38|Part 2 of — 5 Heian Period Sword 794-1192 (平安太刀)

This chapter is a continued part of Chapter 5 Heian Period Sword.  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 31.  For unfamiliar sword terminologies, please read chapter 1 to 31.

0-timeline - size 24 Heian                                   The red circle aboveindicates the time we discuss in this sect

There are several active schools of swordsmiths 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 active groups during the Heian period:  Houki-no-Kuni (伯耆の国), and Oo-U (奥羽).  Oo-U is pronounced “Oh,” and “U” as uber.

 Yamashiro Den (山城伝 )

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

38Sanjo Munechika

    三日月宗近    Mikazuki Munechika  東京国立博物館蔵 Tokyo National Museum           Photo from “Showa Dai Mei-to Zufu 昭和大名刀図譜” published by NBTHK

Houki -no-Kuni (伯耆の国)

Houki-no-Kuni is today’s Tottori Prefecture.  It is known as the place to produce good iron.  The sword, “Doujigiri Yasutsuna”  (童子切安綱) made by Houki-no-Yasutsuna (伯耆の安綱) was one of the famous swords during the time.   

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 (pronounced ka as a calf, en as engineer) with a 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)                     Permission to use granted 

Bizen Den (備前伝 )

Bizen is today’s Okayama Prefecture.  It is known as the place to produce good iron.  From 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 was called the Ko-bizen group.  The most famous swordsmith in the Ko-bizen group was Bizen Tomonari (備前友成), Bizen Masatsune (備前正恒), and Bizen Kanehira (備前包平).                                                                      

Ko-bizen group’s characteristics ——-  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)                          (Permission to use granted)

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 Hon’ami Koson was used as our textbook.  Each time I saw a sword at Mori Sensei’s house, I noted the date on the swordsmith’s name in the book we used.  It was Nov. 22, 1970.  It had a narrow body line, small kissaki (that was Ko-bizen Komaru), Kamasu*2  (no fukura), and SuguhaKamasu is the condition where the fukura (arc) is much lesser than usual.  Thinking back then, it is amazing we could see famous swords like this as our study materials.

Kantei-Kai

Kantei-kai is a study meeting.  Usually, several swords are displayed, with the Nakago part being covered.  The attendees guess the name of the sword maker and hand in the answer sheet to the judge.  Below are the grades.

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

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

Kaido Yoshi —– This means correct about the line, but not about the family.

Jidai Yoshi—- It means the time or period is right. Each Kantei-kai has different grading systems.  Some may not have “Jidai Yoshi” grade.

Hazure—– the wrong answer. 

After all the answer sheets are handed in, and the answer sheets are graded and returned.  The judge reveals the correct answer and explains why.

*1 Dozen:  Almost the same as the correct answer. 

 *2 Kamasu:  The name of a fishIt has a narrow and pointed head.

 

 

 

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

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

0-timeline - size 24 Heian

The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

Around the middle Heian period, a novel, “Genji Monogatari” (“The 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 that time, but “The Tales of Genji” is the worldly known literature as the greatest Japanese literature.  “The Tales of Genji“  is a treasure for the Japanese.  We love this novel so much that the Japan Mint issued 2000-yen bill*ᴵ with a scene from the novel.  See the photo below.  The author herself is printed at the lower right corner on the back of the bill.  The bill is very beautiful that, instead of using it, people just keep it.   Therefore, it does not circulate much.  I have four bills, but I cannot bring myself to use them.  It is too nice to use. 

The novel is about Hikaru Genji’s (the hero, 光源氏) love history (yes, history) from when he was about 16 years old until he died.  There are ten more chapters after his death, called “Uji Jyu- jyo.”  This section is a story of his son and grandson.  When he died, the title of the chapter is “Vanishes into the cloud (雲隠れ),” a very poetic title.  The Tales of Genji depicts the aristocratic society’s daily life, customs, lifestyle, and how people think in those days.  Surprisingly, though they did not have the technology we have, the way they thought was not significantly different from us.  The description of the process of courting is in 4 | Heian Period History (平安時代) 794 – 1192.  

The author created Hikaru Genji (光源氏), the main character, a high-level aristocrat, an emperor’s illegitimate son.  He was depicted as a most charming, good-looking, smart, and sophisticated aristocrat, and all the women fell for him.  He would go around all kinds of women one after another; a beautiful woman, not so good-looking but very smart, very young, older, even including his stepmother, wealthy or not so wealthy, etc.   It sounds like the story from the tabloid magazine.  Still, Murasaki Shikibu depicted the hero’s and heroines’ thoughts, emotions, daily lives, and how the man thought about the women and vice versa, with her excellent writing skill.  The author, Murasaki Shikibu, wrote this novel to entertain the female audiences in the court where she was living.  It became so popular then that it is said that even the emperor at the time asked her how the next story would develop.  “Genji Monogatari” is translated into English.  You can buy the translated book on Amazon or go to YouTube and search for “Genji Monogatari” or “The Tales of Genji.”   You will find many “Genji Monogatari” in Anime, old TV programs, and old movies in full or short clips. 

Another female author, Sei Sho-nagon (清少納言), wrote an essay called “Makura no Soshi “(枕草子)  around the same time.  In it, she described the court ladies’ daily lives.  In one chapter, she mentioned kakigori (shaved ice: かき氷).  High-class people then must have had 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, you may realize why the Heian sword is shaped like the way it is.  And it becomes easier to identify a Heian sword from amongst other swords that were made in different times and different provinces than Kyoto.  All sword styles reflect the society where the swordsmiths lived.  During the Heian period, the Yamashiro Den style represented sword style.  In the next chapter, the subject matter is centered around the Yamashiro Den, though 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