20 | Nanboku-Cho Tanto

18 Nanbokucho time line

The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section

The type of Tanto during Nanboku-Cho Period was called  Hirazukuri-Kowakizashi-Sunnobi- Tanto.   Hirazukuri means flat sword without Yokote line and without Shinogi. Ko-Wakizashi means shorter sword. Sunnnobi Tanto means longer Tanto. This is called Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto.  Because the majority of this type of shape was made around Enbun, Jyoji Imperial era.  Each time the Emperor changed, Japan changed the names of the era.  Enbun was from 1356 to 1361, Jyoji was from 1362 to 1368.

20 Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto


Shape (Sugata 姿) ——-Usually approximately 1 foot 1 or 1 foot 2 inches long.  Sakizori (curved at the top.  Look at the illustration above).  Wide width and thin body.  Fukura Kareru (No Fukura). Shin-no-Mune.


20 Fukura20 Shin-no-Mune

Hi, Horimono (Goove and engraving 樋, 彫刻) —– Groove on Mune side.  Bonji (sanscrit, refer 17 Bonji Suken), Koshi-bi (Short goove) and Tokko- tsuki Ken, or Tumetuki Ken (see below). Ken (spear) was curved wide and deep at the upper part, lower part was curved shallow and narrower.  This is called Soshu-bori.

20 Tokko, tume Ken

Hamon (Tempered line) —– Narrow tempered area at the lower part, it gradually grows wider as it goes up higher then it becomes Bodhi design.  Hamon in Kissaki area is Kaeri Fukashi (turn back deep) as illustration below.  Coarse Nie. O-Midare (large irregular pattern).

20 Hitatsura
From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

Jitetsu or Jihada —– Loose wood grain pattern called Itame.  Yubashiri (refer 17 Yubashiri, Chikei.jpg), Tobiyaki (Irregular patches of tempered metal) appears.  Crowded Tobiyaki is called Hitatsura (illustration above).

Nakago (Tang) —- Short Tanago-bara.

20 Tanago Bara

Sword-smiths during Nanboku-Cho Period Soshu Den(school)

Soshu Den ———————————————————-Hiromitu( 広光) Akihiro (秋広) Yamashiro Den ————————————————–Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重) Bizen Den ——————————————————— Kanemitu (兼光) Chogi (長義 ) Arima Province ——————————————————Hojoji Kunimitsu (法城寺国光 )


20 Hiromitu (Sano Museum)

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

18 Nanbokucho time line

                           The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

During Nanboku-Cho period, Samurai demanded large, elaborate and practical swords. Soshu Den style — elaborate, large, and impressive  —became the most popular style. Nanboku-Cho period was the height of the Soshu Den.  Many sword smiths moved to Kamakura and forged Soshu Den style swords.  Other schools and provinces also made Soshu Den style swords in their own places.

19 Nanboku-Cho Period Sword shape

Shape (Sugata 姿)—-Originally the length of the swords were 3, 4, 5, feet long, but shortened to approximately two and a half feet in the later time. Shortening a sword greatly is called O-Suriage.  Nanboku-Cho sword has a shallow Kyo-zori (also called Torii-zori) shape (refer 6. Heian period)highest curvature comes around the center of the body.  Wide body, high Shinogi, and narrow Shinogi-Ji (refer 4 Names of parts) and thin body.  High Gyo-no-Mune or Shin-no-Mune, sometimes Maru-Mune (round back).

19 Nanboku-cho 3 kinds Mune

Hi, Horimono (groove and engraving 樋, 彫刻)—– On Shinogi-Ji (refer 4 Names of parts) area, often appears Bo-hi (one groove), double hi, Bonji (Sanscrit), spear, Dragon engraved

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji

Hamon (Tempered line) —– Lower area of the body shows narrow tempered line, higher area of the body shows wider showy tempered line.  Course Nie.  O- Midare (large irregular), Notare-Midare (wavy irregular), Gunome-Midare (repeating pattern of half circular and irregular mix).  Inazuma, Kinsuji (refer 15 Late Kamakura Period sword) action appears


19 Hamon Notare 319 Mamon choji gunome

*From Sano Museum Catalogue ( Permission granted).


Jitetu or Jihada (between tempered line and Shinogi) (4 Names of parts)——Wood grain pattern (Itame 板目). Tobiyaki (patchy tempered spot in jihada) appears.

Boshi, Kissaki —– O-Kissaki (Stretched long Kissaki). Fukura kareru (no Fukura). Midare-Komi (tempered line continues into Boshi), with kaeri fukashi (look at the illustration above),  sometimes Ichimai (tempered entire Boshi).  Look at the above illustration.

Sword-smiths during Nanboku-Cho Period Soshu Den (school)

From Soshu————————————————————Hiromitu (広光) Akihiro (秋広  ) From Yamashiro ————————————————–Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重)  From Bizen (called So-den Bizen)————-Chogi (長儀 )group, Kanemitu (兼光 ) group From Chikuzen —————————————————————Samoji (左文字 ) 19 Chogi photo from Sano book

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


18 Nanbokucho time line

The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section.

After Jokyu-no-Ran (11|Jokyu-no-ran ), the power of the Imperial court declined significantly. The Hojo clan who were the main power during the Kamakura period began to have the financial difficulty and started to lose the control over the local lords. One of the reasons was that the cost incurred by the Mongolian invasion. The Kamakura Bakufu (government) could not reward the local lords who worked hard at this war. The local lords became very dissatisfied with the Kamakura Bakufu. Seeing this as a chance, the Emperor Go-Daigo twice attempted to attack Kamakura Bakufu but failed both times and he was exiled to Oki island. Meantime, Ashikaga Takauji (足利尊氏) and several other groups of Samurai who were opposing the Kamakura Bakufu, gathered their power and succeeded in destroying the Kamakura Bakufu (1333). This ends the Kamakura period. The Emperor Go-Daigo, who had been exiled to Oki island returned to Kyoto and attempted established political reforms. This is called Kenmu-no-Chuko (建武の中興).  This new policy failed to satisfy the most of the ruling class.  Taking advantage of this situation, Ashikaga Takauji attacked Imperial court in Kyoto, deposed the Emperor Go-Daigo and placed the other branch of the Royal family on the imperial throne.  But the Emperor Go-Daigo insisted upon his legitimacy, moved to Yoshino (located the South of Kyoto) and established a rival Imperial court.  Thus began the North and the South dynasty.  Much strife between the North and the South and also, both side had their own problems within themselves.  Eventually more Samurai group went under the control of North dynasty.  About 60 years later, Southern dynasty was compelled and accepted the Ashikaga clan’s proposal. Thus, established the North Dynasty as the legitimate imperial court.  This 60 years is the time called Nanboku-Cho or Yoshino-Cho period.  During Nanboku-Cho period, Samurai demanded larger and showy, and practical swords.  Soshu Den was its height of their prominence.  That does not mean only Soshu group made all the swords.  Other schools and other provinces also made Soshu Den style swords.

Early Soshu den time (that is late Kamakura period), Yukimitu (行光), Masamune (正宗) and Sadamune (貞宗) were representative swordsmiths.   Middle Soshu den time (that is North and South dynasty time), Hiromitu (広光), Akihiro (秋広) were representative swordsmiths.  Late Soshu den time (that is Muromachi period), Hiromasa (広正), Masahiro (正広) was the representative swordsmiths.


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


The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

17 Soshu Tanto

Sugata (Style 姿)

1. Slightly longer than Takenoko-zori (usually 10 inches long). Hirazukuri shape.  The width became a little wider than middle Kamakura period tanto.   ( Those are all described in 13 Tanto Middle Kamakura period).

2. Chukanzori (back of the sword is straight), Hirazukuri wide Mihaba (width) with the meaty surface, Fukura kareru.

3. Saki-zori (top part bend to back), Hirazukuri Fukura Kareru. (refer 9 Middle Kamakura – Yamashiro school)

17 Three Tanto9 Boshi Fukura

Hi (樋)and engravings(彫刻)————-Often Hi (groove) is on Mune side, sometimes Ken (spear) and Bonji (Sanskrit) are curved inside wide Hi. (Refer 13 Tanto Middle Kamakura period for Hi, refer 9 Middle Kamakura- Yamashiro school).

17 Bonji Suken          17 Gomabashi Hi

Hamon (tempered line 刃文) ————- Hamon is almost same as the Late Kamakura period sword.   (refer 15 Late Kamakura Period (2)  Some Tanto may have wide Hamon and others may have narrow Hamon. Often see the Tanto with the narrow Hamon at the bottom,  wider Homon at the top, widest and most showy around Fukura area.

15 Late Kamakura Soshu Hamon17 Masamune Hamon

Jitetu (the area between Hamon and Shinogi 地鉄) ——-Jitetu is superior.  Lot of Ji-nie (Nia work on Jitetu ) and Yubashiri and Chikei

17 Yubashiri, Chikei

Late Kamakura Period Early Soshu Den (style) Sword Smiths

Soshu den (school) ——————–Yukimitsu (行光), Masamune (正宗), Sadamune (貞宗) Yamashiro Den (school)———————–Rai Kunitsugu (来国次), Rai Kunimitsu (来国光) Yamato Den (shool) —————————————————- -Taema Kuniyuki (当麻国行) Ettchu Province ———————————————————-   Ettsu Norishige (越中則重) Chikuzen province————————————————-    Chikuzen Samoji (筑前左文字)


17 Enju Kuniyoshi
Enju Kuniyoshi – was family sword
17 Masamune Tanto
Masamune Tanto- Sano Museum Catalogu

16|The Revival of Yamato School

15TimelineThe circle represents the time we are discussing in this section

Yamato province (it is Nara prefecture presently) is the area where sword making started originally.  In early days, they forged swords with their primitive skills.  A large number of swordsmiths lived in this area.  Their style is similar to that of Yamashiro school. At the end of the Kamakura period, Kamakura government started to have financial problems.  Armed monks from Kofuku-Ji temple called Nanto Sohei (Armed monks who lived south side of  Kyoto)* demanded more and more swords to arm themselves.  This demand of the swords revitalized the Yamato School that led to increasing the number of the swordsmith.   As a result, Yamato School became prosperous.

*Nanto Sohei(南都僧兵)———Around the 11th century, Buddhist temples became powerful under the protection of JoKo(former Emperor).  Those temples had a large number of Sohei  (low-level monks who also acted as soldiers) under them.  For the power struggles between the temples, Sohei went to battles fields. Nanto Sohei were monk soldiers of Kofukuji temple.  The aristocrats were afraid of the dignity of God and Buddha, and also did not have enough spirit to suppress them, they had to depend on samurai.  That gave samurai a chance to be a powerful group among the center of the ruling class.

Shape(Sugata姿) —————-1. Graceful Yamashiro style retained. 2. Shinogi is high.  3. Mune is thin.  4. Some group of Yamato school has shallow Sori (curvature).

16 Yamato sword cross section

Hamon (Tempered line)——-Narrow tempered line. Nie base (沸). Chu-suguha-hotsure(frayed medium straight 中直刃ほつれ), Ko-choji-midare (small clove-like pattern and irregular mixture 子丁子乱), Ko-midare ( fine irregular子乱), Ko-gunome-komidare (small  irregular continuous half circle 小五の目小乱). Yamato school forged sword mainly straight grain, therefore, the tempered line often shows double straight line called Nijyu-ha, Hakikake ( Dirt trace left by the broom) and Uchinoke (Crescent-shape line).

16 Hamon Yamato

Boshi (鋩子)———-Inside the Boshi area, straight grain pattern also appears. Yakizume, Kaen(refer 13 Tanto Middle Kamakura period), O-maru, Ko-maru, Nie-kuzure (refer 15 Late Kamakura Period)

13 Hamon and Hi15 O-maru Ko-maru Niekuzure



Jihada or Jitetsu (the area between shinogi and hamon )——Mostly Masame hada (straight grain pattern 柾目肌). Fine ji-nie, Chikei, and Yubashiri shows.(refer 15 Late Kamakura Period).

16 Masame Hada

Nakago (Hilt)——————Often shows the finishing file design as shown below which is called Higaki yasuri (檜垣)


16 Higaki Yasuri

Names of the Yamato School Sword-smiths

Taima(当麻) Group————–Taima Kuniyuki(当麻国行) Taima Tomokiyo(当麻友清) Shikkake (尻懸) Group———————————————–Shikkake Norinaga (尻懸則長) Tegai (手掻) group —————–Tegai Kanenaga (手掻包永) Tegai Kanekiyo(手掻包清) Hoshou (保昌) group——Hosho Sadamune (保昌貞宗)Hosho Sadayoshi ( 保昌貞吉)

16 Shaya Ensou

12|Ikubi Kissaki (猪首切先)

12 time line

After the live experience of the war of Jokyu-no-ran, people started to move toward sturdier, grander, wider swords.  The swords made around this time is called Ikubi Kissaki (猪首切先).  Ikubi means wild boar.  Ikubi Kissaki style sword has a style of stout look like a wild boar.  This is the era of the height of sword making.  Many top swords smiths created wonderful swords during this time.  It is said that there is no mediocre sword among Ikubi Kissai.

12 Ikubi Kissaki sword style

SUGATA(shape) —— Originally 3 feet or longer, therefore it is often shortened at the later time.  Wide width, thick Kasane (thick body) with Hamaguri-ha (蛤刃).  Hamaguri-ha means the thickness is shaped like a clam The width at the top and at the bottom is not much difference. Shinogi (鎬)is high, and shinogi width is narrow.  Illustration of Cross section  below.

12 蛤刃と鎬

KISSAKI  —— Ikubi kissaki. Ikubi means wild boar neck.  Wild boar looks like no neck, stout look shape.  Short Kissakii but wide at the yokote line.  The illustration below is exaggerated a little to show the idea.12 Ikubi Kissak drawing

Hamon (刃文) —— Kawazuko-choji(tadpole head shape). O- choji(clove like shape) and Ko-choji mixed.  Irregular waviness mixed with choji and straight, this is called suguha-choji.

12 Hamon Kawazuko-choji                     O-choji                          Ko-choji                  Suguha-choji     (tadpole head)                   (large clove)                (small clove)      (straight and clove)


Boshi(鋩子) ——— Yakizume as below.  Nagamitu(長光), Kagemitu( 景光), Sanenaga(真長) created Boshi called Sansaku Boshi(三作鋩子). Illustration below.

Yakizume                                                                      Sansaku-Boshi   12 Sansaku Boshi(三作

12 Yakizume


Ikubi Kissaki Sword Smiths

Fukuoka Ichimonji Group (福岡一文字) ———  Fukuoka Ichimonji Norimune (則宗)Kamakura Ichimonji Group(鎌倉一文字) ———- Kamakura Ichimonji Sukezane (助真)Soshu Bizen Kunimune Group(相州備前国宗)—- Soshu Bizen Kunimune (国宗)Bizen Osafune Group(長船)——————Bizen Osafune Mitutada(長船光忠) Nagamitsu(長光)   Ugai Group—————————————————– Ugai Unji (鵜飼雲次)


Sano Museum Catalogue (permitted)                                                                                   Osafune Nagamitsu(長船長光 )



Osafune Mitsutada(長船光忠)                          Osafune Mitsutada(長船光忠)                        *was family sword


10 | Middle Kamakura Period — Bizen School

There are large numbers sword smiths in Bizen (備前) school during the Heian period but their sword style is generally similar to Yamashiro school, called Ko-Bisen (古備前). The real Bizen school style started from Middle Kamakura period.  Bizen province had many ideal conditions to produces swords.  It produced good quality steel and a large amount of fuel around the area and also the transportation was convenient.  Naturally, large numbers of swordsmiths gathered in this area and produced swords in quantities.  Because of that, to connoisseur Bizen sword is difficult.  Bizen sword has a higher standard.

Generally speaking, next three characters are the most distinctive features of Bizen school.

  • Nioi base temper line (Nie is sand like small dots on tempered line, Nioi is finer dots than Nie, so small, it looks as if a line)  Technically speaking, those two are the same.  See illustration below.
  • Jigane (sword steel) looks soft.
  • Reflection appears on the surface.

10 Nie & Nioi

Sugata (shape) — Length of the sword is about 33 inches ± a few inches. The width of the blade is slightly wide and it has stout look.  The curvature of the blade is Koshizori (腰反)  means highest curvature comes lower part.  The body has average thickness.  Small kissaki.

10 Middle Kamakura ---備前刀姿


Horimono(engraving) — Engravings are rare. The shape of the tip of Hi is all the way up to Ko-shinogi and fill up the whole area.

9 Hi --- groove

Nakago — Long and thin with curvature. The end of the Nakago is rounded which has the shape of chestnut’s bottom.  This is called Kurijiri. Look at the illustration of the sword above.

Hamon (tempered area pattern)— Nioi base. The tempered area is wide and the width is even, also the size of midare (irregular tempered line ) is uniform.

Boshi — Same tempered pattern continue to go up to Boshi area.  You can see Choji midare (clove-like pattern) or Yakizume.

10 Boshi --- Bizen

Bizen School Sword Smiths during Middle Kamakura Period

Fukuoka Ichimonji (福岡一文字) group ———- Norimune (則宗)   Sukemune (助宗 )Yoshioka Ichimonji (吉岡一文字) group ———-Sukeyoshi (助吉)   Sukemitsu (助光)         Sho-chu Ichimonji (正中一文字) group ———   Yoshiuji (吉氏)   Yoshimori (吉守)      Osafune (長船) group —–Mitsutada (光忠) Junkei Nagamitu (順慶長光) Kagemitsu (景光)Hatakeda hatakeda(畠田) group —————-Moriie (守家)  Sanemori  (真守)                Ugai (鵜飼) group —————————————-   Unsho (雲生) Unji (雲次)



7| Kamakura Period History (1192 – 1334)

7 Kamakura time lineThe circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

Kamakura period was the golden age of the sword making. Many valuable swords now exist were made during Kamakura period.  The war between Genii clan and Hei-ke clan in late Heian period demanded more swords and more sword smiths.

After the Gen-pei(源平) war, the results of many precious live experiences led to improve in sword making techniques.  Also, the Emperor Gotoba encouraged sword making and treated sword smiths very highly.  As a result, they created large numbers of the valuable swords during Kamakura period.

The style of the swords during this period varies considerably, we usually divide into three stages; early Kamakura period, middle Kamakura period, late Kamakura period.

The Kamakura period was called Kamakura period because the center of the political power that is Kamakura Bakufu (鎌倉幕府) was established at Kamakura area by Minamoto-no-Yoritomo (源頼朝).  He was a head of the Genji clan.

At the end of the Heian period, Genji (源氏) attacked Hei-ke (also called Hei-shi (平氏), but failed.  As a result, a direct line of Genji, Minamoto-no-Yoritomo (源頼朝) was sent to Izu Island (considered far away then).  There, he met Hojo Masako (北条政子) who was a daughter of a small local official, Hojo family.  Eventually, Minamoto-no-Yoritomo overthrew Hei-ke clan with the help of his wife Masako and her father, Hojo Tokimasa.

At the end of the Heian period, Hei-shi clan was the top of the society.  It was said, “if you are not a part of Hei-shi family, you are not a human being”.  A society like that created too many enemies.  Yoritomo raised an army, attacked Hei-shi clan, and won the war, that end Heian period.  The power of the Kamakura government(鎌倉幕府) spread all over Japan.

Yet the imperial court and aristocrats still existed in KyotoKamakura Bakufu had military, police and political power.  The imperial court was the department of public administration.  Thus, those two big rivals controlled the country in the different field and kept the balance between them.




6 |Heian Period Swords

This is the time, the shape of the swords changed to curved shape.  Until this time, swords were straight.

The study of swords is the swords made from Heian period on.  Elegant and graceful taste of Fujiwara culture reflects on the swords made during the Heian period.  Their preference of their life style reflected vividly on the swords.  A group of the sword smiths in Kyoto area was called Yamashiro school.  Their style of the swords had a graceful shape.  During the Heian period, Yamashiro Den (school) represents the Heian period sword style.

6a Heian period sword style


General Heian period sword style

Shape———-Lengths of the swords are approximately 30 inches ± a couple of inches.  Elegant and graceful shape.  The width of the blade is narrow.  Small Kissaki(小切先), Kyo-zori (京反り) and deep curvature.  Kyo-zori means the highest curvature comes around the halfway of the blade.  A-line shaped style that is called——funbari (踏ん張り).  Deep curvature.

6b A line bottom

Hamon(刃文)———-Hamon means tempered line.  The Heian period tempered area is narrow,  and usually, suguha (直刃), means straight hamon.  Nie (沸) base.  Nie is a tiny granule like a particle on the border of the tempered line.  Sand like particles is not so visible. 6 Straigh tempered line(Suguha)

Jitetu (地鉄) ———- fine wood grained tone. Refer Jitetu, 4 |Names of Parts

Nakago (中心)———- Nakago is a hilt area.  Sword makers inscribe his names here.  The shape of the Nakago during the Heian period is often Kijimomo shape(雉腿), that means pheasant thigh shape.

6 Kijimomo-nakago

Hi and engrave ———- Hi (樋) means an engraved straight line.  Hi and engraved design is rare in Heian period.  It became more common later time.

Kissaki (切先)———– Ko-kissaki (small kissaki). Boshi (Hamon around kissaki) is usually with komaru (小丸) means small round with a little return.6c Boshi Hamon

Names of the Heian period sword smiths

  • Yamashiro school——–  Sanjo Munechika(三条宗近) Sanjo Yoshiie(三条吉家)    Gojo Kanenaga(五条兼長) Gojo Kuninaga (五条国永)
  • Yamato school ——–Senju-in (千手院)
  • Bizen school ———– Bizen Tomonari(備前友成) Bizen Masatsune(備前正恒) Bizen Kanehira (備前包平)
  • Hoki (伯耆) ———–Yasutsuna (安綱) Sanemori (真守)
  • Buzen (豊前) ——— Cho-en (長円) Sinsoku (神息)
  • Satsuma (薩摩) ——-Naminohira (波平)

3 | Joko-to(上古刀)

Jomon (縄文)period     9000 B.C.

Jomon period goes back to 9000 B.C.  This is the time of Paleolithic and Neolithic times. The characteristic of the time was the rope design (Jomon 縄文) on their earthenware.  We found a stone sword made during this time.  They are one piece stone swords, about 27 to 31 inches (70 to 80cm) long, not the Neolithic type scrapers.  They were made for the ceremonial purpose2a Timeline diagram

Yayoi (弥生) period        300B.C —300A.D (approximately)

Around 300B.C. Yayoi culture replaced Jomon culture.  Yayoi characteristics show on their earthen wares.  They are rounder, smoother, simpler design, and the techniques were greatly improved.  They were named Yayoi culture because of the location they were found was Yayoi-cho area near Tokyo University.  They found bronze items such as a bronze sword (銅剣), bronze pike(銅矛), bronze mirror(銅鏡), bronze musical instrument(銅鐸).  Those were imported from China and Korea but Japanese started to make their own later part of Yayoi period.  Iron wares were seldom excavated but they have evidence of usage of Iron wares.

3b time line with circle


According to the Chinese history book,”Gishi wajinden” (魏志倭人伝), around 300 A.D., there was a country called Yamataikoku (邪馬台国) that controlled about 30 small countries in Japan.  The head of the country was a female called Himiko (卑弥呼) who served God (shamanism).  She sent a messenger to China at 239 A.D. and received a title as a head of Japan(親魏倭王), a bronze mirror, and a long sword(5feet long).  Today, we still don’t know exactly where Yamataikoku was located.  This Chinese history book “Gishi wajinden” (魏志倭人伝) explains how to reach to Yamataikoku, but if we follow the book’s directions exactly,  we end up in the middle of the ocean, south of Kyushu (九州).  We are still debating where Yamataikoku was located.

Yamato (大和) period        300 A.D. — 593 A.D

At the end of the Yayoi period, there were many small countries called Go-zoku (豪族).  Around 400 A.D. most powerful Go-zoku united the country and called it Yamato-chotei (大和朝廷).   This is the imperial court, the Emperor’s ancestor.  They had the power to build an enormous size tomb, called Kofun (古墳).  Inside of the famous kofun, Ougonzuka kofun (黄金塚古墳) in Osaka, we found swords.  Its hilt was made in Japan and blade was made in Chine.  On the surface of the hilt, they depicted a design of a house.  Also, we found items like armor, mirror, iron tools, jewelry.  Those are called Haniwa (埴輪).  Outside of Kofun, they placed Haniwa.   Those Haniwa are smiling people, animals, houses, and soldiers wearing swords.  Also, they placed tube shape haniwa (埴輪) outside of Kofun as a retaining wall.   Judging from the writings on the back of mirrors and swords, they were using Kanji (Japanese characters) by 5, 6th century.

3c time line with circle


Asuka (飛鳥) period         593 —710

After a long power struggle, Shotoku Taishi(聖徳太子) became a regent in 593.  He established the political system and set up the first Japanese constitution(憲法17条).  Shoutoku Taishi protected and encouraged Buddhism and built Horyuji temple(法隆寺).  He had been on 10,000 yen bill for a long time.  During Asuka time, we see Kantou Tachi (環頭太刀).  The shape of the hilt is a ring shape.   Kan (環) means ring and tou (頭) means head.  Also, on the ring shape hilt, we see some inscriptions.  Such as the name of the emperor, location and numbers were written.  The number indicates a number of years a particular emperor was enthroned.  Those were all straight shape swords

3d time line with circle

Nara (奈良) period        710 —794

In 710, The capital city was moved to Nara, called Heijokyo (平城京).  The shape of Joko-to was straight, usually 25 inches (60 –70 cm) long.  They were suspended from the waist belt.  Some swords came from China and others were made in Japan.  Many swords were found from Kofun and Shoso-in(正倉院) during Nara period.  Shoso-in is a storage place where articles of Shoumu Emperor were placed.  Among other items, 55 swords were found from here.  Those swords were called Warabite tachi.  Warabi is a name of a Japanese vegetable, its stem grows circle at the top.  They were called Warabite- Tachi, because of the hilt shows warabi shape.

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