14|Late Kamakura Period History (鎌倉後期)

 

14 Timeline The circle represents the time we are discussing in this section

 

GENKO 元寇  (1274 and 1281)

The grandson of Genghis Kahn, Khubilai Kahn attempted to invade Japan two times in 1274 and 1281.  Both times, a strong typhoon hit Japan.  Mongol sent a large number of soldiers with all kinds of supplies on their huge numbers of ships.  Those ships had to dock side by side and front and back very closely at the limited area of shore.   When the strong wind came, ships were swayed, hit each other and capsized.  Many people were drowned and lost supplies in the water.  Even though they landed and attacked Japan, because of the typhoon and ships wrecking, they left Japan.  As a result Japan won.   Actually, Mongol had much superior weapons than Japanese.  They had guns, Japanese did not.  Their group fighting method was much more superior and effective than Japanese individual  fighting method.  This is the time the word “Kamikaze” (God wind)  was created.

After the Mongolian invasion, the need for the changing the style of the Ikubi Kissaki became obvious.  When swords were used in a war, the most frequently damaged area was a Kissaki area.  Japanese soldiers used mostly Ikubi Kissaki swords in this war.  The Ikubi Kissaki Tachi has a short Kissaki, therefore, when the damaged area of the Kissaki was polished down for repairing, the top part of the Yakiba (tempered area) disappeared and the Hi (groove) goes up too high in the Boshi area (top triangle-like area).  Functionally, short Ikubi Kissaki becomes even shorter, and Hi goes up too high into a Boshi area became a flaw.  To compensate for this flaw, a new style began to appear in later part of Kamakura period

14 Ikubi kissaki Damadge

 

During later part of Kamakura period, the swordsmiths began to create a new style of swords to compensate for this fault.  Also, people’s enthusiasm (that was raised by driving back Mongolian) reflected on the surface of swords.  Generally speaking, Hamon and a shape of the body became showy and stronger looking.

Kamakura became a very prosperous place under the power of Hojo family.  A large number of swordsmiths moved to Kamakura from Bizen, Kyoto and other places during this time and created a new style.  This is the beginning of Soshu school (presently Kanagawa area).  Many famous top swordsmiths appeared during this time.  One of the famous swordsmiths is Masamune.  Masamune’s tomb is in Honkaku-Ji temple that is about 5 minutes walk from the Kamakura train station.  When I was attending the sword study group of Mori Sensei(teacher), one of the students I studied with was the 23rd generation of direct descendants of Masamune.  He still makes swords in Kamakura.  He also makes wonderful kitchen knives.