45|Part 2 of –11 Ikubi Kissaki (continued from Chapter 44)

This chapter is a detailed part of 11| Ikubi Kissaki (猪首切先) and continued from 44|Part 2 of —- 11|Ikubi Kissaki(猪首切先.  Please read Chapter 11 and Chapter 45 before reading this section.

12 Red Middle Kamakura Timeline                    
                       The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section.

Bizen Saburo Kunimune (備前三郎国宗)

Another swordsmith that should be mentioned in this section is Bizen Saburo Kunimune (備前三郎国宗).  In the middle Kamakura period, the Hojo clan invited top swordsmiths to the Kamakura area.  Awataguchi Kunitsuna (粟田口国綱) from Yamashiro of Kyoto, Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真) from Bizen area, Bizen Kunimune (備前国宗) from Bizen area moved to Kamakura with their circle of people.  Those three groups started the Soshu Den (相州伝).  Refer to13| Late Kamakura Period: Genko (鎌倉末元寇) .

  • Sugata (shape)  ——————— Ikubi-kissaki style.  Sometimes Chu-gissaki.  Thick body.  Koshi-zori. Narrow Shinogi width.                                                                                                
  • Horimono (Engravings)  —————- Often narrow Bo-hi (single groove)
  • Hamon (Tempered line) ————- O-choji Midare (irregular large clove shape) with Ashi.  Or Ko-choji Midare (irregular small clove shape) with AshiNioi base with Ji-nie (Nie in the Hada area).  Some Hamon is squarish with less Kubire (less narrow at the bottom of the clove).   Hajimi (刃染み rough surface) may show.  Often the Kunimune swords are as follows; the lower part shows Choji, the upper part shows less work without Ashi                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Kunimune Compton 1 Kunimune Compton 2Bizen Saburo Kunimune (備前三郎国宗)   Photo from “Nippon-to Art Sword of Japan, ” The Walter A. Compton Collection.   National Treasure

  • Boshi  ———————— Small irregular.  Yakizume or short turn back.
  • Ji-hada —————-Wood-grain pattern.  Fine Ji-hada with some Ji-nie (Nie inside Ji-hada).  Midare-utsuri (irregular shadow) shows.  A few Hajimi (rough surface).

12 (second part 2) 照国神社Above photo is a picture from the official site of Terukuni Shrine in Kyushu.     http://terukunijinja.pkit.com/page222400.html

This is the National Treasure, Kunimune, preserved at Terukuni Jinja Shrine in Kagoshima prefecture.  See the photos on the previous page.  This Kunimune sword was lost after WWII.  Dr. Compton, the board chairman of Miles Laboratories in Elkhart, Indiana, found it in Atlanta’s antique store.  I mentioned Dr. Compton in 32| Japanese swords after WWII  .  When he saw this sword, he realized this was not just an ordinary sword.  He bought it and inquired to the Nihon Bijutu Token Hozon Kyokai (The Japanese Sword Museum) in Tokyo.  It turned out to be the famous missing National Treasure, Kunimune, from Terukuni Jinja shrineHe returned the sword to the shrine without compensation in 1963. 

My father became a good friend of him around this time through Dr. Homma and Dr. Sato (both were leading sword experts).  Later, Dr. Compton asked Dr. Honma and my father to examine his swords he kept in his house (he had about 400 swords) and swords at The Metropolitan Museum of Arts in New York, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  My father wrote about this trip and the swords he examined in those museums and published the book in 1965; the title was “Katana Angya (刀行脚).”  

For Dr. Compton and my father, those days must have been the best time of their lives.  Their businesses were doing good, and they were able to spend a lot of time on their interest and had fun.  It was the best time for me, too.  One time, while I was visiting the Compton’s house, he showed me his swords in his basement for hours, almost all day.  His house was huge, and the basement he built as his study had a fire prevention system, and the lighting system was perfect to view swords and other art objects. 

Phoebe, his wife, said to him that he shouldn’t keep a young girl (college student then) in the basement all day.  He agreed and took me to his cornfield to pick some corn for dinner.  From a basement to a cornfield, not much improvement?  So, Phoebe decided to take me shopping and lunch in Chicago.  Good idea,  but it was too far.  Compton’s house was Elkhart, Indiana.  The distance between Elkhart and Chicago was about two and a half hours by car.  It was too far just for shopping and lunch.  To my surprise, the company’s employee flew us and landed on the rooftop of a department store, then did the shopping, had lunch, and flew back.

Miles Laboratories and a well-known large Japanese pharmaceutical company, had a business tie-up then.  Dr. Compton used to come to Japan quite often, officially, for business purposes.  But whenever he came to Japan, he spent days with sword people, including my father, and I usually followed him.  One of the female workers of this pharmaceutical company, her job description was to translate the sword book into English. 

My parents’ house was filled with Miles products.  Miles Laboratories had a big research institute in Elkhart, Indiana.  I visited there several times.  One day, I was sitting with Dr. Compton in his office, looking into a sword book with our heads together.  That day, a movie actor, John Forsythe, was visiting the research lab.  He was the host of a TV program Miles Laboratories was sponsoring.  All female employees were making a big fuss over him.  Then he came into Dr. Compton’s room to greet him, thinking the chairman must be sitting in his big chair at his desk looking like a chairman.  But he saw Dr. Compton looking into the sword book with his head against my head.  The appearance of Dr. Compton was just like any chairman of the board of a big company one can imagine, and I was a Japanese college student looking like a college student. John Forsythe showed a strange expression on his face that he did not know what to think.

44|Part 2 of —11 Ikubi Kissaki(猪首切先)

This chapter is a detailed chapter of 11|Ikubi Kissaki (猪首切先)  Please read Chapter 11 before reading this section.

12 Red Middle Kamakura Timeline                           The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section.

The middle Kamakura period was the golden age of sword making.  We cannot deny it was because Gotoba Joko (refer to 10| Jokyu-no-ran (承久の乱) 1221  and 43|Part 2 of –10 Jyokyu-no-Ran (承久の乱1221)) honored the skilled swordsmiths highly.  After the Jokyu-no-ran, samurais began to prefer grand-looking swords. Those were Ikubi-kissaki swords.  It is said that there were no mediocre swords among the Ikubi -kissaki swords.  In this chapter, we discuss the swordsmiths who were famous for Ikubi Kissaki.

Bizen Osafune Mitsutada (備前長船光忠)

Bizen Osafune Mitsutada is one of the most famous swordsmiths for Ikubi-kissaki.  His swords are the most sought-after swords among sword collectors.  He was the founder of the Osafune group, followed by his son Nagamitsu (長光), then grandson Kagemitsu (景光), and the rest of descendants.

  • Sugata (shape) ———— Grand look with Ikubi-kissaki.  The body is relatively thick with Hamaguri-ha (refer to 11| Ikubi Kissaki (猪首切先).  Often suriage.
  • Hi (engraving) ———- Often Bohi (wide groove).  The end of Bo-hi above Machi often shows Kakudome (square end).
  • Hamon (Tempered line) ————- Yakihaba (the Hamon width) is a mixture of wide and narrow Hamon.   Nioi base.  Large Choji, Kawazuko-choji (tadpole head shape, refer to the illustration below second from the last), Inazuma, and Kinsuji (refer to the drawing in 14| Late Kamakura Period: Sword (鎌倉末太刀) .
  • Boshi  ————————— Yakizume.  Yakizume with a short turn back.
  • Ji-hada ————————- Fine and soft look surface.  Chikei appears.

img028   img028                             Osafune Mitsutada (Juyo Bunkazai)       Osafune Mitsutada (Juyo Bunkazai)

img029   img030

Osafune Mitsutada (Juyo Token)  Osafune Mitsutada (Juyo Bunkazai) Previous Endo property

I displayed the above four photos several times on other pages.  Those were Mitsutada swords that my father used to own.  My father did the calligraphy and took these pictures for himself.  He was very proud that he had collected four Mitsutada swords, and he had the name, “Mitsutada,” monogrammed on the pocket inside his suit jacket.  It is said that Oda Nobunaga (織田信長), with his wealth and political power, collected 28 Mitsutada swords.

I know those photos are not so good.  To avoid any possible infringement on copyrights or intellectual property rights, photos are limited to my father’s photographs (not so wonderful, though), Sano Museum Catalog photos (permission granted), some public domain photos from Wikipedia, and a few sources.  Please bear with me that I don’t have good pictures.

Bizen Osafune Nagamitsu (備前長船長光)

Nagamitsu is Mitsutada’s son.

  • Sugata  ——————– Shape is similar to the early Kamakura period style, which is with Funbari and is narrow at the top.  This is called Nagamitsu Sugata.
  • Hamon ——————- Wide tempered line.  Nioi base.  O-choji Midare (large clove shape) mixed with Kawazuko-choji (see below).  Many Ashi appears.  Also, he does Suguha-choji (straight with Choji mixed).  Works of Inazuma and Kinsuji shows.

12 (part 2) Kawazuko Choji)

Kawazuko Choji (tadpole head like)  Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted) Kawazuko Choji on the sword above is very clear that it is almost a textbook-like example.  But usually, they are not as apparent as this.

  • Boshi —————————— Yakizume or turn back a little.
  • Ji-hada ——————— Fine wood grain pattern.  Well known for Utsuri (shadow).   Choji Utsuri (Shadow of Choji) or Botan Utsuri ( resembles flower peony).  Choji Utsuri shows in the above picture.

The next poster is for an exhibit of swords at the Museum of Tetsu (iron) in Sakaki, Nagano, in  2003.  The center objects in the poster are Nagamitsu’s sword, and its Koshirae (scabbard).  It was our family sword then.  Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉), a great daimyo in the Sengoku period, awarded this sword to his famous war strategist,  Takenaka Hannbei (竹中半兵衛).

12 «Part 2» 長光ポスター

43 | Part 2 of –10 Jyokyu-no-Ran and Gotoba-joko (承久の乱)

This chapter is a continued part of 10| Jokyu-no-ran (承久の乱) 1221.  Please read Chapter 10 before reading this section.

11 Red timeline Jyokyu-no-Ran

                                The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this chapter.

Chapter 10 described how Jokyu-no-Ran (承久の乱) had started.  In the end, Emperor Gotoba (or Gotoba Joko) was exiled to Oki Island (隠岐の島).

Emperor Gotoba was a very talented man in many fields.  He was very good at Waka (和歌), Japanese short poem.   To compose Waka, you are required to include several elements such as scenery, a season, one’s inner feeling with the refined sentiment, or the surrounding state, within the very limited number of words.  It requires a literary talent.  He was also good at equestrianism, Kemari (a ball game for upper-class men at that time), swimming, Sumo wrestling, music, archery, swordsmanship, calligraphy, painting, and even sword-making.  His contribution toward the sword field created the golden age of Sword making in the middle Kamakura period.  Surprisingly, Gotoba Joko was not just good at things in many different areas, but he mastered them to the top level.  Especially his Waka (poetry) was highly regarded.  He edited Shin Kokin Wakashu (新古今集), which was a collection of 1980 Waka poems.

Emperor Gotoba, Enthroned at the Age Four

Emperor Gotoba was enthroned at the age of four (some say three).  The problem was Emperor Antoku had already existed at the same time.  They were both about the same age.  Two emperors at the same time was a big problem.  How did it happen?

To have a new emperor, the head of the emperor’s family had to appoint the next emperor.  While the Emperor Go-Shirakawa (後白河天皇) was in jail, Emperor Antoku was set by Taira no Kiyomori (平清盛).  Though Kiyomori was the head of the Heishi, the most powerful Samurai group, he was not from the emperor’s family.  That was against the tradition.  This was not acceptable for Go-Shirakawa Emperor (後白河天皇).  Emperor Go-Shirakawa was furious at Taira no Kiyomori and picked Emperor Gotoba and enthroned him.  This is the reason why two emperors coexisted.

There was one more thing.  To be an emperor, the emperor must have Sanshu-no-Jingi (三種の神器: Three Sacred Treasures); There are three items the emperor must have to be a legitimate emperor.  They are a mirror, a sacred sword, and a Magatama (jewelry)*.

But Sanshu-no-Jingi were taken by the Heike family together with Emperor Antoku when they fled from the Genji.  The Heike clan was pushed by the Genji all the way to Dan-no-Ura (壇ノ浦), and they were defeated there.   Dan-no-Ura is a sea between Kyushu (九州) and Honshu (本州).  When it became clear for the Heike family that they were defeated, all the Heike people, including the young Emperor Antoku, jumped into the sea and drowned.   They took Sanshu-no-Jingi with them into the ocean.

Later, people searched for the Sanshu-no-Jingi frantically; however, they recovered only the Jewelry and the Mirror but not the Sword.  Because of the tradition, the emperor must have Sanshu-no-Jingi; otherwise, he was not recognized as a legitimate emperor. Gotoba Joko was tormented for a long time for not having all three.

Today, the Jewelry is with the present Emperor family, and the Mirror is with Ise Jingu Shrine (伊勢神宮).  The Sword is still missing somewhere in the ocean.  Some say that the lost Sword down into the sea was a copy and one kept at Atsuta Jingu Shrine (熱田神宮) is the real one.     

* Sanshu-no-Jingi (三種の神器 )—– 1. The Sword; Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (草薙の剣)  2. The Mirror; Yata-no-Kagami  (八咫の鏡),  3. The Magatama (Jewelry); Yasakani-no-Magatama (八尺瓊勾玉) by Token World: www.touken-world.jp/tips/32747/

Politics by  Emperor Gotoba

Emperor Gotoba wanted political power back from the Kamakura Bakufu.  He was a very impulsive, passionate, unpredictable quick-tempered person.   He tried to revive the Chotei (朝廷) power.  The Chotei is the central government controlled by the emperor and aristocrats.  Emperor Gotoba decided to rely on the armed forces to achieve this goal.  He set up a Saimen no Bushi (armed forces directly under Emperor Gotoba’s command).

When he saw Minamoto no Sanetomo was killed, he realized Kamakura Bakufu must have been in turmoil.  Thinking this was a good chance, he sent out the emperor’s order to all the daimyos to fight against Kamakura Bakufu.  He expected an easy victory, but Kamakura Bushi was united tightly and fought well under Hojo Masako’s leadership, the “Nun Shogun.”  She organized one tightly united armed force, whereas the Emperor Gotoba side was not very organized.  They were not used to fight.

In the end,  Emperor Gotoba’s side lost.  When he realized he had lost, he claimed it was not him, but his men did it independently.  He insisted that it was nothing to do with him. Therefore it was wrong to punish him.  But of course, Hojo Masako and Kamakura Bakufu did not believe Emperor Gotoba and exiled him to Oki Island.  Emperor Gotoba ended his life there.  Although he was so smart and accomplished in so many different fields, he could not win against the grandma “Nun-shogun,” Hojo Masako.

Sword-Making by Gotoba Joko

Gotoba Joko had a superior ability to evaluate swords, and he became the superior swordsmith himself.   He invited many top-level swordsmiths from different sword groups to his court, gave them a title, and treated them respectfully.  Also, he made them his instructors and assistants.  Gotoba Joko brought in skilled swordsmiths from many places in rotation.  Those who were invited to the palace were called Gobankaji (御番鍛冶), an honorary title.  On the Sword he created, he inscribed a Chrysanthemum with 16 petals.  The present emperor still uses this design as the emperor’s crest.  The Sword with the chrysanthemum design is called Kiku Gosaku (菊御作).

Today, you can visit the Emperor Gotoba Museum on Oki island, and there are a few sites that are believed to be the emperor’s sword making site.  Some people say it is debatable if the sites are real.  Today, Oki Island is a beautiful resort island.  It can be reached by ferries from Shimane Prefecture, which takes about 2 hours by boat.   Also, it can be reached by airplane directly from Osaka.

45 part 2 of ---11Oki-no-Shima map

11 «part 2» Gotoba Joko photo
Gotoba Joko (owned by Minase Shrine) This picture is public domain