28|Main 7 Areas Among Shin-To Sword (Part A)

29 Shinto Timeline

                                      The red circle indicates the subject we discuss in this section

There are seven main prosperous areas where a large number of swordsmiths gathered and actively made swords.  Those are Yamashiro (山城) in Kyoto, Settu (摂津) in Osaka, Musashi (武蔵 ) in Edo, Hizen (肥前) in Saga, Satsuma (薩摩) in Kagoshima, Echizen (越前) in Fukui,  and Kaga (加賀) in Kanazawa.  Swordsmiths of these areas have their local characteristics common among themselves.  Knowing each of these characteristics of their area is the easiest way to understand shin-to.  But keep in mind that even in each group, swordsmith has his way of making a sword.  The following descriptions are only in general.

Below is the map of Japan.  Hokkaido is omitted from the map because swords were not made there during the Edo period.

 29 Map with number 7 

  1. Yamashiro (山城) Kyoto

Yamashiro Shin-to sword has a solid and strong look.  Hamon at the bottom part of the blade right above machi (区) area shows suguha (straight hamon), this is called Kyo-yakidashi (京焼出), that means to start with a straight hamon.  Then it shows a sudden change to the design of O-midare (大乱).  O-midare (irregular waviness) changes to less waviness one or two inches below the yokote line, then continues into boshi with a wavy hamon.  The design inside the boshi is Komaru-boshi.   See the illustration below.  Ji-hada is somewhat rough (this depends on the swordsmith).  Masame-hada (straight grain pattern) may show on Shinogi-Ji (the area between ridgeline and back).  Among Yamashiro Shin-to, there was a group called the Mishina Group (三品).  They are Mino Den (美濃) related, therefore, often boshi is Jizo-boshi (地蔵鋩子), this is called Mishina Boshi ( 三品鋩子).  Jizo-boshi is the profile of a human head.

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

28 Mishina-Boshi Komaru-boshi, Kyo-Yakidashi



    Iganokami Kinnmichi (伊賀守金道) previously family owned

2.Settu (摂津) Osaka (大阪)

Settu (Osaka now) created more wakizashi than katana.  They tend to make it slightly sakizori (top half curves outward) and slightly stretched boshi.  Settu sword also has yakidashi the same way as the previous Yamashiro sword, except the area where suguha changes to notare (wavy pattern) are smooth.  This is called Osaka Yakidashi.

 Osaka Boshi ——Hamon continues up to yokote line, then Komaru with a turn back.       Ji-hada————-Very fine, almost a solid like smooth surface especially shinogi-ji (the area between ridgeline and back) is solid like surface.  This is called Osaka-tetsu (iron).

29 Osaka Yakidashi Komaru Boshi

Well-known swordsmiths in Settsu area:   Osaka Tsuda Sukehiro (大阪津田助広)                                                                                 Tsuda Sukenao (津田助直)                                                                                                   Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (一竿子 忠綱)


Awataguch Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (粟田口一竿子忠綱) previously family owned

27|Over view of Shinto (新刀)

27 Shinto time line                                    The circle indicates the subject discussed here

The previous chapter 26 stated that the Edo period is from 1603 to 1868.  This is according to political history.  Also, when you look at the diagram above, the Azuchi Momoyama period overlaps into the Edo Period.  Some people think the Azuchi Momoyama period is from 1575 to 1600.   Around this time, the division of the period has several opinions as regards to political history.   For sword history, it is more clear cut.  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, people could enjoy a peaceful society.  This peaceful time changed the geographic distribution where swords smiths lived.  There are three major areas where sword forging took place.  Those are Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo area.  Then the rest of the 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 commerce.  They made swords and distributed them to the local area.  Swordsmiths in Osaka were like Tsuda Sukehiro ( 津田助広 ), Inoue Shinkai ( 井上真改 ).

Edo—-Many swords smiths gathered to Edo (Tokyo now, 東京) where the Shogun Tokugawa Iyeyasu livedThe well-known swords smiths in Edo at this time:  Nagasone Kotetsu (長曽祢虎徹), Yasutsugu (康継), Noda Hannkei (野田繁慶).

By the time the grandson of Tokugawa Iyeyasu, that is Tokugawa Iyemitsu, became Shogun (around Kanei era, 寛永1624 – 1643), swords smiths spread to the other provinces.  In each big Daimyo territory, swordsmiths had their shop near the castle, and they fulfilled the demand by the daimyo nearby and his followers.  By the Genroku (元禄, 1695) era, swords making technic declined and people demanded picturesque designs of Hamon, like Kikusui (菊水, flower design) and Fujimi (富士見, Mount Fuji).

63 fuji sakura hamon
Fujimi                                   Kikusui

Difference between Koto  and Shinto 

The next part describes the difference between Ko-to and Shin-to.   But keep in mind, there are always exceptions to this rule.

1.  The length of the Shinto Katana is usually about 2 feet and 3 inches ± a little.   Wakizashi is 1 foot and 6 inches ± a little.   Shallow curvature.  Wide width.  Thick body.   Gyo-no-Mune.  Chu-Gissaki with a slightly stretched look.13 Mune drawing

2.  Koto sword feels light.  Shinto feels heavy.

3.  For Shinto, Bo-hi ends around the Yokote line. The Bottom of Hi ends round above Machi.

27. Hisaki & marudome

4. In general, for Shinto, carvings are less common. Yet some swordsmith is famous for its carving.  The design is fine and in detail.  Umetada Myoju (埋忠明寿) is famous for its carvings.

5.  For Shinto, if it is mainly made with Nie, it is coarse Nie

6.  Around the Machi area (the bottom part of the illustration below), Hamon starts out with the straight tempered line, then Midare or different types of Hamon,                      finish with Suguha (straight Hamon) around Boshi (the top part of the illustration below). In general, this type of Hamon is done, but there is always an exception.  27 Keshou Yasuri & suguha

7.  For Shinto, the same kind of iron was used all over in Japan.  Very hard, dark color, and glossy.

8.  The Nakago has a properly balanced shape.  The bottom of Nakago narrows down gradually.  The type of Yasurime (file mark) is Kesho-Yasuri.  Engraved inscriptions show name, location, and province, with the year of an imperial era.

27 Keshou Yasuri & suguha

26| Edo Period History (江戸時代)1603 – 1868

26 Edo period time line
The circle indicates where we are discussing in this chapter.


Between the Sengoku period (戦国時代) and the Edo period (江戸時代), there is a time called the Azuchi Momoyama period (安土桃山) that is from around 1573 to 1614.  See the above timeline on the third line.  This was the time when Oda Nobunaga (織田信長), Toyotomi Hideyoshi(豊臣秀吉) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) played an active part in politic.  After Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) won the battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦い) against Toyotomi’s vassals (Toyotomi Hideyoshi was deceased by this time)Tokugawa Iyeyasu became the shogun (将軍) in 1603.  This is the start of the Edo Period (江戸).

At the end of the Sengoku period and during the Azuchi Momoyama period, the economy improved a lot and a new culture flourished.  The gorgeous and spectacular art objects were created, such as paintings, architecture, interior decoration, and handicraft items.  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.  On my yearly visit to Japan, 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 middle of the extremely busy shopping area.  It is very easily missed unless you look for it.  There is another statue of him outside of the Tokyo station.  The Shogun Tokugawa Iyeyasu hired William Adams and Jan Joosten (Japanese call him Jan Joosten, not his entire name) as his advisers and acquired information on Europe from them.  They were well treated by the Shogun Iyeyasu.  The area where Jan Joosten lived is now called Yaesu (八重洲) after his name, Jan Joosten.  And William Adams changed his name to Miura Anjin and lived in the Miura area that is the south of Tokyo approximately one hour and a half by a train today.  The record of those two people is well kept.  If you are interested, you can find it easily.  Europeans brought many European goods and ideas.  Christianity became popular and widely spread.  But later, Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned it.  After the Meiji Era (1868), there is no religious restriction.

The Edo period begins after Tokugawa Iyeyasu became Shogun (1603), it last until the Meiji (明治) Restoration of 1868.  During the Edo period, Tokugawa Bakufu (Tokugawa government) is the only entity that had 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 which is at Hirato in Nagasaki prefecture (平戸、長崎) was the only place opened for foreigners to do business with Japan and only the Dutch were allowed.  Japan closed the country to the outside world until the Meiji Restoration (1868).

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

Below are fun things to read.  But don’t quote me on 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 emperors’ palace is made of gold and silver.  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 the Chinese people 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.  Yes, Japan mined a large amount of gold.  But it was too late for the Europeans.  By this time, the majority of the gold was mined by the Fujiwara family in the Oushu area (奥州 Northern part of Japan).   This is today’s Aomori, Akita, Fukushima, and Miyagi area.  This is the area where we had the big Tsunami a few years back.  Also, Toyotomi Hideyoshi owned gold mines and already mined as much as he could mine with the skill they had then.  Japan used to have many gold mine here and there all over the country.  We already mined the majority of gold from there.  We still mine in a few places now.

Throughout history, we have several rumors and real facts about “Maizo Kin: 埋蔵金”, that is a buried (or hidden) gold by people like Tokugawa Shogun, Hideyoshi, and wealthy Daimyos and merchants.  Without having the banks vault we have now, burying the gold is the only way of storing.  Several of them were found, even from the center of Tokyo, Ginza area.  Several big ones not found yet: Hideyoshi Maizo Kin, Tokugawa Bakufu Maizo Kin, and a few more big onesWe have several maps on how to find the location, it is a fake of course.  Whenever the ground is dug to build a big building, people start talking about finding maizo Kin.

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.  Today, we still mine gold but not much because of the cost to mine since it needs to go very deep.

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

ヤン ヨーステン Jan Joosten van Lodenstijnhttps://www.weblio.jp

*²  Wikipedia Names of Japan: Check (Click)right to go to the link  Jipangu


26 map of Cipangu1492

Cipangu described on the 1492  Martin Beham glove   From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository (Names of Japan)