By clicking below, it will take you to that chapter directly. The sequence to read is 1 to 33, then to part 2. Part 2 is a detailed part of the correspondent chapter.
This chapter is the continued part of chapter 6. Please read Chapter 6 before reading this section. I will be using more technical terms which were explained between chapter 1 to 33. For those who are not familiar with sword terms, any of part 2 should be read after chapter 1 to 33.
There are several schools (called Den 伝 ) of swordsmith during the Heian period. I will start using the word Den instead of school. They are Yamashiro Den (山城伝 ), Yamato Den (大和伝), Bizen Den ( 備前伝 )、Hoki-no-Kuni (伯耆 )、Buzen group (豊前 ), and Satsuma-no-Kuni (薩摩).
Yamashiro Den (山城伝 )
Among Yamashiro Den, the name of the sword, Mikazuki Munechika (三日月宗近 ) by Sanjo Munechika (三条宗近 ) is the most famous. Mikaduki means crescent. Because Mikaduki shape Uchinoke (collection of Nie) pattern appears on Hamon, it is named Mikazuki Munechika. It has graceful shape, narrow body, Koshizori, Funbari, and small Kissaki. It shows wood grain surface, Suguha with Nie mixed with small irregular, sometimes nijyu-ha (double libe二重刃 ) appears. Sanjo Munechika lived 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.
三日月宗近 東京国立博物館蔵 “刀剣のみかた” 広井雄一 Mikaduki Munechika Tokyo National Museum “Token no mikata” by Yuichi Hiroi
Houki -no-Kuni (伯耆の国 )
Houki-no-Kuni is today’s Tottori prefecture. This place is known for the place producing good steel. The sword name, Doujigiri Yasutsuna (童子切安綱 ) by Houki-no-Yasutsuna is the most famous one.
The characteristics of Yasutsuna’s sword———-It has a graceful shape with small Kissaki, narrow Hamon (often sugu-ha with ko-choji), course 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.
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. Bizen is known for producing good steel. Since Heian period until now, Bizen has been famous for the sword making tradition. The sword making group in this area during the Heian period were called Ko-Bizen group. The most famous sword smith 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———-graceful narrow-body, small Kissaki, narrow tempered line with ko-choji (small irregular) with Inazuma and Kin-suji. Ji-Hada is small wood grain pattern.
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 the one of the Kantei-To of the day. I received Douzen*ᴵ. The book written by Honami 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 in this book where the author explains about the smiths. It was Nov. 22, 1970. The deciding point was a narrow-body line, small Kissaki (that is Ko-Bizen Komaru), Kamasu and Suguha. Kamasu is the condition where the fukura of Boshi is much less, less rounded. When I think back, it is amazing we could see the sword like those for our study materials. Today, I forget things happened a week ago, but I can remember each sword I saw in those days.
Kantei-Kai is the study meeting. Usually, several swords were displayed hiding the Nakago. The attendees guess the name of the sword maker and hand in the answer sheet to the judge. The below is the grade.
Atari—–If the answer is the right on the exact name, you get Atari, that is the best answer.
Douzen*ᴵ—-The second one is Dozen, that is the subject sword made by the family, clan or within the group. It means almost right. Dozen is considered very good.
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, that means the time or period is correct.
After all the answer is handed in and answer sheet is returned to the attendee, the judge reveals the right answer and explains about each sword.
This chapter is the continued part of Chapter 5. Please read chapter 5 before reading this section.
Genji Monogatari (Tales of Genji 源氏物語) was written by a female author, Murasaki Shikibu ( 紫式部 ) in the Heian period around the 11th century. She was an aristocrat court lady. Her father was Fujiwara Tametoki, a scholar. There were several novels and essays written by a female around this time, but “Tales of Genji” is the greatest Japanese literature known worldly. The Tales of Genji is the treasure for Japanese. Because we love this novel so much, the Ministry of Japan Mint issued 2000 yen bill *ᴵ with a scene (the author at the corner) from the novel on the back. We consider this bill very beautiful, instead of using it, people just keep it, so it does not circulate much. I have four bills and I am keeping them. The novel is about Hikaru Genji ‘s (光源氏) love history (yes, history) from the time he was about 16 years old until he dies, plus 10 chapters after his death called Uji jyu- jyo . The title of the chapter, the chapter he dies is “Vanishes into the cloud (雲隠れ)”, which I think it is very poetic. The Tales of Genji depict the daily life of the aristocrat society, their customs, lifestyle and how people think in those days. The description of the process of the courting is as I described in the previous chapter “5|Heian Period History 794- 1192”. The author created Hikaru Genji, the main character, as a high-level aristocrat, an illegitimate son of the Emperor. He is supposed to be a most charming, good-looking, smart and high-level aristocrat, and all the women fall for him. He goes around all kinds of women one after another, beautiful woman, smart but not so good-looking, very young, older woman, stepmother, wealthy and not so wealthy, etc. It sounds like the story from the tabloid magazine. But it is a wonderful novel. The author, Murasaki Shikibu created the 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.
Once you have the general idea how the Heian aristocrat life was like, it makes you realize why the Heian sword is shaped the way it is. And it becomes easier to identify the Heian sword from amongst other swords that are made other times and other provinces. All sword reflects the society of its own.
* 1 The back of 2000 yen bill
Paintings drew by Tosa Mitsukuni. These paintings are based on the Tales of Genji