5| Heian Period History (平安時代)  794-1192 «part 2»

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

5 Heian period 2000 yen

 

Paintings drew by Tosa Mitsukuni.  These paintings are based on the Tales of Genji

5 Heian 3 photoes.jpg
By Tosa Mitsukuni (土佐光国) 17C
Part of the Burke Albums, a property of Mary Griggs Burke   (Public Domain)

 

4|Names of the Parts «part 2»

This chapter is the continued part of a chapter  “4| Names of the Part”.  Please read the chapter “4| Names of the Parts” before reading the part 2.

Let’s discuss how to look for the location of the highest curvature area.  Any sword in a sword book looks like a curvature comes around the middle area.  That is because a photographer places a sword to fit in a certain rectangle space.
The correct way to look for a curvature is to stand the Nakago ( 茎 ) perpendicularly.  That way you can see the curvature more precisely.  Any sword looks like the curvature comes around the middle if the Nakago is not vertical.  Rotate (move or shift) the book slightly so that the Nakago shows as perpendicular.  That way you can see the real curvature of the sword.


4 Heian Bize sori rotated with line

Table of Content

By clicking the links below, you can navigate to those chapters.

1 | Preface  

1|Preface «part 2»

2 | Time line

2| Timeline «part 2»

3 | Joko-to(上古刀)

3| Jyoko-To «part 2»

4 |Names of Parts

4|Names of the Parts «part 2»

5 | Heian period History(平安時代) 794 – 1192

5| Heian Period History (平安時代)  794-1192  « part 2»

6 |Heian Period Swords

7| Kamakura Period History (1192 – 1334)

8| Kamakura Period Swords

9| Middle Kamakura Period —Yamashiro School(鎌倉中期山城伝

10| Middle Kamakura Period — Bizen School(鎌倉中期備前伝)

11| Jokyu-no-ran (承久の乱) 1221

12| Ikubi Kissaki (猪首切先)

13|Tanto(dagger 短刀) Middle Kamakura Period

14| Late Kamakura Period History (鎌倉後期)

15|Late Kamakura Period Sword

16|The Revival of Yamato School (山城伝復活)

17| Late Kamakura period Tanto ——- Early Soshu Tanto

18| Nanboku(Yoshino) Cho Period History—— North and South Dynasty History(1333-1393)

19| Nanboku-Cho (North and South dynasty) Period Sword

20| Nanboku-Cho Tanto(南北朝短刀)

21| Muromachi Period History (室町時代)

22| Muromachi Period Sword

23| Sengoku Period History (戦国時代)

24|Sengoku Period Sword(戦国時代)

25|Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代)

26| Edo Period History (江戸時代)1603 – 1867

27| Shinto (新刀)

28| Seven Main Areas of Shin-to Sword (Part A)

29| Seven Main Areas of Sin-To Sword (partB)

30| Bakumatsu Period History (幕末)1781 – 1867

31| Shin Shin-To (Bakumatsu Period Sword 新々刀)1781-1867

32| The Process of Making a Sword

33| References

34| Background 

 

 

3| Jyoko-To «part 2»

Around 4 to 6 century, Kofun (古墳) culture appeared.  Kofun is a huge burial place for the powerful people at the time.  They are often Zenpo-Koen-Fun (前方後円墳) that is the front is square and the back is round shape.  If you look at it from the sly, it shapes like a keyhole.  The largest one is Ninntoku Tenno Ryo (仁徳天皇陵) in Osaka, the tomb for the Emperor Nintoku.  The length is 480M X 305M.  The height is 35M.  Inside, we found swords, armors, bronze mirror, jewelry, iron, metal tools.  Sometimes, iron itself, since iron was considered very precious, they are only for the ruling class.  The outside of the Kofun, a large number of Haniwa *¹ were placed.  It is said they are for the retaining wall purpose.  Originally they were just simple tube shape, eventually became very elaborate figurines.  Smiling people, Smiling soldier, a dog with a bell around the neck, a female with hat, farmers, house, monkey, ship, bird, etc.  Some of them are really elaborately made and very cute.  you can see people in those days wore elaborate clothes.  Haniwa is very popular among children in Japan.  We have a children’s TV program “Haniwa-kun”, Haniwa is the main character.  Those Haniwa somewhat suggests us what was their life like.  Their facial expression is all happy and smiling.   According to the old Japanese history book Nihon Shoki (日本書紀), it said Haniwa is the replacement of martyrdom, but it is not proved.  Like I described in chapter 3|Joko-to, from Ogonzuka Kofun (黄金塚古墳), another huge Kofun in Osaka, they found a sword.  The hilt was made in Japan and the blade is made in China.  This sword has round hilt and on the hilt, it has some character.  It said 中 平 ⌈   ⌋ 年.   We can not see the third letter.  But we know 中平 is from 184 to 189 AD, and 年 indicate the year, therefore it was made between 184 to 189.  And this sword came out from the 4th Century tomb.    I took archaeology at Meiji University.  I found it most fascinating subject.  The professor explained to us how to determine when a particular bronze mirror was made by reading the half disappearing character on the back of it.  Or he explained to us that a large number of Doutaku*² has excavated from one particular place, fit inside one another.  Doutaku is a musical instrument for the ritual.  Therefore scholars think people then were being attacked by their enemy so they hid Doutaku in a hurry and escaped.  On and on.  In many countries, excavation is a time-consuming tedious work and often it takes a long time to find anything.  But in Japan, it is not as hard as other countries.   We often find things, it may not what you are looking for, but we excavate items quite often.

398px-群馬県大泉町古海出土_埴輪_腰かける巫女

*¹ 腰かける巫女(群馬県大泉町古海出土)国立博物館蔵                                             Sitting Shrine Maiden (Excavated from Gunma Prefecture)  Owned by National Museum

滋賀県野洲市小篠原字大岩山出土_突線紐5式銅鐸    *² 滋賀県野洲市小篠原字大岩屋出土突線紐5式銅鐸  東京国立博物館展示              Doutaku     Excavated from Shiga Prefecture   Displayed at Tokyo National Museum

 

2| Timeline «part 2»

Original Timeline 0

 

In the chapter 2 Timeline, I mentioned Gendai-to ( 現代刀 ) is the swords made after the Meiji Revolution (明治維新1868 ) until now. It has been about 150 years.  Even though I simply categorized all swords made during this time into one group as Gendai-to, there is quite a difference in quality and variety.   The big difference is Gunto (軍刀).  Those are military swords that were made to take to the World War I and World War II.  Some of them have a saber like a handle.  Those were not made for artistic purpose nor to appreciate the beauty of the surface of the blade.  Compare to the swords made today, Gunto is usually considered much less valuable.  It often has a brown color scabbard.  The color is similar to the Japanese military uniform.  Those Gunto are usually not part of the study of the Japanese sword.  Also, at the time of the Meiji Revolution (明治維新), Meiji-Ishin-to (明治維新等刀  ) or Kin-nou-to ( 勤王刀 ) were made.  They are a long sword and some of them are almost 3 feet long and have no curvature.  The representative ones are like the one owned by Saigo Takamori ( 西郷隆盛  ) and Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬).

*Refer to ” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunt%C5%8D”  for Japanese military sword.

 

1|Preface «part 2»

In the present time, we have many serious swordsmiths. I am a good friends with two of them personally.  One is Yoshindo Yoshihara (吉原義人) and the other is Tsunahiro Yamamura (山村綱廣  ).  We met each other when we were still the early 20s before each of us got married.

I met Mr. Yoshihara at one of the sword meetings when I attended it with my father. That was around the late 60s or early 70s.  Since then, we met at the different sword gatherings here and there.  His son is also a well-known swordsmith, also his grandson decided to be a swordsmith.   He is really excited to teach his grandson.  Mr. Yoshihara often tells me very interesting stories.  Here is some of them.   He once had an apprentice from one of the Arabic countries.  He studied with other Japanese apprentices.  He was sent by the King.  He said this apprentice was a very quiet and good student.  Another time he told me a King from Europe visited Yoshihara’s studio, and he gave Yoshihara a photo of himself with his autograph on it as a souvenir.  A few times, a famous movie director of Hollywood ordered swords and visited his house.  When he told me about this incident, I realized it was about the same time I ordered my sword.  Maybe Mr. Yoshihara started to work on this director’s sword ahead of mine.  Because it seems to me that my sword took longer than it should to complete.

Yoshihara Yoshindo                                                                                                       8-17-11 Takasago Katsushika-ku Tokyo Japan 125-0054           tel  (81)3-3607-5255

Yamamura-kun ( we put kun after the last name for a male friend and san for female friend) and I were students at Mori Sensei’s sword class together.  He was a top student, I was almost the last.  He is the direct descendants of Goro Nyudo Masamune (五郎入道正宗  ) 24th generation.  He now has his studio near Kamakura station.  But back then, he had a store right in front of Hachiman-Gu Shrine (八幡宮 ).

We had one more person in this group. His name is Kurokawa (黒川) who became an owner of a famous big sword store in Tokyo,  “Soken-do (霜剣堂 )”.  Three of us were living in Kamakura (鎌倉 ) then.  We get together Yamamura-Kun’s store in front of the Hachiman-Gu shrine, having a good time and joking around in his store.  Eventually, we were so involved in a fun conversation, Yamamura kun closed the store saying that those customers don’t buy anyway so it’s OK, and he locked the door. And we continued having a fun party.  I still remember seeing customers puzzled face outside of the glass windows, but he ignored them.

Masamune Kougei (正宗工芸 )                                                                                         13-29 Onari-Cho Kamakura-Shi  Japan 248-0012         Tel  0467- 22- 3962

Soken-Do(霜剣堂)                                                                                                               28-1 6-1  Cho-me  Jingu-Mae Shibuya-ku Tokyo 150-0001        Tel 03 (3499) 8080   http://www.sokendo.jp

34| Background

While I was growing up in Azabu and Mita (near Keio University) in Tokyo, later Kamakura, my father was heavily involved in Japanese Sword Society, called “Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai”.   At that time, the head was Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato.  Originally, Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato’s sword department was a part of the National Museum in Ueno.  Later they built a sword museum in Yoyogi,  Shibuya.  Though the address is Yoyogi in Shibuya, it was almost like it was in Shinjuku.  To get there, take “Odakyu-sen(line)” from Shinjuku ( Sangubashi, the third stop from Shinjuku).  To built this museum, my father,  Mr. Watanabe (owner of Wataki clothing company) and Mr. Suzuki Katei (owner of the construction company) were heavily involved. Those two friends used to come to our house all the time and stayed hours talking and gossiping.  Now, the Museum was moved to Sumida-Ku, near Ryogoku which is near the Sumo Stadium.  Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato used to come to our house in Tokyo.  All those people were deceased many years ago, but they were young then.  I am talking about the 60s to 70s.  I was teens then, so they did not look young to me.  My father was so involved in swords field, people wondered when does he work in his business.

I was told by many people that Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato actually visited the headquarter of General MacArthur during the occupation after the world war II and those two convinced MacArthur that the Japanese swords are not a weapon, it is an art object.  Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato did this because MacArthur ordered all Japanese to turn in the swords and forbid to own one.  I was told that two-person changed MacArthur’s mind.

But by that time, many swords were already turned in at Akabane (the name of the place in Tokyo), though the valuable ones were hidden. Those turned in swords are called Akabane sword.

A huge number of the swords were taken to the US by the soldiers as a souvenir when they went back to the US.   About 30 years later after the war around the 60s and 70s, the Japanese sword dealers came to the US and started to buy back many Japanese swords.  I have a few sword dealer friends who did that.  They advertised that they will buy the Japanese sword in the local newspaper.  As you can imagine, many swords were in bad shape, some had the wrong kinds of chemical put on.  But a few were a good one.

Among those, one of the very famous missing National treasure swords was found by Dr. Compton.  He was a chairman of the Board of Miles laboratory in Elkhart Indiana.  This pharmaceutical company produced many different products.   Among them, one of the well-known items is Alka- Seltzer.  He was a  very wealthy person and he understood the Japanese sword.  My father and I visited his house several times.  When he saw this sword, he realized this one is not a just ordinary sword.  He contacted many sword societies and eventually through the process my father became a good friends.  He returned this sword to the Terukuni Shrine in Kagoshima without compensation.To.  A story about Dr. Compton comes next article.

Token Hakubutsu kan (刀剣博物館)

Non Profit organization : Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyoukai ( 日本美術刀剣保存協会 ) 1-12-9 Yokozuna Sumida-Ku Tokyo Japan    130—0015

Tel: 03-6284-1000                                                                                             https://www.touken.or.jp/

bigger train map

train-map1.jpg

33|References

 

  • “Nihonto no Okite to Tokucho”  written by Honnami Koson.   Issued by Bijutsu Club Tokenbu  
  • 日本刀の掟と特徴 本阿弥光遜著 美術倶楽部刀剣部発行

 

  •  “Sano Bijutsu-kan Zuroku”  written by Sano Bijutsu-kan.  Issued by Sano Bijutsu-kan 
  •  佐野美術館図録 佐野美術館著 佐野美術館発行

 

  •  “The art of the Japanese Sword” written by Yoshindo Yoshihara , Leon & Hiroko Kapp.  Issued by Paolo Saviolo  
  • 日本刀美術 吉原義人,リーオン ひろ子 キャップ著  パオロ  サビオロ 発行

 

  •  “Shousetu Nihonshi” written by Keigo Mochizuki & Kunihiko Fujiki.  Issued by Yamakawa shuppan (High school text book by the Ministry of Education)
  • 詳説日本史 望月圭吾, 藤木邦彦著 山川出版発行    文部省検定済教科書

 

  •  “Token no Mikata” written by Yuichi Hiroi.   Issued by Daiichi Hoki Shuppan Kabushiki Kais
  • 刀剣のみかた 広井雄一著 第一法規出版株式会社発行

 

  •  ‘The sword of Japan” written by Joseph W.Bot.  Issued by ID 13996126 www.lulu.com
  • 日本の刀 ジョ‐ゼフ ボット著

 

  •  “New Explanatory Diagrma of World History” written by Hamashima Book Editorial department.   Issued by Hamashima book   
  • 新詳世界史図録 浜島書店編集部著 株式会社浜島書店

 

  • “New Nihonto Koza”  written by Dr. Junji Honma & Dr. Kanichi Sato.  Issued by Yuzankaku shuppan Kabushiki kaisha
  • 新版日本刀講座 本間順次,佐藤貫一著 雄山閣出版株式会社発行

 

  • “Nihonto Zenshu”  written by Dr. Junji Honma & Dr. Kanichi Sato.  Issued by Tokuma Shoten 
  • 日本刀全集 本間順次、佐藤貫一著 徳間書店発行

 

 

 

 

 

 

32|The Process of Making a Sword

As a part of the sword study, it is necessary to know the construction process of sword making.  But it is a very involved process and each swordsmith has his own secrets, this chapter only explains the very basic procedure.  Anybody interested more detailed explanation, please refer to the book written by a famous swordsmith, Mr. Yoshihara Yoshindo and DVD  as below.  You should be able to buy this book and DVD from Amazon.  If not, contact me.  I can order from the author directly.

The art of the Japanese Sword ————-The Craft of Swordmaking and its Appreciation by Yoshihara Yoshindo, Leon and Hiroko Capp, published by Saviolo Edizioni.

DVD:  Katana / On Ko So Shin —–Katana Project  by Yoshihara Yoshikazu(吉原義一)

Tamahagane (玉鋼  )

In old early sword making time, swordsmiths himself created the steel for sword material by collecting the iron sand and refined himself.  By the Kamakura period, steel making was done by a separate entity.  Swordsmiths buy steel called “Tamahabane” from a steelmaker.  “Tamahagane” is the most important part of the sword making.  “Tamahagane” is the steel made with the Tatara process, that is a unique Japanese smelter.

Kawa-gane(側金) and Shin-gane(芯金 )

The Japanese sword is made from two types of different hardness steel.  Kawa-gane is for outer steel.  Shin-gane for inner steel.  Kawa-gane is harder steel which contains about 0.6% carbon contents.  Shin-gane is a softer steel which contains about 0.25% carbon contents.  Japanese swords are made with the harder steel outside and  softer steel inside therefore,  does not bend, does not break.

Kawagane (outer steel側金) —– Shita Gitae (Base forging 下鍛)

Heat up a piece of Tamahagane —– Hit with a hammer and make a flat piece—– While Tamahagane is still hot, quench in water quickly —– Break into small pieces —– Separately, forge a rectangle plate from Tamahagane —– Connect this plate with a handle (or a lever called Teko) —– Stack up the previously broken metal pieces on a Teko (handle or lever) carefully and closely.

32 Pile up drawing

—– Cover the stacked up Tamahagane with ashes and clay for protection purpose —– Heat this up in the furnace —– Take it out from the furnace, hit with a hammer —– Repeat this process many times to stretch out Tamahgane about twice as long —— While Tamahagane is still hot, make a notch in the center and fold back into half —– Continue the same process of heat up, hammer to stretch out, fold back (half in sideways and half in length wise alternatively approximately 6 or 7 times depends on the original carbon contents  in Tamagahane).  This process reduces the carbon contents to the desired level.

 

32 folding drawing

 

Kawagane (outer steel側金) —–Age Kitae (Finish forging上鍛 )

After Shita Gitae, the block of Tamahagane is chiseled to divide into two or three sections —– quench in water —– Cool down —– break into pieces where marked before —– repeat heating, folding, hammering  6 or 7 times, depends on the original carbon contents in Tamagahane.  This process is for Kawagane ( 側鉄 )

Purpose of heating hammering and folding

  • Each time the heating and folding process is done, Tamahagane loses carbon contents. For outer steel, ideal carbon contents should be approximately 0.6%. If the carbon contents are higher, steel is hard and as a result, the sword can crack.   If it is too low, the sword will be too soft and can bend. A swordsmith judge by his eye to determine the right amount of carbon contents. This is the professionalism and the art of the swordsmith.
  • Removing the slag and impurity from Tamahagane.
  • Each heating and folding processes create many layers of thin steel that create the Jigane pattern (surface patterns like wood grain, burl look, straight look or mixture of those)

Shingane (inner steel 芯金 )

Shin-gane is the inner metal.  By having the softer inside, the sword has flexibility.  Having hard outer steel, it prevents to crack or break.  To make the Shin-gane steel, mix softer steel with Tamahagane.  Repeat the same process as Kawa-gane.

Sunobe (素延 )

Sunobe is the process to wrap the Shin-gane with the Kawa-gane then weld two pieces together by heating, hammering and stretch out to make a steel bar like.  There are several ways to wrap the Shin-gane, but the most common way is called Kobuse (甲伏). Illustration below.

32 Kobuse drawing

 

Hizukuri (火造 )

Hizukuri is to make the final shape from Sunobe by heating and hammering.  At this point, Ha (cutting edge ) gets thinner, Shinogi side gets higher, and starts to form the shape of a sword.

Arashiage (荒仕上げ  )

This process is rough finishing.

Tuchitori (土取)

Mix clay, pine tree ash, ground stone and water. Paint this muddy mixture on the sword.  Around Hamon area, remove a thin layer of the muddy mixture a little, then dry out.  By doing Tuchitori process, Hamon appears and cutting-edge hardens at the same time.

Yaki-Ire (焼入れ)

After the muddy paste is dried, heat up the sword evenly in the furnace.  Judging by the color of the heated sword, pull out the sword from the furnace then quench into the water.  Usually, this process is done after the sun goes down so that the swordsmith can see the color of the metal and can judge the temperature of the heated sword better.  This is the most important process since all the work done up to this point may be ruined if he fails to judge the precise color of the heated sword,  water temperature  and the timing of quenching.

 

 

 

31| Shin Shin-To (Bakumatsu Period Sword 新々刀)1781-1867

30 Timeline (Bakumatsu)

The circle indicates the subject we are discussing in this chapter

The end of the Edo period is also called Bakumatsu (Later part of Bakufu).  Look at the circled area of the timeline above.  The swords made during this time is called Shin Shin-To.  They are also called Fukko-To style (復古, means revival). The shape of the sword, Hamon, Boshi, etc, is a copy of the Ko-to and Shin-to.  The characteristics of Shin Shin-To (新新刀) and well-known swordsmiths are those below.

The characteristic of Shin Shin-To

  • Katana, Wakizashi, Tanto, they all tend to be the similar or copy of the previous shape
  • Many swords often have Hi or detailed engraving.
  • Unlike previous time, one swordsmith make several styles like Soshu style, Bizen style, Shin-to style forging.
  • Often shows Katai-ha (refer 24Sengoku period sword.docx).

 

 

24 katai-ha                                                                Katai-Ha

  • Not tight Nioi, the entire surface looks like Nioi.
  • Yakidashi (2,3 inches above Machi) is often Suguha (straight line), even though the rest is irregular Hamon. Boshi is often irregular Midare.
  • Engravings are detailed but more realistic than the previous time.

Settsu (Osaka area)——–Gassan Sadayoshi (月山貞吉)  Gassan Sadakazu (月山貞一)  Gassan family are famous for detailed carvings.

Musashi no Kuni (Tokyo area)——Suishinshi Masahide ( 水心子正秀 ) Taikei Naotane (大慶直胤)    Minamoto Kiyomaro (源 清麿 )   Taikei Yoshitane ( 大慶義種) is famous for his carvings.

img075Minamoto Kiyomaro (源清麿)  Previously owned by my family

 

Tosa no Kuni (Shikoku area)———Sa Yukihide (左行秀)

Satsuma no Kuni (Kagoshima area)——-Oku Motohira (奥元平 )

 

Meiji Ishin-To

Right before the Meiji Revolution time, long swords (approximately 3 feet) with no curvature were made. Well known ones are the one owned by Saigo Takamori or Sakamoto Ryoma (Both are famous historical characters during Meiji Restoration). They are also called Kinno -To.