34| Background

While I was growing up in Azabu and Mita (near Keio University) in Tokyo, later Kamakura, my father was heavily involved in Japanese Sword Society, called “Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai”.   At that time, the head was Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato.  Originally, Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato’s sword department was a part of the National Museum in Ueno.  Later they built a sword museum in Yoyogi,  Shibuya.  Though the address is Yoyogi in Shibuya, it was almost like it was in Shinjuku.  To get there, take “Odakyu-sen(line)” from Shinjuku ( Sangubashi, the third stop from Shinjuku).  To built this museum, my father,  Mr. Watanabe (owner of Wataki clothing company) and Mr. Suzuki Katei (owner of the construction company) were heavily involved. Those two friends used to come to our house all the time and stayed hours talking and gossiping.  Now, the Museum was moved to Sumida-Ku, near Ryogoku which is near the Sumo Stadium.  Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato used to come to our house in Tokyo.  All those people were deceased many years ago, but they were young then.  I am talking about the 60s to 70s.  I was teens then, so they did not look young to me.  My father was so involved in swords field, people wondered when does he work in his business.

I was told by many people that Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato actually visited the headquarter of General MacArthur during the occupation after the world war II and those two convinced MacArthur that the Japanese swords are not a weapon, it is an art object.  Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato did this because MacArthur ordered all Japanese to turn in the swords and forbid to own one.  I was told that two-person changed MacArthur’s mind.

But by that time, many swords were already turned in at Akabane (the name of the place in Tokyo), though the valuable ones were hidden. Those turned in swords are called Akabane sword.

A huge number of the swords were taken to the US by the soldiers as a souvenir when they went back to the US.   About 30 years later after the war around the 60s and 70s, the Japanese sword dealers came to the US and started to buy back many Japanese swords.  I have a few sword dealer friends who did that.  They advertised that they will buy the Japanese sword in the local newspaper.  As you can imagine, many swords were in bad shape, some had the wrong kinds of chemical put on.  But a few were a good one.

Among those, one of the very famous missing National treasure swords was found by Dr. Compton.  He was a chairman of the Board of Miles laboratory in Elkhart Indiana.  This pharmaceutical company produced many different products.   Among them, one of the well-known items is Alka- Seltzer.  He was a  very wealthy person and he understood the Japanese sword.  My father and I visited his house several times.  When he saw this sword, he realized this one is not a just ordinary sword.  He contacted many sword societies and eventually through the process my father became a good friends.  He returned this sword to the Terukuni Shrine in Kagoshima without compensation.To.  A story about Dr. Compton comes next article.

Token Hakubutsu kan (刀剣博物館)

Non Profit organization : Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyoukai ( 日本美術刀剣保存協会 ) 1-12-9 Yokozuna Sumida-Ku Tokyo Japan    130—0015

Tel: 03-6284-1000                                                                                             https://www.touken.or.jp/

bigger train map

train-map1.jpg

33|References

 

  • “Nihonto no Okite to Tokucho”  written by Honnami Koson.   Issued by Bijutsu Club Tokenbu  
  • 日本刀の掟と特徴 本阿弥光遜著 美術倶楽部刀剣部発行

 

  •  “Sano Bijutsu-kan Zuroku”  written by Sano Bijutsu-kan.  Issued by Sano Bijutsu-kan 
  •  佐野美術館図録 佐野美術館著 佐野美術館発行

 

  •  “The art of the Japanese Sword” written by Yoshindo Yoshihara , Leon & Hiroko Kapp.  Issued by Paolo Saviolo  
  • 日本刀美術 吉原義人,リーオン ひろ子 キャップ著  パオロ  サビオロ 発行

 

  •  “Shousetu Nihonshi” written by Keigo Mochizuki & Kunihiko Fujiki.  Issued by Yamakawa shuppan (High school text book by the Ministry of Education)
  • 詳説日本史 望月圭吾, 藤木邦彦著 山川出版発行    文部省検定済教科書

 

  •  “Token no Mikata” written by Yuichi Hiroi.   Issued by Daiichi Hoki Shuppan Kabushiki Kais
  • 刀剣のみかた 広井雄一著 第一法規出版株式会社発行

 

  •  ‘The sword of Japan” written by Joseph W.Bot.  Issued by ID 13996126 www.lulu.com
  • 日本の刀 ジョ‐ゼフ ボット著

 

  •  “New Explanatory Diagrma of World History” written by Hamashima Book Editorial department.   Issued by Hamashima book   
  • 新詳世界史図録 浜島書店編集部著 株式会社浜島書店

 

  • “New Nihonto Koza”  written by Dr. Junji Honma & Dr. Kanichi Sato.  Issued by Yuzankaku shuppan Kabushiki kaisha
  • 新版日本刀講座 本間順次,佐藤貫一著 雄山閣出版株式会社発行

 

  • “Nihonto Zenshu”  written by Dr. Junji Honma & Dr. Kanichi Sato.  Issued by Tokuma Shoten 
  • 日本刀全集 本間順次、佐藤貫一著 徳間書店発行

 

 

 

 

 

 

32|The Process of Making a Sword

As a part of the sword study, it is necessary to know the construction process of sword making.  But it is a very involved process and each swordsmith has his own secrets, this chapter only explains the very basic procedure.  Anybody interested more detailed explanation, please refer to the book written by a famous swordsmith, Mr. Yoshihara Yoshindo and DVD  as below.  You should be able to buy this book and DVD from Amazon.  If not, contact me.  I can order from the author directly.

The art of the Japanese Sword ————-The Craft of Swordmaking and its Appreciation by Yoshihara Yoshindo, Leon and Hiroko Capp, published by Saviolo Edizioni.

DVD:  Katana / On Ko So Shin —–Katana Project  by Yoshihara Yoshikazu(吉原義一)

Tamahagane (玉鋼  )

In old early sword making time, swordsmiths himself created the steel for sword material by collecting the iron sand and refined himself.  By the Kamakura period, steel making was done by a separate entity.  Swordsmiths buy steel called “Tamahabane” from a steelmaker.  “Tamahagane” is the most important part of the sword making.  “Tamahagane” is the steel made with the Tatara process, that is a unique Japanese smelter.

Kawa-gane(側金) and Shin-gane(芯金 )

The Japanese sword is made from two types of different hardness steel.  Kawa-gane is for outer steel.  Shin-gane for inner steel.  Kawa-gane is harder steel which contains about 0.6% carbon contents.  Shin-gane is a softer steel which contains about 0.25% carbon contents.  Japanese swords are made with the harder steel outside and  softer steel inside therefore,  does not bend, does not break.

Kawagane (outer steel側金) —– Shita Gitae (Base forging 下鍛)

Heat up a piece of Tamahagane —– Hit with a hammer and make a flat piece—– While Tamahagane is still hot, quench in water quickly —– Break into small pieces —– Separately, forge a rectangle plate from Tamahagane —– Connect this plate with a handle (or a lever called Teko) —– Stack up the previously broken metal pieces on a Teko (handle or lever) carefully and closely.

32 Pile up drawing

—– Cover the stacked up Tamahagane with ashes and clay for protection purpose —– Heat this up in the furnace —– Take it out from the furnace, hit with a hammer —– Repeat this process many times to stretch out Tamahgane about twice as long —— While Tamahagane is still hot, make a notch in the center and fold back into half —– Continue the same process of heat up, hammer to stretch out, fold back (half in sideways and half in length wise alternatively approximately 6 or 7 times depends on the original carbon contents  in Tamagahane).  This process reduces the carbon contents to the desired level.

 

32 folding drawing

 

Kawagane (outer steel側金) —–Age Kitae (Finish forging上鍛 )

After Shita Gitae, the block of Tamahagane is chiseled to divide into two or three sections —– quench in water —– Cool down —– break into pieces where marked before —– repeat heating, folding, hammering  6 or 7 times, depends on the original carbon contents in Tamagahane.  This process is for Kawagane ( 側鉄 )

Purpose of heating hammering and folding

  • Each time the heating and folding process is done, Tamahagane loses carbon contents. For outer steel, ideal carbon contents should be approximately 0.6%. If the carbon contents are higher, steel is hard and as a result, the sword can crack.   If it is too low, the sword will be too soft and can bend. A swordsmith judge by his eye to determine the right amount of carbon contents. This is the professionalism and the art of the swordsmith.
  • Removing the slag and impurity from Tamahagane.
  • Each heating and folding processes create many layers of thin steel that create the Jigane pattern (surface patterns like wood grain, burl look, straight look or mixture of those)

Shingane (inner steel 芯金 )

Shin-gane is the inner metal.  By having the softer inside, the sword has flexibility.  Having hard outer steel, it prevents to crack or break.  To make the Shin-gane steel, mix softer steel with Tamahagane.  Repeat the same process as Kawa-gane.

Sunobe (素延 )

Sunobe is the process to wrap the Shin-gane with the Kawa-gane then weld two pieces together by heating, hammering and stretch out to make a steel bar like.  There are several ways to wrap the Shin-gane, but the most common way is called Kobuse (甲伏). Illustration below.

32 Kobuse drawing

 

Hizukuri (火造 )

Hizukuri is to make the final shape from Sunobe by heating and hammering.  At this point, Ha (cutting edge ) gets thinner, Shinogi side gets higher, and starts to form the shape of a sword.

Arashiage (荒仕上げ  )

This process is rough finishing.

Tuchitori (土取)

Mix clay, pine tree ash, ground stone and water. Paint this muddy mixture on the sword.  Around Hamon area, remove a thin layer of the muddy mixture a little, then dry out.  By doing Tuchitori process, Hamon appears and cutting-edge hardens at the same time.

Yaki-Ire (焼入れ)

After the muddy paste is dried, heat up the sword evenly in the furnace.  Judging by the color of the heated sword, pull out the sword from the furnace then quench into the water.  Usually, this process is done after the sun goes down so that the swordsmith can see the color of the metal and can judge the temperature of the heated sword better.  This is the most important process since all the work done up to this point may be ruined if he fails to judge the precise color of the heated sword,  water temperature  and the timing of quenching.