Daigo insisted upon his legitimacy, moved to Yoshino (located the South of Kyoto) and established a rival Imperial court.  Thus began the North and the South dynasty.  Much strife between the North and the South and also, both side had their own problems within themselves.  Eventually more Samurai group went under the control of North dynasty.  About 60 years later, Southern dynasty was compelled and accepted the Ashikaga clan’s proposal. Thus, established the North Dynasty as the legitimate imperial court.  This 60 years is the time called Nanboku-Cho or Yoshino-Cho period.  During Nanboku-Cho period, Samurai demanded larger and showy, and practical swords.  Soshu Den was its height of their prominence.  That does not mean only Soshu group made all the swords.  Other schools and other provinces also made Soshu Den style swords.

Early Soshu den time (that is late Kamakura period), Yukimitu (行光), Masamune (正宗) and Sadamune (貞宗) were representative swordsmiths.   Middle Soshu den time (that is North and South dynasty time), Hiromitu (広光), Akihiro (秋広) were representative swordsmiths.  Late Soshu den time (that is Muromachi period), Hiromasa (広正), Masahiro (正広) was the representative swordsmiths.