55 |Part 2 of —–21 Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代刀)

Chapter 55 is the detailed part of chapter 21|Muromachi Period Sword.  Please read Chapter 21 before reading this section.

57 Muromach-timeline size 22

                         The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

After the Muromachi period, swords changed to Katana(刀) from Tachi (太刀), as described in chapter 21 Muromachi Period Sword.  Refer to 21| Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代刀)  .  By the end of the Nanboku-cho period, the swords’ length became shorter to approximately 2 feet ± a few inches.  The 3-to-5 feet long swords seen in the Nanboku-cho period were no longer created.  The reason was that, during the Nanboku-cho period, warriors fought mostly riding horses, but after the Muromachi time, infantry fighting became more common.

Oei Bizen (応永備前)                                                                                                             The pronunciation of Oei is“O as Oh” and “ei as A of ABC.”   The Muromachi period was the declining time in sword making.  The swords made during the early Muromachi period in the Bizen area were called Oei BizenOsafune Morimitsu (長船盛光), Osafune Yasumitsu (長船康光), Osafune Moromitsu (長船師光) were the main Oei Bizen swordsmiths.  Soshu Hiromasa (相州広正)、Yamashiro Nobukuni (山城信國)  were also similar to the Oei Bizen style.  Please refer to 21| Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代刀) for Muromachi sword shape, Hamon, Boshi, and Ji-hada.

57 Moromitsu photo (必要分 57 Moromitus Oshigata

Bishu Osafune Moromitsu (備州長船師光)   from Sano Museum Catalogue ((permission granted)

The above Osafune Moromitsu sword is 2 feet 5 inches long with medium Kissaki.  The Hamon has a small wave-like pattern with continuous Gunome (a lined half-circles).  The Boshi area shows irregular waviness with a slightly pointed tip.  Very faint Bo-utsuri (soft shadow shaped like a strip of wood) shows on Ji-hadaBo-utsuri is a distinctive characteristic among all of the Oei Bizen.

Before the Muromachi period, there had been many swordsmith groups in the Bizen area, but by the Muromachi time began, Osafune (長船) was the only remaining active group.

Osafune (長船) is the name of a region, but it became the last name of the swordsmiths during the Muromachi time.  Two other well-known swordsmiths among the Oei Bizen were Osafune Morimitsu (盛光) and Osafune Yasumitsu (康光).  The Hamon by Morimitsu and Yasumitsu shows more work than that of the sword in the photo above.  Chapter 21| Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代刀) shows the Hamon by Morimitsu and Yasumitsu, also describes typical characteristics of the swords in the Muromachi period.

Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto

58 Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto

Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto Shape

Hirazukuri Ko-wakizashi Tanto was the trendy style during the early Muromachi time. Swordsmiths in different areas created the Tantos like the one above.  But majorities of this types were made by Oei Bizen swordsmiths.

The characteristic of the Hirazukuri ko-wakizashi Tanto ——— Usually 1 foot and 1 or 2 inches long.  No Yokote line, no Shinogi, and no Sori (no curvature, straight back). Average thickness.  Narrow width.  Gyo-no-mune (refer 12| The Middle Kamakura Period Tanto

13 Mune drawing

Hirazukuri Ko-wakizashi Tanto often shows many engravings.  Hi with Soe-hi (parallel double line, wide and narrow side by side ), Tokko-tsuki-ken, Tsume-tsuki-ken, Bonji, etc.

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji20 Tokko, tume Ken  58 tsumetukiken and Hi

*drawings from “Nihonto no Okite to Tokucho” by Honami Koson

 

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

18| Nanboku-Cho Period Sword (南北朝太刀)

0-timeline - size 24 Nanboku-cho

                           The circle indicates the time we discuss in this section

During the Nanboku-Cho period, Samurai demanded a large, elaborate, and impressive yet practical sword.  The Soshu Den style sword in Nanboku-cho time was just that.  This type was the most popular style then.  The Nanboku-cho period was the height of the Soshu Den.  Many swordsmiths moved from other provinces to the Kamakura area and forged the Soshu Den style swords.   Other schools and regions outside the Kamakura area also made the Soshu Den style swords in their own places.

19 Nanboku-cho Sword style

Sugata (姿: Shape)———-The original length of swords was 3, 4, or 5 feet long, but shortened to approximately two and a half feet long at a later time.  A greatly shortened blade is called O-suriage

The Nanboku-cho style sword has a shallow Kyo-zori (also called Torii-zori).  Refer to Chapter 5 |Heian Period: Swords.  The highest curvature comes around the middle of the body.  A wide-body, high Shinogi, narrow Shinogi-Ji (Refer to Chapter 3 Names of Parts).  The thin Kasane (thickness of the body) is the distinctive feature for the Nanboku-cho style.  High Gyo-no-mune or Shin-no-mune, sometimes Maru-Mune (round back).

19 Nanboku-cho 3 kinds Mune

Hi (: groove) and Horimono (彫刻: engraving) ——– Often, a single Hi (Bo-hi), double Hi, Suken (dagger), Bonji (Sanscrit), and/or Dragon are engraved on the Shinogi-Ji area.  Refer to Chapter 3 Names of Parts.

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji

Hamon (: Tempered line) —- The lower part of the body shows a narrow-tempered line; gradually, the tempered line becomes wider and showy.  Course Nie.  O-midare (large irregular wavy Hamon), Notare-midare (wavy, irregular Hamon), Gunome-midare (a mix of repeated half-circular and irregular Hamon).  Inazuma, Kinsuji (refer to Chapter 14 Late Kamakura Period: Sword (鎌倉末太刀))  sometimes appears.

19 Hamon Notare 319 Mamon choji gunome19 Hitatsura Hamon Hiromitsu

                                  *From Sano Museum Catalogue ( Permission granted).

Ji-hada (地肌: Area between Shino-gi and tempered line) ———————-Wood-grain pattern (Itame 板目). Sometimes Tobiyaki (patchy tempered spots) appears on Ji-hada. For Ji-hada, refer to Chapter 3 Names of parts.

Kissaki (切っ先) and Boshi (Tempered line at Kissaki area) ———- O-kissaki (long and large Kissaki). Fukura kareru (less arc).  Midare-komi (body and boshi have a similar tempered pattern), with Kaeri-fukashi (hamon deeply turns back), sometimes Hitatsura (entirely tempered).  See the above illustration.

Sword-smiths during Nanboku-Cho Period Soshu Den (school)

  • From Soshu—————————————————Hiromitsu (広光)  Akihiro (秋広)  
  • From Yamashiro ———————————————Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重) 
  • From Bizen (called So-den Bizen)——-Chogi (長儀 )group  Kanemitsu (兼光 ) group 
  • From Chikuzen ———————————————————-Samoji (左文字 ) group

19 Chogi photo from Sano book

The distinctive characteristics of the Nanboku-Cho period sword on the photo above      

  • The engraving trace of Suken on the Nakago indicates this area was once a part of the main body.
  • Large and Long kissaki

12| The Middle Kamakura Period: Tanto (Dagger 鎌倉中期短刀)

0-timeline - size 24 Middle Kamakura

The red circle indicates the area we discuss in this chapter 

It is very rare to see a Tanto (短刀dagger) made during the Heian period.  During the middle Kamakura period, a large number of high-quality Tanto were made.  They were called Takenoko-zori shaped Tanto.   Takenoko means bamboo shoot.  The back of the Tanto curves inward slightly.

12Tanto drawing Mid Kamakur

Sugata (shape)———- Hirazukuri.  It means there is no Shinogi, Yokote line.  See the illustration above.  The standard Tanto size is about 10 inches.  The width is not too wide, not too narrow, very well-balanced size.  The body is slightly thick.  High Gyo-no-mune (行の棟) and Shin-no-mune (真の棟)

13 Mune drawing

Hamon (刃文) —————-The tempered area is narrow.  Nie base.   Suguha-midare (straight line pattern with an irregular wavy pattern) or Suguha-choji (straight line pattern with small Choji)The tempered edge line may show a frayed look.

Boshi(tempered line at Kissaki area) ———Yakizume,   Kaen,   Nie-kuzure.

13 Hamon and Hi

Engravings (彫刻 ) ———- Often, different kinds of engravings are done at the lower part of the body.   These may be a groove or two grooves, Sanskrit,  Suken (spear), dragon, etc.  For Sanskrit and spear, look at the illustration inside Chapter 8.

13 Hamon and Hi

Tanto Swordsmiths in the Middle Kamakura Period

Awataguchi group(粟田口)———————————Awataguchi Yoshimitu (粟田口吉光)  Rai group (来) ——————————————————————-Rai Kunitoshi(来国俊)  Soushu Group  (相州) ——————————————Shintougo Kunimitu (新藤五国光)  Bizen group (備前) —————————————————— Bien Kagemitu (備前景光) Bungo no Kuni Group (豊後の国) ——————–Bungo-no-kuni Yukihira (豊後の国行平)

13 Rai kunimitsu Tanto photo 2  来国光(Rai Kunimitsu)

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