39|Part 2 of — 5 Heian Period Sword (792-1192)

39 Heian Time line

                                  The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this sect

This chapter is the continued part of 5 |Heian Period Swords.  Please read chapter 5 before reading this section.  More sword terminologies will be used in the coming chapters.  They were explained between chapters 1 to 33.  For unfamiliar sword terminology, please read chapter 1 to 33.

There are several active schools of swordsmith during the Heian period.  We use the word, Den for school.  They are Yamashiro Den (山城伝), Yamato Den (大和伝), Bizen Den ( 備前伝 ).  Also, the following areas are other groups during the middle Kamakura period:  Hoki-no-Kuni (伯耆の国), and Oo-U (奥羽).

 Yamashiro Den (山城伝 )

During the Heian period,  among Yamashiro Den swords, the most famous sword is Mikazuki Munechika (三日月宗近) by Sanjo Munechika (三条宗近).  Mikazuki means crescent.  Because the crescent shape uchinoke (collection of nie) pattern appears in the Hamon area, it was named Mikazuki Munechika.  It has a graceful shape, narrow-body, Koshi-zori, Funbari, and small kissaki.  It shows wood grain surface, suguha with nie mixed with small irregular, sometimes Nijyu-ha (double hamon: 二重刃) appears.  Sanjo Munechika lived at the Sanjo area in Kyoto.  His sword style was followed by his sons and grandsons, Sanjo Yoshiie (三条吉家), Gojo Kanenaga (五条兼永), Gojo Kuninaga (五条国永 ).  Gojo is the area in Kyoto.

6 photos Sanjo Munechika

Mikaduki Munechika(三日月宗近) Tokyo National Museum (東京国立博物館蔵)  “Token no mikata” by Yuichi Hiroi (“刀剣のみかた” 広井雄一)

Houki -no-Kuni (伯耆の国)

Houki-no-Kuni is today’s Tottori prefecture.  It is known for the place to produce good iron.  The sword name, Doujigiri Yasutsuna  (童子切安綱) by Houki-no-Yasutsuna (伯耆の安綱) is the most famous one.

The characteristics of Yasutsuna’s sword———-It has a graceful shape with small kissaki, narrow hamon (often suguha with ko-choji), coarse nie on hamon area, large wood grain mixed with masame on ji-hada Hamon area often shows Inazuma and kinsuji.  Boshi area is yakizume, kaen with small turn back.

6 Sano Hoki Yasutuna

伯耆の安綱 (Hoki no Yasutsuna) 佐野美術館図録 (Sano Musem Catalogue)

Bizen Den (備前伝 )

Bizen is Okayama prefecture today.  It is known for the place to produce good iron.  Since the Heian period until now, Bizen has been famous for the sword-making tradition.  The sword-making group in this area during the Heian period is called the Ko-bizen group.  The most famous swordsmith in Ko-bizen group is Bizen Tomonari (備前友成) and Bizen Masatsune (備前正恒) and Bizen Kanehira (備前包平)

The characteristics of Ko-bizen group———-a graceful narrow body, small kissaki, narrow tempered line with Ko-choji (small irregular) with Inazuma and Kin-sujiJi-hada is a small wood grain pattern.

6 Sano Kanehira

Bizen Kanehira (備前包平) Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館図録)

I saw Ko-Bizen Sanetsune (真恒 ) at Mori Sensei’s house.  That was one of the Kantei-to of that day.  I received Douzen*ᴵ.  The book written by Honnami Koson was used as our textbook.  Each time I saw a sword at Mori Sensei’s house, I put down the date on the swordsmith’s name where the author describes.  It was Nov. 22, 1970.  It had a narrow body line, small kissaki (that is Ko-bizen Komaru), kamasu*2  (no fukura), and suguha and others.  Kamasu is the condition where the fukura (arc) is much lesser than usual.  Thinking back then, it is amazing we could see a famous sword like this one for our study materials.

Kantei-Kai

Kantei-kai is the study meeting.  Usually, several swords were displayed covering the nakago part.  The attendees guess the name of the sword maker and hand in the answer sheet to the judge.  Below is the grade.

Atari—–If the answer is the right on the exact name, you get atari, that is the best answer.

Dozen *1—-The second one is dozen.  The subject sword was made by the family and (or) clan of the right Den.  It means almost the right answer.  Dozen is considered very good.  It indicates the student has a good knowledge of the particular group.

Kaido Yoshi—– This means the same line, but not within the family.

Jidai Yoshi—-Each Kanntei-kai has different grading systems.  Some have Jidai Yoshi, which means the time or period is correct.

Hazure—– Wrong answer.

After all the answer sheet is handed in and the answer sheet is graded and returned, the judge reveals the correct answer and explains why.

*1 Dozen:  Almost the same as the collect answer.                                                    *2 Kamasu:  The name of a fish.  It has a narrow and pointed head.

 

 

38|Part 2of — 4 Heian Period History (平安時代) 794-1192

This chapter is a detailed part of chapter 4 Heian Period History.  Please read chapter 4 before reading this section.

39 Heian Time line

The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

Around the middle Heian period, a novel, Genji Monogatari (Tales of Genji: 源氏物語) was written by a female author, Murasaki Shikibu (紫式部).  She was an aristocrat court lady.  Her father was Fujiwara Tametoki (藤原為時), a scholar.   There were several novels and essays written by female authors around this time, but “Tales of Genji” is the worldly known literature as the greatest Japanese literature.  The Tales of Genji is a treasure for Japanese.  Because we love this novel so much, the Ministry of Japan Mint issued a 2000 yen bill*ᴵ  with a scene from the novel.   See the photo below.  The author herself is at the lower right corner on the back of the bill.  We consider the bill very beautiful, instead of using it, people just keep it, therefore,  it does not circulate much.  I have four bills but I can not bring myself to use it.  It is too nice to use.

The novel is about a man named Hikaru Genji‘s (光源氏) love history (yes, history) from the time he was about 16 years old until he dies.  There are 10 more chapters after his death, called Uji Jyu- jyo.  This section is a story of his son and grandson.  The title of the chapter when he dies is “Vanishes into the cloud (雲隠れ)”, a very poetic title.  The Tales of Genji depicts the daily life of the aristocrat society, their customs, lifestyle, and how people think in those days.  Surprisingly, though they did not have the technology we have, the way they think was not much different than us.  The description of the process of the courting was described in 4 | Heian Period History (平安時代) 794 – 1192.  The author created Hikaru Genji (光源氏), the main character, as a high-level aristocrat, an illegitimate son of the emperor.  He was depicted as a most charming, good-looking, smart, and sophisticated aristocrat, and all the women fell for him.  He goes around all kinds of female one after another, beautiful woman, not so good-looking but very smart, very young, older woman, stepmother, wealthy and not so wealthy, etc.   It sounds like the story from the tabloid magazine.  But Murasaki Shikibu depicted heroes and heroines’ thoughts, emotions, daily life, how a man thinks toward women vice versa with her amazing writing skill.  The author, Murasaki Shikibu wrote this novel to entertain the female audiences in the court where she was living.  It became very popular then, it is said that even the emperor at the time was asking her how the next story develops.  Genji Monogatari is translated into English.  You can buy the translated book on Amazon or go to YouTube and search for “Genji Monogatari”, or “Tales of Genji”.  There are many Genji Monogatari in Anime, old TV programs, and old movies, full and short clips.

Another female author, Sei Shonagon (清少納言) had written an essay called “Makura no Soshi: 枕草子around the same time.  In it, she described the court lady’s daily life and mentioned Kakigoori (shaved ice:かき氷).  High-class people then must have a chance to eat shaved ice, though the ice was not easy to come by during summer in the middle Heian period.

Once you have the general idea of how the Heian aristocrat life was like, it makes you realize why the Heian sword is shaped like the way it is.  And it becomes easier to identify the Heian sword from amongst other swords that were made other times and other provinces.  All swords reflect the society where the swordsmiths lived.

During the Heian period, the Yamashiro Den is the representative sword style.  In the next chapter, the subject matter is center around the Yamashiro Den.  But there were other sword groups in different regions.

*1  The back of 2000 yen bill

39 Part 2 Shikibu with arrow

5 Heian 3 photoes.jpgPart of the Burke Album, a property of Mary Griggs Burke (Public Domain)          Paintings drew by Tosa Mitsukuni (土佐光国), 17 century.   The scenes are based on the Tales of Genji