64| Part 2 of –30 Shin Shin-To : Bakumatsu sword (新々刀)

Chapter 64 is a detailed chapter of 30|Bakumatsu Period, Shin Shin-to.  Please read chapter 30 before reading this chapter.

0-timeline - size 24 Bakumatsu

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

Swords made between the Tennmei era (天明 1781) and the end of Keio era (慶應) are called Shin Shin-to.  Please see the timeline above.  It was the time Japan was moving toward the Meiji Restoration.  It was the Bakumatsu time.  During the time, sword making was active again.  Below are the well-known swordsmiths in the main areas.

Musashi no Kuni  (武蔵の国: Tokyo today)

Suishinshi Masahide (水心子正秀) ———— When Suishinshi Masahide made Yamashiro Den style swords, the shape was similar to one of the Ko-to time swords; Funbari, elegant shape, Chu-suguha (medium straight), Komaru-boshi, fine wood grain.  When he forged the Bizen style, he made a Koshizori shape, just like a Ko-to by Bizen Osafune.  Nioi with Ko-choji, and Katai-ha (Refer to  30| Bakumatsu Period Sword 新々刀).  I wrote in my sword textbook that I saw Suishinshi in November 1970 and October 1971.

Taikei Naotane  (大慶直胤) ————-Although Taikei Naotane was within the Suishinshi group, he was among the top swordsmiths.  He had an amazing ability to forge all kinds of different styles of swords wonderfully.  When he made a Bizen Den style, it looked like a Nagamitsu from the Ko-to time with Nioi.  Also, he did Sakasa-choji as Katayama Ichimonji had done.  Katai-ha appearsMy note on the textbook says that I saw Naotane in August 1971.

67 Naotane photo

Taikei Naotane (大慶直胤)   Photo is from “Token no Mikata (The way to look at swords)” written by Koichi Hiroi,  Published 1971

Minamoto no Kiyomaro (源清麿) —– Kiyomaro desired to join the Meiji Restoration movement as a Samurai; still, his guardian realized Kiyomaro’s ability as a great swordsmith and helped him become one.  It is said that because Kiyomaro had a drinking problem, he was not so eager to forge swords.  At age 42, he committed SeppukuKiyomaro, who lived in Yotsuya  (a part of Shinjuku, Tokyo, today), was called Yotsuya Masamune because he was as good as Masamune.  His swords were with wide width, shallow Sori, stretched Kissaki, and Fukurakareru Boshi has Komaru-boshi.  Fine wood grain Ji-gane.

67 Kiyomaro photo

Minamoto no Kiyomaro (源清麿)   Photo is from “Token no Mikata ( The way to look at swords)”, written by Koichi Hiroi, published 1971

Settsu no Kuni    摂津の国   (Osaka today )

Gassan Sadakazu  (月山貞一) ———- Gassan was good at Soshu Den style and Bizen Den style, but he could make any kinds of style.  He was as genius as Taikei Naotane.  When you see his Ko-to style swords, it is hard to distinguish his sword from a real Ko-to sword because of his superb ability.   One needs to be careful not to mistake a sword made by Gassan from a real Ko-to.  He also had an amazing ability in carving.  His hirazukuri-kowakizashi forged in Soshu Den style looks just like a Masamune or a Yukimitsu.  He forged Yamashiro Den style with Takenoko-zori with Hoso-suguha or Chu-suguha in Nie.  He also forged Yamato Den style with Masame-hada.

67 Gassan photo

Gassan Sadakazu (月山貞一)  Photo is from “Token no Mikata (How to look at swords)” written by Koichi Hiroi, Published in 1971

 

63|Part 2 of — 29 Bakumatsu Period History (幕末時代)

This chapter is a continued part of Chapter 29| Bakumatsu Period History (幕末).  Please read Chapter 29 before reading this chapter.

0-timeline - size 24 Bakumatsu

                             The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

The last part of the Edo period, around the Tenmei era (天明), from 1781 to 1868, is called  Bakumatsu.  During this time, the economy in Japan began stagnating.  

The several Tokugawa Shoguns in different generations tried to perform financial reforms, but each time, it succeeded somewhat, but it never solved the core fundamental economic problems.  

Tokugawa Bakufu tried mostly to impose fiscal restraint on the government, forced people to lead a frugal life, and banned even a small luxury.  You know this only shrinks the economy and get things even worse.  On top of it, they raised the prevailing interest rate, thinking that may solve the problem.  It was a typical non-economist solution.  The interest rate should be lowered in a situation like this.  As a result, lower level Samurais became more impoverished, and farmers revolted often.  In addition, many natural disasters struck the farming area.  The famous Kurosawa movie “Seven Samurai” was staged around this time.  As we all know, “Magnificent Seven” was a Hollywood version of the “Seven Samurai.”

Yet little by little, small cottage industry began to grow, together with the improved farming productivity led by the local leaders.  Merchants became affluent, and towns-people in the city became wealthier.  However, the gap between rich and poor became wider.  And the problem of Ronin (unemployed Samurai) became severe to the level where it was almost dangerous to society. 

The Edo Towns-people’s Culture

During this time, novels were written for ordinary people, too, instead of only for the upper-class.  In the past, the paintings were related to religion and only for the upper class.  Now they became for ordinary people too.  

The Bakumatsu time was the golden time for “Ukioe (浮世絵).”  Kitagawa Utamaro (喜多川歌麿1753-1800) was well-known for portraits of ladies.  Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849葛飾北斎) and Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858安藤広重) were famous for scenery woodblock paintings.  Maruyama Okyo (円山応挙) drew pictures using the European perspective method.  Katsushika Hokusai’s daughter also drew some of her paintings in perspective.  Her name is “Ooi, 応為Only a few of her works are left now.  It is said that even her genius father was surprised at her ability to draw.

Though the number was small, some people learned the Dutch language.  The Netherlands was one of the only two countries that were allowed to enter Japan then.  Those people translated the European medical book into Japanese using French and Dutch dictionaries, and they wrote a book called “Kaitai Shinsho (解体新書)”.After this book was translated, European history books, economy books, political books were translated.  New ideas emerged from those books and influenced the intellects. 

In those days, schooling was thriving.  Each feudal domain ran its schools for the sons of the Daimyo’s retainers.  Children of the towns-people went to a school called Terakoya (寺子屋: an unofficial neighborhood school) to learn reading, writing, and arithmetic.

Pressure from the Outside World

Even though Japan was in Sakoku state(鎖国: national isolation policy), people knew what was happening outside of Japan.  Since the early 17th century, messengers from Russia came to Japan to demand trades (1792 and 1804).  In 1808, English ships came to Nagasaki.  In 1825, Tokugawa Bakufu ordered to fire guns at any ships that came close to Japan.  In 1842, when England won the Opium War against the Qing dynasty, Bakufu decided to supply foreign ships with food and fuel. They were afraid to have the same fate as Qing.  In 1846, the U.S. sent Japan a fleet commander to open diplomatic relations, but the Bakufu refused.  The U.S. needed Japan to open the ports to supply food, water, and fuel for their whaling ships in the Pacific Ocean. 

In 1853, a fleet commander, Perry*, arrived at Uraga (浦賀: a port of Japan) with four warships displaying American military power to open the country.  Tokugawa Bakufu did not have any clear policy on handling such a situation and realized it is difficult to maintain the isolation policy any longer. 

In 1854, “the Japan-U.S. Treaty of Amity and Friendship” was signed.  After that, Japan made treaties with England, Russia, France, and the Netherlands.  That ended over 200 years of Sakoku (national isolation policy), and Japan opened several ports for foreign ships. 

However, those treaties caused many problems.  The treaties were unequal.  It caused Japan a shortage of daily necessities; as a result, the prices went up.  Also, a large amount of gold flowed out of Japan.  It was caused by the difference in the exchange rate of gold to silver between Japan and Europe.  In Japan, the exchange rate was gold 1 to silver 5, but in Europe, it was gold 1 to silver 15.

On top of theses problems, there was another problem; who should be the next Shogun after Shogun Tokugawa Yesada (徳川家定), since he did not have any heir.

At a chaotic time like this, many feudal domains opposing each other wanted a Shogun whose political idea was on their side.  Many other problems already had caused big battles among domains, and there were also other reasons for them to oppose the Bakufu. 

Now the base of Tokugawa Bakufu began to fall apart.  The Choshu-han (Choshu domain) and the Satsuma-han (Satsuma domain) were the main forces against the Tokugawa Bakufu.  In the beginning, they opposed each other.  But after many strained incidents, they decided to reconcile and went after the Bakufu together since they realized it was not the time to fight among themselves.  England, realizing Bakufu did not have much power any longer, started to be closer to the Emperor’s side, whereas France sided with Tokugawa.  England and France almost started a war in Japan.   

In 1867, Tokugawa Yoshinobu issued “the Restoration of Imperial Rule (Taisei Hokan, 大政奉還).”  In 1868, the Tokugawa clan left the Edo Castle, and the Meiji Emperor moved in.  It is now called Kokyo (皇居: Imperial Palace).  The present Emperor lives there. 

Many well-known political figures were the driving forces and played an active role in toppling the Tokugawa Bakufu.  Ito Hirobumi (伊藤博文), Okubo Toshimichi (大久保利通), Shimazu Nariakira (島津斉彬), and Hitotsubashi Yoshinobu (一橋慶喜) are among those.   They established a new government system, the Meiji Shin Seifu (明治新政府), centering around the Emperor.

The original Edo-jo (Castle) was lost by a big fire, yet the original moat (you can see several swans), massive stone walls, a beautiful bridge called Nijyu-bashi (二重橋) are still there.  Big garden areas are open to the public and free to walk around.  This area is famous for beautiful cherry blossoms.  The Imperial Palace is in front of and a walking distance from the Marunouchi side of Tokyo station.

Today, the Japanese like the historical dramas of the Meiji Ishin (Meiji Restoration) time, and we see them on TV and in movies quite often.  Those are stories of Saigo Takamori (西郷隆盛), Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬), and Shinnsen-Gumi (新撰組).  Though it was fiction, the Hollywood movie “Last Samurai” was staged around this time with a real historical character, Saigo Takamori

 66 koukyo

Imperial Palace (From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository ).  

*Perry

Commodore M.C. Perry came to Japan two times with four warships.  In 1853, he brought the sovereign diplomatic letter from the president of the U.S.  The following year, he came back and demanded the answer to the letter.  After the expedition, Perry wrote a book about his journey, “Expedition of an American Squadron to the China Seas and Japan, Under the command of Commodore M.C. Perry, United States Navy by order of the Government of the United States.”   In his book, he mentioned Japan very favorably; the beautiful scenery and people’s ingenuities, lively, active women, and drawings.

 Even though it was a long, tough negotiation between the Edo Bakufu and Perry, there were several fun moments.  Perry displayed and presented Japan with a 1:4-scale model steam locomotive, a sewing machine, etc.  The Japanese had a Sumo match and gave him gifts like silk, lacquer wares, etc.  The Japanese prepared elaborate banquets for the American diplomats.  Perry also invited the Japanese officials for his feast.  The biggest hit was when Perry served a dessert at the end of the dinner. Perry printed each guest’s family crest on a small flag and put it on the desert.

Before starting his expedition, he had anticipated tough negotiations lying ahead.  So, he had studied Japanese beforehand and discovered that the Japanese would enjoy parties a lot.  He brought skilled chefs and loaded the ship with some livestock to Japan for future parties.  He entertained Japanese officials with whiskey, wine, beer, etc.  Initially, the U.S. wanted Japan to open five ports, whereas Bakufu was willing to open only one port.  In the end, both sides agreed on opening three ports.

ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/黒船来航

ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/マシュー・ペリー

62|Part 2 of — 28 Shin-To Main 7 Region (part B)

This chapter is a continued part of chapter 28 Shin-to Main 7 Regions (part B).  Please read chapter 28 before reading this chapter.  Below are the regions 3,7.

0-timeline - size 24 Shin-to                           The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section    

29 Map with number 7

3.Musashi (Edo)

We find many famous swordsmiths in Edo also.  They were Yasutsugu(康継), Kotetsu(虎徹), Noda Hankei (野田繁慶), Hojoji Masahiro (法成寺正弘), and their followers.

Two photos below are swordsmiths from Musashi (武蔵: Tokyo).  

               65 Yasutsugu photo  65-yasutsugu-illustration-e1567313224375.jpg                             Yasutsugu  From Sano Museum Catalogue.  Permission granted to use

Characteristics of Yasutusgu (康継) ——- shallow curvature; Chu-gissaki (medium Kissaki); Hamon of wide Notare, Midare, or O-gunome (sometimes double Gunome); a trace of Soshu Den and Mino Den; and woodgrain mixed with Masame on Shinogi-ji.

                         65 Kotetsu photo  65 kotetu illustration                                    Kotetsu (虎徹) from Sano Museum Catalogue, (permission granted to use)

Here is the famous Kotetsu.  His formal name was Nagasone Okisato Nyudo Kotetsu (長曽祢興里入道虎徹).   Kotetsu began to make swords after he passed 50 years old.  Before that, he was an armor maker.  

The characteristics of Kotetsu ——- shallow curvature and wide width, wide tempered line with Nie.  Small irregular Hamon at about the Machi area, becoming wide Suguha like Notare at the upper area.  Fine Nie, Komaruboshi with a short turn back.  Ji-hada is fine wood grain and burl.  Sometimes, you see O-hada (black core iron show through) at the lower part above the Machi area.  The illustration above shows a thick tempered line between Ha and Ji consisting of Nie, the typical Kotetsu’s characteristic.  Once you see it, you will remember it.    The next region is 7, skipping 4, 5, and 6.

  1. Satsuma (Kyushu)

                   65 Satsuma Masakiyo illustration65 Satsuma Masakiyo photo                  Miyahara Mondonosho Masakiyo (宮原主水正正清) from Sano Museum Catalogue, (permission granted to use).

Miyahara Mondonosho Masakiyo was highly regarded by the Shimazu family of Satsuma Han (Satsuma domain in Kyushu).  Later he was chosen to go to Edo to forge swords for Shogun Yoshimune

Mondonosho Masakiyo’s characteristics————-Well balanced sword shape, shallow curvature, and wide and narrow Hamon mixed with squarish Hamon and pointed Hamon as shown in the photo above.  He engraved the Aoi crest (the hollyhock crest of the Tokugawa family) on Nakago.