29| Bakumatsu Period History 1781 – 1868 (幕末歴史 )

 

0-timeline - size 24 Bakumatsu

The red circle above  indicate the time we discuss in this chapter

The Bakumatsu period is the last part of the Edo period on sword history.  See the circle on the middle timeline above.  However, political history does not divide the Edo period and the Bakumatsu period.  There is not a clear-cut date for the Bakumatsu period.

The AzuchiMomoyam period (安土桃山) is between the time when Oda Nobunaga (織田信長) deposed Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimasa (将軍足利義昭) in 1573 and the time when Tokugawa Iyeyasu became the shogun in 1603 or when Tokugawa Iyeyasu won the battle against Toyotomi Hideyori (Hideyoshi’s son) at Osaka Summer Campaign in 1615.   The Azuchi-Momoyama period was a short period when Oda Nobunaga(織田信長), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉), and Tokugawa Iyeyasu (徳川家康) were maneuvering the intricate political struggles.  During this time, the country flourished culturally and economically.  After a long wartime period, people finally saw the country reunite and the peaceful life waiting ahead. 

The stories of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Iyeyasu have been the most popular stories for the Japanese.  Often the stories around this time are depicted on TV programs and in movies.  The Edo period was the time when the Tokugawa family ruled Japan. 

The Tokugawa government was called the Tokugawa Bakufu.   Throughout the Edo period, the Tokugawa family’s direct line, usually the firstborn sons, became the shogun.  Yet, the emperors co-existed at the same time.  Even though they did not have political power, the emperor’s family still held imperial status.

During the Edo period, it was a very peaceful time.  Unlike the previous period, there were no wars.  Yet, later in the time, the long-last Edo period (last approximately 260 years) became stagnated and began showing structural and financial problems in the ruling.  This is the Bakumatsu (幕末) time, which means the last part of the Edo Bakufu

In the previous chapter, Chapter 25, Edo Period History explained that the Edo Bakufu closed the country to the outside world for most of the era.  The only place in Japan with access to foreign countries was Dejima in Nagasaki (Southern part of Japan).  During the Bakumatsu period, several European ships came to Japan asking (more like demanding) Japan to open ports for water and other whaling ships’ supplies.  Also, some countries wanted to trade with Japan.   Those countries were England, Russia, America, and France, etc.

In 1792, the Russian government sent an official messenger to Japan demanding it to open up for trades.  In 1853, Commodore Perry from the U.S. appeared with four massive warships at a port called Uraga (浦賀: Kanagawa prefecture now) and demanded Japan to open ports for water, fuel, and other supplies for the U.S. whaling ships. 

At the end of the Bakumatsu time, the Tokugawa Bakufu faced political and financial difficulties governing the country.  Also, intellectual people were afraid that Japan might get into trouble like China, the Opium War(1840 -1842), with England.  The pressures to open the county were building up.  It became apparent that Japan could no longer continue to close the country.  In such a time, Commodore Perry appeared at Uraga with four huge black warships that demanded Japan to open the country.  These warships scared the Japanese and excelled the big wave of the anti-Bakufu movement.    The Meiji Revolution was ready to happen, and Perry’s warships were the last blow.

Tokugawa Bakufu made treaties with several foreign countries and opened a few ports for trades.   The Bakufu’s authority was lost, and Japan was divided into several different political groups.  Those political groups fought chaotically, and the Meiji Restoration movement continued.  In 1868, the Tokugawa Bafuku moved out of the Edo Castle in Edo (now Tokyo), and the Meiji Emperor moved in.  The Meiji Shin Seifu (Meiji new government) was established centering the Meiji Emperor, and the Tokugawa Bakufu ended. 

Commodore-Perry-Visit-Kanagawa-1854       File:Commodore-Perry-Visit-Kanagawa-1854.jpg      From ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/黒船 Public Domain

Commodore Matthew C. Perry’s visit of Kanagawa, near the site of present-day Yokohama on March 8, 1854. Lithography. New York: E. Brown, Jr.

26 |Over view of Shinto (新刀概要)

                                   
0-timeline - size 24 Shin-to
                           The circle indicates the subject discuss in this section 

The previous chapter 25 stated that the Edo period was from 1603 to 1868.  This is for political history.  As seen in the third timeline above, the Momoyama period overlaps the Edo period.  Some people think the Momoyama period was from 1573 to 1600.   In terms of general history, there are several opinions on how to divide these transitional periods.  For sword history, it is clear cut.  The swords made between approximate 1596 (慶長: Keicho era) and 1781 (天明: Tenmei era) are called Shin-to.  The swords made between the Tenmei era and the Meiji is called Shin-Shinto. 

After Toyotomi Hideyoshi almost completed to unite the country, people could enjoy a peaceful time.  This quiet time changed the geographic distribution of swordsmiths where they lived.  There were three major areas where the sword forging took place.  Those were Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo (Tokyo today) areas.  The rest of the swordsmiths gathered around near major Daimyos’ (大名: feudal lord ) castles.

Kyoto—- Umetada Myoju (梅忠明寿) group thrived, followed by the swordsmiths like Horikawa Kunihiro (堀川国広), Kunimichi (国路 ), Kunisada (国貞), and Kunisuke (国助).

OsakaOsaka was established as a commercial city and became the center of commerce.  They produced swords and distributed them to the other regions in the country.  Swordsmiths in Osaka : Tsuda Sukehiro (津田助広), Inoue Shinkai (井上真改).

Edo—-Many swordsmiths gathered in Edo (江戸: current Tokyo) where Shogun Tokugawa Iyeyasu livedThe well-known swordsmiths in Edo at that time :  Nagasone Kotetsu (長曽祢虎徹), Yasutsugu (康継), Noda Hannkei (野田繁慶).

By the time the grandson of Tokugawa Iyeyasu, Tokugawa Iyemitsu, became the shogun (寛永:Kan’ei era 1624 – 1643), swordsmiths spread out to other provinces than three areas mentioned above.  In each significant Daimyo’s territory, swordsmiths had their shops near the castle and fulfilled the demand for daimyo and subjects.  By the Genroku era (元禄: 1695), the swords-making declined, and people demanded more picturesque Hamon designs, such as Kikusui (菊水: flower design) and Fujimi (富士見: Mount Fuji).

 

63 fuji sakura hamon
 Fujimi                           Kikusui

Difference between Koto  and Shinto 

The next section describes the difference between Ko-to and Shin-to.   But keep in mind, there are always exceptions to this rule.

1.  The length of the Shinto Katana is usually about 2 feet and 3 inches ± a little.   Wakizashi is 1 foot and 6 inches ± a little.   Shallow curvature.  Wide width.  Thick body.   Gyo-no-Mune.  Chu-Gissaki with a slightly stretched look.13 Mune drawing

2.  Koto sword feels light.  Shinto feels heavy.

3.  For Shinto, Bo-hi ends a little below the Yokote line.  The Bottom of Hi rounded at above Machi.

27. Hisaki & marudome

4. In general, for Shin-to, carvings are less common. Except, some swordsmith are famous for its carving.  The design is refined and in detail.  Umetada Myoju (埋忠明寿) is famous for its carvings.

5.  For Shin-to, if it is mainly made with Nie, it is coarse Nie

6.  Around the Machi area, Hamon starts with a straight tempered line (the bottom part of the blade in the illustration below), then Midare, or different types of Hamon comes in the middle, and it finishes with Suguha (straight hamon) in the Boshi area (the top part). In general, this is the standard Hamon style of Shin-to, but there are always exceptions. 

27 Keshou Yasuri & suguha

7.  For Shin-to, the blade had the same kind of iron throughout Japan.  Not much variations of iron were used throughout Japan. Very hard, dark color, and glossy look.

8.  The Nakago has a properly balanced shape.  The bottom of Nakago narrows down gradually.  The type of Yasurime (file mark) is Kesho-yasuri.  Engraved inscriptions show the swordsmith’s name, the location, and the province, with the year it was made..

27 Keshou Yasuri & suguha