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.  Overview of the Kamakura Period Sword.  Please read chapter 8 before reading this section.

7 Kamakura timeline

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

Kamakura period was the golden age of sword making.  Approximately, half of the well-known swords at present were made during the Kamakura period.  Probably because of the war between the Genji and the Heishi demanded large numbers of swords, and they 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 high ranks.  During the Kamakura period, the technic of sword making improved greatly.

Middle Kamakura Period —- Yamashiro Den (山城伝)

The Middle Kamakura period was the height for the Yamashiro Den.  Among Yamashiro Den, there are 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, 6 swordsmiths received the honor as 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 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 said O-suriage, Funbari, narrowbody, and ji-nie.  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 well-known swords.  His famous Fudo Kuniyu (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 are all historically well-known powerful daimyos.  It is said that 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 well-known swords.

Middle Kamakura Period —– Bizen Den (備前 )

During the Heian period, Bizen Den called Ko-Bizen existed.  They are similar to the one to Yamashiro-Den style.  The true Bizen Den and also the height for the Bizen-Den was the Middle Kamakura period.  Bizen area (Okayama prefecture now) has many ideal aspects of sword making.  The weather is good, produced good iron, abundant wood for fuel nearby, and the location is 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 ) of Fukuoka Ichimonji group 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 Tachi and one Tanto.  He was so proud that he owned four Mitsutada, he ordered his tailor to monogram Mitsutada on the pocket of the inside of his suit jacket.  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 swordsmiths in Bizen Den, a large number of bizen swords exist.  Of those swordsmiths have his characteristics.  Therefore kantei can be complex.  This is the time Ikubi Kissaki started to appear.

Below is 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 the sword was made, which Daimyo owned it in the past and classification.

The classification of the sword from the top

  1. Kokuho (国宝: National treasure)
  2. Jyuyo Bunkazai (重要文化財: Important Cultural Object)
  3. Jyuyo Bijutu Hin (重要美術品: Important Art Object)
  4. Juyo Token (重要刀剣: Important Sword)                                                                          The rest is omitted

img028 img027

Osafune Mitsutada                                                                                  Osafune Mitsutada
(長船光忠: Jyuyo Bunkazai)                                                                   長船光忠: Jyuyo Bunkazai)

img029 img030

Osafune Mitsutada                                                                                  Osafune Mitsutada
(長船光忠: Jyuyo Token)                                                                          (長船光忠: Jyuyo Bunkazai)

 

 

Late Kamakura Period —– Soshu Den (相州伝 )

Yamashiro Den started to decline at the later part of the Kamakura Period.  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.  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.  Kunitsuna’s son is Tosaburo Yukimitsu, then his son is the famous Masamune (正宗)Outside of Kamakura, 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

This chapter is the continued part of Chapter 7. Kamakura Period History 1192 – 1333.  Please read chapter 7 before reading this section.  Some of the information here may overlaps with chapter 7 since this is the continued part.

 

7 Kamakura timeline

                           The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

Taira-no-Kiyomori (平清盛)

Chapter 7 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.  As they grew up, they became enemies because of the political situation.  After their several power struggle, the Genji side lost, and Taira-no-Kiyomori became very powerful.  He gave his men high positions, and his daughter marries the emperor.  As a result, Kiyomori’s power went even beyond the emperor.  This is the time it was 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, suppressed Genji and other samurai groups gathered together and raised an army, fought against the Heishi, and defeated them.  While Taira-no-Kiyomori was in power, he started active trading with China which contributed to economic prosperity tremendously.  The picture below is the Itsukushima Jinja (厳島神社) 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

*The Itsukushima Floating Shrine is a very beautiful place.  Below is the site for the tour information.      Miyajima Sightseeing  Official site Ad page: http://www.miyajima-wch.jp

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 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 Masako had a baby.  Tokimasa was afraid if the 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 famous Japanese history book called  “Azuma Kagami:吾妻鏡” and a few other books, and also TV shows depict the story this way.  However, some say 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 (朝廷), and suppressed the opponents.  All the angry dissatisfied groups raised an army to attack the Heishi.  Minamoto-no-Yoritomo was the head 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 the son-in-law.

The Genji power pushed the Heike 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 area (九州 ) at 1185.  Yoritomo set up the Kamakura Bakufu (Kamakura government) in Kamakura.  After Yoritomo’s death, his wife Masako proved herself as a very able politician and she saved Kamakura Bakufu when they were attacked by the central government.  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 well-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 aid of 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

*Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu is one of the major shrines in Kamakura.  It is a walking distance from the Kamakura train station.  On top of the long steps into the hill, there is a big shrine.  Every year on Dec 31, a large number of people come to here to listen to the Joya-no-Kane(除夜の鐘:the New Year’s  bell-ringing)

Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune (源義経)

Minamoto-no-Yoritomo (源頼朝) had several half brothers.  Taira-no-Kiyomori (平清盛) saved the lives of those young boys with the condition of they become a monk when they grew up.  One of them was Ushiwaka-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 is his father.  Later Yoshitsune was raised in Kurama-Yama temple.  He spent his life there until he became 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 Kyoto.  O-Shu Fujiwara was a very wealthy clan and they had a luxurious culture there. Because of the long-distance from Chotei (central government), they could behave almost like an independent county.   They created grand wealth by mining the gold nearby and the trade with the outside of Japan.  Yoshitsune was living there rather happily for a while, but when he heard his half-brother Yoritomo raised an army to attack the Heike, he decided to join this war.  Yoshitsune was quite skillful at the battle, he won many well-known battles which was a very critical battle for Genji to win the war.  For Yoritome’s mind, he had a big political plan on how to proceed to take over the Heike’s power.  Yet Yoshitusune really could not understand this.  That made Yoritomo angry at his brother.  On top of it, Yoshitsune became very popular among people in Kyoto.  That made Yoritomo fearful and he decided to get rid of Yoshitsune Yoshitsune fled to O-Shu Fujiwara.  In the beginning, O-Shu Fujiwara protected Yoshitsune but could not hold it.  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.  He mentioned 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 were 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”, both are correct.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

39 Heian Time line

                                  The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

This chapter is the continued part of chapter 6 Heian Period Sword.  Please read chapter 6 before reading this section.  More technical terms will be used which were explained between chapters 1 to 33.  For those who are not familiar with sword terminology, please read chapter 1 to 33 first, then read part 2.

There are several active schools (Den: 伝) of swordsmith during the Heian period.  The word Den will be used instead of school in the chapters follow.  They are Yamashiro Den (山城伝), Yamato Den (大和伝), Bizen Den ( 備前伝 ).  Also, the following areas are other groups outside of Dens above:  Hoki-no-Kuni (伯耆), and Ou-U Kaji (奥羽鍛冶 ).

 Yamashiro Den (山城伝 )

Among Yamashiro Den swords in the Heian period, the name of the sword, Mikazuki Munechika (三日月宗近) by Sanjo Munechika (三条宗近) is the most famous.  Mikazuki means crescent.  Because the crescent shape uchinoke (collection of nie) pattern appears in the Hamon area, it is named Mikazuki Munechika.  It has a graceful shape, narrow-body, Koshi-zori, Funbari, and small kissaki.  It shows wood grain surface, suguha with nie mixed with small irregular, sometimes nijyu-ha (double hamon: 二重刃) appears.  Sanjo Munechika lived at the 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.  It is known for the place to produce good iron.  The sword name, Doujigiri Yasutsuna  (童子切安綱) by Houki-no-Yasutsuna (伯耆の安綱) is the most famous one.

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 mixed with masame on ji-hada Hamon area often shows Inazuma and kinsuji.  Boshi 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.  It is known for the place to produce good iron.  Since 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 is called the Ko-bizen group.  The most famous swordsmith 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———-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)

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 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 on him.  It was Nov. 22, 1970.  The deciding point was a narrow body line, small kissaki (that is Ko-bizen Komaru), kamasu*² (no Fukura), and suguhaKamasu is the condition where the fukura is much less than usual.  When I think back, it is amazing we could see a famous sword like this one for our study materials.  Today, I forget things easily, 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 part.  The attendees guess the name of the sword maker and hand in the answer sheet to the judge.  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.  The subject sword was made by the family and (or) clan of the right Den.  It means almost the right answer.  Dozen is considered very good.  It indicates the student has a good knowledge of the particular group.

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, which means the time or period is correct.

After all the answer is handed in and the answer sheet is returned to the attendee, the judge reveals the right answer and explains about each sword.

*2 Kamasu is the name of a fish.  It has narrow and pointed head.

 

 

 

 

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

39 Heian Time line

The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

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

Around the 11th century in the Heian period, a novel, Genji Monogatari (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 this time, but “Tales of Genji” is the worldly known literature as the greatest Japanese literature.  The Tales of Genji is a treasure for Japanese.  Because we love this novel so much, the Ministry of Japan Mint issued a 2000 yen bill *ᴵ with a scene from the novel.  The author herself is at the corner on the back of the bill.  We consider the 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, I can not bring myself to use it.  It is too nice to use.

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.  There are 10 more chapters after his death, which is called Uji Jyu- jyo.   The title of the chapter he dies is “Vanishes into the cloud (雲隠れ)”, 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 chapter “5|Heian Period History 794- 1192”.   The author created Hikaru Genji (光源氏), 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 sophisticated aristocrat, and all the women fall for him.  He goes around all kinds of female one after another, beautiful woman, not so good-looking but very smart, very young, older woman, stepmother, wealthy and not so wealthy, etc.   It sounds like the story from the tabloid magazine.  But Murasaki Shikibu depicts hero and heroines thought, emotion, daily life, how man think toward women vice versa with her amazing writing skill.  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 of 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 where it was forged.

During the Heian period, the Yamashiro Den is the representative sword style of this time.  In the next section, the subject will be discussed mostly center around the Yamashiro Den, but there are other sword groups.

* 1    The back of 2000 yen bill

39 Part 2 Shikibu with arrow

5 Heian 3 photoes.jpg

Part 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

 

 

 

38|Part 2: 4|Names of the Parts

This chapter is the continued part of Chapter 4| Names of the Parts.  Please read chapter 4| Names of the Parts before reading part 2.

Let’s discuss how to find the Koshi-zori or Chukani-zoriChukan-zori is also called torii-zori or Kyo-zori.   Chukan-zori means the highest curvature comes around the middle, and for Koshi-zori, the highest curvature comes lower than the middle.   Any sword looks like a curvature comes around the middle area, especially the photo of a sword in a sword book.  That is because a sword is placed to fit in a given available rectangle space.

The correct way to look for a curvature is to stand the nakago (茎) perpendicularly.   That way you can see where the curvature comes more precisely.  If the Nakago is not vertical, the curvature comes in the middle on any sword.  When you look at a sword, the first thing to do is to hold a sword so that the nakako is perpendicular.  When you look at a sword in a book, rotate (move or shift) a book slightly so that the Nakago is perpendicular.  You can see the real curvature of the sword in this way.

4 Heian Bize sori rotated with line


 

37|Part 2: 3|Jyoko-To (上古刀)

timeline Yamato
                                     The red circle indicates the time we discuss this section.

 

Chapter 37 is a continuous and detailed part of chapter 3.  Please read chapter 3 before this section.  Refer 3 | Joko-To (上古刀)

 

Kofun (古墳) culture appeared around 4 to 6 century.  Kofun is a huge burial place for the powerful ruler at the time.  They are often called 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 sky, it shapes like a keyhole.  The largest one is the Ninntoku Tenno Ryo (仁徳天皇陵) in Osaka, the tomb for Emperor Nintoku.  The length is 480M X 305M.  The height is 35M.  Inside the Kofun, we found swords, armors, bronze mirrors, jewelry, iron, metal tools.  Sometimes, iron itself.  The iron was only for the ruling class since it was considered very precious item then.  Outskirts of the Kofun, a large number of Haniwa*¹ were placed.  It is said they are for the retaining wall purpose or a dividing line for the sacred area.  Originally they were just a simple tube shape, eventually, it became very elaborate figurines.  Smiling people, smiling soldier, a dog with a bell around its neck, a female with hat, farmers, houses, monkey, ships, birds, etc.  Some of them are made very elaborately and very cute.  By looking at them, you realize 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 of the TV program.  Haniwa suggests to us what was their lifelike.  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.

From another huge Kofun in Osaka, Ogonzuka Kofun (黄金塚古墳), we found a sword. Refer chapter 3|Joko-to.  The writing below is from my old college days note.  The hilt of the sword was made in Japan and the blade was made in China.  This sword has a round hilt and on this hilt, it shows some character.  It said “中平 {?}年”.  The third letter is not readable.  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.    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.  Also, he explained to us that a large number of nested Doutaku*²  was excavated from one particular place, fit inside one another.  Doutaku is a musical instrument for a ritual.  Therefore scholars think people then were being attacked by their enemy, so they hid Doutaku in a hurry and escaped.

In many countries, excavation is 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 be what you are looking for, but we excavate items quite often.

                        *1398px-群馬県大泉町古海出土_埴輪_腰かける巫女

Sitting Shrine Maiden,  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

 

                        *2滋賀県野洲市小篠原字大岩山出土_突線紐5式銅鐸Doutaku   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

36| Part 2: 2|Timeline

36 Gendai-To timeline

                                         The above red circle indicates the time we discuss here

Chapter 36 is the more detailed and continued part of Chapter 2 Timeline.  Please read chapter 2 before this section.  Refer 2 | Timeline

In the chapter 2 Timeline, I mentioned Gendai-to (現代刀) is the swords made bewteen Meiji Revolution (明治維新1868 ) and the present time. It has been about 150 years since the Meiji Revolution.  Even though I simply categorized all swords made after the Meiji Revolution into one group as a Gendai-to, there is quite a difference in quality and variety.  The big difference is a 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 handle.  Those were not made to appreciate the beauty of the surface of the blade.  Among the Gendai-To, Gunto is usually considered much less value.  Among Gunto,  the sword made around the world war II is called Showa-To.  It often has a brown leather scabbard.  The color is similar to the Japanese military uniform.  Those Gun-To are not part of the study of the Japanese sword.

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

             Gunto                   From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

Around the time of the Meiji Revolution (明治維新), a sword called Meiji-Ishin-to (明治維新等刀) or Kin-Nou-to (勤王刀) were made.  Those swords were owned by famous historical figures like Saigo Takamori (西郷隆盛), Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬).   They are important historical figures who pushed forward the Meiji Revolution or restoration.  Those swords are a long sword 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 a national living treasure.  Gendai-To is the sword made after the Meiji Restoration till now, but please keep in mind, there are huge differences in quality and variety among Gendai-To.

 

36img077

Sword forged by a living national treasure, Mr. Miyairi Shohei

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 Mr. Yoshindo Yoshihara (吉原義人) and the other is Mr.  Tsunahiro Yamamura (山村綱廣).  We met each other when we were still our early 20s.  We were all single then.

I met Mr. Yoshihara at one of the sword meetings when I attended 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.   Mr. Yoshihara is really excited to teach his grandson.  He  often tells me very interesting stories.  Here are some of them.   He once had an apprentice from one of the Arabic countries.  This Arabic man studied with other Japanese apprentices.  He was sent by the King of his country.  He said this apprentice was a very quiet and a good student and got along with other students very well.  Another time he told me a King from one of the countries of 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 my sword took longer than it should to take.

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

34| Background

While I was growing up in Azabu and Mita (near Keio University) in Tokyo, later Kamakura, my father was heavily involved in Japanese Sword Society, called “Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai”.   At that time, the head of this organization was Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato.  Originally, Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato’s sword department was a part of the National Museum in Ueno.  Later they built a sword museum in Yoyogi,  Shibuya.  Though the address is Yoyogi in Shibuya, it was almost like it was in Shinjuku.  To get there, take “Odakyu-sen(line)” from Shinjuku ( Sangubashi, the third stop from Shinjuku).  To built this museum, my father,  Mr. Watanabe (owner of Wataki clothing company) and Mr. Suzuki Katei (owner of the construction company) were heavily involved.  Those two friends used to come to our house all the time and stayed hours talking and gossiping.  Now, the Museum was moved to Sumida-Ku, near Ryogoku which is near the Sumo Stadium.  Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato used to come to our house in Tokyo.  All those people were deceased many years ago, but they were young then.  I am talking about the 1960s to 1970s.  I was teens then, so they looked old to me.  My father was so involved in swords field, people wondered when does he work in his business.

I was told by many people that Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato actually visited the headquarter of General MacArthur during the occupation after world war II and those two convinced MacArthur that the Japanese swords are not a weapon, it is an art object.  Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato did this because MacArthur ordered all Japanese to turn in the swords and forbidden to own them.  I was told Dr. Honma and Dr. Sato changed MacArthur’s mind.

But by that time, many swords were already turned in at Akabane (the name of the place in Tokyo), though some of the valuable ones were hidden. Those turned in swords are called Akabane sword.

A huge number of swords were taken to the US by the soldiers as a souvenir when they returned to the US.   About 30 years later after the war around the 1960s and 1970s, the Japanese sword dealers went to the US and started to buy back many Japanese swords.  I have a few sword dealer friends who did that.  They advertised that they will buy the Japanese sword in the local newspaper.  As you can imagine, many swords were in bad shape, some had the wrong kinds of chemical put on.  But a few were a good one.

Among those, one of the very famous missing National treasure swords was found by Dr. Compton.  The name of the sword is Kunimune.  He was a chairman of the Board of Miles laboratory in Elkhart Indiana.  This pharmaceutical company produced many different products.   Among them, one of the well-known product is Alka- Seltzer.  He understood the real meaning of Japanese sword.  My father and I visited his house several times.  When Dr. Compton saw this sword, he realized this one is not just an ordinary sword.  He contacted many people in sword societies in Japan and eventually, through the process of contacting people, my father became a good friend with him.  Dr. compton returned this sword to the Terukuni Shrine in Kagoshima prefecture without compensation.  A story about Dr. Compton comes next article.

Token Hakubutsu kan (刀剣博物館)

Non Profit organization : Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyoukai ( 日本美術刀剣保存協会 ) 1-12-9 Yokozuna Sumida-Ku Tokyo Japan    130—0015

Tel: 03-6284-1000                                                                                             https://www.touken.or.jp/

bigger train map

train-map1.jpg