28|Main Seven areas among Shinto Sword (Part 1)

27 Shinto time line
The circle indicate the subject of this chapter

There are seven prosperous areas where a large number of swordsmiths were living and actively making swords.  Top three are Yamashiro (山城) at Kyoto, Settu ( 摂津 ) at Osaka, Musashi (武蔵  ) at Edo, Hizen (肥前 ) at Saga, Satuma (薩摩 ) at Kagoshima, Echizen ( 越前 ) at Fukui, and Kaga ( 加賀 ) at Kanazawa.  Each of these swordsmiths has its own local characteristics common among themselves.  To know each of that characteristic of this area is the easiest way to understand Shinto. But keep in mind that each swordsmith has his own way of making the sword.  The following descriptions are only general guidelines.

Below is the map of Japan.  Since Hokkaido was a provincial area and swords were not made there during Edo period, omitted from this map.

28 map with number1.  Yamashiro (山城 ) Kyoto

Yamashiro Shinto sword has a solid and strong look.  Hamon at the bottom part of the blade above Machi ( 区) area shows Suguha (straight hamon), this is called Kyo-Yakidashi (京焼出), that means to start out with straight Hamon.  Then abruptly changes to the design of O-Midare (大乱).  O-Midare changes to quiet look below Yokote line about 1 or 2 inches, then continues into Boshi with a wavy Hamon.  Boshi design is Komaru-Boshi.  Ji-hada is somewhat rough (this depends on the swordsmith).  Masame-hada (straight grain pattern) may show on Shinogi-Ji (the area between back and ridgeline).  Among Yamashiro Shinto, there was a group called Mishina ( 三品) group.  They are Mino (美濃 ) related, therefore, Boshi often is Jizo boshi (地蔵鋩子), this is called Mishina Boshi ( 三品鋩子).  Therefore, Boshi often is Jizo boshi (地蔵鋩子), this is called Mishina Boshi.

28 Kyo-Yakidashi, kyo, Mishina-Boshi

Well known swordsmiths in Yamashiro area are Umetada Myoju (梅忠明寿), Horikawa Kunihiro (堀川国広  ), Dewadaijyo Kunimichi ( 出羽大掾国路 )


Iganokami Kinnmichi (伊賀守金道) Previousely Family owned

continue to part two next chapter.



27|Shinto (新刀)

27 Shinto time line

The circle indicates the subject discussed here

The last chapter 26, stated that the Edo period is from 1603 to 1868.  This is according to the political history.  Also, when you look at the diagram above, Azuchi Momoyama period overlaps into Edo Period.  Some people think Azuchi Momoyama period is from 1575 to 1600.   Around this time, the division of the period has several opinions.  Sword made from around 1596 (Keicho Era, 慶長) to 1781 (Tennmei Era, 天明) is called Shinto.  The sword made after that until the Meiji period is called Shin-Shinto. 

After Toyotomi Hideyoshi almost united the country, the country could enjoy somewhat of a peaceful society.  This peaceful time changed the geographic distribution where swords smiths lived.  There are three major area where sword making took place.  Those are Kyoto, Osaka and Edo area.  Then the rest of swordsmiths were gathered around each big Daimyo’s (大名 feudal lord ) territory near their castles.

KyotoUmetada Myoju (梅忠明寿) group thrived.  Followed by people like, Horikawa Kunihiro (堀川国広 ), Kunimichi (国路 ), Kunisada (国貞), and Kunisuke (国助).

Osaka— Osaka became a commercial city and became the center of the commerce.  They made swords and distributed to the local area.  They produced swords like Tsuda Sukehiro ( 津田助広 ), Inoue Shinkai ( 井上真改 ).

Edo—-Tokugawa Iyeyasu is the shogun, many swords smiths gathered to Edo (Tokyo now, 東京).  Well know swords smiths are; Nagasone Kotetsu (長曽祢虎徹), Yasutsugu (康継), Noda Hannkei (野田繁慶).

By the time the grandson of Tokugawa Iyeyasu became Shogun (Tokygawa Iyemisu, around Kannei era 寛永1624 – 1643), swords smith’s geographical distribution spread to the other provinces.  In each big Daimyo territory, swordsmiths had their shop near their castle, and they fulfilled each Daimyo‘s demand.  By the Genroku (元禄, 1695) era, swords making technic declined and people demanded picturesque designs like Kikusui (菊水, flower design) and Fujimi (富士見, Mount Fuji).

Difference between Koto (before 1596) and Shinto (after 1596)  

Next part is about the difference between Koto and Shinto.   But keep in mind, there is always exceptions to this rule.

  1. The length of Shinto Katana is usually about 2 feet and 3 inches ±.   Wakizashi is 1 foot and 6 inches ±.   Shallow curvature.  Wide width.  Thick body.   Gyo-no-Mune. Chu-gissaki with a little bit stretched look.13 Mune drawing
  2. Koto sword feels light. Shinto feels heavy.
  3. Bo-hi ends around Yokote line. The Bottom of Hi ends round above Machi.27. Hisaki & marudome
  4. In general, carvings are less common. Yet some swordsmith is famous for its carving.  The design is fine and in detail.
  5. If it is mainly made with Nie, coarse Nie.
  6. Around Machi area (the bottom part of the illustration below), starts out with the straight tempered line, then Midare or different types of Hamon, then finish with Suguha (straight Hamon)  around Boshi (the top part of the illustration below). This type of Hamon is done in general, there is always an exception.  27 Keshou Yasuri & suguha
  7. All the area in Japan, sword material (iron) is the same kind.  Very hard, dark color, and glossy.
  8. The Nakago has a properly balanced shape.  The tip of Nakago it gradually  narrows  down.  The type of the Yasurime (file mark) is Kesho-Yasuri.  Engraved inscriptions shows name, area, and province, with an imperial era.27 Keshou Yasuri & suguha

26| Edo Period History (1603 – 1867)

26 Edo period time lineThe circle indicate where we are discussing in this chapter.


Precisely speaking, after Sengoku Period (戦国時代) and before Edo Period (江戸時代) there was a time called Azuchi Momoyama Period (安土桃山) that is from around 1575 to 1614.  This was the time when Oda Nobunaga (織田信長), Toyotomi Hideyoshi(豊臣秀吉) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) lived.  After Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) won a war of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦い) against Toyotomi’s vassals (Toyotomi Hideyoshi was deceased by this time), Tokugawa Iyeyasu became a Shogun(将軍  ) in 1603.  This is the start of the Edo Period (江戸  ).

At the end of the Sengoku Period and during Azuchi Momoyama Period the economy improved a lot and a new culture flourished.  They created gorgeous and spectacular art objects, paintings, buildings, and interior decorations.  Tea ceremony started by Sen-no-Rikyu (千の利休 )、also, Kabuki started around his time.  This is somewhat similar to the European Renaissance——-strange enough this new art emergence happened at the same time in Japan and Europe.  Around this time, many Europeans came to Japan.  This was the time of the Exploration to the East by Europeans.  They were from England, Spain, Holland and Portugal.  The novel “Shogun” by James Clavell was staged around this time.  This novel is based on the real person, William Adams, and Jan Joosten Van Londersteyn*¹.   You can see Jan Joosten’s statue in Tokyo station today.  When I visit Japan every year, I stay at the hotel near Tokyo station,  I often pass in front of Yan Yoosten’s statue.   It is located inside the Tokyo station, underground in the midst of the extremely busy shops.  It is very easily missed unless you look for it.  There is another  his statue side of the Tokyo station.  Tokugawa Iyeyasu, the Shogun hired William Adams and Jan Joosten (Japanese call him Jan Joosten, not his entire name) as his advisers and received information on Europe from them.  The Shogun treated them nicely.  The area where Jan Joosten lived is now called Yaesu (八重洲 ) after Jan Joosten.  And William Adams changed his name to Miura Anjin and lived in Miura area.  The record of those two people is well kept.  If you are interested in you can find it easily.  Europeans brought many European goods and ideas.  Christianity became popular and widely spread.  It was accepted but later Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned it.  In Japan today, there is no religious restriction.

The Edo Period is after Tokugawa Iyeyasu became Shogun (1603) until the Meiji Restoration or the Meiji (明治) of 1868.  During the Edo Period, Tokugawa Bakufu (Tokugawa government) is the only entity who had the political power.  The Emperors existed but the political power was shifted to the Tokugawa Bakufu.   Gradually, ports for the European ships were limited, eventually, Spaniards were not allowed to come to Japan, then Portuguese were not allowed.  Japanese were forbidden to travel abroad.  By around 1640, the place called Dejima whichi is Hirato in Nagasaki prefecture (平戸、長崎  ) was the only place opened for a foreigner to do business with Japan and only Dutches were allowed.  Japan closed the country to the outside world until Meiji Restoration (1868).

During the Azuchi Momoyama period and very early part of Edo period, many  European ships visited Japan and many of their ships were ship wrecked near the shore around Japan.  One of the reason is that Japan is a volcanic island.  Even if the surface of the sea does not show anything sticking up from the bottom, there are lots of obstacles underneath such as mountains, huge hidden reefs.  The European did not have the waterway information that is common to the Japanese seaman.

Here is fun things to read for readers.  But don’t quote me the information below here.

The second reason why many ships were wrecked was that those ships were looking for gold.  When Marco Polo went to China, he heard from Chinese people that there is a small island further East.  This country is very wealthy and the Emperor’s palace is made of gold.  Yes, Japan mined a large amount of gold.  After Marco Polo went back to Italy, he wrote a book (late 1300) about his journey and published it.  In his book, he mentioned what he heard from Chinese about Japan.  Marco Polo never visited Japan himself.  This book was widely read in many countries in Europe.  When traveling to the East became possible for Europeans, they came to Japan to look for gold.  But it was too late.  By this time, the majority of the gold was mined by Fujiwara family in Oushu ( 奥州 Northern part of Japan) area that is today’s Aomori, Akita, Fukushima, and Miyagi area that is the place big Tsunami happened a few years back.  And Toyotomi Hideyoshi owned gold mines and mined as much as human can mine then.  I checked into many websites and they stated that 1/3 of today’s world gold supply came from Japan that was mined in the past.   Don’t quote me on that.  Gold flowed out to outside Japan little by little over the centuries because the exchange rate between gold and silver was much cheaper in Japan compare to the rest of the world.  Now we don’t mine gold nor don’t own much gold.

It is said that the country name Japan comes from Marco Polo’s book.  He called our country “Jipangu”in his book, that means gold country.*² “Jipangu” eventually became “Japan”.  Japanese don’t call ourselves Japan.  “Nihon or Nippon”(日本 ) is our country name.

*¹ Weblio dictionary