The discussion in this section is about the famous Muramasa (村正 ). Many well-known swordsmiths are from one of the Goka-Den (main 5 schools, that is Yamashiro- Den, Bizen- Den, Soshu- Den, Yamato- Den, Mino- Den). Muramasa is not from Goka-Den but from Ise Province.
It is said that Muramasa was a student of Heian-Jo Nagayoshi (平安城長吉) of Yamashiro-Den. Muramasa has three generations through Mid Muromachi period. Since Muramasa lived through the Sengoku Period, his sword shows the characteristic of Sengoku period sword style that is Mino-Den characteristic with Soshu-Den characteristic added.
Muramasa from Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)
Mino-Den Characteristic of the Sengoku period that shows on this Tanto
Muramasa’s Tanto is often 10 inches ± half inches or so. Hirazukuri (平作り). Thin blade. MuramasaTanto gives a sharp look. Nioi base with small Nie and Sunagashi (brushed sand like, the illustration below) appears. Boshi (Top part of Hamon) is Jizo (side view of the head shape). Tempered line has a wide area and narrow area, that is some area of tempered line is close to the edge of the blade and another area is a wide tempered line. See the illustration above. Hako-Midare (box like shape) and Gunome (line up beads like shape). O-Notare (large gentle waviness) is Muramasa’s characteristic. The pointed tempered line that is the typical Mino-Den characteristic (Sanbon Sugi) shows . Refer24|Sengoku Period Sword(戦国時代）.
Sunagashi (Brushed sand-like trace. My drawing is exaggerated)
Chapter 16|The Revival of Yamato Den（大和伝復活）and Chapter 51| Part 2 of —– 16 The Revival of Yamato Den (大和伝復活) was the discussion about Yamato-Den. It may be appropriate to show my Yamato sword here. I obtained this sword at the yearly San Francisco swords show a few years back.
Characteristic: Munei (cut short and no signature). Yamato Den, Tegai-ha (Yamato school Tegai group). Length is 2尺 (shaku) 2寸(sun) 8 1/2 分(bu) —27&1/4 inches. Very small Kissaki and Funnbari. This shape is typical of the end of Heian to early Kamakura period though nobody said so.
The Entire view of the sword and Kantei-Sho (NBTHK* Paper). It is ranked “Tokubetsu Hozon Token”. * Nihon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyoukai (日本美術刀剣保存協会）
On Hamon, Sunagashi, Nijyu-ba shows very faintly. I could not take a good photo of boshi. But it is Yakizume like. Ji-Hada is Itame with faint Masame, almost Nashiji-Hada (possibly because of my eyes). Nie-Honni .
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-KojiSadatoshi (綾小路定利) Sadanori (定則) .
When we refer to a certain group, we say, “xxxha”, “xxx 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.
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
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 (来)
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 madeIkubi 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.
Rai Kuniyuki (来国行）Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館) permission granted
The red circle indicates the subject of this chapter
3．Musashi ( 武蔵 ) in Edo ( 江戸 )
Both katana and wakizashi have a shallow sori (curvature). Often the upper part width of the body tends to be narrower. Often but not always, the hamon starts small irregular, gradually gets a little bigger irregular, then a few inches under the yokote line it becomes small irregular. The boshi is Komaru-boshi. The Ji-hada is somewhat rough.Masame-hada shows on Shinogi-ji.
Well-known swordsmiths in Musashi area are Nagasone Okisato Nyudo Kotetsu (長曽根興里入道虎徹), Noda Hannkei (野田繁慶).
Nagasone-Okisato-Nyudo-Kotetsu (長曽根興里入道虎徹) Previously family owned
Echizen ( 越前 ) and 5. Kaga (加賀 )
Many swordsmiths from Mino (美濃) area moved to Echizen and Kaga area. Therefore, the sword made in this area is called Echizen- seki, and Kaga-seki. Refer to 24|Sengoku Period (戦国) Sword. The style of Echizen Yasutsugu (越前康継) is similar to the one of MinoDen.
The name of the well-known swordsmith in Echizen is Echizen Yasutsugu (越前康継 )
Both katana and wakizashi in Hizen have a well-balanced shape. Hizen area tends to make a sword with Chu-suguha-hoture (medium width straight hamon with a frayed look) with fine nie (沸). Boshi has a standard clean line with uniform width tempered line. If you see a shinto sword with Chu-suguha and boshi looks like the one below it is often made by Hizen Tadayoshi (肥前忠吉). Very fine Ji-hada (surface), sometimes called Nukame-hada.
The name of the well-known swordsmith in this area is Hizen Tadayoshi ( 肥前忠吉)
Satsuma (薩摩 )
The sword made in Satsuma has a solid look for both katana and wakizashi．Kissaki (the top point area) is stretched out a little. Yakidashi (a few inches above machi ) shows small irregular hamon. Hamon is O-midare with coarse nie called Ara-nie. The Ara-nie forms Togari-ba (pointed design, see below). One of the characteristics of this region is called Satsuma-nie. It means that the Ara-nie around hamon continues into the Ji-hada area, therefore the border of Ha-nie and Ji-nie is unclear. Inside hamon, sometimes shows a thick line shaped like lightning. This is called Satsuma-no-imozuru (sweet potato vine). This is the biggest characteristic of the Satsuma sword. Boshi has a narrow-tempered line with a small irregular pattern, this is called Satsuma-boshi. On the Ji-hada surface, a dark long line like chikei appears. This is called Satsuma-gane (薩摩金).
The name of the well-known swordsmiths of this area
The red circle indicates the subject we discuss in this section
There are seven main prosperous areas where a large number of swordsmiths gathered and actively made swords. Those are Yamashiro (山城) in Kyoto, Settu (摂津) in Osaka, Musashi (武蔵 ) in Edo, Hizen (肥前) in Saga, Satsuma (薩摩) in Kagoshima, Echizen (越前) in Fukui, and Kaga (加賀) in Kanazawa. Swordsmiths of these areas have their local characteristics common among themselves. Knowing each of these characteristics of their area is the easiest way to understand shin-to. But keep in mind that even in each group, swordsmith has his way of making a sword. The following descriptions are only in general.
Below is the map of Japan. Hokkaido is omitted from the map because swords were not made there during the Edo period.
Yamashiro (山城) Kyoto
Yamashiro Shin-to sword has a solid and strong look. Hamon at the bottom part of the blade right above machi (区) area shows suguha (straight hamon), this is called Kyo-yakidashi (京焼出), that means to start with a straight hamon. Then it shows a sudden change to the design of O-midare (大乱). O-midare (irregular waviness) changes to less waviness one or two inches below the yokote line, then continues into boshi with a wavy hamon. The design inside the boshi is Komaru-boshi. See the illustration below. Ji-hada is somewhat rough (this depends on the swordsmith). Masame-hada (straight grain pattern) may show on Shinogi-Ji (the area between ridgeline and back). Among Yamashiro Shin-to, there was a group called the Mishina Group (三品). They are Mino Den (美濃) related, therefore, often boshi is Jizo-boshi (地蔵鋩子), this is called Mishina Boshi ( 三品鋩子). Jizo-boshi is the profile of a human head.
Well known swordsmiths in Yamashiro area: Umetada Myoju (梅忠明寿) Horikawa Kunihiro (堀川国広) Dewadaijyo Kunimichi (出羽大掾国路)
Iganokami Kinnmichi (伊賀守金道) previously family owned
2．Settu (摂津) Osaka (大阪)
Settu (Osaka now) created more wakizashi than katana. They tend to make it slightly sakizori (top half curves outward) and slightly stretched boshi. Settu sword also has yakidashi the same way as the previous Yamashiro sword, except the area where suguha changes to notare (wavy pattern) are smooth. This is called Osaka Yakidashi.
Osaka Boshi ——Hamon continues up to yokote line, then Komaru with a turn back. Ji-hada————-Very fine, almost a solid like smooth surface especially shinogi-ji (the area between ridgeline and back) is solid like surface. This is called Osaka-tetsu (iron).
The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section
During the Nanboku-Cho Period, the type of Tanto called Hirazukuri-Kowakizashi-Sunnobi-Tanto was made. Hirazukuri means a flat sword without the Yokote line and without Shinogi. Ko-Wakizashi means a shorter sword. Sun-Nobi Tanto means longer than standard. This is also called Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto. It is called this way because the majority of this type Tanto was forged around Enbun, Jyoji Imperial era. In Japan, each time the Emperor changed, we changed the names of the era. Enbun was from 1356 to 1361, Jyoji was from 1362 to 1368
Shape (Sugata 姿) ——-It is common idea that the length of Tanto should be 1 shaku or less. Shaku is an old Japanese measurement unit, which is very close to 1 foot. 8.5 sun (old Japanese measurement unit) is approximately 10 inches. This is the standard length Tanto called Jo-Sun Tanto. Anything longer than Jo-Sun Tanto is called Sun-Nobi Tanto. Anything shorter than Jo-Sun is called Sun-Zumari Tanto. Most of the Nanboku-Cho Tanto is approximately 1 foot 2 inches long, therefore they are called Hirazukuri-Kowakizashi-Sun-Nobi Tanto . Sakizori (curved outward at the top. See the illustration above). Wide width and thin body. Fukura Kareru (No Fukura). Shin-no-Mune. See the illustration below.
Hi, Horimono (Goove and engraving 樋, 彫刻) —– Groove on Mune side. Bonji (Sanscrit, described in 17 Bonji Suken), Koshi-bi (Short groove) and Tokko- Tsuki Ken, or Tumetuki Ken (see below) appears. Curving of Ken (dagger) is done wide and deep in the upper part, the lower part was curved shallow and narrower. This is called Soshu-Bori (Soshu carving).
Hamon (Tempered line) —– Narrow tempered area at the lower part, gradually grows wider as it goes up toward the top then similar look wide Hamon goes into the Boshi area. Hamon in Kissaki area is Kaeri Fukashi (turn back deep) as the illustration below. Coarse Nie.O-Midare (large irregular pattern).
Jihada —– Loose wood grain pattern called Itame. Yubashiri (discussed in 17 Yubashiri, Chikei.jpg), Tobiyaki (Irregular patches of tempered metal) appears. Crowded Tobiyaki is called Hitatsura (illustration above).
Nakago (Tang) —- Short Tanago-bara. That means the belly of Japanese bitterling(fish) shape.
Sword-smiths during Nanboku-Cho Period Soshu Den(school)
Soshu Den ———————————————————-Hiromitu( 広光) Akihiro (秋広) Yamashiro Den ————————————————–Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重) Bizen Den ——————————————————— Kanemitu (兼光) Chogi (長義 )
The circle represents the time we are discussing in this section
It is said that the first sword making started from Yamato province (present Nara prefecture) during the Nara period (710 to 704). In the early sword making days, their forging technique was primitive. At that time a large number of swordsmiths lived in Yamato, yet as time passes, the sword making declined in this area.
At the end of the Kamakura period, several powerful temples had power struggles against each other in Yamato area. Temples had a strong political power and military power to control a large territory called Shoen (荘園) with their large number of worrier monks called Sohei (僧兵). The most powerful group were called Nanto Sohei (南都僧兵)*.
The groups of Sohei demanded more swords to arm themselves. The high demand of the swords from Sohei revitalized the Yamato Den (School) and led to increase the number of the swordsmiths in Yamato. As a result, Yamato Denl became active again. YamatoDen style is somewhat similar to that of Yamashiro Den. See chapter 6.
*Nanto Sohei (南都僧兵)———Since around the 11th century, Buddhistic temples became powerful under the protection of JoKo (retired Emperor). Those temples had a large number of Sohei (low-level monks who also acted as soldiers) under them. When the power struggles between the temples occurred, Sohei fought as a soldier in the battlefields. Nanto Sohei were monk soldiers of Kofuku-Ji temple (興福寺). Several large temples like Todai-Ji (東大寺) temple and other temples controlled the Yamato area.
Shape (Sugata姿) —————-1. Graceful Yamashiro style. 2. Shinogi is high. 3. Mune is thin. 4. Some group of Yamato school has shallow Sori (curvature).
Hamon (Tempered line) ——-Narrow tempered line. Mainly Nie (沸). Chu-Suguha-Hotsure (medium straight with frayed look中直刃ほつれ), Ko-Choji-Midare (small clove-like pattern and irregular mixture 小丁子乱), Ko-Midare ( fine irregular小乱), Ko-gunome-komidare (small irregular continuous half circle 小五の目小乱). The main characteristic of Yamato school is Masame (straight grain), therefore, the tempered line often shows double straight line called Nijyu-ha, Hakikake (brushed sand) and Uchinoke (Crescent-shape line). See the illustration below.
The circle represents the time we discuss in this section
The beginning of the Soshu style
A new sword style called Soshu Den emerged after the Mongolian invasion of the latter part of the Kamakura period. Kamakura area became prosperous under the rule of the Hojo (北条). Many swords smiths moved to Kamakura. Those people are Kunituna (国綱 )and his group from Yamashiro area and FukuokaIchimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真), Kunimune (国宗) from Bizen area. They are the origin of Soshu Den (school 相州). A star swordsmith, Goro-Nyudo-Masamune (五郎入道正宗) appeared during this time.
Shape (Sugata 姿) ——- O-Kissaki (large-Kissaki 大切先) and Chu-Kissaki (medium kissaki 中切先). Tip of Hi ends lower (see below illustration). Hamaguri– Ha was eliminated, instead, it became a thinner body. The original length was approximately 3 feet or so but the majority of them were shortened to 2 feet and 3 or 4 inches in a later time. This is called O-Suriage(大磨上).
Hamon——————–Ｎarrow Hamon and wide Hamon.
Narrow Hamon ——-Suguha (straight) mixed with Ko-Choji (small clove) and Ko-Gumome (continuous half-circle like). Small Nie base. (left drawing below)
Wide Hamon———–Notare (wavy) midare, O-gunome. Nie base. Ashi-Iri (short line goes inward, the right drawing below). Inazuma (lightning-like line), Kinsuji (a gold line like) appears on a tempered line. But Inazuma and Kinsuji require trained eyes to detect. It is hard to notice the Inazuma, Kinsuji, etc. for beginners.
Boshi————-The same type of Hamon into Boshi area then turn back a little or Yakizume. You may also see O-maru (large round), Ko-maru (small round), Kaen (flame like), and Nie-kuzure. Refer chapter 13 Middle Kamakura period Tanto for Yakizume and Kaen.
Jihada or Jitetsu (between Shinogi and Tempered line)–—– Strong Ji-Nie (地沸), that is a sand-like small dots appears on Ji (between tempered line and Mune). Yubashiri (cluster of Ji-Nie), Kinsuji (lined Nie looks like a golden line), Inazuma (lightning-like irregular line) and Chikei (similar to Kinsuji appears on Ji-Hada).
Late Kamakura Period Soshu School Sword Smiths
From Bizen———–Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真) Kunimune (国宗 ) From Yamashiro ————————————–Toroku- Sakon- Kunituna (藤六左近国綱)
Those above three are the beginning of Kamakura swordsmiths. Later, Tosaburo-Yukimitu and his son, famous Goro-Nyudo-Masamune appeared.
Masamune Juttetsu (Main Soshu Style swordsmiths other than above)
From Yamashiro (山城)—— Rai Kunitsugu (来国次), Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重) From Ettshu (越中) province ———————Gou- no-Yoshihiro (郷義弘) Norishige (則重) From Mino (美濃) province ——————————————–Kaneuji (兼氏) Kinjyu (金重) From Chikuzen (筑前) province —————————————————-Samoji (左文字)
Goro-Nyudo-Masamune(正宗) Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館図録) Permission granted *Because Masamune lived in Kamakura that is a beach town, his Hamon style was inspired by an ocean wave. Therefore his Hamon sometimes looks like wave design.
The circle represents the time we are discussing in this section
GENKO 元寇 (1274 and 1281)
The grandson of Genghis Kahn, Khubilai Kahn attempted to invade Japan two times in 1274 and 1281. Both times, a strong typhoon hit Japan. Mongols sent to Japan a large number of soldiers with all kinds of supplies on their huge numbers of ships. Those ships had to stay at a shore side by side and front and back very closely in the limited area of the shore of Kyushu. When the strong wind came, ships were swayed, hit each other and capsized. Many people fell, drowned and lost supplies in the water. Even though Mongol soldiers landed and fought with the Japanese army, because of the typhoon and ships wrecking, they did not have much choice but to leave Japan. As a result, Japan won. Actually, Mongols had many superior weapons than the Japanese. They had guns, the Japanese did not. Their group fighting method was much more superior and effective than the Japanese individual fighting method. This is the time the famous Japanese expression, “Kamikaze” (divine wind) was created.
After the Mongolian invasion, the need for changing the style of the Ikubi Kissaki became obvious. When swords were used in a war, the most frequently damaged area was a Kissaki area. Japanese soldiers used mostly Ikubi Kissaki swords in this war. The Ikubi KissakiTachi has a short Kissaki, therefore, when the damaged area of the Kissaki was polished down for repairing, the top part of the Yakiba (tempered area) disappeared and the Hi (groove) goes up too high in the Boshi area (top triangle-like area). Short Ikubi Kissaki becomes even shorter, and Hi goes up too high into a Boshi area. Aesthetically, it is not an appealing look, functionally does not work. To compensate for this flaw, a new style began to appear in the latter part of the Kamakura period
During the latter part of the Kamakura period, the swordsmiths began to create a new style of swords to compensate for this fault. Also, people’s enthusiasm that was raised by driving back Mongolian reflected on the appearance of swords. Generally speaking, Hamon and the shape of the body became showy and stronger looking.
Kamakura became a very prosperous place under the power of the Hojo family. A large number of swordsmiths moved to Kamakura from Bizen, Kyoto and other places during this time and created a new style. This is the beginning of Soshu school (Soshu is the Kanagawa area now). Many famous top swordsmiths appeared during this time. One of the famous swordsmiths is Masamune. Masamune’s tomb is in Honkaku-Ji temple that is about 5 or 6 minutes’ walk from the Kamakura train station. while I was attending the sword study group of Mori Sensei(teacher), one of the students I studied with was the 24th generation of direct descendants of Masamune. His last name is Yamamura, he still makes wonderful swords in Kamakura. He also makes superb kitchen knives too. The name of his shop is called “Masamune Kogei”, a short walk from the Kamakura train station. To find his place, ask at the information center at the train station.
May 2019 Mr. Tsunahiro Yamamura and I Honkaku-Ji Temple
The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this chapter.
After the live experience of the war of Jokyu-no-ran (Chapter 11), people started to move toward sturdier, grander, wider swords. The swords made around this time is called Ikubi Kissaki (猪首切先). Ikubi means a wild boar neck. Ikubi Kissaki style sword has a stout look like a wild boar neck. This is the era of the golden time of sword making. Many top swords smiths created wonderful swords during this time. It is said that there is no mediocre sword among Ikubi Kissai swords.
SUGATA (shape) —— Originally 3 feet or longer, therefore it is often shortened at a later time. Wide width, thick Kasane (thick body) with Hamaguri-ha (蛤刃). Hamaguri-ha means the thickness of the sword is shaped like a clam. The width at the Yokote line area and the width at the Machi are not much different. Shinogi (鎬) is high, and shinogi width is narrow. Illustration of the Cross-section of the sword below.
KISSAKI —— Ikubi kissaki. Ikubi means a wild boar neck. Wild boar looks like no neck, stout look shape. Short Kissaki but wide at the yokote line. The illustration below is exaggerated a little to show the idea
Hamon (刃文) —— Kawazuko-Choji (tadpole head shape). O- Choji (clove-like shape) and Ko-Choji mixed. Irregular waviness mixed with a straight line and choji, this is called suguha-choji.
Boshi(鋩子) ——— Yakizume, that is Hamon ends close to the tip, as below. Nagamitu(長光), Kagemitu( 景光), Sanenaga(真長) created Boshi called Sansaku Boshi(三作鋩子). Sansaku Boshi narrows down at Yokote Line, Illustration below.