43 | Part 2 of –10 Jyokyu-no-Ran and Gotoba-joko (承久の乱)

This chapter is a continued part of 10| Jokyu-no-ran (承久の乱) 1221.  Please read Chapter 10 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 jyokyuu no ran

                            The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this chapter.

Chapter 10 described how Jokyu-no-Ran (承久の乱) had started.  In the end, Emperor Gotoba (or Gotoba Joko) was exiled to Oki Island (隠岐の島).

Emperor Gotoba was a very talented man in many fields.  He was very good at Waka (和歌), Japanese short poem.   To compose Waka, you are required to include several elements such as scenery, a season, one’s inner feeling with the refined sentiment, or the surrounding state, within the very limited number of words.  It requires a literary talent.  He was also good at equestrianism, Kemari (a ball game for upper-class men at that time), swimming, Sumo wrestling, music, archery, swordsmanship, calligraphy, painting, and even sword-making.  His contribution toward the sword field created the golden age of Sword making in the middle Kamakura period.  Surprisingly, Gotoba Joko was not just good at things in many different areas, but he mastered them to the top level.  Especially his Waka (poetry) was highly regarded.  He edited Shin Kokin Wakashu (新古今集), which was a collection of 1980 Waka poems.

Emperor Gotoba, Enthroned at the Age Four

Emperor Gotoba was enthroned at the age of four (some say three).  The problem was Emperor Antoku had already existed at the same time.  They were both about the same age.  Two emperors at the same time was a big problem.  How did it happen?

To have a new emperor, the head of the emperor’s family had to appoint the next emperor.  While the Emperor Go-Shirakawa (後白河天皇) was in jail, Emperor Antoku was set by Taira no Kiyomori (平清盛).  Though Kiyomori was the head of the Heishi, the most powerful Samurai group, he was not from the emperor’s family.  That was against the tradition.  This was not acceptable for Go-Shirakawa Emperor (後白河天皇).  Emperor Go-Shirakawa was furious at Taira no Kiyomori and picked Emperor Gotoba and enthroned him.  This is the reason why two emperors coexisted.

There was one more thing.  To be an emperor, the emperor must have Sanshu-no-Jingi (三種の神器: Three imperial regalia); There are three items the emperor must have to be a legitimate emperor.  They are a mirror, a sacred sword, and a Magatama (jewelry)*.

But Sanshu-no-Jingi were taken by the Heike family together with Emperor Antoku when they fled from the Genji.  The Heike clan was pushed by the Genji all the way to Dan-no-Ura (壇ノ浦), and they were defeated there.   Dan-no-Ura is a sea between Kyushu (九州) and Honshu (本州).  When it became clear 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; however, they recovered only the Jewelry and the Mirror but not the Sword.  Because of the tradition, the emperor must have Sanshu-no-Jingi; otherwise, he was not recognized as a legitimate emperor. Gotoba Joko was tormented for a long time for not having all three.

Today, the Jewelry is with the present Emperor family, and the Mirror is with Ise Jingu Shrine (伊勢神宮).  The Sword is still missing somewhere in the ocean.  Some say that the lost Sword down into the sea was a copy and one kept at Atsuta Jingu Shrine (熱田神宮) is the real one.     

* Sanshu-no-Jingi (三種の神器 )—– 1. The Sword; Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi (草薙の剣)  2. The Mirror; Yata-no-Kagami  (八咫の鏡),  3. The Magatama (Jewelry); Yasakani-no-Magatama (八尺瓊勾玉) by Token World: www.touken-world.jp/tips/32747/

Politics by  Emperor Gotoba

Emperor Gotoba wanted political power back from the Kamakura Bakufu.  He was a very impulsive, passionate, unpredictable quick-tempered person.   He tried to revive the Chotei (朝廷) power.  The Chotei is the central government controlled by the emperor and aristocrats.  Emperor Gotoba decided to rely on the armed forces to achieve this goal.  He set up a Saimen no Bushi (armed forces directly under Emperor Gotoba’s command).

When he saw Minamoto no Sanetomo was killed, he realized Kamakura Bakufu must have been in turmoil.  Thinking this was a good chance, he sent out the emperor’s order to all the daimyos to fight against Kamakura Bakufu.  He expected an easy victory, but Kamakura Bushi was united tightly and fought well under Hojo Masako’s leadership, the “Nun Shogun.”  She organized one tightly united armed force, whereas the Emperor Gotoba side was not very organized.  They were not used to fighting.

In the end,  the Emperor Gotoba’s side lost.  When he realized he had lost, he claimed it was not him, but his men did it independently.  He insisted that it had nothing to do with him. Therefore, it was wrong to punish him.  But of course, Hojo Masako and Kamakura Bakufu did not believe Emperor Gotoba and exiled him to Oki Island.  Emperor Gotoba ended his life there.  Although he was so smart and accomplished in so many different fields, he could not win against the grandma “Nun-shogun,” Hojo Masako.

Sword-Making by Gotoba Joko

Gotoba Joko had a superior ability to evaluate swords, and he became the superior swordsmith himself.   He invited many top-level swordsmiths from different sword groups to his court, gave them a title, and treated them respectfully.  Also, he made them his instructors and assistants.  Gotoba Joko brought in skilled swordsmiths from many places in rotation.  Those who were invited to the palace were called Gobankaji (御番鍛冶), an honorary title.  On the Sword he created, he inscribed a Chrysanthemum with 16 petals.  The present emperor still uses this design as the emperor’s crest.  The Sword with the chrysanthemum design is called Kiku Gosaku (菊御作).

Today, you can visit the Emperor Gotoba Museum on Oki island, and there are a few sites that are believed to be the emperor’s sword making site.  Some people say it is debatable if the sites are real.  Today, Oki Island is a beautiful resort island.  It can be reached by ferries from Shimane Prefecture, which takes about 2 hours by boat.   Also, it can be reached by airplane directly from Osaka.

45 part 2 of ---11Oki-no-Shima map

11 «part 2» Gotoba Joko photo
Gotoba Joko (owned by Minase Shrine) This picture is public domain

42|Part 2 of — 9 Middle Kamakura Period : Bizen Den (鎌倉中期備前伝)

This chapter is a detailed part of Chapter 9.  Please read 9 | Middle Kamakura Period (Bizen Den) 鎌倉中期備前伝  before reading this chapter.

0-timeline - size 24 Middle Kamakura

                         The red circle indicates the time we discuss in this section

The middle Kamakura period was the height of the Bizen Den.  In different regions other than Bizen, swords styles often reflected people’s preferences and politics in the particular areas.  But the Bizen sword had its own style and was not affected much by those elements throughout the time.  The clients of Bizen swords came from all over the country.  Therefore, the Bizen swordsmiths created the swords liked by everybody. 

The general style of Bizen Den

  • In general, their style is likable by everybody.
  • The shape, the width of the blade, the thickness of the body, and the tempered line are a standard size or usual design, seldom out of the ordinary.
  • Nioi base
  • Soft feeling Ji-gane (steel)
  • Utsuri (cloud-like shadow) appears.
  • The 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 were the main swordsmiths among the Fukuoka Ichomonji group (福岡一文字 ).  From this group, six swordsmiths including  Norimune and Sukemune, received the honor as the “Gobankaji” from Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽上皇 ).   I saw Fukuoka Ichimonji Muneyoshi (福岡一文字宗吉) at Mori Sensei’s class on June 25, 1972.  My note pointed out a lot of Utsuri (shadow) on the blade.

 Sugata (shape) ————– Graceful and classy shape.  Generally, well- proportioned shape.  The difference between the top width and bottom width is not much.  Sometimes stout-looking Kissaki like Ikubi-kissak (refer 11| Ikubi Kissaki (猪首切先)  appears.

Hi and Engraving ———-The tip of Hi may follow the Ko-shinogi line.  See below.  The end of Hi goes under Machi ending with square, or Kakinagashi  (refer to 41| Part 2 of —– 8 Middle Kamakura Period (Yamashiro Den) 鎌倉中期山城伝 )

44 hisaki agaru

Hamon  ———- Wide Ichimonji-choji tempered line.  It means the same width tempered line from the bottom to the top.  The same Hamon front and back.  O-choji-midare  (large clove-like pattern), Juka-choji (overwrapped-looking Choji).  Nie base.  Inazuma and/or Kinsuji appear.

Boshi ————– Same Hamon continues into the Boshi area and ends with Yakizume or turn slightly.  Sometimes O-maru.

Jihada ———– Fine and a soft look.  Itame (Woodgrain pattern).   Lots of Utsuri (cloud-like shadow or reflection)

10«part 2» ichimonji photo

44 Ichimonjio hamon

Ichimonji  Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館) Permission granted  Above sword is O-suriage.  The end of Hi is lower than Mekugi-ana inside Nakago.

 

           

41| Part 2 of — 8 Middle Kamakura Period: Yamashiro Den 鎌倉中期山城伝

This chapter is a detailed part of Chapter 8| Middle Kamakura Period –Yamashiro Den(鎌倉中期山城伝).   Please read Chapter 8 before reading this chapter.

0-timeline - size 24 Middle Kamakura

      The red circle indicates the time we discuss in this section

During the Middle Kamakura period, there were three main groups among the Yamashiro Den.  They are Ayano-koji (綾小路) group, Awataguchi (粟田口) group, and Rai (来) group.

When we refer to a certain group, we say, “xxx haxxx ippa   “, or  “xxx ichimon “.  We use those three words interchangeably.  They all basically mean a “group”.  For example, we say Ayano-koji Ippa, means Ayano-koji group.

Ayano-Koji Ippa (綾小路 )

  • Sugata (shape) —————- In general, gentle or graceful Kyo-zori shape.  The difference between the width of the Yokote line and Machi is not much.  The sword is slender yet thick.  Small Kissaki 
  • Hi and Engraving ———————- Bohi (one groove) or Futasuji-hi (double grooves)   
  • Hamon ————————– Nie base with Ko-choji (small clove shape) and Ko-midare (small irregular).  Small Inazuma (lightning like line) and Kin-zuji (golden streak) may show.  Double Ko-choji (two Ko-choji side by side) may appear.                                     
  • Boshi (tempered line at tip area) ——————Ko-maru (small round), Yakizume (refer to the illustration below), and Kaen (flame like pattern)                                           
  • Ji-hada ————– Small wood grain with a little Masame (straight grain)  Ji-nie shows.   
  • Nakago (hilt) ————————– Long, slightly fat feeling
  • Ayano-Koji  swordsmiths——Ayano-koji Sadatoshi (綾小路定利), Sadanori (定則)

Awataguchi Ichimon (粟田口)

Many swordsmiths from Awataguchi Ichimon (group) received the honor of the Goban Kaji (meaning top swordsmith) from Gotoba Joko (Emperor Gotoba 後鳥羽上皇 ).  Their general  characteristic is as follows.

  • Sugata (Shape) ————————————– Elegant shape Torii-zori (or Kyo-zori) shape
  • Hi and Engraving ————– The tip of Hi comes 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

9 «part 2» 大小丸,焼詰,丸角止, 掻流     

              Maru-dome (rounded end)             Kaku-dome (square)          Kakinagashi

  • Hamon ————— The slightly wider tempered line at the bottom then it becomes narrow tempered line at the top.  Nie base (this is called Nie-hon’i).  Straight tempered line mixed with Ko-choji (small clove) or wide straight line mixed with choji.  Awataguchi-nie appears.  Awataguchi-nie means fine, deep and sharp shiny Nie around tempered line area.   Fine Inazuma (lightning-like line) and Kinsuji (golden streak) appear.
  • Boshi (tempered line at the tip area) ————- Ko-maru (small round)  or O-maru (large round).   The return is sharrow.  Yakizume, Nie Kuzure, and Kaen (flame)9-«part-2»-大小丸焼詰丸角止-掻流-1-e1547925390685.jpg

Yakizume      O-maru     Ko-maru         Yakikuzure

  • Ji-hada ————- Fine Ko-mokume (wood swirls) with Ji-nie.  Nie on Ji-hada. Yubashiri, Chikei appears.                                                                                                     
  • Nakago ——————————– Often two letter inscription
  • Names of Awataguchi swordsmiths —– Awataguchi Kunitomo (粟田口国友 ),  Hisakuni (久国), Kuniyasu (国安),  Kuniyasu (国安), Kunikiyo (国清)

 Rai Ha ()

A general characteristic of Rai group is as follows.  However, each swordsmith has own characteristics.

  • Sugata (shape) ———— Graceful with dignity.  Thick body.  Rai made Ikubi Kissaki.   
  • Hi and Engravings ———————— Wide and shallow Hi.                                                       
  • Hamon —————— Nie base.  Suguha (straight).  Wide Suguha with Ko-midare (small irregular) and Choji (clove).  Sometimes large Choji at the lower part and narrow Suguha at the top.  Inazuma and Kin-suji appear around Yokote area.
  • Boshi ————————————  Komaru, Yakizume (refer to the illustration above)
  • Ji-hada ———– Finely forged Itame (small wood grain) sometimes mixed with Masame (parallel grain).  Fine Nie.  Rai group sporadically shows Yowai Tetsu (weak surface) which may be the core iron.
  • Swordsmiths of Rai Ha —— Rai Kuniyuki (来国行), Kunitoshi (国俊), Ryokai (了戒 ) 

Rai Kunitoshi is said to be Rai Kuniyuki’s son.  Ryokai is said to be Rai Kunitoshi ‘s son.

img017

    Rai Kuniyuki (来国行)Once my family sword, photo taken by my father with his  writing.    
9 «part 2» Rai Kuniyuki photo.jpg       Rai Kuniyuki hamon
Rai Kuniyuki (来国行)Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館)  (permission granted)

40|Part 2 of — 7 Overview of Kamakura Period Sword (鎌倉太刀概要)

This is the second part of Chapter 7| Overview of the Kamakura Period Swords (1192-1333).  Please read chapter 7 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Kamakura Period

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

The Kamakura period was the golden age of sword making.  Approximately half of the well-known swords at present were made during the Kamakura period.  It is probably because the war between the Genji and the Heishi demanded many swords, and the swordsmiths improved their swords through the war experience.  Also, Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽) invited many skilled swordsmiths to his palace and treated them highly, and encouraged them to create excellent swords by giving them high ranks.  During the Kamakura period, the techniques of sword making improved significantly.

Middle Kamakura Period —- Yamashiro Den (山城伝)

The Middle Kamakura period was the height of the Yamashiro Den.  Among Yamashiro Den, there were three major groups (or families).  They are Ayanokoji group (綾小路), Awataguchi group (粟田口), and Rai group (来).

Among the Awataguchi group, six swordsmiths received the honor as the “Goban-kaji ” from the Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽上皇).  Awataguchi is the name of an area in Kyoto. 

Ayanokoji ( 綾小路 ) group lived in the Ayanokoji area in KyotoMy sword textbook had a note that I saw Ayanokoji Sadatoshi (綾小路定利 ) on March 22nd, 1972.  The note was not much but it said O-suriage, Funbari, narrowbody, and Ji-nie.

Rai group started from Rai Kuniyuki (来国行 ).  Rai Kuniyuki and Ayanokoji Sadatoshi are said to have had a close friendship.  Rai Kuniyuki created many well-known swords.  His famous Fudo Kuniyuki (不動国行) was owned by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru (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).  They were all historically famous powerful Daimyo.  It is said that Toyotomi Hideyoshi held this sword for the memorial service of Oda Nobunaga.  Rai Kuniyuki’s son was Niji Kunitoshi.  He also created well-known swords.

Middle Kamakura Period —– Bizen Den (備前伝)

The Bizen Den during the Heian period was called Ko-bizen.  They are similar to the one in the Yamashiro Den style.  The true height of the Bizen Den was in the Middle Kamakura period.  The Bizen area (today’s Okayama prefecture) had many ideal aspects for sword making: the good climate, the good production of iron, the abundant wood for fuel, and the convenient location. Naturally, many swordsmiths moved there, and it became a major place to produce swords.

The Bizen region produced many swords whose quality level was higher than other sword groups and more famous swordsmiths.  Fukuoka Ichimonji Norimune (則宗) and his son Sukemune (助宗 ) received the honor of the Goban-kaji 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 Tachis and one Tanto.  He was so proud of owning four Mitsutada that he asked his tailor to monogram Mitsutada on the pocket inside of his suit jacket.

From Hatakeda group (畠田), Hatakeda Moriie (畠田守家), and from Ugai (鵜飼) group, Unsho (雲生 ) and Unji (雲次) appeared.  The famous Kunimune (国宗) also appeared around this time.   Because there were many swordsmiths in the Bizen Den, a large number of Bizen swords exist today.  Each swordsmith showed his own characteristics on their swords.  Therefore, kantei on Bizen  swords can be complex.  This is the time Ikubi Kissaki appeared.

The classification of the sword ranking from the top

  1. Kokuho (国宝: National Treasure)
  2. Jyuyo Bunkazai (重要文化財: Important Cultural Property)
  3. Jyuyo Bijutu Hin (重要美術品: Important Artwork)
  4. Juyo Token (重要刀剣: Important Sword)        more to follow

Below are my father’s four Bizen Osafune Mitsutada.  He took those pictures many years ago at home.  You can see he was not much of a photographer.  He wrote the name of the swordsmith, the period the sword was made, the name(s) of Daimyo who owned it in the past, and the classification on a rectangular white paper.

img027               img028                Osafune Mitsutada (Juyo Bukazai)                 Osafune Mitsutada (Juyo Bunakzai)

img029            img030 Osafune Mitsutada (Juyo Token)                 Osafune Mitsutada(Juyo Bunkazai)

Late Kamakura Period —– Soshu Den (相州伝 )

Yamashiro Den started to decline in the latter part of the Kamakura Period.  At this time, many swordsmiths moved to the 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.  Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真) and Kunimune (国宗) from Bizen moved to KamakuraToroku Sakon Kunitsuna (藤六左近国綱) from Awataguchi group of Yamashiro Den moved to KamakuraThose three are the ones who originated the Soshu Den in Kamakura. Kunitsunas son is Tosaburo Yukimitsu, and then his son is the famous Masamune (正宗)Outside of Kamakura area, Yamashiro 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.

39|Part 2 of — 6 Kamakura Period History 1192 – 1333 (鎌倉時代歴史 )

This chapter is a continued part of Chapter 6| Kamakura Period History (1192 – 1333).  Please read chapter 6 before reading this section.  Some of the information here may overlaps with Chapter 6 since this is the continued part.

0-timeline - size 24 Kamakura Period                         The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

 

Taira-no-Kiyomori (平清盛)

Chapter 6| Kamakura Period History  described there were two major samurai groups, the Genji (源氏) and the Heishi (平氏) at the end of the Heian period.  The head of the Genji was Minamoto no Yoshitomo (源義朝), and the head of the Heishi (or Heike) was Taira no Kiyomori (平清盛).  They were childhood friends.  Yet, because of the political situation and circumstances, they became enemies by the time they grew up to adulthood.      After their several power struggles, the Genji side lost, and Taira-no-Kiyomori became very powerful.  He favored his men and gave high positions to them, and had his daughter married to the emperor.   As a result, Kiyomori’s power went even beyond the emperor.  This was the time people would say, “if you are not a part of the Heishi family, you are not a human being.”   A situation like this created too many opponents against him.  Eventually, the suppressed Genji and other samurai groups gathered and raised an army, fought against the Heishi, and defeated them.

While Taira-no-Kiyomori was in power, he actively started trading with China, contributing to Japan’s economic prosperity.  The picture below is the Itsukushima Jinja Shrine (厳島神社) built by Taira no Kiyomori.  It is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

shutterstock_252533968-600x375

From Wikipedia.  The photo is in the public domain. Author: Rdsmith4      File Itsukushima Floating Shrine.jpg 8 /05/04

Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune (源頼朝)

Minamoto no Yoritomo (源頼朝) was a son of Minamoto no Yoshitomo(源義朝).  After Yoshitomo was defeated by Taira no Kiyomori (平清盛 ),  the direct bloodline 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 and eventually met Hojo Masako (北条政子) there.  She was a daughter of Hojo Tokimasa (北条時政) who was a local government official.  While Tokimasa was on a business trip to Kyoto, Yoritomo and Masako had a baby. Tokimasa was afraid that if the Heishi found out about his daughter and Yoritomo, the Hojo family would get into trouble.  So, he planned to have Masako marry somebody else.  But she eloped with Yoritomo the night before the wedding.  It is said that this story was written in the famous Japanese history book called “Azuma Kagami: 吾妻鏡” and in a few other books.  People started to believe this is how it happened between them.  However, some say the story may not be exactly how it happened.

In the meantime in Kyoto, the Heishi became very powerful and tyrannical in the central government called Chotei (朝廷) and suppressed the opponents.  All the angry, dissatisfied groups formed an army to attack the Heishi.  Minamoto no Yoritomo was the head of those opposing groups, and his army grew bigger and stronger with the help of Masako‘s father, Hojo Tokimasa.  By this time, Hojo Tokimasa had realized he would have had a better chance if he had sided with his son-in-law.  The Genji‘s army pushed the Heishi all the way to the southern part of Japan.  The Heishi was defeated in a place called Dan no Ura (壇ノ浦) near Kyushu (九州) in 1185.

Yoritomo set up Kamakura Bakufu (Kamakura government) in Kamakura.  After Yoritomo‘s death, his wife Masako proved herself as a very able leader, and she saved Kamakura Bakufu when it was attacked by Chotei, the central government. 

Here is one famous story about her.  When Yoritomo used to go around to see other women in the town of Kamakura, Masako sent her men to follow her husband and had them set fire on the house of the woman whom her husband was after.  In her mind, the Hojo was the one who made Yoritomo the head of the Kamakura Bakufu.  Without aid from the Hojo family, Yoritomo had no chance to be what he became.

1024px-Kaguraden-Hachimangu_Kamakura

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu  in Kamakura  Author: Urashimataro      From Wikipedia  Photo is public domain

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is one of the major shrines in Kamakura.  It is a walking distance from Kamakura train station.  In the photo above, there is a big shrine at the top of the long steps.  Every year on Dec 31, a large number of people come to the shrine to listen to the Joya-no-Kane (除夜の鐘: the night watch bells on New Year’s Eve)

Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune (源義経)

Minamoto-no-Yoritomo (源頼朝) had several half-brothers.  Taira-no-Kiyomori (平清盛) saved those young boys’ lives on the condition that they would become a monk when they grew up.  For Kiyomori, they were childhood friend’s sons, after all.  One of them was Ushiwak- maru (牛若丸: later Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune源義経) who was raised by Taira-no-Kiyomori while he was an infant, believing Kiyomori was his father.  Later Yoshitsune was raised in Kurama Yama Temple. 

He spent his life there until he became mid-teens.  After that, he went to live with the Oshu Fujiwara (奥州藤原) family.   They were in the northern part of Japan, quite some distance away from Kyoto.  Oshu Fujiwara was a very wealthy clan.  They had a luxurious culture there.  Because of the distance from Chotei (central government), they behaved as if they were living in an independent country.   They created great wealth by mining gold and trading it with some countries outside of Japan. 

Yoshitsune lived there rather happily for a while, but when he heard his half-brother Yoritomo raised an army to attack the Heishi, he decided to join them.  Yoshitsune was quite skillful in the battles.  He won many famous battles, which were very critical for Genji to win the war.  

Yoritomo had a big political plan on how to proceed to take over the Heshie’s power.  But Yoshitusune did not understand that.  He was a good warrior but not a politician.  That made Yoritomo irritated and angry at him.  On top of that, Yoshitsune became very popular in Kyoto.  That made Yoritomo anxious, and he decided to get rid of Yoshitsune. 

Yoshitsune fled to O-shu Fujiwara’s.  In the beginning, O-shu Fujiwara protected Yoshitsune but could not hold against Yoritomo’s army.  Yoritomo destroyed O-shu Fujiwara entirely at the end.  Today, a grand architecture built by O-shu Fujiwara was restored.  You can visit “Konjiki-do: 金色堂” inside the “Chuson-ji Temple: 中尊寺”.

Chinese knew about the wealth of O-Shu Fujiwara.  Later, Marco Polo heard about the wealthy small country further into the East.  He mentioned this wealthy small island in his book, “The travels of Marco Polo.”  In this book, he wrote, “All the houses are made of gold”, this described O-shu Fujiwara.  Of course, all the houses were not made of gold.

Marco Polo introduced Japan as “Zipangu” in his book.  It means the golden country.  The name “Zipangu” evolved into Japan.  However, we, the Japanese, don’t call our country Japan.  We call it “Nihon” or “Nippon,” and both are correct. 

 

38|Part 2 of — 5 Heian Period Sword 794-1192 (平安太刀)

This chapter is a continued part of Chapter 5 Heian Period Sword.  Please read Chapter 5 before reading this section.  More sword terminologies will be used in the coming chapters.  They were explained between chapters 1 to 31.  For unfamiliar sword terminologies, please read chapter 1 to 31.

0-timeline - size 24 Heian                   The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this sect         

There are several active schools of swordsmiths during the Heian period.  We use the word “Den” for school.  They are Yamashiro Den (山城伝), Yamato Den (大和伝), Bizen Den (備前伝).  Also, the following areas are other active groups during the Heian period:  Houki-no-Kuni (伯耆の国), and Oo-U (奥羽).  Oo-U is pronounced “Oh,” and “U” as uber.

 Yamashiro Den (山城伝 )

During the Heian period, among Yamashiro Den swords, the most famous sword was “Mikazuki Munechika “ (三日月宗近) by Sanjo Munechika (三条宗近).  Mikazuki means crescent.  It was named Mikazuki Munechika because the crescent-shaped Uchinoke (collection of Nie) pattern appears in Hamon.  It has a graceful shape, narrow-body, Koshi-zori, Funbari, and small Kissaki.  It shows the wood grain pattern surface and Suguha with Nie mixed with small irregular, sometimes Nijyu-ha (double Hamon: 二重刃) appears.  Sanjo Munechika lived in the Sanjo area in Kyoto.  His sword style was carried on by his sons and grandsons: Sanjo Yoshiie (三条吉家), Gojo Kanenaga (五条兼永), and Gojo Kuninaga (五条国永 ).  Gojo is also an area in Kyoto.

38Sanjo Munechika

    三日月宗近    Mikazuki Munechika  東京国立博物館蔵 Tokyo National Museum           Photo from “Showa Dai Mei-to Zufu 昭和大名刀図譜” published by NBTHK

Houki -no-Kuni (伯耆の国)

Houki-no-Kuni is today’s Tottori Prefecture.  It is known as the place to produce good iron.  The sword, “Doujigiri Yasutsuna”  (童子切安綱) made by Houki-no-Yasutsuna (伯耆の安綱) was one of the famous swords during the time.   

The characteristics of Yasutsuna’s sword———-It has a graceful shape with small Kissaki, narrow Hamon (often Suguha with Ko-choji), coarse Nie on Hamon area, large wood grain pattern mixed with Masame on Ji-hada Hamon area often shows Inazuma and Kinsuji.  Boshi area is Yakizume, Kaen (pronounced ka as a calf, en as engineer) with a small turn back. 

6 Sano Hoki Yasutuna

   伯耆の安綱 (Hoki no Yasutsuna) 佐野美術館図録 (Sano Musem Catalogue)                     Permission to use granted 

Bizen Den (備前伝 )

Bizen is today’s Okayama Prefecture.  It is known as the place to produce good iron.  From the Heian period until now, Bizen has been famous for the sword-making tradition.  The sword-making group in this area during the Heian period was called the Ko-bizen group.  The most famous swordsmith in the Ko-bizen group was Bizen Tomonari (備前友成), Bizen Masatsune (備前正恒), and Bizen Kanehira (備前包平).                                                                      

Ko-bizen group’s characteristics ——-  A graceful narrow body, small Kissaki, narrow tempered line with Ko-choji (small irregular) with Inazuma and Kin-sujiJi-hada is a small wood grain pattern.

6 Sano Kanehira

   Bizen Kanehira (備前包平) Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館図録)                          (Permission to use granted)

I saw Ko-Bizen Sanetsune (真恒) at Mori Sensei’s house.  That was one of the Kantei-to of that day.  I received Douzen*ᴵ.  The book written by Hon’ami Koson was used as our textbook.  Each time I saw a sword at Mori Sensei’s house, I noted the date on the swordsmith’s name in the book we used.  It was Nov. 22, 1970.  It had a narrow body line, small kissaki (that was Ko-bizen Komaru), Kamasu*2  (no fukura), and SuguhaKamasu is the condition where the fukura (arc) is much lesser than usual.  Thinking back then, it is amazing we could see famous swords like this as our study materials.

Kantei-Kai

Kantei-kai is a study meeting.  Usually, several swords are displayed, with the Nakago part being covered.  The attendees guess the name of the sword maker and hand in the answer sheet to the judge.  Below are the grades.

Atari —– If the answer is right on the exact name, you get Atari.  That is the best answer.

Dozen  —- The second best is dozen.  It means almost the right answer. The subject sword was made by the family or the clan of the right Den.   Dozen is considered very good.  It indicates the student has a good knowledge of the particular group.

Kaido Yoshi —– This means correct about the line, but not about the family.

Jidai Yoshi——- It means the time or period is right. Each Kantei-kai has different grading systems.  Some may not have “Jidai Yoshi” grade.

Hazure—– the wrong answer. 

After all the answer sheets are handed in, the answer sheets are graded and returned.  The judge reveals the correct answer and explains why.

*1 Dozen:  Almost the same as the correct answer. 

 *2 Kamasu:  The name of a fishIt has a narrow and pointed head.

 

 

 

37|Part 2of — 4 Heian Period History  794-1192   (平安時代歴史)

This chapter is a detailed part of chapter 4 Heian Period History.  Please read Chapter 4 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Heian

The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

Around the middle Heian period, a novel, “Genji Monogatari” (“The Tales of Genji”: 源氏物語) was written by a female author, Murasaki Shikibu (紫式部).  She was an aristocrat court lady.  Her father was Fujiwara Tametoki (藤原為時), a scholar.  There were several novels and essays written by female authors around that time, but “The Tales of Genji” is the worldly known literature as the greatest Japanese literature.  “The Tales of Genji“  is a treasure for the Japanese.  We love this novel so much that the Japan Mint issued 2000-yen bill*ᴵ with a scene from the novel.  See the photo below.  The author herself is printed at the lower right corner on the back of the bill.  The bill is very beautiful that, instead of using it, people just keep it.   Therefore, it does not circulate much.  I have four bills, but I cannot bring myself to use them.  It is too nice to use. 

The novel is about Hikaru Genji’s (the hero, 光源氏) love history (yes, history) from when he was about 16 years old until he died.  There are ten more chapters after his death, called “Uji Jyu- jyo.”  This section is a story of his son and grandson.  When he died, the title of the chapter is “Vanishes into the cloud (雲隠れ),” a very poetic title.  The Tales of Genji depicts the aristocratic society’s daily life, customs, lifestyle, and how people think in those days.  Surprisingly, though they did not have the technology we have, the way they thought was not significantly different from us.  The description of the process of courting is in 4 | Heian Period History (平安時代) 794 – 1192.  

The author created Hikaru Genji (光源氏), the main character, a high-level aristocrat, an emperor’s illegitimate son.  He was depicted as a most charming, good-looking, smart, and sophisticated aristocrat, and all the women fell for him.  He would go around all kinds of women one after another; a beautiful woman, not so good-looking but very smart, very young, older, even including his stepmother, wealthy or not so wealthy, etc.   It sounds like the story from the tabloid magazine.  Still, Murasaki Shikibu depicted the hero’s and heroines’ thoughts, emotions, daily lives, and how the men thought about the women and vice versa, with her excellent writing skill.  The author, Murasaki Shikibu, wrote this novel to entertain the female audiences in the court where she was living.  It became so popular then that it is said that even the emperor at the time asked her how the next story would develop.  “Genji Monogatari” is translated into English.  You can buy the translated book on Amazon or go to YouTube and search for “Genji Monogatari” or “The Tales of Genji.”   You will find many “Genji Monogatari” in Anime, old TV programs, and old movies in full or short clips. 

Another female author, Sei Sho-nagon (清少納言), wrote an essay called “Makura no Soshi “(枕草子)  around the same time.  In it, she described the court ladies’ daily lives.  In one chapter, she mentioned kakigori (shaved ice: かき氷).  High-class people then must have had a chance to eat shaved ice, though the ice was not easy to come by during summer in the middle Heian period.  

Once you have the general idea of how the Heian aristocrat life was like, you may realize why the Heian sword is shaped like the way it is.  And it becomes easier to identify a Heian sword from amongst other swords that were made in different times and different provinces than Kyoto.  All sword styles reflect the society where the swordsmiths lived.  During the Heian period, the Yamashiro Den style represented sword style.  In the next chapter, the subject matter is centered around the Yamashiro Den, though there were other sword groups in different regions.

*1  The back of 2000 yen bill

39 Part 2 Shikibu with arrow

5 Heian 3 photoes.jpgPart of the Burke Album, a property of Mary Griggs Burke (Public Domain)          Paintings drew by Tosa Mitsukuni (土佐光国), 17 century.   The scenes are based on the Tales of Genji

36| Part 2 — 3 Names of the Parts

This chapter is a continued part of Chapter 3, Names of the Parts.                                      Please read  Chapter 3 |Names of Parts, before reading this section.

This chapter is about how to find the Koshi-zori or Chukani-zoriChukan-zori is also called Torii-zori or Kyo-zori.  Chukan-zori means the most curved part of the sword body comes around the middle, and for Koshi-zori, the most curved part comes lower than the center of the blade, approximately 1/3 of the lower body.   Every sword looks to have its curvature around the middle part, especially when you look at photos of a sword in books.  It is because those swords are placed to fit nicely in a given rectangle photo space. 

The correct way to look for the curvature is to stand the Nakago (茎) vertically.  In this way, you can see the location of the curvature more precisely.  If the Nakago is not vertical, the curvature looks to be in every sword’s middle area.  When you look at a sword, the first thing to do is to hold a sword and make sure that the Nakago stands vertically.  When you look at a sword in a book, rotate (shift or slide) the book slightly so that the Nakago is perpendicular.  You can see the precise location of the curvature in this way.  Keep in mind; sometimes it is subtle.

36 part 2 of -- 3 Sori (2)


35|Part 2 of — 2 Joko-To (上古刀)

Chapter 35 is a continued  part of chapter 2 | Joko-to (上古刀).  Please read chapter 2 before this section. 

0-timeline - size 24 Yamato
 
                             The red circle indicates the time we discuss this section.

The Kofun (古墳) culture appeared around the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries.  Kofuns are massive burial places for powerful rulers.  Kofuns are often Zenpo-koen-fun (前方後円墳) which is, the front part is a square and the back is round.  If you look at it from the sky, it shapes like a keyhole.  The largest Kofun is the Nintoku Tenno Ryo (仁徳天皇陵) in Osaka.  This is the tomb of Emperor Nintoku.  The size is 480 m X 305 m, and the height is 35 m. Inside the Kofun, we found swords, armors, bronze mirrors, jewelry, iron, and metal tools.  Sometimes, iron itself was found.  Only the ruling class possessed the iron since it was considered a very precious item then.  Outskirts of the Kofun, a large number of Haniwa*¹ were placed.  There are several theories for the purpose of Haniwa.  One is as a retaining wall, and another is as a dividing line between the sacred area and the common area.  And there are several more theories. 

Originally, Haniwa were just simple tube shape.  Eventually, they became interesting clay figurines such as smiling people, smiling soldiers, dogs with a bell around the neck, women with a hat, farmers, houses, monkeys, ships, birds, etc.  Some of them were very elaborately made and very cute.  From the looks of them, people in those days seem to have been wearing elaborate clothes.  The Haniwa figurines are very popular among children in Japan.  We use to have a children’s TV program, a Haniwa is the main character. 

Haniwas suggest to us what people’s life was like then.  Their facial expressions are all happy and smiling.   According to the old Japanese history book, “Nihon Shoki” (日本書紀: The oldest Japanese history book completed during the Nara period.), Haniwas were the replacement of martyrdom, but it hasn’t been proven.

From another huge Kofun, Ogonzuka Kofun (黄金塚古墳) in Osaka, they found a sword and bronze mirrors, among other items. Refer 2 | Joko-to (上古刀).  The writing below is from my college day notebook.   

The professor explained how to determine the time a particular item had been made by reading half-disappeared characters on the items such as a bronze mirror or a sword.  For example, there was a sword, the hilt of it was made in Japan, and the blade was made in China.  It had a round hilt and, on it, showed some Chinese characters.  It said, “中平[ ]年.”   The third letter was not legible.  But we knew 中平 year was between 184 to 189 AD, and “年” indicated “year.”  Therefore it was made sometime between 184 to 189.  And this sword came out from the 4th-century tomb. 

Also, he explained that many nested Doutaku (銅鐸)*²  had been excavated from many places.  They were nested inside one another.  Doutaku was a musical instrument for rituals.  Therefore, scholars believe that the people then hid Doutaku in a hurry and escaped quickly when they were being attacked by their enemies.

In many countries, excavation may be time-consuming, tedious work, and often takes a long time to find anything.  But in Japan, it is not as hard as in other countries.   We often find things.  It may not be what you are looking for, but we excavate artifacts quite often.

             398px-群馬県大泉町古海出土_埴輪_腰かける巫女

Sitting Shrine Maiden*1,  Owned by National Museum.  This photo is public domain            腰かける巫女(群馬県大泉町古海出土)国立博物館蔵
                   滋賀県野洲市小篠原字大岩山出土_突線紐5式銅鐸Doutaku*2   Excavated from Shiga Prefecture   Displayed at Tokyo National Museum The public domain photo 滋賀県野洲市小篠原字大岩屋出土突線紐5式銅鐸  東京国立博物館展示

34| Part 2 — 1 Timeline

Chapter 34 is a continued part of Chapter 1 Time line.   Please read Chapter 1 before reading this section.

   0 timeline - Gendai-to                             The red circle indicates the time we discuss here

In the “Chapter 1 Timeline”, I mentioned that Gendai-to (現代刀) is the swords made between the Meiji Restoration (明治維新1868) and now.  It has been about 150 years since the Meiji Restoration.  Even though all swords made after the Meiji Restoration are categorized into one Gendai-to group, there are quite a few differences in quality and kind.  The very different one is Gun-to (軍刀).  Those are military swords that were forged to use in World War I and World War II.  Some of them have a saber-like handle. With some exceptions, those were made not using the traditional sword making method of heat and fold technique.  Among the Gendai-to, Gun-to is usually considered much less value.   The Gun-to sword made around during World War II is called Showa-to.  It often has a brown leather scabbard.  Gun-to is not a part of the study of the Japanese sword.

*Refer to” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunt%C5%8D”  for Japanese military sword.

                                Gun-to    From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

At the time of the Meiji Restoration (明治維新), swords called Meiji-ishin-to (明治維新刀) or Kin’no-to (勤王刀) were made.  These swords were owned by famous historical figures like Saigo Takamori (西郷隆盛), and Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬).  They are important historical figures who pushed the Meiji Restoration forward.  These swords are long and some of them are almost 3 feet long and have no curvature.

Today, many famous swordsmiths are forging wonderful swords. Some are recognized as Living National Treasure.  Gendai-to is the sword made after the Meiji Restoration till now, but please keep in mind that there is a wide range of differences in quality, variety, and purposes among them.

36img077

                       Sword forged by a Living National Treasure, Mr. Miyairi Shohei (宮入昭平)                         owned by my brother