44|Part 2 of —– 10|Middle Kamakura Period Bizen-Den (鎌倉中期備前伝)

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
  • Nioi base
  • 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.

Hi and Engraving ———- The tip of Hi maybe a little bit higher.   Machi area finishes with a square end, or kakinagashi  (refer to chapter 9 «part 2» Middle Kamakura Period –Yamashiro-Den

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)

 

10«part 2» ichimonji photo
   Ichimonji  Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館Permission granted   This is O-Suriage.  Because you can see Hi inside the Nakago that means it was shortened

           

43| Part 2 of —– 9| Middle Kamakura Period Yamashiro Den (鎌倉中期山城伝)

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-Koji Sadatoshi (綾小路定利) Sadanori (定則) .

When we refer to a certain group, we say, “xxx haxxx 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.

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 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

 

9-«part-2»-大小丸焼詰丸角止-掻流-1-e1547925390685.jpg

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 ()

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 made Ikubi 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.

img017
Rai Kuniyuki (来国行)Juyo Bijutsuhin   (重要美術品)Once family owned Photo taken by my father with his writing on the left

 

9 «part 2» Rai Kuniyuki photo.jpg

Rai Kuniyuki (来国行)Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館)  permission granted

 

 

42|Part 2 of —– 8|Overview of the Kamakura Period Sword 1192-1333)

This is the second part of chapter 8.

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 )

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 Ichimonji Norimune (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

img028img027

Bizen Osafune Mitsutada  (Juyo Bunkazai)      Bizen Osafune Mitsutada  (Juyo Bunkazai)

 

img029img030

Bizen Osafune Mitsutada  (Juyo Token)           Bizen Osafune Mitsutada (Juyo Bunkazai )

 

Late Kamakura Period —– Soshu Den (相州伝 )

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.

 

 

41|Part 2 of —– 7|Kamakura Period History (1192 – 1333)

This section is a little detail of  Chapter 7.

Taira-No-Kiyomori (平清盛)

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-noKiyomori 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.

shutterstock_252533968-600x375

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.

1024px-Kaguraden-Hachimangu_Kamakura

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 brothersTaira-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-Shu Fujiwara (奥州藤原).   They were in the northern part of Japan, quite some distance from KyotoO-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.

40|Part 2 of —– 6|Heian Period Sword (792-1192)

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. 

6 photos Sanjo Munechika

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 KinsujiBoshi area is Yakizume, Kaen with 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)

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.

6 Sano Kanehira

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 received Douzen*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

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.

Hazure—– Wrong

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.

 

 

 

 

 

39|Part 2 of —– 5|Heian Period History (平安時代) 794-1192

This chapter is the continued part of Chapter 5.  Please read chapter 5 before reading this section.

Genji Monogatari (Tales of Genji 源氏物語) was written by a female author, Murasaki Shikibu ( 紫式部 ) in the Heian period around the 11th century.  She was an aristocrat court lady.  Her father was Fujiwara Tametoki, a scholar.   There were several novels and essays written by a female around this time, but “Tales of Genji” is the greatest Japanese literature known worldly.  The Tales of Genji is the treasure for Japanese.  Because we love this novel so much, the Ministry of Japan Mint issued 2000 yen bill *ᴵ  with a scene (the author at the corner) from the novel on the back.  We consider this bill very beautiful, instead of using it, people just keep it, so it does not circulate much.  I have four bills and I am keeping them.  The novel is about Hikaru Genji ‘s (光源氏) love history (yes, history) from the time he was about 16 years old until he dies, plus 10 chapters after his death called Uji jyu- jyo .  The title of the chapter, the chapter he dies is “Vanishes into the cloud (雲隠れ)”,  which I think it is very poetic.  The Tales of Genji depict the daily life of the aristocrat society, their customs, lifestyle and how people think in those days.  The description of the process of the courting is as I described in the previous chapter “5|Heian Period History 794- 1192”.   The author created Hikaru Genji, the main character, as a high-level aristocrat, an illegitimate son of the Emperor.  He is supposed to be a most charming, good-looking, smart and high-level aristocrat, and all the women fall for him.  He goes around all kinds of women one after another,  beautiful woman, smart but not so good-looking, very young, older woman, stepmother, wealthy and not so wealthy, etc.   It sounds like the story from the tabloid magazine.  But it is a wonderful novel.  The author, Murasaki Shikibu created the novel to entertain the female audiences in the court where she was living.  It became very popular then, it is said that even the Emperor at the time was asking her how the next story develops.  Genji Monogatari is translated into English.  You can buy the translated book on Amazon.

Once you have the general idea how the Heian aristocrat life was like, it makes you realize why the Heian sword is shaped the way it is.  And it becomes easier to identify the Heian sword from amongst other swords that are made other times and other provinces.   All sword reflects the society of its own.

 

* 1    The back of 2000 yen bill

5 Heian period 2000 yen

 

Paintings drew by Tosa Mitsukuni.  These paintings are based on the Tales of Genji

5 Heian 3 photoes.jpg
By Tosa Mitsukuni (土佐光国) 17C
Part of the Burke Albums, a property of Mary Griggs Burke   (Public Domain)

36

38|Part 2 of —– 4|Names of the Parts

This chapter is the continued part of a chapter  “4| Names of the Part”.  Please read the chapter “4| Names of the Parts” before reading the part 2.

Let’s discuss how to look for the location of the highest curvature area.  Any sword in a sword book looks like a curvature comes around the middle area.  That is because a photographer places a sword to fit in a certain rectangle space.
The correct way to look for a curvature is to stand the Nakago ( 茎 ) perpendicularly.  That way you can see the curvature more precisely.  Any sword looks like the curvature comes around the middle if the Nakago is not vertical.  Rotate (move or shift) the book slightly so that the Nakago shows as perpendicular.  That way you can see the real curvature of the sword.


4 Heian Bize sori rotated with line

37|Part 2 of —– 3|Jyoko-To (上古刀)

Around 4 to 6 century, Kofun (古墳) culture appeared.  Kofun is a huge burial place for the powerful people at the time.  They are often Zenpo-Koen-Fun (前方後円墳) that is the front is square and the back is round shape.  If you look at it from the sly, it shapes like a keyhole.  The largest one is Ninntoku Tenno Ryo (仁徳天皇陵) in Osaka, the tomb for the Emperor Nintoku.  The length is 480M X 305M.  The height is 35M.  Inside, we found swords, armors, bronze mirror, jewelry, iron, metal tools.  Sometimes, iron itself, since iron was considered very precious, they are only for the ruling class.  The outside of the Kofun, a large number of Haniwa *¹ were placed.  It is said they are for the retaining wall purpose.  Originally they were just simple tube shape, eventually became very elaborate figurines.  Smiling people, Smiling soldier, a dog with a bell around the neck, a female with hat, farmers, house, monkey, ship, bird, etc.  Some of them are really elaborately made and very cute.  you can see people in those days wore elaborate clothes.  Haniwa is very popular among children in Japan.  We have a children’s TV program “Haniwa-kun”, Haniwa is the main character.  Those Haniwa somewhat suggests us what was their life like.  Their facial expression is all happy and smiling.   According to the old Japanese history book Nihon Shoki (日本書紀), it said Haniwa is the replacement of martyrdom, but it is not proved.  Like I described in chapter 3|Joko-to, from Ogonzuka Kofun (黄金塚古墳), another huge Kofun in Osaka, they found a sword.  The hilt was made in Japan and the blade is made in China.  This sword has round hilt and on the hilt, it has some character.  It said 中 平 ⌈   ⌋ 年.   We can not see the third letter.  But we know 中平 is from 184 to 189 AD, and 年 indicate the year, therefore it was made between 184 to 189.  And this sword came out from the 4th Century tomb.    I took archaeology at Meiji University.  I found it most fascinating subject.  The professor explained to us how to determine when a particular bronze mirror was made by reading the half disappearing character on the back of it.  Or he explained to us that a large number of Doutaku*² has excavated from one particular place, fit inside one another.  Doutaku is a musical instrument for the ritual.  Therefore scholars think people then were being attacked by their enemy so they hid Doutaku in a hurry and escaped.  On and on.  In many countries, excavation is a time-consuming tedious work and often it takes a long time to find anything.  But in Japan, it is not as hard as other countries.   We often find things, it may not what you are looking for, but we excavate items quite often.

398px-群馬県大泉町古海出土_埴輪_腰かける巫女

*¹ 腰かける巫女(群馬県大泉町古海出土)国立博物館蔵                                             Sitting Shrine Maiden (Excavated from Gunma Prefecture)  Owned by National Museum

滋賀県野洲市小篠原字大岩山出土_突線紐5式銅鐸    *² 滋賀県野洲市小篠原字大岩屋出土突線紐5式銅鐸  東京国立博物館展示              Doutaku     Excavated from Shiga Prefecture   Displayed at Tokyo National Museum

 

36| Part 2 of —– 2|Timeline

Original Timeline 0

 

This chapter is the continued part of Chapter 2 Timeline.  Please read chapter 2 before this section.  Refer, 2 | Time line   In the chapter 2 Timeline, I mentioned Gendai-to ( 現代刀 ) is the swords made after the Meiji Revolution (明治維新1868 ) until now. It has been about 150 years since the Meiji Revolution.  Even though I simply categorized all swords made during this time into one group as Gendai-to, there is quite a difference in quality and variety.   The big difference is in Gunto (軍刀).  Those are military swords that were made to take to the World War I and World War II.  Some of them have a saber like a handle.  Those were not made for artistic purpose nor to appreciate the beauty of the surface of the blade.  Compare to the swords made today, Gunto is usually considered much less valuable.  It often has a brown color scabbard.  The color is similar to the Japanese military uniform.  Those Gunto are usually not part of the study of the Japanese sword.  Also, at the time of the Meiji Revolution (明治維新), Meiji-Ishin-to (明治維新等刀  ) or Kin-nou-to ( 勤王刀 ) were made.  They are a long sword and some of them are almost 3 feet long and have no curvature.  The representative ones are like the one owned by Saigo Takamori ( 西郷隆盛  ) and Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬).

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

 

35|Part 2 of —– 1|Preface

In the present time, we have many serious swordsmiths. I am a good friend with two of them personally.  One is Yoshindo Yoshihara (吉原義人) and the other is Tsunahiro Yamamura (山村綱廣  ).  We met each other when we were still the early 20s before each of us got married.

I met Mr. Yoshihara at one of the sword meetings when I attended it with my father. That was around the late 60s or early 70s.  Since then, we met at the different sword gatherings here and there.  His son is also a well-known swordsmith, also his grandson decided to be a swordsmith.   He is really excited to teach his grandson.  Mr. Yoshihara often tells me very interesting stories.  Here is some of them.   He once had an apprentice from one of the Arabic countries.  He studied with other Japanese apprentices.  He was sent by the King.  He said this apprentice was a very quiet and good student.  Another time he told me a King from Europe visited Yoshihara’s studio, and he gave Yoshihara a photo of himself with his autograph on it as a souvenir.  A few times, a famous movie director of Hollywood ordered swords and visited his house.  When he told me about this incident, I realized it was about the same time I ordered my sword.  Maybe Mr. Yoshihara started to work on this director’s sword ahead of mine.  Because it seems to me that my sword took longer than it should complete.

Yoshihara Yoshindo                                                                                                       8-17-11 Takasago Katsushika-Ku Tokyo Japan 125-0054           tel  (81)3-3607-5255

Yamamura-kun ( we put Kun after the last name for a male friend and san for female friend) and I were students at Mori Sensei’s sword class together.  He was a top student, I was almost the last.  He is the direct descendants of Goro Nyudo Masamune (五郎入道正宗  ) 24th generation.  He now has his studio near Kamakura station.  But back then, he had a store right in front of Hachiman-Gu Shrine (八幡宮 ).

We had one more person in this group. His name is Kurokawa (黒川) who became the owner of a famous big sword store in Tokyo,  “Soken-do (霜剣堂 )”.  Three of us were living in Kamakura (鎌倉 ) then.  We get together Yamamura-Kun’s store in front of the Hachiman-Gu shrine, having a good time and joking around in his store.  Eventually, we were so involved in a fun conversation, Yamamura kun closed the store saying that those customers don’t buy anyway so it’s OK, and he locked the door. And we continued having a fun party.  I still remember seeing customers puzzled face outside of the glass windows, but he ignored them.

Masamune Kougei (正宗工芸 )                                                                                         13-29 Onari-Cho Kamakura-Shi  Japan 248-0012         Tel  0467- 22- 3962

Soken-Do(霜剣堂)                                                                                                               28-1 6-1  Cho-me  Jingu-Mae Shibuya-ku Tokyo 150-0001        Tel 03 (3499) 8080   http://www.sokendo.jp