36| Part 2 — 3 Names of the Parts

This chapter is a continued part of Chapter 3, Names of the Parts.                                      Please read  Chapter 3 |Names of Parts, before reading this section.

This chapter is about how to find the Koshi-zori or Chukani-zoriChukan-zori is also called Torii-zori or Kyo-zori.  Chukan-zori means the most curved part of the sword body comes around the middle, and for Koshi-zori, the most curved part comes lower than the center of the blade, approximately 1/3 of the lower body.   Every sword looks to have its curvature around the middle part, especially when you look at photos of a sword in books.  It is because those swords are placed to fit nicely in a given rectangle photo space. 

The correct way to look for the curvature is to stand the Nakago (茎) vertically.  In this way, you can see the location of the curvature more precisely.  If the Nakago is not vertical, the curvature looks to be in every sword’s middle area.  When you look at a sword, the first thing to do is to hold a sword and make sure that the Nakago stands vertically.  When you look at a sword in a book, rotate (shift or slide) the book slightly so that the Nakago is perpendicular.  You can see the precise location of the curvature in this way.  Keep in mind; sometimes it is subtle.

36 part 2 of -- 3 Sori (2)

35|Part 2 of — 2 Joko-To (上古刀)

Chapter 35 is a continued  part of chapter 2 | Joko-to (上古刀).  Please read chapter 2 before this section. 

0-timeline - size 24 Yamato
                             The red circle indicates the time we discuss this section.

The Kofun (古墳) culture appeared around the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries.  Kofuns are massive burial places for powerful rulers.  Kofuns are often Zenpo-koen-fun (前方後円墳) which is, the front part is a square and the back is round.  If you look at it from the sky, it shapes like a keyhole.  The largest Kofun is the Nintoku Tenno Ryo (仁徳天皇陵) in Osaka.  This is the tomb of Emperor Nintoku.  The size is 480 m X 305 m, and the height is 35 m. Inside the Kofun, we found swords, armors, bronze mirrors, jewelry, iron, and metal tools.  Sometimes, iron itself was found.  Only the ruling class possessed the iron since it was considered a very precious item then.  Outskirts of the Kofun, a large number of Haniwa*¹ were placed.  There are several theories for the purpose of Haniwa.  One is as a retaining wall, and another is as a dividing line between the sacred area and the common area.  And there are several more theories. 

Originally, Haniwa were just simple tube shape.  Eventually, they became interesting clay figurines such as smiling people, smiling soldiers, dogs with a bell around the neck, women with a hat, farmers, houses, monkeys, ships, birds, etc.  Some of them were very elaborately made and very cute.  From the looks of them, people in those days seem to have been wearing elaborate clothes.  The Haniwa figurines are very popular among children in Japan.  We use to have a children’s TV program, a Haniwa is the main character. 

Haniwas suggest to us what people’s life was like then.  Their facial expressions are all happy and smiling.   According to the old Japanese history book, “Nihon Shoki” (日本書紀: The oldest Japanese history book completed during the Nara period.), Haniwas were the replacement of martyrdom, but it hasn’t been proven.

From another huge Kofun, Ogonzuka Kofun (黄金塚古墳) in Osaka, they found a sword and bronze mirrors, among other items. Refer 2 | Joko-to (上古刀).  The writing below is from my college day notebook.   

The professor explained how to determine the time a particular item had been made by reading half-disappeared characters on the items such as a bronze mirror or a sword.  For example, there was a sword, the hilt of it was made in Japan, and the blade was made in China.  It had a round hilt and, on it, showed some Chinese characters.  It said, “中平[ ]年.”   The third letter was not legible.  But we knew 中平 year was between 184 to 189 AD, and “年” indicated “year.”  Therefore it was made sometime between 184 to 189.  And this sword came out from the 4th-century tomb. 

Also, he explained that many nested Doutaku (銅鐸)*²  had been excavated from many places.  They were nested inside one another.  Doutaku was a musical instrument for rituals.  Therefore, scholars believe that the people then hid Doutaku in a hurry and escaped quickly when they were being attacked by their enemies.

In many countries, excavation may be time-consuming, tedious work, and often takes a long time to find anything.  But in Japan, it is not as hard as in other countries.   We often find things.  It may not be what you are looking for, but we excavate artifacts quite often.


Sitting Shrine Maiden*1,  Owned by National Museum.  This photo is public domain            腰かける巫女(群馬県大泉町古海出土)国立博物館蔵
                   滋賀県野洲市小篠原字大岩山出土_突線紐5式銅鐸Doutaku*2   Excavated from Shiga Prefecture   Displayed at Tokyo National Museum The public domain photo 滋賀県野洲市小篠原字大岩屋出土突線紐5式銅鐸  東京国立博物館展示

34| Part 2 — 1 Timeline

Chapter 34 is a continued part of Chapter 1 Time line.   Please read Chapter 1 before reading this section.

   0 timeline - Gendai-to                             The red circle indicates the time we discuss here

In the “Chapter 1 Timeline”, I mentioned that Gendai-to (現代刀) is the swords made between the Meiji Restoration (明治維新1868) and now.  It has been about 150 years since the Meiji Restoration.  Even though all swords made after the Meiji Restoration are categorized into one Gendai-to group, there are quite a few differences in quality and kind.  The very different one is Gun-to (軍刀).  Those are military swords that were forged to use in World War I and World War II.  Some of them have a saber-like handle. With some exceptions, those were made not using the traditional sword making method of heat and fold technique.  Among the Gendai-to, Gun-to is usually considered much less value.   The Gun-to sword made around during World War II is called Showa-to.  It often has a brown leather scabbard.  Gun-to is not a part of the study of the Japanese sword.

*Refer to” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunt%C5%8D”  for Japanese military sword.

                                Gun-to    From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

At the time of the Meiji Restoration (明治維新), swords called Meiji-ishin-to (明治維新刀) or Kin’no-to (勤王刀) were made.  These swords were owned by famous historical figures like Saigo Takamori (西郷隆盛), and Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬).  They are important historical figures who pushed the Meiji Restoration forward.  These swords are long and some of them are almost 3 feet long and have no curvature.

Today, many famous swordsmiths are forging wonderful swords. Some are recognized as Living National Treasure.  Gendai-to is the sword made after the Meiji Restoration till now, but please keep in mind that there is a wide range of differences in quality, variety, and purposes among them.


                       Sword forged by a Living National Treasure, Mr. Miyairi Shohei (宮入昭平)                         owned by my brother