60|Part 2 of — 24 Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国短刀)

Chapter 60 is a Continued part of chapter 24|Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代).  Please read chapter 24|Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代)  before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Sengoku Period

       The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section  

Muramasa (村正)

The discussion of this chapter is about the famous Muramasa (村正).  Usually, many well-known swordsmiths were from one of the Goka Den (五家伝:primary five schools: Yamashiro Den, Bizen Den, Soshu Den, Yamato Den, and Mino Den).  However, Muramasa was not from the Goka Den but Ise Province.  The first generation Muramasa was known as a student of He’ian-jo Nagayoshi (平安城長吉) of Yamashiro Den who lived the mid Muromachi period.  Muramasa has three generations from the mid Muromachi period to the Sengoku period.

61 Ise map

Here is one of Muramasa’s tanto that was made during the Sengoku periodSince this is the Sengoku period tanto, the blade shows the Sengoku period sword style.  It shows Mino Den Characteristics, with the Soshu Den Characteristics added.

61 Muramasa photo  61 Muramasa illustration

Muramasa (村正) from Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

Mino-Den Characteristic of the Sengoku period that shows on this Tanto

Muramasa’s tantos are often 10 inches ± half inches or so.  Hirazukuri (平作り). Thin blade with a sharp look.  Nioi base with small Nie and Sunagashi (brushed sand-like, the illustration below) appears.  Boshi (the top part of hamon) is Jizo (a side view of a human’s head).  The tempered line has wide areas and narrow areas.  Some areas are so narrow, close to the edge of the blade, while others are broad.  Hako midare (box-like shape) and Gunome (lined-up beads pattern).  O-notare (large gentle waviness) is a Muramasa’s signature characteristic.  The pointed tempered line is a typical Mino Den characteristic (Sanbon-sugi).  Refer 24Sengoku period sword.

61 Sunagashi 2

Sunagashi (Brushed sand-like trace.  My drawing is exaggerated)

59| Second Part of — 23 Sengoku Period Sword (戦国時代刀)

Chapter 59 is a detailed part of Chapter 23,  Sengoku Period Sword.  Please read Chapter 23 Sengoku period sword before reading this section.

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                                      The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

During the Sengoku (Warring States) period, the Mino Den group and Bizen Osafune group were the primary sword makers.  During almost 100 years of the Warring States period, all Daimyos needed a large number of swords.  If suppliers were closer, that was even better.  Many Sengoku Daimyos could reach to Mino area easily because the location was convenient (central) location.  Since the Heian period, Mino swordsmiths were creating swords there. 

One of the well-known swordsmiths of Mino Den at the end of the Kamakura period was Shizu Kane’uji (志津兼氏).  He was one of the Masamune Jutteru (正宗十哲)*.   But the real height for the Mino Den was the Sengoku period

During the Sengoku period, the Shizu group and the Tegai group from the Yamato area and many swordsmiths from Yamashiro (Kyoto) area moved to Mino. Mino became the busiest sword making place.  They made very practical swords for the Warring Stated period.

60-mino-map.jpg

*Masamune Juttetsu (正宗十哲) —–The original meaning of Masamuren Juttetsu was the top 10 Masamune studentsBut later, the word was used more broadly.

Three examples of Sengoku period swords

The three swords below are examples of the Sengoku period blades.  Please note that every sword is different.  Even each swords made by the same swordsmith is different.  Please refer to Chapter 23 Sengoku Period Sword for the primary common characteristics of the blades made in the Sengoku period,

60-sukesada-photo-e1563148031935.jpg 60 Sukesada illustration

Bizen Osafune Yosozaemon Sukesada (備前国住長船与三左衛門尉祐定) from Sano Museum Catalog, permission granted.

Common points of Sengoku period characteristics that show on the sword above

Hamon is Kani-no-tsume (crab claw shape, see above hamon).  Kani-no-tsume type hamon never appeared in the Heian, Kamakura, or Nanboku-cho period.  This type of hamon is one of the decisive points of the Sengoku time.  Marudome-hi (the end of the groove is round ) often appears on the Bizen Den sword during the Sengoku period.  Wide tempered area.  Midare-komi boshi (same type of hamon on the body and the boshi) has a long turn-back and an abrupt stop.  Hamon is the Nioi base.  Most Bizen swords have Nioi, with a few exceptions.

60 Kanesada photo  60 kanesada illustration Izuminokami Fujiwara Kanesada (和泉守藤原兼) from Sano Museum Catalog

Common points of Sengoku Period characteristic shows on the sword above

The last letter of the Kanji(Chinese characters) of this swordsmith above is “”.  We use this letter in place of “ 定”  for him.  The reason is there are two Kanesadas.  To distinguish him from the other Kanesada (兼定), we instead use the letter “ “ and call him Nosada “のさだ.”

Izuminokami Fujiwara Kanesada (Nosada) is the top swordsmith of Mino Den at the time.  The shape of the sword is the typical Sengoku period sword style: shallow curvature, Chu-gissaki (medium size kissaki), and pointed Gunome hamon.  The width of the hamon is wide and narrow.  Often, Nosada and other Mino Den swordsmiths have wood grain with Masame on Ji-HadaNioi base, mixed with coarse Nie.

60 Norimitsu photo  60-norimitsu-illustraton.jpg                     Bizen Osafune NorimitsTu (備前長船法光) from Sano Museum Catalog, permission granted.

The common points of Sengoku period characteristic shows on the sword above

Shallow curvature.  Sturdy look.   Marudome-hi (Hi ends round)Pointed hamon called Togari-ba (尖り刃).  Nioi base mixed with Nie.  Slight Masame and wood grain on Ji-hada.

 

 

 

58| Second part of — 22 Sengoku Period History (戦国時代歴史) 

Chapter 58 is a detailed part of chapter 22 Sengoku Period History.  Please read chapter 22 Sengoku Period History before reading this chapter.

0-timeline - size 24 Sengoku Period
        The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

Chapter 22 Sengoku Period History explained how we separated the timeline based on political history and sword history.  The center timeline above shows the Sengoku Period (戦国時代) ends in 1596 for sword history.

1596 is the beginning of the Keicho (慶長) era.  The swords made in and after the Keicho era is called Shin-to (new sword), and swords before the Keicho era is called Ko-to (old sword).  Therefore, the beginning of the Keicho era is the dividing line.  The swords made during the Keicho time is technically Shin-To, but they are sepecially called Keicho Shin-To.                                                                                                                                                                                        22| Sengoku Period History (戦国時代歴史) described the overview of the Sengoku Period.  At the beginning of the Sengoku Period, 30 or so small Sengoku Daimyos fought fiercely with each other.   They allied with a neighboring territory on and off and sometimes betrayed each other.  The stronger daimyos took over  weaker one’s territories.  Little by little, the number of daimyos became smaller.  The names of known powerful daimyos are Imagawa Yoshimoto (今川義元), Takeda Shingen (武田信玄), Uesugi Kenshin (上杉謙信), Hojo Soun (北条早雲), Oda Nobunaga (織田信長),  Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉).  Their final goal was to defeat others and advance to Kyoto (京都) to be the supreme political power.

Oda Nobunaga (織田信長) defeats Imagawa Yoshimoto in Okehazama (桶狭間)

Around 1560, Imagawa Yoshimoto (今川義元) controlled a significant part of  Suruga (today’s Shizuoka prefecture.  See the map below for the location).  He was a powerful Sengoku Daimyo who was big enough to be the top ruler of the country.

Imagawa clan decided to advance his army toward Kyoto to take over the governmentHe took 25,000 men troop with him.  On his way up to Kyoto, they need to pass Owari (尾張: Aichi prefecture today.  See map below for the location), Oda Nobunaga’s territory.

Oda Nobunaga (織田信長 ) was still a young man who had much less means than Imagawa Yoshimoto.  It was quite apparent that there was no chance for Oda Nobunaga to beat Imagawa.  He had just become the head of Owari after his father’s death.  Also, at that time, Nobunaga was called the “The idiot of Owari” because of his eccentric behaviors (he was actually a genius).

Not too many people had much confidence in him.  Among  Oda vassals, some insisted on just staying inside the castle instead of going out and fighting since Nobunaga managed to gather only 3,000 men.  But in the end, to everyone’s surprise, the Oda side won.  Here is how it happened.

While Imagawa Yoshimoto was advancing, Nobunaga scouted which route Imagawa would take.  Imagawa’s side was sure to win this easy battle since the Oda clan was small, and the head of the clan was an idiot.  Imagawa troops decided to stop and rest in a place called Okehazama.   The road going through Okehazama was long and narrow.  Knowing Imagawa troop would come this way, Nobunaga sent out his men disguised as farmers and offered food and sake to Imagawa soldiersWhile they were having a good time, Oda Nobunaga made a surprise attack on the Imagawa troop.  On top of that, all of a sudden, it began raining heavily.  The rain was so heavy that the Imagawa troop even could not  see the Oda troop was coming.  In the end, Imagawa Yoshimoto was killed by the Oda side in the battle.  After this, the Imagawa clan declined.

59 Okehazama drawing

Bishu Okehazama Gassen (備州桶狭間合戦) by Utagawa Toyonobu (歌川豊信)   Public Domain (http://morimiya.net/online/ukiyoe-big-files/U896.html)

59-imagawa-and-oda-map.jpg

Oda Nobunaga(織田信長) and Akechi Mitsuhide(明智光秀)

After the battle of Okehazama, the Oda clan grew bigger rapidly.  Oda Nobunaga became the primary power.  While his reign he did several cruel things like burning Enryaku-ji Temple (延暦寺) and killing many people, including ordinary people,  yet his economic measures encouraged commercial activities.

Things were going somewhat smoothly for Nobunaga late in his life.  But in 1582, Nobunaga was killed by his own top vassal, Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀), at Hon’nou-ji (本能寺) Temple in KyotoNobunaga was 49 years old.

There are a few theories about why Akecdhi attacked and killed Nobunaga, but we don’t know what exactly happened. One speculation is Akechi had a grudge against Nobunaga.  There were many incidents Nobunaga mistreated Akechi.  Another is that Akechi saw a chance to attack Nobunaga (Nobunaga was with a very few men on that day) and took the opportunity.  The other is then Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki (足利義昭) ordered Akechi to kill Nobunaga since Akechi had once worked under him.  Shogun Yoshiaki was afraid that Nobunaga became too powerful.  More theories go on.  We don’t know the real reason; we still debate over it.  It is one big mystery of Japanese history.

After this happened, the news was relayed to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a counterpart of Akechi under Nobunaga.  At that time, he happened to be in  Bicchu (備中, Okayama prefecture today), which was about 230 KM (143 miles) away from Kyoto (See the map below).   Hideyoshi quickly returned to Kyoto with his troop to fight against Akechi and killed him.

Here is another mystery.  The time between Nobunaga was dead, and the time Akechi was killed by Hideyoshi was only ten days.  Hideyoshi was 230 KM (143 miles) away.  That means in 10 days, Hideyoshi received the information of Nobunaga’s death, hurried back 230 KM (143 miles) to Kyoto with his troop, and fought against Akechi and killed him.   Their means of transportation at the time was minimal.  Even though Hideyoshi had a communication route established between Nobunaga’s inner circle all the time, it is an amazing speed.  There are  also speculatiions that Akechi and Hideyoshi were behind together or some other secret plot behind the incidents..

After Hideyoshi killed Akechi, Hideyoshi cleverly maneuvered his way up to the top of the power.  While he was in charge, he mined a large amount of gold from the gold mines he possessed.  There is a record stating that Hideyoshi buried a vast amount of gold somewhere.  But we never found it yet.

Hideyoshi was a poor farmer’s son who became the most perwerful man in the country.  His success story fascinates the Japanese.  Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu are the three most depicted subjects on TV programs and movies.  After Hideyoshi died naturally, Tokugawa Ieyasu became Shogun, and the Edo period started.

59-bicchu-map.jpg