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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

27 Shinto time line
    The circle indicate the subject of this chapter

28 map with number

 2  Settu (摂津 ) at Osaka ( 大阪 )

Settu, Osaka created more Wakizashi than Katana. They tend to make slightly Sakizori ( outward curvature above half way) and slightly stretched BoshiSettu Osaka sword also has Yakidashi like the previous Yamashiro Kyoto sword, except the area where Suguha changes to Notare (wavy pattern) is smooth.  This is called Osaka Yakidashi.  Illustration below.

Osaka Boshi—– Hamon continues up to Yokote line, then Komaru with a turn. Jitetsu —–Very fine, almost solid like surface especially Shinogi-ji (the area between ridgeline and back) is solid like surface.  This is called Osaka-Tetsu (iron)

29 Osaka Yakidashi Komaru Boshi

Well known swordsmiths in Settsu area are Osaka-Tsuda –Sukehiro (大阪津田助広), Sukenao (助直). Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (一竿子忠綱 )

img073

Awataguchi Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (粟田口一竿子忠綱 ) Previousely family owned

 

3.Musashi ( 武蔵 ) at Edo ( 江戸 )

Both Katana and Wakizashi have shallow sori (less curvature).  Often top area tends to narrow down.  Often but not always, unlike Settsu or Yamashiro, Hamon starts out the same design as the rest of the entire design except a little bit gentler.  Boshi is the same as Kyo-Boshi.  Jitetsu is almost the same as Kyoto.  Masame shows on Shinogi-ji.

Well known swordsmiths in Musashi area are Nagasone-Okisato-nyudo-Kotetsu (長曽根興里入道虎徹), Noda Hannkei (野田繁慶  ).

img070

Nagasone-Okisato-nyudo-Kotetsu (長曽根興里入道虎徹) Previously family owned

4. Echizen ( 越前 ) and Kaga (加賀 )

Many sword makers of Echizen and Kaga moved from Mino (美濃 )area.  Their style of Echizen Yasutsugu  is similar to Mino style.  Because of that, the sword made in this area are called Echizen- Seki, and Kaga-Seki. (refer to 24|Sengoku Period (戦国) Sword. )

Well known swordsmith in Echizen is Echizen Yasutsugu (越前康継 )

5.  Hizen (肥前)

Both Katana and Wakizashi have well-balanced shape. Hizen area tends to make a sword with Chu-Suguha-Hoture (medium width straight Hamon with the frayed look) with fine Nie (沸). Boshi has a standard and ordinary clean line with the tempered line of uniform width. Shinto sword with Chu-Suguha is often made by Hizen Tadayoshi (肥前忠吉). Very fine Ji-tetsu (surface), sometimes called Nukame-Hada.

29 Hizen Tadayoshi Boshi

Well known swordsmith in this area is Hizen Tadayoshi ( 肥前忠吉)

 

6.  Satsuma (薩摩 )

The sword made in Satsuma has a sound shape on both Katana and Wakizashi. Kissaki (the point area) is stretched. Yakidashi (a few inches of the tempered area above Machi ) is small irregular that is similar to Koto. Hamon is O-midare with coarse Nie. Togari-ba (pointed design) appears with coarse Nie. Mino school often have Togari-ba. One of the characteristics of this region is Satsuma-nie. It means that the coarse Nie around Hamon continued into Ji-hada area.  Inside Hamon, sometimes shows a thick line shaped like lightning.  This is called Satsuma-no-Imozuru (sweet potato vine of Satsuma). This is the biggest characteristic of Satsuma sword. Boshi has a narrow tempered line with the small irregular pattern, similar to Koto, this is called Satsuma-Boshi. On  Jitetsu (surface) Satsuma-gane (薩摩金) sometimes shows that is a dark line like Chikei .

29 Satsuma Togari-ba

Well know swordsmiths of this area are Izunokami Masafusa (伊豆守正房  ),  Ichinohira Masayoshi ( 一平安代 ), Mondonosho Masakiyo (主水正正清 )

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

27 Shinto time line
The circle indicate the subject of this chapter

There are seven prosperous areas where a large number of swordsmiths were living and actively making swords.  Top three are Yamashiro (山城) at Kyoto, Settu ( 摂津 ) at Osaka, Musashi (武蔵  ) at Edo, Hizen (肥前 ) at Saga, Satuma (薩摩 ) at Kagoshima, Echizen ( 越前 ) at Fukui, and Kaga ( 加賀 ) at Kanazawa.  Each of these swordsmiths has its own local characteristics common among themselves.  To know each of that characteristic of this area is the easiest way to understand Shinto. But keep in mind that each swordsmith has his own way of making the sword.  The following descriptions are only general guidelines.

Below is the map of Japan.  Since Hokkaido was a provincial area and swords were not made there during Edo period, omitted from this map.

28 map with number1.  Yamashiro (山城 ) Kyoto

Yamashiro Shinto sword has a solid and strong look.  Hamon at the bottom part of the blade above Machi ( 区) area shows Suguha (straight hamon), this is called Kyo-Yakidashi (京焼出), that means to start out with straight Hamon.  Then abruptly changes to the design of O-Midare (大乱).  O-Midare changes to quiet look below Yokote line about 1 or 2 inches, then continues into Boshi with a wavy Hamon.  Boshi design is Komaru-Boshi.  Ji-hada is somewhat rough (this depends on the swordsmith).  Masame-hada (straight grain pattern) may show on Shinogi-Ji (the area between back and ridgeline).  Among Yamashiro Shinto, there was a group called Mishina ( 三品) group.  They are Mino (美濃 ) related, therefore, Boshi often is Jizo boshi (地蔵鋩子), this is called Mishina Boshi ( 三品鋩子).  Therefore, Boshi often is Jizo boshi (地蔵鋩子), this is called Mishina Boshi.

28 Kyo-Yakidashi, kyo, Mishina-Boshi

Well known swordsmiths in Yamashiro area are Umetada Myoju (梅忠明寿), Horikawa Kunihiro (堀川国広  ), Dewadaijyo Kunimichi ( 出羽大掾国路 )

img067

Iganokami Kinnmichi (伊賀守金道) Previousely Family owned

continue to part two next chapter.