As Chapter 13 described, during middle Kamakura period, the shape of Tanto is called Takenoko zori . That means the tip of Tanto curves inward a little. The drawing on Chapter 13 is a little exaggerated to show the curve. Refer 13|Tanto ( 短刀) MiddleKamakura Period. But the real Tanto is not so obvious. Maybe a few millimeters. Usually, the length of the Tanto is approximately 12 inches or less. 10 inch Tanto is called Jyosun (定寸 ), longer than that is called Sun-nobi (寸延び ), and less than that is called Sun-zumari(寸詰り )
The above photo is Tanto by Shintogo Kunimitsu (新藤五国光). This style is called Kanmuri Otoshi. That means the steel of Mune side (opposite side of cutting edge) is shaved off. The length is approximately 10 inches. Wood grain surface, Nie on Ji (refer to the name of the parts 4 |Names of Parts ). Very finely forged. Hamon is medium Suguha (straight). Boshi is Ko-maru (small round). Because of the Kanmuri-Otoshi style, it may not be easy to see the Takenoko-zori, the Mune side bend inward very slightly. Among Tanto producer, Shintogo Kunimitsu is considered the top Tanto Maker.
Above photo is the same Shintogo Kunimitsu with Saya. Saya is a scabbard. The top white handle part is made with Sharkskin. Both photos are from Sano Museum Catalog. Permission granted.
Another swordsmith needs to be mentioned in this section is Bizen Saburo Kunimune (備前三郎国宗). In middle Kamakura period, the Hojo clan invited the top swordsmiths to Kamakura area.Awataguchi Kunitsuna (粟田口国綱) from Yamashiro Kyoto, Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真) from Bizen area, Bizen Kunimune (備前国宗) from Bizen area moved to Kamakura together with his group of people. Those three groups started the Soshu Den (相州伝). Refer to 14|Late Kamakura Period History （鎌倉後期）
Horimono (Engravings) —– Often narrow Bo-Hi ( single groove)
Hamon (Tempered line) —– O-Choji Midare (large clove irregular) with Ashi. Or Ko-ChojiMidare (small clove irregular) with Ashi. Nioi base with Ji-Nie (Nie in the Hada area). Some top of the Hamon is squarish with less Kubire ( less narrow at the bottom of the clove). Hajimi ( rough surface). Also, he did as follows — Lower part shows Choji, the upper part shows less work without Ashi.
Kunimune Squarish Kawazuko Choji Hamon (Sano Museum Catalog permission granted)
Boshi —– Small irregular. Yakizume or short turn back.
Jitetsu —–Woodgrain. Fine Jitetsu with some Ji-Nie (Nie inside Jihada). Midare Utsuri (irregular shadow) shows. A few Hajimi (rough surface).
Above photo is Kunimune (国宗 Sano Museum Catalog, permission granted) Even though Kunimune is famous for Ikubi Kissaki, and this is the chapter for Ikubi Kissaki, this one is Chu-Gissaki.
Above photo is the National treasure Kunimune of the Terukuni Shrine in Kagoshima prefecture. This Kunimune sword was lost after WWII. The chairman of the Board of Miles Laboratory in Elkhart Indiana, Dr. Compton found this sword in an antique store in Atlanta. Alka Seltzer is one of the well-known products among many of their products. He was deeply into the sword collection and knew a lot about the Japanese sword. When he saw this sword, he realized this is not just an ordinary sword. He bought it and inquired to the Nihon Bijutu token Hozon Kyokai (Sword museum). It turned out to be the famous missing National treasure of Kunimune of Terukuni Shrine. He returned the sword to Terukuni Shrine without compensation in 1963. My father became a friend of his around this time through Dr. Homma and Dr. Sato ( leading sword experts). Since then, the Compton family and my family became close friends. Dr. Compton asked Dr. Honma and my father to come to the US and examine his swords in his house (he had about 400 swords) and swords of New York Met, Philadelphia Museum and the Boston Museum. My father wrote about this trip and the swords he examined in those museums and published the book in 1965; the title is “Katana Angya (刀行脚)”. Since then, we visited his house and they visited our house more frequently. Around this time must be the best time of his life for Dr. Compton and for my father. Both of them could spend time on their interest and having fun. It was the best time of my life too.
One time when I visited his house, he showed me his swords in his basement for hours almost all day. His house was really huge and the basement he built as his study room was with fire prevention and had great lighting. It was really nicely done and functioned correctly as the storage place for his many art objects. Then his wife, Phoebe said to Compton that he cannot keep a young girl (I was a college student) in the basement all day long and looking at the swords. He agreed and then he took me to his cornfield to pick some corns for dinner. The basement to a cornfield, not much improvement? So his wife Phoebe said that she will take me shopping and lunch in Chicago. That is good, but too far. The distance between Elkhart and Chicago is about two hours by driving a car, too far just for shopping and lunch. To my surprise, we got on the company private airplane to fly to the top of the roof of the department store then do the shopping and lunch, came back with the same private airplane.
Miles Lab. and Sankyo, a Japanese large pharmaceutical company had a business tie-up as Miles-Sankyo Pharmaceutical Company then. Dr. Compton used to come to Japan quite often, officially for business purpose. But whenever he came to Japan he used to spend many days with sword people and I used to follow my father. One of the female workers of Miles-Sankyo, her job was to translate the sword book into English. My parent household was filled with Miles-Sankyo products. Miles Lab. had a big research institute in Elkhart Indiana. I visited several times there. One day I was sitting with Dr. Compton in his office, looking into the sword book with our head together. That day, a movie actor John Forsythe was visiting the research lab. He was the host of the TV program the Miles Lab was sponsoring. All the female employees were making a big fuss over him. Then he came into the Compton’s room to greet him thinking the chairman must be sitting on his big chair at his desk looking like a chairman. But he saw Compton looking into the sword book with his head against my head. The appearance of Dr. Compton was just like any chairman of the board of a big company one can imagine, and I was a college student looking like a college student. John Forsythe had a strange expression that he did not know what to think of what he was seeing.
This chapter is a detailed chapter of Chapter 12. Please read Chapter 12 before reading this section.
Middle Kamakura period was the golden age of the sword making. We can not deny it was a great part due to the Gotoba-Joko treating the swordsmiths highly. After Jokyu-no-Hen, Samurai liked grand look swords. Those are Ikubi Kissaki sword. It is said there is no mediocre sword among Ikubi Kissaki sword. In this chapter, we discuss the swordsmiths who are famous for Ikubi Kissaki.
Bizen Osafune Mitsutada (備前長船光忠)
Mitsutada is one of the most famous swordsmiths for Ikubi Kissaki. His sword was the most thought after sword among sword collectors. He was the founder of the Osafune group, then his son Nagamitsu (長光), and Nagamitsu’s son Kagemitsu (景光) and the rest continues.
Sugata (shape) —- Grand look. Ikubi Kissaki. The body is somewhat thick. Often suriage (shortened).
Hamon (Tempered line) —- Yakihaba (width of the Hamon) is wide and narrow. Mainly Nioi. Large Choji, Kawazuko-Choji (round head shape, refer to the picture below under Nagamitsu Hamon), Inazuma, Kinsuji, refer to 15|Late Kamakura Period Sword
Boshi —- Yakizume. Yakizume with a short turn back.
Jihada —–Fine, and soft look surface. Chikei appears.
Jyuyo Bunkazai Jyuyo Bunkazai
Jyuyo Token Jyuyo Bunkazai
I displayed above four photos at the different places on this website. Those were Mitsutada, once my father’s swords. Those photos were taken by my father and the writing on the white paper are written by him. He was very proud he collected four Mitsutada and he monogrammedinside his suit jacket as Mitsutada. It is said that Oda Nobunaga (織田信長 Daimyou around 16 C ) with his wealth and political power, he collected 28 Mitsutada. I realize those photos are not wonderful pictures. In order to avoid any copyright infringement and intellectual property right, I only use father’s photos (not so wonderful though), Sano Museum Catalog photos ( permission granted) and some public domain photos from Wikipedia. Please bear with me that I don’t have good photos.
Bizen Osafune Nagamitsu (備前長船長光 )
Nagamitsu is Mitsutada’s son.
Sugata —– Shape is similar to the early Kamakura period style. That is with Funbari and narrow at the top. This is called Nagamitsu Sugata.
Hamon —– Wide tempered line. Nioi base. O-Choji Midare (large clove shape) mixed with Kawazuko Choji (see below). Many Ashi appears. Also, he does Suguha-Choji (straight with choji mixed). This looks like Rai Kuniyuki. Works of Inazuma and Kinsuji shows.
Boshi —– Yakizume or turn back a little. (see above photo)
Jitetsu —– Fine wood grain. Well known for Utsuri (shadow). Choji Utsuri (Shadow of Choji) or Botan Utsuri ( flower peony like). Choji Utsuri is shown in the above picture.
Below is a poster of the Museum of Tetsu in Sakaki in Nagano prefecture in the year of 2003. The picture is Nagamitsu’s sword and Koshirae (scabbard). This was a family sword. This sword was once owned by Takenaka Hannbei (竹半半兵衛) who was a famous strategist for Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉) around the 16th century. It was given to Takenaka Hanbei by Toyotomi Hideyoshi as a reward.
Chapter 11(11|Jokyu-no-ran (承久の乱) 1221 ) was how Jyokyu-no-Hen ( 承久の変 ) started. In the end, Emperor Gotoba （or Gotoba- Joko） was exiled to Oki Island (隠岐の島 ). He was a very talented man in many fields. He was very good at Waka (和歌 ). Waka is a short poem. It requires to express scenery, one’s inner feeling with the refined sentiment, or the surrounding state with a limited number of words. It requires literary talent. He was also good at equestrianism, Kemari (ball game for upper class at that time), a great swimmer, Sumo, good at music, archery, swordsmanship, calligrapher, painter and became a great swordsmith. His contribution toward sword made the Golden Age of sword making at the middle Kamakura period. Surprisingly, Gotoba Joko was not only good at in the different field, he really accomplished all those fields to the top level. Especially his Waka (poetry) is highly regarded. He also edited Shin-Kokin-Wakashu (新古今集). This is a collection of Waka.
Emperor Gotoba was enthroned at the age of four
Emperor Gotoba was enthroned at the age of four (some say three). The problem was the Emperor Antoku already existed at the same time. They were both about the same age. Two emperors at the same time is a big problem. How did it happen? To become an Emperor, the head of the Emperor family has to appoint the next emperor. While the Emperor Go-Shirakawa (後白河天皇) was in jail, Emperor Antoku was appointed by Taira –no- Kiyomori (平清盛), who was the head of powerful Samurai but not the Emperor family. That is against the tradition. Remember, Taira-no-Kiyomori was the most powerful man of the Heike clan. This was not accepted by the Go-Shirakawa Emperor (後白河天皇 ). Go-Shirakawa Emperor was furious toward Taira-no-Kiyomori and he picked his own choice and enthroned Gotoba as the Emperor. This is how two emperors coexisted. One more thing, to be an Emperor, the Emperor must have Sanshu-no-Jingi (三種の神器 Three Sacred Treasures ) that is three items the Emperor must have to be a legitimate Emperor. They are Mirror, sword, and Magatama (jewelry)*. But Sanshu-no-Jingi was taken by the Heike family together with the Emperor Antoku when they fled from Genji. The Heike clan was chased by the Genji all the way to Dan-no-Ura (壇ノ浦) and the Heike clan was defeated there. Dan-no-Ura is a sea between Kyushu (九州 ) and Honshu (本州 ). When it became obvious for the Heike family, that they were defeated, all the Heike people including the young Emperor Antoku jumped into the sea and drowned. They took Sanshu-no-Jingi with them into the ocean. Later people searched for the Sanshu-no-Jingi frantically, but they could only recover jewelry, and mirror, could not find the sword. Because of the tradition that the Emperor must have Sanshu-no-Jingi otherwise not a legitimate Emperor, Gotoba Joko was tormented for a long time. Today, those mirror and jewelry are with the present Emperor family. The sword is still missing.
Gotoba-Joko wanted political power back from the Kamakura Bakufu. He was a very impulsive and passionate and unpredictable quick-tempered person. He wanted to revive the politics controlled by Chotei (朝廷). Chotei is the central government controlled by the Emperor and aristocrats. Gotoba-Joko decided to rely on the armed power for this. He set up the Saimen-no-Bushi (armed forces directly under the Emperor create by Gotoba-Joko). When he saw Minamoto-no-Sanetomo was killed, he realized Kamakura Bakufu must be in a turmoil. Thinking this is a good chance, he sent out the Emperor’s order to fight against Kamakura Bakufu to all over Japan to fight against Kamakura Bakufu. He expected an easy victory, but Kamakura Bushi was united tightly and maneuvered well under Hojo Masako as a one organized armed forces. Gotoba-Joko side was not very organized. They were not used to fighting. In the end, Gotoba-Joko side lost. After he realized he has lost, he claimed it was not him, it was done by his men only, nothing to do with the Emperor. So he claimed it is wrong to punish him. But of course, Kamakura Bakufu did not believe that and exiled him to Oki Island. Gotoba-Joko ended his life on the island. As smart as he was and accomplished so many different fields, he could not win against the grandma Shogun, Hojo Masako.
Sword making by Gotoba-Joko
Gotoba Joko had a superior ability to connoisseur sword and he became the superior swordsmith himself. He invited many top-level sword smiths from different sword groups to his court and gave them the title and made them as his assistants or instructor. He invited top-class sword smiths every two months from a place like Bizen, Awataguch, and Bicchu. Those who were invited were called Gobankaji (御番鍛冶), an honorary title. On the sword he created, he did not inscribe his name; instead, he inscribed Chrithantamum with 16 petals which are still used present Emperor as the Emperor’s crest. The sword which has this Chrithantamus is called Kiku Gosaku (菊御作). Today, in Oki island you can visit Emperor Gotoba museum and there are a few sites that are believed to be the Emperor’s sword making site. Some people say the sites are debatable.
Today, Oki Island is a beautiful resort island. It can be reached by ferries from Shimane Prefecture. It is about 2 hours by boat, also by an airplane directly from Osaka.
This chapter is the detailed section of Chapter 10. Please read chapter 10 one more time before you read this chapter.
Middle Kamakura period was the height for the Bizen Den. Often, in a different region other than Bizen, swordsmiths are affected by people’s preferences and politics in their region. But Bizen was not affected by those elements as much throughout the time. The clients of Bizen-Den were from all over the country. Therefore, the swords that were created by Bizen area tends to be the kind liked by everybody.
The general style of Bizen Den
Their style tends to be likable by everybody in general.
Style, the Width of the blade, the Thickness of the body, and tempered line are not unusual. Seldom you see out of ordinary
Soft feeling Jigane
Utsuri (cloud-like shadow) shows.
Tempered line tends to have the same width, not too wide not too narrow.
Fukuoka Ichimonji group
Names of swordsmiths among Fukuoka Ichimonji group: Fukuoka Ichimonji Norimune (福岡一文字則宗),Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukemune ( 福岡一文字助宗 ). Those two are the main Fukuoka Ichomnji group (福岡一文字 ).
Among Fukuoka Ichimonji group, six swordsmiths received the honor as “Gobankaji” from the Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽上皇 ), Including Norimune and Sikemune. I saw Fukuoka Ichimonji Yoshimune at Mori Sensei’s class on June 25. The year was not written. Probably, from 1971 to 1973. My note said I saw a lot of Utsuri (shadow) on the blade.
Sugata (shape or figure) ———- Graceful and classy shape. Generally well proportioned. The width difference between the top width and bottom width is not much. Sometimes stout looking Kissaki like Ikubi Kissaki.
Hamon ———- So-called wide Ichimonnji-Choji tempered line. From the bottom to the top, same width temper line. Front and back is the same type of Hamon. O-Choji –Midare (large clove shape), Jyuka-Choji Midare (looks like overwrapped). Nie base. Inazuma, Kinsuji appears.
Boshi ———- Hamon continues into Boshi area and end with Yakizume or turn slightly. Sometimes O-maru.
Jihada or Jitetsu ———- Fine and soft look, with woodgrain, lots of Utsuri (cloud-like shadow or reflection)
This is the detailed section of Chapter 9. Please read chapter 9 one more time before reading this chapter.
During Middle Kamakura Period, there are three main groups among Yamashiro Den. They are Ayano-Koji (綾小路) group, Awataguchi (粟田口) group, and Rai (来) group.
Ayano-Koji group (綾小路 )
Names of Swordsmiths among Ayano-Koji:Ayano-KojiSadatoshi (綾小路定利) Sadanori (定則) .
When we refer to a certain group, we say, “xxxha”, “xxx ippa “, or “xxx ichimon “. We use those three words interchangeably. For example, we say Ayano-Koji ichimon, indicate Ayano-Koji group.
Sugata (shape or figure) ———- In general, gentle or graceful Kyo-zori shape. The difference between the width of the Yokote line and the width of Machi is not much. The sword is slender yet thick. Small Kissaki
Hi and Engraving———- Bohi (one groove) or Futasuji-hi (double groove)
Hamon ———- Nie base with Ko-choji (small clove shape) and Ko-midare (small irregular). Small Inazuma and Kinzuji.Double Ko-choji appears.
Boshi (tip area) ———- Ko-maru (small round), Yakizume (refer to the illustration below), and Kaen (flame like shape)
Jitetsu ———- Small wood grain with a little Masame (straight grain) Ji-nie
Nakago (tang) ———- Long, slight fat feeling
Awataguchi group (粟田口)
Names of Swordsmiths among Awataguchi group:Awataguchi Kunitomo (粟田口国友 ), Hisakuni (久国), Kuniyasu (国安), Kuniyasu (国安), Kunikiyo (国清)
Many swordsmiths of Awataguchi group (or Awataguchi Ichimon) received the honor as the Goban Kaji from Gotoba Joko (Emperor Gotoba 後鳥羽上皇 ). In general, their typical characteristic is as follows.
Sugata (Shape or figure) ———- Elegant shape Torii-zori (or Kyo-zori)
Hi and Engraving ———- The tip of Hi are all the way up and fill in the Ko-shinogi The end of the Hi can be Maru-dome (the end is round), Kakudome (the end is square) or kakinagashi.
Hamon———- The slightly wider tempered line at the bottom then the narrow tempered line at the top. Nie base (this is called Nie honni). Straight tempered line, straight-tempered line mixed with Ko-Choji (small clove) or Ko-Choji. Sometimes wide straight line mixed with Choji. Awataguchi Nie appearance. Awataguchi Nie means fine, deep and sharp shiny Nie around tempered line area. Fine Inazuma (lightning) and Kinsuji (golden streak) appearance.
Boshi (tip area) ———- Ko-maru (small round) or O-maru (large round) both return is sharrow. Yakizume, Nie Kuzure, and Kaen (flame).Yubashiri
Yakizume O-maru Ko-maru Yakikuzure
Jitetsu ———- Fine Ko-Mokume(wood swirls) with Ji-nie. Yubashiri, Chikei appears.
Nakago ———- Often two letter inscription
Rai group (来)
Names of swordsmiths among Rai group: Rai Kuniyuki (来国行), Rai Kunitoshi (来国俊) or Niji Kunitoshi (二字国俊), Ryokai (了戒 )
Rai Kunitoshi is said to be Rai Kuniyuki’s son. Ryokai is said to be Rai Kunitoshi ‘s son
A general characteristic of Rai Kuniyuki and Kunitoshi is as follows. However, each sword has its own different characteristic.
Sugata (shape or figure) ———- Gracefull with dignity. Thick body. Rai madeIkubi Kissaki.
Hi and Engravings ———- Wide and shallow Hi.
Hamon ———- Nie base. Suguha (straight), wide suguha, ko-midare (small irregular), and choji (clove). Sometimes large choji at the lower part and narrow suguha at the top. Inazuma and Kinsuji appear around yokote area.
Boshi———- Komaru, Yakizume (refer to the illustration above)
Jitetsu———- Finely forged Itame (small wood grain) sometimes mixed with masame (parallel grain). Fine Nie. Rai group sporadically shows Yowai Tetsu which means weak surface. This may be the core iron.
Rai Kuniyuki (来国行）Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館) permission granted
Kamakura period was the golden age of sword making. Approximately, half of the well-known swords at present time was made during the Kamakura period. Probably because of the war between Genji and Heishi demanded large number of swords, and had a live experience to improve the sword. Also, Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽) invited many able swordsmiths to his palace and treated them highly and encouraged them to create a good sword by giving them the ranks. During the Kamakura period, the technique of sword making improved greatly.
Middle Kamakura Period —- Yamashiro Den (山城伝)
Middle Kamakura period was the height for the Yamashiro Den. Among Yamashiro Den, there are three major groups (or families). They are Ayano-koji group (綾小路 ) Awataguchi group (粟田口), and Rai group (来). Among the Awataguchi group, six swordsmiths received the honor of the “Goban-kaji “ from the Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽上皇 ). Awataguchi is the name of the area in Kyoto. Ayanokoji ( 綾小路 ) group lived at Ayanokoji area in Kyoto. My sword textbook had a note that I saw Ayanokoji Sadatoshi (綾小路定利 ) on March 22nd, 1972. The note said O-Suriage, Funbari, narrow body and jinie. I should have written more in detail then, had I known I am writing the website in the future. Rai group started from Rai Kuniyuki (来国行 ). Rai Kuniyuki and Ayanokoji Sadatoshi are said to have a close friendship. Rai Kuniyuki created many noted swords. His famous Fudo Kuniyu (不動国行) was owned by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru (将軍足利義輝 ) then changed hand to Matsunaga Danjo (松永弾正) then to Oda Nobunaga ( 織田信長 ) to Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀 ), then to Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉). This sword was held by Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s arm for the memorial service of Oda Nobunaga. Rai Kuniyuki’s son is Niji Kunitoshi. He also created noted swords.
Middle Kamakura Period —– Bizen Den (備前伝)
Bizen Den in Heian period is called Ko-Bizen. They are similar to the one to Yamashiro-Den style. The height for the Bizen-Den was Middle Kamakura period. Bizen (Okayama prefecture now) has many ideal aspects of sword making. The weather is good, produced good steel, abundant fuel nearby, and conveniently situated. Naturally many swordsmiths moved there and became the main place to produce swords. Bizen made a large number of swords, their quality level is higher than any other places, and more famous swordsmiths came out. Fukuoka IchimonjiNorimune (則宗) and his son Sukemune (助宗 ) received the honor from the Emperor Gotoba. Among the Osafune group(長船), famous Mitsutada (光忠) and Nagamitsu (長光)appeared. My father owned four Mitsutada. Three Tachi and one Tanto. He was so proud that he owned four Mitsutada, he made his tailor monogrammed inside of his suite as Mitsutada. From Hatakeda group (畠田), Hatakeda Moriie (畠田守家), from Ugai (鵜飼) group, Unsho (雲生 ), Unji (雲次), and Kunimune (国宗) appeared. Because of a large number of the swordsmiths in Bizen, a large number of swords exists, also, each swordsmith has its own characteristic, Kantei for Bizen can be a very complex process. This is the time Ikubi Kissaki started to appear.
The below are my father’s four Bizen Osafune Mitsutada. My father took those pictures many years ago at home by himself. You can see he is not much of a photographer. The writing on the square white paper is written by him. He wrote the name of the swordsmith, the period it was made, which Daimyo owned in the past and classification.
The classification of the sword from the top
1. National treasure 2.Juyo Bunkazai 3.Juyo Bijutu Hin 4.Juyo Token The rest is omitted
At the end of the Kamakura Period, Yamashiro Den started declining. At this time, many swordsmiths moved to Kamakura area under the new power of Kamakura Bakufu (鎌倉幕府) by the Hojo clan. The new group, Soshu Den (相州伝 ) started to emerge. From Bizen, Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真) and Kunimune (国宗) moved to Kamakura. From Yamashiro Den Awataguchi, Kunitsuna (国綱) moved to Kamakura. Those are the one who originated the Soshu Den in Kamakura area. Kunitsuna’s son is Tosaburo Yukimitsu, then his son is famous Masamune ( 正宗 ). Other than Kamakura area, Rai Kunitsugu (来国次), Go-no-Yoshihiro (郷義弘) from Ettshu (越中) province, Samoji (左文字) from Chikuzen province (筑前) were the active swordsmiths.
As I described in Chapter 7, at the end of the Heian period, two major Samurai groups, the Genji (源氏) and the Heishi (平氏) existed. The head of the Genji is Minamoto-no-Yoshitomo (源義朝) and the head of the Heishi is Taira-no-Kiyomori. They were childhood friends. Because of the political situation, they became enemy. The Genji side lost. After the Heishi won, Taira-no–Kiyomori became very powerful. He gave his men high positions, and his daughter marries to the emperor. His power even went beyond the Emperor. This is the time it is said that if “you are not a part of the Heishi family, you are not a human being”. The situation like this created too many opponents. Eventually, the Genji and other Samurai group raised the army, fought against the Heishi and the Heishi lost. While Taira-no-Kiyomori was in power, he started the active trading with China and that contributed to the economic prosperity tremendously. The picture below is the Itsukushima Shrine built by Taira-no-Kiyomori. It is registered at the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From Wikipedia Photo is a public Domain Author: Rdsmith4 File Itsukushima Floating Shrine.jpg 8 /05/04
Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune (源頼朝 )
Minamoto-no-Yoritomo (源頼朝) is a son of Minamoto-no-Yoshitomo(源義朝). After Yoshitomo was defeated by Taira-no-Kiyomori (平清盛 ), the direct line of Genji, Minamoto-no-Yoritomo was sent to Izu Island. He was in his early teens. Yoritomo grew to be a young man in Izu island, eventually, he met Hojo Masako (北条政子) who was a daughter of Hojo Tokimasa (北条時政). He was a local government official. While Tokimasa was on a business trip to Kyoto, Yoritomo and Masaki had a baby. Tokimasa was afraid if Heike finds out about his daughter and Yoritomo, the Hojo family may get into trouble. So, he planned Masako to marry somebody else. But she escaped a night before the wedding day eloped with Yoritomo. This story was written in the Japanese history book called “Azuma Kagami (吾妻鏡)” and a few other books, but some historian says this story may not be exactly how it happened. Meantime In Kyoto, the Heishi became very powerful and tyrannical in the central government (called Chotei) and suppressed the opponents. All the angry dissatisfied groups raised an army to attack the Heishi. Minamoto-no-Yoritomo was the center of those opponents and his army grew bigger and stronger with the help of Masako ’s father, Hojo Tokimasa. By this time Hojo Tokimasa realized he has a better chance to side with Yoritomo, the Genji. The Genji power pushed the Heike power all the way to the Southern part of Japan. The Heike was defeated at the place called Dan-no-Ura (壇ノ浦 ) near Kyushu (九州 ) area at 1185. Yoritomo set up the Kamakura Bakufu (Kamakura government) in Kamakura. His wife Masako later found out to be a very capable politician and she saved Kamakura Bakufu when they got into trouble from the central government after Yoritomo’s death. Here is one famous story about her. When Yoritomo went around for different women in the town of Kamakura, Masako sent her men to follow her husband and set the fire of the woman’s house her husband was after. Masako is known as a jealous wife in Japanese history. But in her mind, the Hojo is one who made Yoritomo the head of the Kamakura Bakufu. Without the help from the Hojo, Yoritomo could not be what he became.
Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu in Kamakura Author: Urashimataro From Wikipedia Photo is public domain
Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune (源義経 )
Minamoto-no-Yoritomo (源頼朝 ) had several half brothers. Taira-no-Kiyomori (平清盛) saved the lives of those young boys only if they became a monk when they grew up. One of them was Ushiwaka-Maru (牛若)，later Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune (源義経) who lived with Taira-no-Kiyomori while he was an infant, believing Kiyomori was his father. Later Yoshitsune was sent to Kurama-Yama temple. He spent there until mid-teens. After that, he made a flight to live with O-ShuFujiwara (奥州藤原). They were in the northern part of Japan, quite some distance from Kyoto. O-Shu Fujiwara was a very wealthy clan and they had a luxurious culture. Because of the distance from Chotei (central government), they could almost be like an independent county. They created quite a wealth by the gold mining nearby. When Yoshitsune heard his half-brother Yoritomo raised an army to attack Heike, he joined with his brother. Yoshitsune was a quite a strategist, he won many well-known battles that were very critical battlefield for Genji to win the war. That made Yoritomo fear Yoshitsune. Eventually, Yoshitsune became popular among people, fearful Yoritomo decided to get rid of Yoshitsune. Yoshitsune fled to O-Shu Fujiwara. In the beginning, O-Shu Fujiwara protected Yoshitsune but could not hold. Yoritomo destroyed O-Shu Fujiwara entirely at the end.
Chinese knew about the wealth of O-Shu Fujiwara. Later, Marco Polo heard about the small wealthy country further into the East from Chinese. He never visited Japan, but he mentioned about this small wealthy island in his book, “The travels of Marco Polo”. The famous quote “all the houses are made of gold”. This is O-Shu Fujiwara. Of course, all the houses are not made of gold. Marco Polo introduced Japan as “Zipangu” in his book. It means the golden country. That evolved into Japan. However, we Japanese don’t call Japan as Japan. We call our country “Nihon” or “Nippon”, either one is correct.
This chapter is the continued part of chapter 6. Please read Chapter 6 before reading this section. I will be using more technical terms which were explained between chapter 1 to 33. For those who are not familiar with sword terms, any of part 2 should be read after chapter 1 to 33.
There are several schools (called Den 伝 ) of swordsmith during the Heian period. I will start using the word Den instead of school. They are Yamashiro Den (山城伝 ), Yamato Den (大和伝), Bizen Den ( 備前伝 )、Hoki-no-Kuni (伯耆 )、Buzen group (豊前 ), and Satsuma-no-Kuni (薩摩).
Yamashiro Den (山城伝 )
Among Yamashiro Den, the name of the sword, Mikazuki Munechika (三日月宗近 ) by Sanjo Munechika (三条宗近 ) is the most famous. Mikaduki means crescent. Because Mikaduki shape Uchinoke (collection of Nie) pattern appears on Hamon, it is named Mikazuki Munechika. It has graceful shape, narrow body, Koshizori,Funbari, and small Kissaki. It shows wood grain surface, Suguha with Nie mixed with small irregular, sometimes nijyu-ha (double libe二重刃 ) appears. Sanjo Munechika lived Sanjo area in Kyoto. His sword style was followed by his sons and grandsons, Sanjo Yoshiie (三条吉家 ), Gojo Kanenaga (五条兼永), Gojo Kuninaga (五条国永 ). Gojo is the area in Kyoto.
三日月宗近 東京国立博物館蔵 “刀剣のみかた” 広井雄一 Mikaduki Munechika Tokyo National Museum “Token no mikata” by Yuichi Hiroi
Houki -no-Kuni (伯耆の国 )
Houki-no-Kuni is today’s Tottori prefecture. This place is known for the place producing good steel. The sword name, Doujigiri Yasutsuna (童子切安綱 ) by Houki-no-Yasutsuna is the most famous one.
The characteristics of Yasutsuna’s sword———-It has a graceful shape with small Kissaki, narrow Hamon (often sugu-ha with ko-choji), course Nie on Hamon area, large wood grain mixed with masame on Ji-hada. Hamon area often shows Inazuma and Kinsuji. Boshi area is Yakizume, Kaen with small turn back.
伯耆の安綱 (Hoki no Yasutsuna) 佐野美術館図録 (Sano Musem Catalogue)
Bizen Den (備前伝 )
Bizen is Okayama prefecture today. Bizen is known for producing good steel. Since Heian period until now, Bizen has been famous for the sword making tradition. The sword making group in this area during the Heian period were called Ko-Bizen group. The most famous sword smith in Ko-Bizen group is Bizen Tomonari (備前友成 ) and Bizen Masatsune (備前正恒) and Bizen Kanehira (備前包平)
The characteristics of Ko-Bizen group———-graceful narrow-body, small Kissaki, narrow tempered line with ko-choji (small irregular) with Inazuma and Kin-suji. Ji-Hada is small wood grain pattern.
Bizen Kanehira (備前包平) Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館図録)
I saw Ko-Bizen Sanetsune (真恒 ) at Mori Sensei’s house. That was the one of the Kantei-To of the day. I receivedDouzen*ᴵ. The book written by Honami Koson was used as our textbook. Each time I saw a sword at Mori Sensei’s house, I put down the date on the swordsmith’s name in this book where the author explains about the smiths. It was Nov. 22, 1970. The deciding point was a narrow-body line, small Kissaki (that is Ko-Bizen Komaru), Kamasu and Suguha.Kamasu is the condition where the fukura of Boshi is much less, less rounded. When I think back, it is amazing we could see the sword like those for our study materials. Today, I forget things happened a week ago, but I can remember each sword I saw in those days.
Kantei-Kai is the study meeting. Usually, several swords were displayed hiding the Nakago. The attendees guess the name of the sword maker and hand in the answer sheet to the judge. The below is the grade.
Atari—–If the answer is the right on the exact name, you get Atari, that is the best answer.
Douzen*ᴵ—-The second one is Dozen, that is the subject sword made by the family, clan or within the group. It means almost right. Dozen is considered very good.
Kaido-Yoshi—– This means the same line, but not within the family.
Jidai Yoshi—-Each Kanntei-Kai has different grading systems. Some have Jidai Yoshi, that means the time or period is correct.
After all the answer is handed in and answer sheet is returned to the attendee, the judge reveals the right answer and explains about each sword.
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
Paintings drew by Tosa Mitsukuni. These paintings are based on the Tales of Genji