23| Sengoku Period History (戦国時代)

23 time line Sengoku Period

The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

According to the political history, Sengoku Period (戦国時代)  is a part of the Muromachi (室町) period.  But under sword history, we separate the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period (Warring States period).  This is due to the sword style changed a little in those two times and the environment of sword making also changed in those two periods.

After Onin-no-Ran (応仁の乱) has started (discussed in 21|Muromachi Period), the beautiful capital city, Kyoto (京都 ) was in a devastating condition.  The Shogun’s (将軍) power only reached the very limited small area.  The rest of the counties were divided into 30 or so small independent countries.  The head of those independent countries was called Shugo Daimyo (守護大名).  They are government officials, originally appointed and sent by the central government.  Also, powerful local Samurai became the head of the independent countries.  Each of those countries fought against each other to take over each other’s land.  During the Sengoku period, vassals killed his superior and stole his domain, farmers revolted against their lords.  This is called “Gekoku-jo (lower class Samurai overthrow the superior)”. This is the time of the Sengoku period (Warring States period).  The head of the domain was called Sengoku Daimyo (戦国大名 warlord).  Sengoku period lasts about 100 years.  Little by little, after long hard battles, stronger countries defeated less powerful countries and gained more territory.  30 countries became 20 then 10 and so on.  Eventually, a few powerful big Sengoku Daimyo (warlord) were left.  Each of those heads of the larger countries tried to fight his way up to Kyoto and unite the country.  The first person who almost succeeded was Oda Nobunaga (織田信長).  But he was killed by his own vassal, Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀), and Akechi was killed by his colleague, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉).  After Toyotomi Hideyoshi defeated Akechi Mitsuhide and a few more major warlords, Toyotomi Hideyoshi almost completed uniting Japan.  But one more person was left.  That is Tokugawa Iyeyasu (徳川家康).  Now, two big power clans were left.  One is Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the other is Tokugawa Ieyasu.  Both knew that their opponents are smart and powerful Daimyo, any wrong move on your part would be a fatal mistake.  So they stayed co-existed amicably on the surface for a while, though Toyotomi Hideyoshi tried Tokugawa Ieyasu made his vassal, yet Tokugawa Ieyasu somehow maneuvered well to avoid that.  In the mind of  Tokugawa Iyeyasu, since he was younger than Toyotomi Hideyoshi, he knew that he could just wait until Hideyoshi‘s natural death.  And that happened.  After Hideyoshi’s death, Tokugawa Ieyasu fought with the vassals who used to be under Hideyoshi and won at the war of Sekigahara (関ヶ原) in 1600.  Then 1615 Tokugawa won against Hideyoshi’s son, Hideyori’s army.  After this, the Toyotomi clan ended completely, the Edo (江戸) period started.  Edo period is called the Edo period because Tokugawa Ieyasu lived in Edo, which is Tokyo (東京) now.

*Sengoku period is often depicted on TVs and movies.  People who lived through the Sengoku period had a very hard time but it is the most interesting time for TV shows and movies.  Stories of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu are the most favorite stories in Japan.  Especially Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s story is one of the most popular ones.  His background was a poor farmer and he became the top of Japan.  This is one fascinating success story.

23 Toyotomi_hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi by Mitsunobu Kanou, owned by Kodaiji-Temple  from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

 

22|Muromachi Period Sword

21 Muromachi period Timeline

The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

Long strife between the North and South Dynasty ended.  Even though the government was corrupted at the latter part of the Muromachi Period, at least until the “Onin-no-Ran”, (discussed in 21 Muromachi period history).   Muromachi period was a rather peaceful time.  Nanboku-Cho style long sword became useless, as a result, they were shortened.  This is called Suriage.  In general, the Muromachi period was a declining time for sword making.

Tachi and Katana

Until the end of the Nanboku-Cho period, the sword was suspended from the waist, cutting side faces down.  Swordsmiths inscribed their names facing out when it was worn.  That means when you see the inscription, the cutting side comes right.  This is called Tachi.  Around the Muromachi period, swords were worn inside one’s belt, the cutting side up, and the inscription of the name faces out when it is worn.  That means when you see the inscription, the cutting side comes left.  This is called the Katana.  Samurai usually wore one pair of swords together called Dai-Sho(大小), which means large and small.  A longer one is called Katana and the shorter one is called Wakizashi.  In general, Tachi is longer and Katana is shorter, Wakizashi is even shorter but longer than Tanto.  Here is the order of the length.  Tachi  >  Katana  >  Wakizashi  >  Tanto          The difference between Tachi and Katana comes from the way it was worn, not the length.

22 tachi & Katana

 

O-Suriage ( shortened a lot, 大磨上げ)

When the shortened sword (suriage) was appraised as a valuable one, the Hon’ami family (Connoisseur family continued many generations) judged the make of the sword and wrote sword smith’s name on the front side of the hilt and signed the connoisseur’s name on the back of the hilt.  When the sword was shortened a lot, it is called O-Suriage.

Shu-Mei (朱明 )———————————————————–name written in Vermilion  Kinpun-Mei (金粉名 )———————————————-name lacquered in gold powder  Gin-Zougan (銀象嵌 )————————————————————-name inlaid in silver  Kin-Zougan (金象嵌 )—————————————————————name inlaid in gold

Shape (Sugata 姿)———Usually approximately 2 feet and 3, 4 inches (71cm) long. The shape of the Muromachi period Katana is somewhat like the Heian period Tachi style.  But Muromachi Katana is not as grand, not as graceful as Heian period sword.  They are Koshizori.  Koshizori shape means the highest curvature comes lower than the center of the blade.  Suitable length and shape for wearing inside the belt. The width and the thickness of the sword are well balanced with the length.  Small Kissaki.

22 Muromachi sword shape

Hirazukuri-Wakizashi———–Hirazukuri means a flat surface with no Shinogi and no Yokote line.  Usually One foot and 1, 2 inches long.  No curvature.  Hirazukuri-Wakizashi appeared During Muromachi time.

Hamon (tempered line 刃文) ———————- Nioi base. Tempered area is well balanced to the width of the blade.  Koshi-hiraita-midare mixed with Choji midare.

22Hamon (Koshi Hiraita midare)
from Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

Boshi ————– Midare-komi, short turn back.  See the above illustration.  Midare is an irregular wave-like pattern.

Jitetsu (地鉄) An area between the tempered line and Shinogi————Soft look, large wood grain pattern, Jiutsuri (faint smoke or cloud-like effect) shows.

Horimono (carvings 彫物) ———- Bo-hi (single groove), Soe hi ( accompanied thin groove), Futasuji hi (double narrow groove), Sanscrit, Tokko- Tsuki –ken, Tsume-Tsuki-Ken, Names of God, Dragon.  Carvings became elaborate.

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji20 Tokko, tume Ken

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sword Smiths during Muromachi Period

Bizen Den ———-Osafune Morimitsu (長船盛光), Yasumitsu (康光), Moromitsu (師光)      Yamashiro Den———————————————–Yamashiro Nobukuni (山城信国)

 

22 Muromachi sword from Sano
From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)Bizen Osafune Naomitsu (備前長船尚光)
img057
Ise Masashige (伊勢正重) Once Family-owned   Classified as Juyo Token(重要刀剣)

21|Muromachi Period History (室町時代)

18 Nanbokucho time line                      The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

 

Ashikaga Takauji(足利尊氏) was one of the main people those who ended Kamakura Bakufu and started Nanboku-Cho period  (North and South dynasty, discussed in 18|Nanboku Cho Time History (North and South Dynasty History) 1333-1393

His grandson, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (often called Shogun Yoshimitsu 義満) built a new beautiful Palace at Muromachi (室町) in Kyoto.  The palace became the center of the government called Muromachi Bakufu (室町幕府),   This is the beginning of the Muromachi period.  Ashikaga Yoshimitsu built the famous “Kinkaku-Ji Temple” (golden pavilion)*.

Kinkaku-Ji Temple (金閣寺) Golden Pavillion—————-Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満) built Kinkaku-Ji in 1397.   Later became Rinzai-Shu (臨済宗) school Buddhistic temple, but it was originally built as his second house.  Today it is designated as a world heritage site.  This temple was burnt down by the arsonist in 1950 and rebuilt in 1955.  The novelist Mishima Yukio wrote the novel  “Kinkaku-Ji”  related to the Golden Pavillion and an arsonist.  The famous quote in his book, “ The golden bird (Hou-ou in Japanese, it is a Chinese version phoenix) on the roof of the Kinkaku-Ji temple is stationary but fly through the space of the time eternally”

In the Muromachi period, the emperor’s power became weaker, shogun (将軍) held all the political power.  Little by little, several groups of samurai who were called Shugo Daimyo (守護大名) started to gain the political power and economic power by holding the important offices in the Muromachi Bakufu (government).  They also owned a large land.  Some of the names of  Shugo Daimyo were the Hosokawa family and the Yamana family.

Ashikaga family made a great effort to make the Muromachi Bakufu a sound political power through the political maneuver.  Yet by the time Ashikaga Yoshimasa (義政 8th Ashikaga Shogun) became the Shogun, the Bakufu was corrupted very badly.  Shogun Yoshimasa did not pay attention to his job as a politician.  Instead, he was chasing women (his mother had to scold him for that), spend a huge amount of money to build a Silver Pavilion called “Ginkaku-Ji” and retreated himself in there.  Shogun Yoshimasa did not have an heir.  Therefore his brother, Yoshimi was decided to be the next Shogun.  But later, Yoshimasa’s wife Hino Tomiko (日野富子)* had a son, Yoshihisa (義尚).  Now, brother Yoshimi (義視) allied with the Hosokawa family (細川) who was a high official in Muromachi Bakufu,  and Yoshihisa (the son) allied with the Yamana (山名) family who was another high official in Muromachi Bakufu and several other smaller groups of Samurai allied with either side, started a big battle.  This is called Onin -no-Ran (応仁の乱) in 1467 and spread all over and continued for 11years.

Hino Tomiko (日野富子)*——————The wife of Shogun Yoshimasa.  She took advantage of her political privileges to raise a large amount of money by doing things like investing in the rice commodity market to raise the price of rice and sold with a high profit.  Then she loans the money to the high officials with high interest.  The corruption reached an uncontrollable level.

As a result of this battle, beautiful Kyoto was burnt down to ashes.  The authority of Muromachi Bakufu was reduced only to the vicinity of the small surrounding area of Kyoto.

 

57 Kinkakuji trip 2019

 The photo was taken in May 2019, a family trip to Kyoto