56| Second part of — 22 Sengoku Period History (戦国時代歴史) 

Chapter 58 is a detailed part of chapter 22 Sengoku Period History.  Please read chapter 22 Sengoku Period History before reading this chapter.

0-timeline - size 24 Sengoku Period
        The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

22| Sengoku Period History (戦国時代歴史) explained how we separated the timeline based on political history and sword history.  The center timeline above shows the Sengoku Period (戦国時代) ends in 1596 for sword history.

1596 is the beginning of the Keicho (慶長) era.  The swords made in and after the Keicho era is called Shin-to (new sword), and swords before the Keicho era is called Ko-to (old sword).  Therefore, the beginning of the Keicho era is the dividing line.  The swords made during the Keicho time is technically Shin-To, but they are sepecially called Keicho Shin-To.                                                                                                                                                                                        22| Sengoku Period History (戦国時代歴史) described the overview of the Sengoku Period.  At the beginning of the Sengoku Period, 30 or so small Sengoku Daimyos fought fiercely with each other.   They allied with a neighboring territory on and off and sometimes betrayed each other.  The stronger daimyos took over  weaker one’s territories.  Little by little, the number of daimyos became smaller.  The names of known powerful daimyos are Imagawa Yoshimoto (今川義元), Takeda Shingen (武田信玄), Uesugi Kenshin (上杉謙信), Hojo Soun (北条早雲), Oda Nobunaga (織田信長),  Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉).  Their final goal was to defeat others and advance to Kyoto (京都) to be the supreme political power.

Oda Nobunaga (織田信長) defeats Imagawa Yoshimoto in Okehazama (桶狭間)

Around 1560, Imagawa Yoshimoto (今川義元) controlled a significant part of  Suruga (today’s Shizuoka prefecture.  See the map below for the location).  He was a powerful Sengoku Daimyo who was big enough to be the top ruler of the country.

Imagawa clan decided to advance his army toward Kyoto to take over the governmentHe took 25,000 men troop with him.  On his way up to Kyoto, they need to pass Owari (尾張: Aichi prefecture today.  See map below for the location), Oda Nobunaga’s territory.

Oda Nobunaga (織田信長 ) was still a young man who had much less means than Imagawa Yoshimoto.  It was quite apparent that there was no chance for Oda Nobunaga to beat Imagawa.  He had just become the head of Owari after his father’s death.  Also, at that time, Nobunaga was called the “The idiot of Owari” because of his eccentric behaviors (he was actually a genius).

Not too many people had much confidence in him.  Among  Oda vassals, some insisted on just staying inside the castle instead of going out and fighting since Nobunaga managed to gather only 3,000 men.  But in the end, to everyone’s surprise, the Oda side won.  Here is how it happened.

While Imagawa Yoshimoto was advancing, Nobunaga scouted which route Imagawa would take.  Imagawa’s side was sure to win this easy battle since the Oda clan was small, and the head of the clan was an idiot.  Imagawa troops decided to stop and rest in a place called Okehazama.   The road going through Okehazama was long and narrow.  Knowing Imagawa troop would come this way, Nobunaga sent out his men disguised as farmers and offered food and sake to Imagawa soldiersWhile they were having a good time, Oda Nobunaga made a surprise attack on the Imagawa troop.  On top of that, all of a sudden, it began raining heavily.  The rain was so heavy that the Imagawa troop even could not  see the Oda troop was coming.  In the end, Imagawa Yoshimoto was killed by the Oda side in the battle.  After this, the Imagawa clan declined.

59 Okehazama drawing

Bishu Okehazama Gassen (備州桶狭間合戦) by Utagawa Toyonobu (歌川豊信)   Public Domain (http://morimiya.net/online/ukiyoe-big-files/U896.html)


Oda Nobunaga(織田信長) and Akechi Mitsuhide(明智光秀)

After the battle of Okehazama, the Oda clan grew bigger rapidly.  Oda Nobunaga became the primary power.  While his reign he did several cruel things like burning Enryaku-ji Temple (延暦寺) and killing many people, including ordinary people,  yet his economic measures encouraged commercial activities.

Things were going somewhat smoothly for Nobunaga late in his life.  But in 1582, Nobunaga was killed by his own top vassal, Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀), at Hon’nou-ji (本能寺) Temple in KyotoNobunaga was 49 years old.

There are a few theories about why Akecdhi attacked and killed Nobunaga, but we don’t know what exactly happened. One speculation is Akechi had a grudge against Nobunaga.  There were many incidents Nobunaga mistreated Akechi.  Another is that Akechi saw a chance to attack Nobunaga (Nobunaga was with a very few men on that day) and took the opportunity.  The other is:  Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki (足利義昭, he had died before Akechi attacked Nobunaga) and his surrounding ordered Akechi to kill Nobunaga since Akechi had once worked under him.  Shogun Yoshiaki was afraid that Nobunaga became too powerful.  More theories go on.  We don’t know the real reason; we still debate over it.  It is one big mystery of Japanese history.

After this happened, the news was relayed to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a counterpart of Akechi under Nobunaga.  At that time, he happened to be in  Bicchu (備中, Okayama prefecture today), which was about 230 KM (143 miles) away from Kyoto (See the map below).   Hideyoshi quickly returned to Kyoto with his troop to fight against Akechi and killed him.

Here is another mystery.  The time between Nobunaga dead, and the time Akechi was killed by Hideyoshi was only ten days.  Hideyoshi was 230 KM (143 miles) away.  There were many mountains and rivers in between.  That means in 10 days, Hideyoshi received the information of Nobunaga’s death, hurried back 230 KM (143 miles) to Kyoto with his troop (soldiers were on foot), and fought against Akechi and killed him.   Their means of transportation at the time was minimal.  Even though Hideyoshi had a communication route established between Nobunaga’s inner circle all the time, it is an amazing speed.  There are  also speculatiions that Akechi and Hideyoshi were behind together or some other secret plot behind the incidents..

After Hideyoshi killed Akechi, Hideyoshi cleverly maneuvered his way up to the top of the power.  While he was in charge, he mined a large amount of gold from the gold mines he possessed.  There is a record stating that Hideyoshi buried a vast amount of gold somewhere.  But we never found it yet.

Hideyoshi was a poor farmer’s son who became the most perwerful man in the country.  His success story fascinates the Japanese.  Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu are the three most depicted subjects on TV programs and movies.  After Hideyoshi died by the natural cause, Tokugawa Ieyasu became Shogun, and the Edo period started.


55 |Part 2 of —–21 Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代刀)

Chapter 57 is the detailed part of chapter 21|Muromachi Period Sword.  Please read Chapter 21 before reading this section.

57 Muromach-timeline size 22

                              The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

After the Muromachi period, swords changed to Katana(刀) from Tachi (太刀), as described in chapter 21 Muromachi Period Sword.  Refer to Chapter 21 Muromachi Period Sword.  By the end of the Nanboku-cho period, the swords’ length became shorter to approximately 2 feet ± a few inches.  The 3-to-5 feet long swords seen in the Nanboku-cho period were no longer created.  The reason was that, during the Nanboku-cho period, warriors fought mostly riding horses, but after the Muromachi time, infantry fighting became more common.

Oei Bizen (応永備前)

The pronunciation of Oei is“O as Oh” and “ei as A of ABC.”   The Muromachi period was the declining time in sword making.  The swords made during the early Muromachi period in Bizen area were called Oei BizenOsafune Morimitsu (長船盛光), Osafune Yasumitsu (長船康光 ), Osafune Moromitsu (長船師光) were the main Oei Bizen swordsmiths.  Soshu Hiromasa (相州広正 )、Yamashiro Nobukuni (山城信國)  were also similar to the Oei Bizen style.  Please refer to Chapter 21 Muromachi Period Sword for Muromachi sword shape, Hamon, Boshi, and Ji-hada.

57 Moromitsu photo (必要分 57 Moromitus Oshigata

Bishu Osafune Moromitsu (備州長船師光)   from Sano Museum Catalogue

The above Osafune Moromitsu sword is 2 feet 5 inches long with medium kissaki.  The hamon has a small wave-like pattern with continuous Gunome (a lined half-circles).  The Boshi area shows irregular waviness with a slightly pointed tip.  Very faint Bo-utsuri (soft shadow shaped like a strip of wood) shows on Ji-hadaBo-utsuri is a distinctive characteristic among all of the Oei Bizen.

Before the Muromachi period, there had been many swordsmith groups in the Bizen area, but by the Muromachi time , Osafune (長船) was the only remaining active group.

Osafune (長船) was the name of a region, but it became the last name of the swordsmiths during the Muromachi time.  Two other well-known swordsmiths among the Oei Bizen are Osafune Morimitsu (盛光) and Yasumitsu (康光).  The Hamon by Morimitsu and Yasumitsu shows more works than that of the sword in the photo above.  Chapter 21 Muromachi Period Sword shows  the Hamon by Morimitsu and  Yasumitsu, also describes  typical characteristics of the swords in the Muromachi period.

Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto

58 Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto

Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto Shape

Hirazukuri Ko-wakizashi Tanto was the trendy style during the early Muromachi time. Swordsmiths in different areas created the tanto like the one above.  But majorities of this types were made by Oei Bizen swordsmiths.

The characteristic of the Hirazukuri ko-wakizashi Tanto ——— Usually 1 foot 1 or 2 inches long.  No Yokote line, no Shinogi, and no Sori (no curvature, straight back). Average thickness.  Narrow width.  Gyo-no-mune (refer 12| The Middle Kamakura Period Tanto

13 Mune drawing

Hirazukuri Ko-wakizashi Tanto often shows many engravings.  Hi with Soe-hi (parallel double line, wide and narrow side by side ), Tokko-tsuki-ken, Tsume-tsuki-ken, Bonji, etc.

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji20 Tokko, tume Ken  58 tsumetukiken and Hi

*drawings from “Nihonto no Okite to Tokucho” by Honami Koson


54|Part 2 of —– 20|Muromachi Period History (室町歴史)

This is a detailed part of the 20 | Muromachi Period History.  Please read chapter 20 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Nuromach & Sengoku

                                  The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this chapter

Until the Muromachi (室町) period, the political history and the sword history are parallel in our study.  The above timelines show:  the middle line is for the sword history, and the bottom line is for the political history.

The styles of swords were distinctively different between those in the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period (戦国時代).  Therefore, for sword study, the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period have to be separated.   Japanese history textbooks define that the Muromachi period is from 1393 (the end of Nanboku-cho) until 1573 when Oda Nobunaga(織田信長) removed Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki (足利義昭) from Kyoto (the fall of the Muromachi  Bakufu).   In those textbooks, the Sengoku period was described as a part of the Muromachi period.  However, we need to divide the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period for the sword study’s purpose.

Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満)

The best time during the Muromachi period was when Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満, Grandson of Ashikaga Takauji) was in power.  He moved the Bakufu to Muromachi (室町) in Kyoto, therefore, it is called the Muromachi period.  By the time, most of the South Dynasty samurais went under the North Dynasty.  The South Dynasty accepted the Shogun Yoshimitsu’s offer to end the fight against the North Dynasty.  This acceptance established the power of the the Ashikaga family in the Muromachi Bakufu .

Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu created a tremendous amount of profit from trades with China (Ming).  He built a famous beautiful resort villa in Kyoko, the Golden Pavillion (Kinkaku-Ji Temple 金閣寺*).  It is said that he created the Golden Pavillion to display his power and wealth.  The beautiful culture called the Kitayama Bunka (Kitayama culture 北山文化) was created around this time.

*Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-Ji Tempe金閣寺)  —– The official name is Rokuon-Ji Temple (鹿苑寺).  Saionji Kintsune (西園寺公経) built it first as his resort house in the Kamakura period. Shogun Yoshimitsu acquired it in 1397, and he rebuilt it as his villa.  He also used it as an official guesthouse.

After Shogun Yoshimitsu’s death, the villa was converted to Rokuon-Ji Temple.  It is a part of Rinzaishu Sokoku-Ji Temple, which is the head temple of a denomination of the Zen sect, Rinzaishu Sokoku-ji group(臨済宗相国寺派).  Kinkaku-Ji is a reliquary hall containing relics of Buddha.

Kinkaku-Ji Temple represents the glorious Kitayama Bunka (Kitayama culture).  In 1994, it was registered as a World Cultural Heritage Site.57 Kinkakuji trip 2019                                                               My photo  May 2019,

Ashikaga Yoshimasa (足利義政)

After Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満) died, the Muromachi Bakufu became less financially prosperous, and the military power decreased.  As a result, daimyos (feudal lords) gained more control.  A few generations after Shogun Yoshimitsu, Ashikaga Yohimasa became the 8th shogun).  His wife was the famous Hino Tomiko (refer  Chapter 20 Muromachi Period History

It is said that Shogun Yoshimasa was not interested in his job as a shogun, but he was much more interested in art and culture.  He created the foundation of today’s Japanese art and culture, such as the Japanese garden, Shoin-zukuri (書院造)* interior design, tea ceremony, flower arrangements, painting, and other art forms.  His cultural attribute is called Higashiyama Bunka (Higashiyama culture (東山文化).

As described in Chapter 20 Muromachi Period History (室町時代), Shogun Yoshimasa did not have a child.  His brother Yoshimi (義視) was supposed to be the next shogun.  But his wife, Hino Tomiko, gave birth to a son, Yoshihisa (義尚).  Hino Tomiko asked Yamana Sozen (山名宗全; powerful family) to back up her son.  At the same time, brother, Yoshimi, tied up with Hosokawa Katsumoto (another powerful family 細川勝元).  The problem was that Shogun Yoshimasa was paying too much attention to all his cultural hobbies, did not pay attention to the problem he created by not being clear who should be the next shogun.  He did not yield the Shogunate to either one.

In 1467, on top of the successor problem, because of other conflicts of interests of other powerful daimyos, a civil war, “Onin-no-Run (応仁の乱 )” broke out.  All daimyos were divided and sided either the Hosokawa group or the Yamana group.   Eventually, the war spread to the rest of Japan and last over ten years.  Finally, in 1477, after both Hosokawa Katsumono and Yamana Sozen died, Shogun Yoshimasa decided to transfer the Shogunate to his son Yoshihisa.  Because of this war, Kyoto was devastated.  The power of the Muromachi Bakufu declined significantly.

While all this was happening, and people were suffering, Yoshimasa was still spending money to build the Ginkaku-ji Temple (The Silver Pavillion: 銀閣寺).  He died without seeing the completion of the Ginkaku-ji Temple.  The Onin-no-Run would lead to the next Sengoku period, the 100-year-long Warring States period).

*Shoin-zukuri (書院造)———- A traditional Japanese residential interior style with Tatami mats, an alcove, and a Shoji screen, sliding door.  This style is the base of the interior of the Japanese house today.

Shoin Zukuri style Japanese room

57 Shoin zukuri

Public Domain   GFDL,cc-by-sa-2.5,2.0,1.0 file: Takagike CC BY-SA 3.0view terms      File: Takagike Kashihara JPN 001.jpg

My japanese room                                                                      My Japanese room

53| Part 2 of ——- 19 Nanboku-Cho Tanto (南北朝短刀)

This chapter is a continued part of chapter 19.  Please read 19 |Nanboku-Cho Tanto(南北朝短刀), before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Nanboku-cho

                            The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

20 Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto

The drawing above is a typical shape of the Nanboku-cho time Tanto.  This drawing was in chapter 19.  This drawing exaggerates the form of the Enbun Joji Kowakizashi Tanto.  At the end of chapter 19, Nanboku-Cho Tanto, there is a list of swordsmiths’ names in the period.  Hiromitsu and Akihiro represent the most common characteristics of Nanboku-cho tanto.

56 cropped Hiromitu photo 20 Hitatsura

Hiromitsu From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

Enbun Joji Ko-wakizashi Tanto is also called Sun-nobi Tanto (>10 inches) because the length is longer than standard size (approx. 10 inches) TantoThe top part of the Tanto bends outward slightly. This type of shape is called Sakizori.

Characteristic of Hiromitu and Akihiro

Shape———————- Usually, one foot and one to two inches long (Sun-nobi).  Wide width.  Thin in body thickness.  Sakizori.                                                                      Hamon ———————Wide Hamon and narrow Hamon are mixed.  Hamon around Yakidashi (right above Machi) area is narrow, but it gets wider gradually as it goes up.  Hamon around the Fukura area is the showiest.  Mainly Nie.  Sunagashi, Kinsuji, Gunome, Umanoha-midare (horse teeth shape Hamon), or Hitatsura appears (above drawing).                                                                                                                                Boshi———–Irregular, unevenly tempered.  Hamon covers almost entire boshi. Deep turn back.                                                                                                                              Jihada ——————-Wood-grained                                                                          Nakago ——-Tanago-bara shape.  Refer to 19 Nanboku-cho Period Tanto.

Nobukuni (Below is my sword)

Shodai Nobukuni (the first generation Nobukuni) was a student of Sadamune.  He was one of the Sadamune San Tetsu (貞宗三哲, Sadamune’s top three students).  Nobukuni’s characteristics were similar to those of Hiromitsu’s and Akihiro’s described above.  Nobukuni also created Sun-nobi tanto.  The sword below has a Hoso-suguha, Ko-mokume (small burl), Ko-maru Boshi (small round).

56 Nobukuni 1 Nobukuni4

56 Nobukuni 2

This is my sword.  Shodai Nobukuni (初代信國).   Juyo Token (重要刀剣)


number Juyo 3220,    Certification Juyo-Token

Wakizashi :  Nobukuni (信国),   31.4cm length, 0.3cm curvature, HirazukuriMitsumune (three-sided mune),  Sun-nobi, Ji-hada is wood grain and Ji-nie (nie on the surface between shinogi and hamon),  Hamon is Chu-suguha (medium straight),  Front carving shows Bonji (sanscrit), Sanko-ken, back engraving is Bonji and Hoko (pike).   Original nakago.  The examination by the Nihon Bijutu Token Hozon Kyokai, it is certified as Juyo Token.  The Chairman Moritatu Hosokawa.  Showa 45 June 1 (1970 June 1)

52| Part 2 of — 18 Nanboku-Cho Period Swords (南北朝刀)

This chapter is a continued part of 18| Nanboku-Cho Period Sword (North and South Dynasty Sword.  Please read Chapter 18 before reading this section.


    0-timeline - size 24 Nanboku-cho                     
                                   The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

The drawing below is the illustration from Chapter 18 Nanboku-Cho Period Sword.  Please compare this drawing to the photo on the right.  It shows the similarity of the shape.  Keep in mind this illustration is the shape of a once very long sword that was shortened at a later time.  During the Nanboku-cho time, swordsmiths created 3, 4, or even 5 feet long blades, but later, they shortened them to approximately 2 to 2.5 feet or so.

19 Nanboku-cho Sword style                55 Sa photo                                                                   ” Sa”* from Sano Museum Catalogue “Reborn”                                                                                                              (Permission granted)

* “Sa” is pronounced the first sound of “sabotage.”

55 Chogi

55 Chogi drawing

                     Chogi* from Sano Museum Catalogue (Permission granted)

Chogi* is pronounced: Chocho-san’s “cho” and giggle “gi.”

Chogi’s style is categorized as one of the Soden Bizen.  See, 18| Nanboku-Cho Period Sword (North and South Dynasty Sword).  Chogi (長義) was a swordsmith from Bizen Den school who created swords with a characteristic of Soshu Den.  Therefore, in short, called So-den Bizen.   Bizen swordsmith forged Soshu Den.

 Chogi characteristic

Shape ——— Originally very long.  Shortened to approximately around 2 to 2.5 feet.        Hamon ——–Wide showy tempered line.  Mostly Nioi, but Nie shows also.  Sunagashi (砂流 brush stroke- like) appears.  Notare (wavy) mixed with Gunome.  Sometimes Chogi’s created the double Gunome-style hamon (connected two half-circles).  This shape resembles a pair of earlobes, therefore, it is called Chogi’s Mimigatamidare (irregular hamon mixed with earlobe-like shape).                                                                Boshi ——— Irregular Midare and sharp turn back.                                                            Ji-hada ——- Itame (a wood grain)

55 Aoe55 Aoe ilustlation

Aoe from Sano Museum Catalogue (Permission granted)

Aoe (青江) is pronounced “A” as apple, “o” as original, and “e” like an egg.  Aoe is a swordsmith from Bittchu province, that is next to Bizen.  Therefore the characteristic of the sword, Ko-Aoe (old Aoe), and Ko-Bizen (old Aoe) are similar.

55 Bizen Bittchu map

Characteristic of Aoe (青江)

From the middle Kamakura period to the Nanboku-cho period was the height of the Aoe group.

One of the characteristics of the Aoe sword is their Aoe-zori shape.  That is to curve a lot at the lower part. 

During the Nanboku-cho time, because the Soshu Den was the trendy style, even Bizen swordsmiths did Nie even though their main characteristic was Nioi.   However, the Bittchu group stayed with Nioi. 

The tempered area tends to be wide.  Sakasa-choji, which means inverted or backward, (see the illustration above), is the Aoe’s most notable characteristic.  Also, boshi often has pointed hamon.  It is often said that if you see Sakasa-choji, the sword has a good chance of being from either the Aoe group or Katayama Ichimonji group.  Sumitetu (澄鉄:  black core metal shows through), is also Aoe’s characteristic.



50|Part 2 of –16 Late Kamakura Period: Tanto (Early Soshu-Den 鎌倉末短刀, 正宗墓)

Chapter 50 is a continued part of 16| Late Kamakura period Tanto (Early Soshu-Den 鎌倉末短刀).  Please read Chapter 16 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Late Kamakura

                              The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section.

In  16| Late Kamakura period Tanto (Early Soshu-Den 鎌倉末短刀)Den), a general  characteristic of the late Kamakura period Tanto style (early Soshu Den) was described.  Next two photos fit in with the typical characteristics of early Soshu Den Tanto.


Goro Nyudo Masamune (五郎入道正宗) was born in Kamakura as a son of Tosaburo Yukimitu (藤三郎行光)Today, Masamune is a very well-known swordsmith even among those who are not very familiar with the Japanese sword.  His father Tosaburo Yukimitsu was also one of the top swordsmith among the early Soshu DenMasamune’s tomb is in Honkaku-JI (本覚寺) Temple near Kamakura train station, approximately a 6 minutes’ walk from the station. 

Goro Nyudo Masamune (相州伝五郎入道正宗) from Sano Museum Catalog (permission granted). 

Masamune photo (above) —– Hira-zukuri (flat)Very slightly Sakizori (tip area curves slightly outward).  Bo-hi and Tsure-hi (parallel thin groove).  Ko-maru BoshiItame-hada (wood grain).  Hamon is notare (wavy).  The illustration above shows Sunagashi and Niju-ba (double hamon) .  This type of nakago is called Tanago-bara.  Masamune Tanto is often Mu-mei (no signature).  This particular Tanto is called Komatsu Masamune (小松政宗).  The description of the Sano Museum Catalog stated that connoisseurs in the past had difficulty determining whether this sword had been made by Masamune because of the wide Mihaba with Sori and Hamon is a little different for usual Masamune but by judging from the clear Nie, Chikei, and Kinsuji, this sword should be judged as Masamune.

Enju Photo below

Higo Province Enju Kunisuke  From Sano Museum Catalog
(permission granted)

Enju (延寿) group lived Higo (肥後) Province in Kyushu.  The characteristic of the Enju group is very similar to that of the Yamashiro Den’s.  Because Enju Kunimura was related to Rai Kuniyuki of Yamashiro-Den. 

Enju Photo (above) —-Hamon is Hoso-suguha (straight temper line).  Boshi is Ko-maru.  The front engraving is Suken (left photo) and the engraving on the back is Gomabashi (right photo).  Ji-hada is a tight Itame.  It is confusing to Kantei (determining who made the sword) a sword like this because this sword is the one from the late Kamakura period, but it does not have the typical early Soshu Den look.

MasamuneTomb in Honkaku-ji Temple

Masamune (正宗) tomb is at Honkakuj-Ji Temple (本覚寺) in Kamakura.  Here is a map of Honkakuji temple and Masamune kogei store in Kamakura.  This store is owned by Tsunahiro Yamamura who is the 24th generation of MasamuneHonkaku-ji Temple is circled in red  and Masamune Kogei store is red circle with X.  Both are in approx. a 6 to 7 minutes walking distance from the Kamakura station. 

To get to Honkaku-ji Temple from Tokyo

Take Yokosuka line from Tokyo station (approx. one hour) — Get off at Kamakura Station (one stop after Kita-Kamakura) —Exit from the East Exit (front exit) — Go straight and cross the road —Turn right and go up to the post office — Turn left at the post office (Honkaku-Ji sign is at the corner of the post office) — Honkaku-ji Temple is a short distance from the post office.

52 Honkakuji map in red


52 Honnkakuji 2 54 large Masamune monument only

52 Honkakuji 54 Small Masamune tomb only

Honkakuji Temple (本覚寺) and Masamune Tomb (正宗墓 )

49| Part 2 of — 15 The Revival of Yamato Den (大和伝復活)

This chapter is the continued part of Chapter 15|The Revival of Yamato Den.   Please read chapter 15 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Late Kamakura

                               The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

At the end of the Kamakura period, in the Yamato area, powerful temples expanded their territories.  See the map below for the location of the Yamato area.  Several big temples had a political and military power to control the area at the end of the Kamakura period, especially, the one with large territories.   Those big territories were called Shoen (荘園).  They employed a large number of monk soldiers called So-hei.  The demand for swords was increased by the increased number of Sohei (僧兵).  The increased demand revived the Yamato Den.

Some of the big temples had their own swordsmiths within their territory. Todaiji-temple (東大寺) backed Tegai (手掻) sword group.  The Senjuin (千手院 ) sword group lived near Senju-Do (千手堂) where Senju Kannon (千手観音) was enshrined.  The name of the sword group, Taima came from the Taima-Ji Temple (当麻寺).  Shikkake group (尻懸) and Hosho group (保昌) were also Yamato Den sword group.  Those five groups are called Yamato Goha (Yamato five group).

51 Japan map Yamato

General Characteristic of Yamato Den

Yamato Den (大和伝) sword always shows Masame (柾目: straight grain-like) somewhere on Ji-hada, Jigane, and/or Hamon.   Please refer to 15| The Revival of Yamato Den(大和伝復活for its general characteristic.  Masame is sometimes mixed with Mokume (burl like) or Itame (wood grain like).  Either way, Yamato Den sword shows Masame somewhere.  Some sword shows Masame entirely or some show a lesser amount.  Because of Masame, the hamon tends to show Sunagashi (brush stroke-like) or a double line called Niju-ha.

Taima or Taema group (当麻)

Shape ——————— Middle Kamakura period shape and Ikubi-kissaki style              Hamon —————-Mainly medium Suguha.  Double HamonSuguha mixed with Choji.  Often shows Inazuma, Kinsuji, especially under Yokote line Inazuma appeares.         Boshi —– Often Yakizume.  (Refer 15| The Revival of Yamato Den(大和伝復活)        Ji-hada ———– Small wood grain and well-kneaded surface.  At the top part of the sword, the wood grain pattern becomes Masame.

Shikkake Group (尻懸)

Shape ——————— Late Kamakura period shape. Refer 14| Late Kamakura SwordHamon–Mainly Nie (nie-hon’i).  Medium frayed Suguha, mixed with small irregular and Gunome (half-circle).  Double-lined, brush stroke-like pattern.  Small Inazuma, KinsujiBoshi ——————Yakizume, Hakikake (swept trace like) and Ko-maru ( small round)    Ji-hada —————— Small burl mixed with MasameShikkake group sometimes shows Shikkake-hada, which is, that the Ha side shows Masame and mune side shows burl.

Tegai Group ( 手掻 )

Shape ——— Early Kamakura shape and thick kasane (body).  High ShinogiKoshizori. Hamon ————————- Narrow tempered line with medium Suguha Hotsure (frayed Suguha). Mainly Nie.  Double tempered line. Inazuma, Kinsuji shows.                              Boshi ———————————————–Yakizume (no turn back), Kaen (flame like).      Ji-Hada ————————————————- Fine burl mixed with Masame.

51 Kanenaga photo Yamato51 Kanenaga ilustration Yamato

Tegai Kanenaga of Yamato.  From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)The illustration (called Oshigata) shows Notare (wave-like hamon) and Suguha-hotsure (frayed Suguha) and Kinsuji.

Below is my Yamato sword.  I obtained this sword at an annual San Francisco Swords Show a few years back.

Characteristic:  Munei (cut short and no signature).  Yamato Den, Tegai-ha (Yamato school Tegai group).  Length is 2 shaku 2 sun 8 &1/2 bu (27&1/4 inches).  Very small Kissaki and funnbari.

My Yamato sword

The entire view of the sword and Kantei-sho (NBTHK Certification).  It is ranked as “Tokubetsu Hozon Token”.

My Yamato sword 5

My Yamato sword 4

My Yamato sword.jpg 2

On Hamon, Sunagashi, Niju-ba shows very faintly.   I could not take a good photo of Boshi.  But it is Yakizume like.  JiHada is Itame with faint Masame, almost Nashiji-Hada (possibly because of my eyes).  Nie-hon’i. 

48|Part 2 of — 14|Late Kamakura Period Sword (Early Soshu Den 鎌倉末刀)

This chapter is a detailed part of chapter 14| Late Kamakura Period Sword.  Please read chapter 14 before reading this section.

12 Red Middle Kamakura Timeline

                                     The circle indicates the time we discuss in this section.

14 Ikubi kissaki Damadge

In Chapter 14| Late Kamakura Period Sword (鎌倉後期), the Ikubi-kissaki sword was explained.  The above illustration shows a flaw when the damaged area was repaired.  To compensate for this flaw, in the late Kamakura Period, swordsmiths started to forge swords with longer Kissaki and a tip of Hi ends lower than Yokote-line.  So that in case the Yokote-line was lowered after the repair, Hi does not go higher than Yokote-line

15 Masamune (Sano)   15 Masamune hamon (Sano)

The above photo is a sword by Goro Nyudo Masamune( 五郎入道正宗 ).  Please look at the size and shape of Kissaki.  This is definitely different from previous Ikubi-kissaki, or Ko-gissaki.  This is a typical late Kamakura period Kissaki style.  This is O-suriage (largely shortened).

Under Kamakura Bakufu, many swordsmiths moved to Kamakura.  They were Toroku Sakon Kunituna (藤六左近国綱 ) of Yamashiro Awataguchi group (山城粟田口),  Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真), and Kunimune (国宗 )of the Bizen area.  They are the origin of Soshu Den (相州伝).  Eventually, Tosaburo Yukimitsu (藤三郎行光)  appeared and his son is the famous Masamune (正宗)In the drawing above, Kinsuji, Inazuma is shown inside the Hamon.  The clear line inside the Hamon is Inazuma and Kinsuji.  Inazuma, Kinsuji is the collection of Nie.   Masamune is famous for Inazuma, Kinsuji.  Masamune lived in Kamakura, his Hamon looks like an ocean wave when it is viewed sideways.

50 part 2 of 15 吉岡.photo 50 part 2 of 15 吉岡

The above picture is a sword by a swordsmith of Yoshioka Ichimonji group (吉岡一文字).  Kissaki is also like the one of Masamune.  It is longer than the previous Ikubi-kissaki or Ko-gissaki.  This is Chu-gissakiKissaki like this one is one of the important points to determine what period the sword was made.  Hamon has Choji, Gunome, Togariba (pointed-tip), very tight Nie.

50 part 2 of 15 運生 photo 50 part 2 of 15 運生 

The above photo is a sword by Ukai Unsho (鵜飼雲生) of Bizen Den.  This sword is also from the late Kamakura period.  But it has Ko-gissaki.  This sword does not have the late Kamakura period Chu-gissaki style.  Narrow Hoso-suguha is somewhat like an earlier time than the late Kamakura period.  This sword indicates that the sword does not always have the style of that period.  To Kantei*, first, look at the style and shape then give yourself some idea of the period of the time it was made.  But in this case, Kissaki does not indicate the late Kamakura periodThe next thing is to look at the different characteristics of the sword one by one like hamon, Nie or Nioi, Jihada, etc,  and determine what period, which Den, which province and then come up with the name. This process is called Kantei.

*Kantei —  to determine the swordsmith name by analyzing the characteristic of the sword without seeing the MeiMei may be gone if it was shortened or never inscribed.

All the photos above are from Sano Museum Catalogue.  Permission to use is granted.

47| Part 2 of –13 Late Kamakura Period, Genko (鎌倉末元寇)

This is the detailed part of chapter 13|Late Kamakura Period, Genko (鎌倉末元寇).  Please read chapter 13 before reading this section.

12 Red Middle Kamakura Timeline

                                      The circle indicates the time we discuss in this section.

Genko (元寇):  Mongolian Invasion 

In Chapter 13, the Mongolian invasion was described simply.  Here is the more detailed description.  The Mongol Empire was a vast empire spread between present Mongol areas to Eastern Europe from 13 to 14 centuries.  Grandson of Genghis Kahn, Kublai Kahn sent several official letters to Japan demanding Japan to become a dependency state of the Mongol Empire (元: Yuan) and demanded to send a tribute to them.   They threatened Japan that they would invade if Japan did not accept their demand.  Hojo Tokimune (北条時宗 ) who was in power in Kamakura Bakufu (government) at the time, refused and ignored the letters many times.  That led to the two-time invasions by the Mongol Empire.  It is often said that the strong typhoon hit Japan on each occasion and Mongols were chased away by these two big typhoons.  This is correct but the real story was a lot more to it.

Bun’ei-no-eki (文永の役  )  1274

The first Mongolian invasion was called Bunei-no-eki.  In the early part of October 1274, 40,000 Mongol troops*¹ (Mongol, Han people, and Korean) departed from the Korean peninsula on 900*² large and small ships and headed to Japan.  After they arrived on the Tsushima island (対馬 ), Mongol troop burnt villages and killed many people including the island people.  Village people were captured and sent to the top officials of the Mongols as their slaves.  It was a very sad scene.

The Mongols moved to Iki island (壱岐の島), to Hizen shore (肥前 ),  to Hirato island (平戸 ), to Taka-Shima (鷹島 ), then to Hakata bay (博多).   At each place, the disastrous sad scene was the same as everywhere.   At each battlefield, Japanese soldiers and villagers were killed in large numbers.  The Kamakura Bukufu (government) sent a large number of samurai troops to the battlefield.  The Japanese troops sometimes won and pushed the Mongolians back, but mostly lost.  Many Japanese wives and children side were captured.

Eventually, even no soldiers dared to fight against the Mongols.  Mongols arrows were short and not so powerful, but they put on the poison at the tip, and they shoot the arrows all together at one time like rain.  Also, this is the first time the Japanese saw the firearms.  The loud sound of the explosion made the horses and samurai frightened.

Japanese troops had to retreat and the situation was really bad for the Japanese.  But one morning, a big surprise to the Japanese!  All the ships disappeared from the shore, they were all gone on the morning of October 21st (today’s calendar, Nov 19th).   All Mongols disappeared from the shore of Hakata.  What happened was Mongols decided to quit the fight and went back to their country.  The reason was; for Mongols, even though they were winning, they also lost many soldiers and lost one of the major key persons in the army.  The Mongols realized that no matter how much Mongols won, the Japanese kept coming more and more from everywhere.  Also, the Mongols realized that they could not expect reinforcements from their country across the ocean.  Their stocks of weapons were getting low.  It was the Mongols decision to go back.  Here was a twist.  Around the end of October (November by today’s calendar), the sea between Hakata (where Mongols were stationed) and Korea was a very dangerous sea because of the bad weather.  Only a clear daytime of the south wind made it possible to sail over this sea.  The name of the sea where the Mongol soldiers had to sail back is called Genkai Nada (玄界灘), very famous for the rough sea.  For some reason, the Mongols decided to head back during the night.  That was a mistake.  They may have caught a moment of the south wind, but it did not last long.  As a result, they encountered the usual severe rainstorm.  Many ships hit against each other, against the cliff, ships capsized, people fell into the ocean, and several hundred broken ships were found on the Japan shore.

The Mongol invasion ended here.  This is called Bun’ei-no-eki (文永の役 ).  Mongols lost a large number of people, ships, soldiers, food, weapons.  Actually, it was Korea who lost a great deal,  they were forced to supply all of the people, food, weapons, etc. by the Mongols.  After this war, in Korea, only old men and children were left to work on the farm, on top of it, they had a drought and long rain.

Ko’an-no-eki (弘安の役) 1281

The second Mongolian invasion is called Ko’an-no-eki in 1281.  After the first attempt to invade Japan, Kublai Khan kept sending messengers to Japan to demand to become a dependency state.  The Kamakura Bakufu kept ignoring and killed messengers.  Kublai Kahn decided to attack Japan again in 1281.  The top advisers of Kublai Kahn tried to convince him not to do it because the ocean is too dangerous, the country is small, the place is too far, and nothing to gain even if the Mongols win.  But Kublai Kahn still insisted to attack.

This time they came in two groups.  One was the East-route troop, the number was 40,000*¹ soldiers on 900 ships, and the other was South-route troop, the number was 100,000*¹ soldiers on 3,500 ships.  This was the largest scale forces in history.  They planned to depart from each one’s port and supposed  to join on the Iki-no-shima island (壱岐の島) by June 15th, then work together.  The East-route troop arrived there before the South-route troop came.  Instead of waiting for the South-route troop to arrive, the East-route troop started to attack the Hakata Bay (博多) on their own.  But since the previous invasion of the Bun’ei-no-eki, Japan already prepared to fight and built a 20 kilometer long stone wall.  This stone wall was 3 meters high and 2 meters thick.  The East-route troop had to give up to land on Japan from Hakata and moved to Shiga-no-shima (志賀島).  In this place, the fight between Mongols and Japan was even battle but in the end, East-route troop lost and retreated to the Iki-no-shima and decided to wait for the South-route troop to arrive.

The South troop never came there, instead, they changed their plan.  On top of that, while they were waiting for the South-route troop to arrive, they lost over 3,000 men over the epidemic.  With difficulty like this, some suggested going back home but they concluded to wait for the South-rout troop to arrive as long as the food last.  Meantime, the South-route troop changed their plan and decided to go to Hirato-Shima (平戸島) where it is closer to Dazaifu (太宰府).  Dazaifu is the final and most important place they wanted to attack.   Later, the East-route troop found out the South-route troop went to Hirato- Shima.   Finally, two troops joined at Hirato-shima, and each group was stationed at a nearby island called Takashima (鷹島).  The problem was that this island had very high tide and low tide, the ships were not easily maneuvered.

Meantime, 60,000 Japanese men were marching toward the place where the Mongols were stationed.   Before Japanese soldiers arrived to fight against the Mongols, a big typhoon came on July 30th, and Mongols were caught in a big typhoon, ships hitting each other,  people fell from the ships and drowned and the majority of ships sank.   July 30th was about three months after the East- route troop left Mongol in early May.  That means they were on the ocean and the shore of Japan for about three months or so.  Around the north Kyushu area (北九州), usually, a typhoon comes average 3.2 times between July to September.   Mongols were on the ocean and the shorelines of Japan for approximately three months; they were bound to be hit by a typhoon soon or later.

The Mongol Empire lost 2/3 of its naval forces at Ko’an-no-eki.   Even after the Mongols failed two attempts to attack Japan, Kublai Khan still insisted to attack Japan the third time no matter how much his advisers reasoned him not to.  In the end, the plan was delayed and terminated because of many rebellions, upheavals, and no lumber was left to build ships.  Soon, Kublai died in 1294. The record book of Mongols and Korean indicated that Mongols officials gave a high evaluation toward Japanese swords.  Some even say one of the reasons it was not easy to defeat Japan was because of the long sharp swords.  The experience of the Mongolian invasion changed Ikubi Kissaki (猪首切先) sword to the new Soshu-Den (相州伝) style sword.  The next chapter describes a new style of sword, Soshu-Den swords.

49 Photo of part 2 of 14 Late Kamakura

The stone wall scene.  Photo from Wikipedia.  Public Domain

*¹ Number of soldiers by https://kotobank.jp/word/元寇-60419 .  Several different reference sources have a slightly different number of soldiers and ships, but they are similar numbers.

46|Part 2 of —– 12|Middle Kamakura Period Tanto 鎌倉中期短刀

This chapter is a datiled part of chapter of 12| Tanto ( 短刀) Middle Kamakura Period.  Please read Chapter 12 before reading this section.

12 Red Middle Kamakura Timeline
                   The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

In Chapter 12 Kamakura Period Tanto described that the shape of a Tanto called Takenoko-zori had appeared during the middle Kamakura period.  This style of Tanto curves inward a little at the tip.  The drawing below may be a little exaggerated to show the curve.  The real Takenoko-zori curve is not so obvious.  Maybe a few millimeters inward.  Usually, the length of the Tanto is approximately 12 inches or less.  Tantos are described as follows; a Tanto of approx. 10 inches is called Jyosun tanto (定寸短刀), longer than 10 inches is Sun-nobi tanto (寸延び短刀 ), and less than 10 inches is called Sun-zumari Tanto (寸詰短刀).

Sun-nobi Tanto (寸延び)   >   Jyosun Tanto (定寸)   >  sun-zumari Tanto (寸詰り)  (longer than 10 inches)           (approx. 10 inches)                (less than 10 inches)

13 Tanto drawing Mid Kamakur

13 «Part 2» Tanto photo

Tanto by Shintogo Kunimitsu (新藤五国光).  This style is called Kanmuri -otoshi (冠落し), the Mune side (opposite side of cutting edge) is shaved off.  The length is approximately 10 inches.  Woodgrain surface, Nie on Ji (refer to 3 |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 the Tanto producers, Shintogo Kunimitsu is considered the top Tanto Maker.

13 «Part 2»Tanto photo with Saya

Above photo is also by Shintogo Kunimitsu (新藤五国光) with Saya.  Saya is the scabbard.  The handle of the scabbard (white part) is made with sharkskin.  Both photos are from Sano Museum Catalog.  Permission granted.