The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section
The difficulty of Shin-to Kantei
Regarding the swords during Ko-to time, one can tell the approximate period when they were made by looking at the style and the shape. Several conditions indicate what period and which Gokaden (五ヶ伝) created the particular sword by looking at several points, like how the Hamon showed or how the Ji-gane appeared. But with the swords in the Shin-to time, that does not work.
Even though there are some differences among the Shin-to swords made in the early Edo period, which is around the Keicho (慶長: 1596 ~) era, the middle Edo period that is around the Kanbun (寛文: 1661 ~) era, and the late Edo period that is Genroku era (元禄: 1688 ~), the differences are not much.
The same is true about the Gokaden (五ヶ伝) during the Shin-to time. In the Ko-to time, Bizen swordsmiths forged swords with Bizen characteristics. The blades Yamato swordsmiths made usually showed the Yamato Den characteristics. But in the Shin-to time, a swordsmith of one particular Den sometimes forged the style of another Den’s features. As a result, it is hard to determine who forged a specific sword.
For Shin-to, we study the characteristics of seven main locations. The following chapters will go over them.
In and after the Genroku era (元禄1688 – 1704), some picturesque Hamon became a trendy style. Some swordsmiths made picturesque Hamon on Wakizashi or short swords. Since it became very popular, especially among foreigners, most of them were exported outside of Japan around the Meiji Restoration time. Very few are left in Japan today.
The swordsmiths those who made picturesqueHamon
Yamashiro area ——————————————-Iga-no-kami Kinmichi (伊賀守金道), Omi-no-kami Hisamichi (近江守久道)
Settsu (摂津) area ———————————Tanba-no-Kami Yoshimichi (丹波守吉道) Yamato-no-Kami Yoshimichi (大和守吉道)
Below are examples. Fuji is the Mount fuji design. Kikusui is chrysanthemum in the water.
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.
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Introduction Of The Five Main Sword School (Den)
There are five major sword schools (Den): 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 and most active school. A school called Ko-bizen (meaning Old Bizen) during the Heian period is a part of Bizen Den. However, we take the Ko-bizen separately since their style is slightly different from the later Bizen Den but somewhat close to the Yamashiro Den as we see it later.
During the Heian period, the swordsmiths of Yamashiro Den lived around Kyoto, the capital of Japan then. In the early Kamakura period, Yamashiro Den maintained the similar sword style they created in the Heian period. Bizen Den appeared in the middle Kamakura period. Soshu Den appeared in the late Kamakura period in Kamakura area. Mino Den appeared in the Muromachi period, which comes much later.
The Early Kamakura Period (鎌倉)
We divide the Kamakura period into three stages: the early, the middle, and the late Kamakura period. The sword style in the early Kamakura period was almost the same as in the previous Heian period. Yamashiro Den was continuously the most active school through the early Kamakura period.
The Middle Kamakura Period
In the middle Kamakura period, we have three different styles of the sword to discuss: the Yamashiro Den style, the Bizen Den style, and the Ikubi-kissaki (猪首切先) style, which was new at that time. We can say that among the Ikubi-kissaki swords, seldom sees the mediocre sword.
The previous section described the KamakuraBakufu (鎌倉幕府: government) had political and military power, yet the emperor was still on the throne in Kyoto. Emperor Gotoba raised an army and attacked the Kamakura government to regain political control. This war (1221) is called Jyokyu-no-Ran (承久の乱). The war changed the look of swords to a sturdier shape. This style is what we call the Ikubi-kissaki.
The Late Kamakura Period (after the Mongolian Invasion)
During the late Kamakura Period, Soshu Den emerged in addition to Yamashiro Den and Bizen Den. After the two Mongolian Invasions called Genko (元寇) in 1274 and 1281, longer and broader swords with longer Kissaki began to appear. The Soshu Den swordsmiths forged this type of sword
Engravings on Sword
Engravings on a sword in the Ko-to era (Heian to Keicho era) has three purposes. One is to reduce the weight of the sword. Hi, Bohi,Gomabashi (wide, narrow, short, or long grooves) are examples. The second is for religious purposes, for which swordsmiths often carved Buddhistic figures. The third is for decoration. In the Shin-to era (from Keicho time and after), it became mainly for decoration purposes.