During Ko-To time, one could tell the approximate time when the sword was made by the style and the shape. The condition of the Hamon, how the Jigane appears indicates the approximate Gokaden (五ヶ伝) of Ko-To time. But in Shin-To time, that can not be done. Even though among Shin-To time, there was some difference between early Edo period that is around Keicho (慶長) era, the middle Edo period that is Kanbun (寛文) and the later part Edo period that is Genroku Era (元禄), but that differences are not much. The same is true with Gokaden (五ヶ伝). In Ko-To time, Bizen sword smiths forged Bizen characteristic, Yamato sword smiths usually shows Yamato-Den characteristic. But Shin-To time, a swordsmith of one area did the other area’s Den. From those reasons, it is hard to determine the swordmaker. For shin-To, we study the characteristics of 7 main locations. This will follow the next chapter.
Around the Genroku Era (1688 – 1704), some picturesque Hamon became a trendy style. Some swordsmiths made picturesque Hamon on wakizashi or short swords and it became very fashionable. But many foreigners loved those swords and majority of them were exported to outside of Japan around Meiji restoration time (1868). Very few are left in Japan today.
The swordsmiths those who made picturesque Hamon
From Yamashiro area, Iga-no-kami Kinmichi (伊賀守金道) and Omi-no-kami Hisamichi (近江守久道) forged picturesque Hamon. From Settsu-no-Kuni (摂津) area, Tanba-no-Kami Yoshimichi (丹波守吉道), Yamato-no-Kami Yoshimichi (大和守吉道) did picturesque Hamon. And many more. The below are examples. Fuji is the Mount fuji design. Kikusui is chrysanthemum in the water.
The red circle indicates the time we discuss in this chapter.
Chapter 11 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). He was a very talented man in many fields. He was very good at waka (和歌) which is a Japanese short poem. To compose waka, it requires several elements in it, such as scenery, season, one’s inner feeling with the refined sentiment, or the surrounding state with limited numbers of words. It really requires a literary talent. He was also good at equestrianism, Kemari (ball game for the upper class at that time), a great swimmer, good at Sumo, good at music, archery, swordsmanship, calligrapher, painting and became a great swordsmith. His contribution toward the sword field created the Golden Age of sword making in the middle Kamakura period. Surprisingly, Gotoba Joko was not only good at in many different fields, he really mastered in all those fields to the top level. Especially his waka (poetry) is highly regarded. He edited Shin Kokin Wakashu (新古今集). This is a collection of waka; it contains 1980 wakas.
Emperor Gotoba was enthroned at the age of 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 become an emperor, the head of the emperor’s family has to appoint the next emperor. While Emperor Go-Shirakawa (後白河天皇) was in a jail, Emperor Antoku was appointed by Taira no Kiyomori (平清盛). Though Kiyomori was the head of the most powerful Samurai group, the Heishi but not the emperor family. That is against the tradition. This was not acceptable for Go Shirakawa Emperor (後白河天皇). Go Shirakawa Emperor was furious toward Taira no Kiyomori and the emperor picked his own choice and enthroned Emperor Gotoba. This is the reason two emperors coexisted. One more thing, to be an emperor, the emperor must have Sanshu-no-Jingi (三種の神器: Three Sacred Treasures); that is three items the emperor must have to be a legitimate emperor. They are the Mirror, the sacred sword, and the Magatama (jewelry)*. But Sanshu-no-Jingi was taken by the Heike family together with Emperor Antoku when they fled from Genji. The Heike clan was chased by the Genji all the way to Dan-no-Ura (壇ノ浦) and 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 only recovered the jewelry, and the mirror, but not the sword. Because of the tradition that the emperor must have Sanshu-no-Jingi otherwise not a legitimate emperor, Gotoba Joko was tormented for a long time for not having all three. Today, jewelry is with the present Emperor family and the Mirror is with Ise-Jingu (伊勢神宮: Ise Shrine). The sword is still missing somewhere in the ocean. Some say that the lost sword down in the ocean was a copy and the one with at Atsuta-Jingu (熱田神宮) is the real one.
* Sanshu-no-Jingi (三種の神器 )—–the sword is Kusanagi no Tsurugi (草薙の剣), the Mirror is Yata-no-Kagami (八咫の鏡), the Magatama is Yasakani-no-Magatama (八尺瓊勾玉) by Token world: www.touken-world.jp/tips/32747/
Politics by Gotoba-Joko
Gotoba-Joko wanted political power back from Kamakura Bakufu. He was a very impulsive and passionate and unpredictable quick-tempered person. He wanted to revive Chotei (朝廷) power. The Chotei was the central government controlled by an emperor and aristocrats. Gotoba-Joko decided to rely on the armed forces to achieve this. He set up the Saimen-no-Bushi (西面の武士: armed forces directly under the Emperor Gotoba). When he saw Minamoto no Sanetomo was killed, he realized Kamakura Bakufu must be in a turmoil. Thinking this is a good chance, he sent out the emperor’s order to all daimyos to fight against Kamakura Bakufu. He expected an easy victory, but Kamakura Bushi was united tightly and maneuvered well under the leader of Hojo Masako, the nun shogun. She organized one tightly united armed forces. Whereas the Gotoba-Joko side was not very organized. They were not used to fight. In the end, the Gotoba-Joko side lost. When he realized he had lost, he claimed it was not him, but it was done by his men only. He insisted it was nothing to do with the emperor, therefore it is wrong to punish him. But of course, Hojo Masako and Kamakura Bakufu did not believe that and exiled Gotoba-Joko to Oki Island. Gotoba-Joko ends his life there. As smart as he was and accomplished so many different fields, he could not win the grandma nun-shogun Hojo Masako.
Sword making by Gotoba-Joko
Gotoba Joko had a superior ability to connoisseur sword and he became a superior swordsmith himself. He invited many top-level swordsmiths from different sword groups to his court and gave them the title and treated them respectfully. Also, he made them his instructor and assistants. Gotoba-Joko brought in skilled swordsmiths from places like Bizen, Awataguch, and Bicchu every two months alternately. Those who were invited to the palace were called Gobankaji (御番鍛冶), an honorary title. On the sword he created, he inscribed the Chrithantamum with 16 petals. This is still used by the present emperor as the emperor’s crest. The sword with the Chrithantamus is called Kiku Gosaku (菊御作). Today, on Oki island you can visit the Emperor Gotoba museum 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 can be reached by airplane directly from Osaka.
The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section
Introduction Of The 5 Main Sword School (Den)
There are five main sword schools (Den). They are Yamashiro Den (山城), Bizen Den (備前), Soshu Den (相州), Yamato Den (大和) and Mino Den (美濃). During the Heian period, Yamashiro Den was the main school. Also, there was a school called Ko-Bizen (means old Bizen) that is a part of Bezen Den but we treat them separately. Their style was a little different than Bizen Den we see later. They were somewhat close to Yamashiro Den. During the Heian period, Yamashiro Den was the most active sword school. Swordsmiths lived around the Kyoto area, the capital city of Japan then. In the early Kamakura period, Yamashiro Den continued their style similar to the one during the Heian period. Bizen Den appeared in the middle Kamakura period. Soshu Den appeared in the late Kamakura period in the Kamakura area. Mino school appeared Muromachi period
Early Kamakura Period (鎌倉) (1192 – 1218)
We divide the Kamakura period into 3 stages. early Kamakura, middle Kamakura, late Kamakura period. In the early Kamakura period, the sword style is almost the same as the one during the Heian period, the previous time. Yamashiro Den was the active sword school in the early part of the Kamakura period.
Middle Kamakura Period (1219 – 1277)
In the middle Kamakura period, we have three different styles to talk about. Yamashiro Den style, Bizen Den style, and Ikubi kissaki style (猪首切先) sword. Ikubi Kissaki is a new style. We say there are no mediocre swords among the Ikubi-Kissaki (猪首切先) swords. As I described in the previous section, the Kamakura government (鎌倉幕府) had political and military power, yet the Emperor still existed in Kyoto(京都). Emperor Gotoba raised an army and attacked the Kamakura government in order to regain the political power back. This war (1221) is called Jyokyu-no-Ran (承久の乱). The live experience from this war changed the shape of the sword to sturdier-looking shape, that is what we call Ikubi-kissaki style.
Late Kamakura Period (after Mongolian Invasion— (1274 and 1281)
In this section, adding to the Yamashiro Den and Bizen Den, Soshu Den started to appear. After the Mongolian invasion (that is called Genko (元寇) in 1274 and 1281), a longer Kissaki and a longer in length and wider sword started to appear. Soshu Den swordsmiths forged this type of swords.
Engravings on Sword
Carvings have three meanings in Ko-To time. One is to reduce the weight of the sword. They are Hi, Bohi (single groove), Gomabashi (wide, narrow, short or long grooves). The second is for religious purposes. For that reason, swordsmiths often carve the Buddhistic figures. The third is for decoration. In shin-To time, carvings became mainly decoration purposes.