24| Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代短刀)

0-timeline - size 24 Sengoku Period                             The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

25 Chukanzori Tanto

Chukan-zori (中間反り) ————— Chukan-zori Tanto has a straight Mune(back).  Its back does not curve either inward or outward.   

Hamon (刃文: Tempered line) ———–Sanbon-sugi (三本杉), O-notare (大湾), Yahazu-midare (矢筈乱), Hako-midare (箱乱), Gunome-choji (互の目丁子), Chu-suguha (中直刃).   See below.

24 Sannbon sugi,hako, yahazu, O-midare)

Horimono (彫り物: Carving) —————Often Hi (grooves) is curved

Tanto Length —————- Standard Tanto length should be no longer than one Shaku*¹ (approx. 12 inches, 30.5cm).  The standard size Tanto is called Jo-sun Tanto, which is 8.5 Shaku (approx. 10 inches, 25.7cm).  Longer than Jo-sun is called Sun-nobi Tanto (寸延)Shorter than Jo-sun is called Sun-zumari Tanto (寸詰).

             Sun-nobi Tanto  >  Jo-sun Tanto (approx. 10 inches) >  Sun-zumari Tanto

*¹ Shaku is a Japanese old measurement unit for length.

Takenoko-zori Jo-sun Tanto (筍反定寸短刀) ———– Takenoko-zori Jo-sun Tanto was made during the Sengoku period.  It resembles the swords made by Rai Kunimitsu of Yamashiro Den.  (Illustration below)

Hamon (刃文: Tempered line)———–Hoso-suguha (細直刃: Narrow straight Hamon).  Katai-ha (illustration below) shows somewhere on the blade.  Masamehada (Straight grain pattern) may appear on the Mune side.

                  13 Middle Kamakura Period Tanto                 24 Suguha katai-ha

Ji-hada (地肌: Area between shinogi and tempered line)————- Some Shirake (白け: a whitish surface) sometimes appears.  Some Utsuri (a light, whitish, cloud-like effect) on Ji-hada appears.

Sun-nobi Tanto (寸延短刀)————–This type of Tanto is similar to the Sakizori Tanto of the late Soshu Den time.  You may see Hitatsura type Hamon.  (Illustration below).  Unlike the Soshu Den style, the Hitatsura shows more on the lower part and less on the upper part of the Tanto.

                                             25 Sun-Nobi Tanto      25 Hitatsura

Hirazukuri Takenokozori Sunzumari Tanto (平造筍反寸詰短刀)                                  

This is a unique Tanto in the Sengoku period.   Hirazukuri means a flat surface sword without Shinogi, Yokote line, or obvious Kissaki.   Takenoko-zori means bamboo shoot shape (back of the sword curves inward).   Sun-zumari means shorter than 10 inches long (shorter than 8.5 Shaku, or 25.7 cm).  The lower part of the blade is wide and thick, and the tip is narrow and thin.  It has a piercing sharp look.

  • Horimono(彫物: Engraving) ——-Deeply carved Ken-maki Ryu (a dragon wrapped around a spear).
  • Hamon (刃文: Tempered line)———Wide tempered line, Nioi base.  Irregular Hamon, wide Suguha (straight), and Chu-suguha (medium straight).  The Hamon in the Boshi area turns back long.
  • Ji-hada (地肌)———–fine and wood burl pattern.

Moroha-Tanto (諸刃短刀: Double-edged sword)

Double-edged sword with a Hamon on both cutting edges.  Often Bonji (Sanscrit) is curved.

  • Hamon (刃文: Tempered line) ——— Wide tempered line.   Nioi base.  Irregular Hamon, wide Suguha (straight tempered line), and Chu-suguha (medium straight  tempered line).  Hamon turns back deeply.
  • Ji-hada (地肌:Area between shinogi and tempered line)——- Fine and wood burl pattern.

25-moroha-tanto1 Moroha Tanto

The Swordsmith for Tanto during the Sengoku Period 

The Bizen swords during the Sengoku period are called Sue-bizenSue is pronounced “su” and “e“ as egg.   Bizen Osafune Yoso Zaemon Sukesada (与三左衛門祐定) is the most regarded swordsmith during the Sengoku period.  He also forged Tantos.  One thing to point out is that there were many swordsmiths called Sukesada.  Yoso-Zaemon Sukesada is, however, the one who represents the era.


23| Sengoku Period Sword (戦国時代刀)

0-timeline - size 24 Sengoku period

The red circle above indicate the time we discuss in this section

After the Onin-no-Ran, Kyoto was in a devastating condition.  Distinguished swordsmiths in the Kyoto area were almost all gone.  Sengoku Daimyo (warlord or feudal lord) needed a large number of swords from nearby.  Mino and Bizen areas were the active sword-making places during the Sengoku time.  It was because the Mino province was located in a convenient location from many feudal lords.  Also, the Shizu Group from Yamato Den (school) moved to Mino province.  Tegai Kaneyoshi from Yamato Den moved to Mino, and many swordsmiths from Yamashiro and Yamato areas moved to Mino.  Thus, Mino could supply the high demand for a large number of swords.  During this wartime, Samurai demanded a very practical sword that wouldn’t bend or break but cut well.  Together with swordsmiths in the Mino area, Bizen Osafune swordsmiths fulfilled the high demand also

Kazu-Uchi-Mono  and  Chumon-Uchi

  • Kazu-uchi-mono was a sword made just good enough for one battle. They were not made for permanent preservation.
  • Chumon-uchi was a custom-made sword.  Good shape, good forging, often engraved the swordsmith’s name and the name of a person who ordered it.
  • 24 Sword shape (Sengoku period )

Characteristics of Mino-Den Swords

Sugata (姿:shape) —– Shallow curvature, low Gyo-no-mune, Chukissaki with Fukura. The width and the thickness are not too wide, not too thick.  Engraving is rare with the  Mino Den swords.  On the  Bizen Den swords, the bottom of the Bo-hi (single groove) shows a round end (see the last photo below) just above the Machi area (for Machi, see the diagram in  Chapter 3 Names of parts).

13 Mune drawing

Hamon (刃文: Tempered line)

Mino Den ——–Mostly Nioi.   Sanbon-sugi (pointed Gunome ), O-notare, Yahazu-midare, Hako-midare (box shape), Chu-suguha with Katai-ha.  See the drawings below.  Also, Mino Koshi-ba appeared.  Mino Koshi-ba: approx. 1-inch Sugu-ha at the bottom, followed by irregular Hamon, then Chu-suguha at the top.

Mino-Den Hamon

24 Sannbon sugi,hako, yahazu, O-midare)24 Suguha katai-ha

   Bizen-Den ———-Mostly Nioi.  Wide tempered line.  Koshi-hiraita-midare.  See the drawings below.

                                             Bizen-Den Hamon

22Hamon (Koshi Hiraita midare)
          from Sano Museum Catalogue

Boshi ((鋩子: Tempered line at kissaki area)—————————–Turn back deep.  Jizo-boshi (side view of a monk’s head), Ko-maru (small round), kaeri-yoru (lean)

24 jizo-boshi Keri-yoru

Ji-hada ( 地肌: Area between shinogi and tempered area)————-Mokume (wood burl) mixed with Masame (straght grain).  often shows Masame in the Shinogi area.  Sometimes, Mokume stands out.

Swordsmiths during Sengoku Period

Mino-Den———Magoroku Kanemoto (孫六兼元) Izuminokami Knesada (和泉守兼定) Bizen-Den ——Yosozaemon Sukesada (興三左衛門祐定) Norimitu (則光) Tadamitu(忠光)

24 Sukesada
Yosozaemon Sukesada ( Sano Museum)         与三左衛門尉祐定(佐野美術館蔵)