23| Sengoku Period History (戦国時代)

 

23 Sengoku period Time Line red

The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

 

Please look at the two red circles on the timeline above.  According to the political history, Sengoku period (戦国時代) is a part of the Muromachi (室町) period, that is on the third line.   But under the sword history, we separate the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period (Warring States period), that is on the second line.  On the sword history, we divide the time this way because in those two periods, the sword style changed and the environment of sword making also changed.

After Onin-no-Ran (応仁の乱) had started (discussed in 21|Muromachi Period), the beautiful capital city, Kyoto (京都 ) was in a devastating condition.  Shogun’s (将軍) power only reached to the very limited small area.  The rest of the country was divided into 30 or so small independent regions.  The head of those independent regions was called a Shugo Daimyo (守護大名).  They are government officials, originally appointed and sent by the central government.  Also, powerful local samurais became a head of the independent regions.  Each of those regions fought against each other to take over each other’s land.  During the Sengoku period, vassals killed his superiors 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 Warring States period called the Sengoku period.  The head of the region was called Sengoku Daimyo (戦国大名: warlord).  The Sengoku period lasts about 100 years.  Little by little, after long hard battles, more powerful regions defeated less powerful regions and gained more territory.  30 individual regions became 20 then 10 and so on.  Eventually, a few powerful big Sengoku Daimyo (warlord) were left.  Each of those heads of the larger regions tried to fight his way up to Kyoto to 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 powerful clans were left, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu.  Both knew that their opponents are smart and able daimyo, any wrong move on your part would be a fatal mistake.  So, they decided to keep the co-existed condition amicably on the surface for a while.  Though Toyotomi Hideyoshi tried Tokugawa Ieyasu to be his vassal, 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 eventually. After Hideyoshi’s death, Tokugawa Ieyasu fought with the vassals who used to be under Hideyoshi and won at the Battle of the Sekigahara (関ヶ原) in 1600.  Then 1615 Tokugawa won against Hideyoshi’s son, Hideyori’s army.  After this, the Toyotomi clan ended completely, then 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.

*The Sengoku period is often depicted on TV programs 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 the success story of Toyotomi Hideyoshi is one of the most popular ones.  His background was a poor farmer who became the top ruler 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

The Muromachi period was a rather peaceful and prosperous time until a little before “Onin-no Ran”, which was the later part of the Muromachi Period, (Refer Chapter 21 Muromachi Period History).  Nanboku-Cho style long sword became useless, as a result, they were shortened.  The shortened sword 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 or beginning of the Muromachi period, the sword was suspended from one’s waist, the blade side down.  When a sword was worn this way, swordsmith’s inscription faces outsite.  That means when you see the inscription, the cutting side comes right.  This is called Tachi.  Yet, around

the Muromachi period, swords were worn between one’s belt, the blade up.   The inscription of the swordsmiths faces outside when it is worn.  That means when you see the inscription, the cutting edge comes your left.  This is called the Katana.  Around the beginning of the Muromachi period samurai started to wear 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.

                                            TachiKatana  >  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 large length, 大磨上げ)

How long a sword should be shortened is depends on the original length of the sword and how long an owner want it shortened.  O-suriage is when a sword is shortened a great length.  Once a sword is shortened, the inscription is cut off.  When a suriage sword was appraised by the Hon’ami family (本阿弥家:Connoisseur family continued since mid Edo period till almost recent day), if he  appraised it as a valuable one,  he writes the make of the sword and sword smith’s name on the front side of the hilt and writes the connoisseur’s name and his Kaou (similar to signature) on the back of the hilt.  There are several ranks.  Which rank it should be done is depending on the quality of the sword and how an owner wants it.  Below are the ranks (lower to highest).

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

Sugata (姿 shape)———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 (刃文: tempered line) ———————- 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.

Ji-hada (地肌) 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)

21 murimachi -timeline
            The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

Ashikaga Takauji(足利尊氏) and several other main leaders ended Nanboku-Cho period  and started Muromachi period  (discussed in 18|Nanboku Cho Time History (North and South Dynasty History) 1333-1393

AshikagaTakauji’s grandson, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (often called Shogun Yoshimitsu 義満) built a new beautiful Palace at Muromachi (室町) area 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)* in Kyoto as his second house.

 

Kinkaku-Ji Temple (金閣寺) Golden Pavillion—————-Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満) built Kinkaku-Ji in 1397.   Later it became Rinzai-Shu (臨済宗) school Buddhistic temple, but it was originally built as a second house for Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and used as a state guesthouse.  Today it is designated as a world heritage site.  This temple was burnt down by an arsonist in 1950, 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.  A shogun (将軍) held all the political power.  Little by little, several groups of samurai who were officially appointed as a 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.  At the beginning of the Muromachi period, the economy flourished and it was a peaceful time.   Yet by the time Ashikaga Yoshimasa (義政 8th Ashikaga Shogun) became the shogun, the Ashikaga Bakufu was corrupted very badly.  Shogun Yoshimasa did not pay much 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 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, and the war broke.  This is called Onin -no-Ran (応仁の乱) in 1467 and spread all over the country 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 the Onin-no-Ran, 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.  Onin-no-Ran caused the next period called the Sengoku period (戦国時代 ), that is the Warring States period.  During the Sengoku period, Japan was divided into 30 or so small independent countries and fought each other until Japan was united by Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Iyeyasu.  See above timeline.

 

57 Kinkakuji trip 2019

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