60| Second Part of —24|Sengoku Period Sword

This chapter is a detailed part of Chapter 24.  Please read Chapter 24|Sengoku Period Sword(戦国時代) before start reading this chapter.

During the Sengoku Period, MinoDen group and Bizen Osafune group was the main sword makers.  Because of almost 100 years of the Warring States period, all the Daimyo needed a large number of swords.  If a supplier is closer, that is even better.  Mino area could be reached from many Sengoku Daimyo conveniently because of its location.  Mino swords smiths existed since the Heian period and the Kamakura period.  Mino became the busiest sword making area around the Muromachi and the Sengoku period.   Shizu group and Tegai group from Yamato area, and many swordsmiths from Yamashiro (Kyoto) moved to Mino area.  Mino-Den, Shizu Kaneuji (志津兼氏) from the Kamakura period is one of the Masamune Juttetsu (正宗十哲)*.  Their swords are very practical swords for the Warring Stated period.

60-mino-map.jpg

*Masamune Juttetsu (正宗十哲) —–strictly meaning, top 10  Masamune students but often it means top swordsmiths.

Three examples of Sengoku Period sword

Every sword is different.  Even the sword made by the same swordsmith is different.  Please refer to the basic common characteristic of the sword made during the Sengoku period, 24 Sengoku Period Sword.

 

60-sukesada-photo-e1563148031935.jpg 60 Sukesada illustration

Bizen Osafune Yosozaemon Sukesada (備前国住長船与三左衛門尉祐定) from Sano Museum Catalog

Common Sengoku Period characteristic that shows on the sword above.

Hamon is Kani-no-Tsume (crab claw shape).  This type of hamon never appeared Heian, Kamakura, Nanbokucho period.  This type of Hamon is a deciding point of the Sengoku time.  Marudome-Hi (round end groove) often appear on Bizen Den sword of Sengoku period.  Wide tempered area.  Midare-komi Boshi, with turn back deep and stop sharp.  Hamon is Nioi base.  Bizen does Nioi mostly with some exception.

60 Kanesada photo  60 kanesada illustration

Izuminokami Fujiwara Kanesada (和泉守藤原兼定) from Sano Museum Catalog

Common Sengoku Period characteristic that shows on the sword above

The last letter of Kanji of this swordsmith is not ”定”, instead “宀” and “之”.  But my computer does not have one.  To distinguish from the other Kanesada (兼定), we call “宀 “ and “之 “, Nosada (のさだ) Izuminokami Fujiwara Kanesada is the top sword smith of Mino-Den at this time.  The shape of the sword is the typical Sengoku sword.  Shallow curvature, Chu-gissaki (medium Kissaki), pointed gunome Hamon.  The width of the Hamon is wide and narrow.  Often, Nosada and other Mino-Den have woodgrain on Ji-Hada with Masame mixed.  Nioi base with coarse Nie mixed.

 

60 Norimitsu photo  60-norimitsu-illustraton.jpg

Bizen Osafune NorimitsTu (備前長船法光)   from Sano Museum Catalog

The common Sengoku period characteristic that shows on the sword above

Shallow curvature.  This style of sword including the shallow curvature  (the degree in which the sword turns), the width of the blade and the sturdy look is very typical of Sengoku period.  Marudome-Hi.  Pointed Hamon called Togari-Ba ( 尖り刃).  Nioi base mixed with Nie.  Slight Masame and wood grain on Ji-Hada.

My Yamato Sword (大和所有刀剣)

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.

my-yamato-sword-e1555694162999.jpg

 

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)

My Yamato sword 4

My Yamato sword.jpg 2

My Yamato sword 3

My Yamato sword 5

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 . 

 

40|Part 2 of —– 6|Heian Period Sword (792-1192)

39 Heian Time line

                                  The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

This chapter is the continued part of chapter 6 Heian Period Sword.  Please read chapter 6 before reading this section.  More technical terms will be used which were explained between chapters 1 to 33.  For those who are not familiar with sword terminology, please read chapter 1 to 33 first, then read part 2.

There are several active schools (Den: 伝) of swordsmith during the Heian period.  The word Den will be used instead of school in the chapters follow.  They are Yamashiro Den (山城伝), Yamato Den (大和伝), Bizen Den ( 備前伝 ).  Also, the following areas are other groups outside of Dens above:  Hoki-no-Kuni (伯耆), and Ou-U Kaji (奥羽鍛冶 ).

 Yamashiro Den (山城伝 )

Among Yamashiro Den swords in the Heian period, the name of the sword, Mikazuki Munechika (三日月宗近) by Sanjo Munechika (三条宗近) is the most famous.  Mikazuki means crescent.  Because the crescent shape uchinoke (collection of nie) pattern appears in the Hamon area, it is named Mikazuki Munechika.  It has a graceful shape, narrow-body, Koshi-zori, Funbari, and small kissaki.  It shows wood grain surface, suguha with nie mixed with small irregular, sometimes nijyu-ha (double hamon: 二重刃) appears.  Sanjo Munechika lived at the Sanjo area in Kyoto.  His sword style was followed by his sons and grandsons, Sanjo Yoshiie (三条吉家), Gojo Kanenaga (五条兼永), Gojo Kuninaga (五条国永 ).  Gojo is the area in Kyoto.

 

6 photos Sanjo Munechika

三日月宗近         東京国立博物館蔵      “刀剣のみかた” 広井雄一      Mikaduki Munechika Tokyo National Museum  “Token no mikata” by Yuichi Hiroi

Houki -no-Kuni (伯耆の国)

Houki-no-Kuni is today’s Tottori prefecture.  It is known for the place to produce good iron.  The sword name, Doujigiri Yasutsuna  (童子切安綱) by Houki-no-Yasutsuna (伯耆の安綱) is the most famous one.

The characteristics of Yasutsuna’s sword———-It has a graceful shape with small kissaki, narrow hamon (often suguha with ko-choji), coarse nie on hamon area, large wood grain mixed with masame on ji-hada Hamon area often shows Inazuma and kinsuji.  Boshi area is yakizume, kaen with small turn back.

 

6 Sano Hoki Yasutuna

伯耆の安綱 (Hoki no Yasutsuna) 佐野美術館図録 (Sano Musem Catalogue)

Bizen Den (備前伝 )

Bizen is Okayama prefecture today.  It is known for the place to produce good iron.  Since the Heian period until now, Bizen has been famous for the sword-making tradition.  The sword-making group in this area during the Heian period is called the Ko-bizen group.  The most famous swordsmith in Ko-bizen group is Bizen Tomonari (備前友成) and Bizen Masatsune (備前正恒) and Bizen Kanehira (備前包平)

The characteristics of Ko-bizen group———-a graceful narrow body, small kissaki, narrow tempered line with Ko-choji (small irregular) with Inazuma and Kin-sujiJi-hada is a small wood grain pattern.

 

6 Sano Kanehira

Bizen Kanehira (備前包平) Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館図録)

I saw Ko-Bizen Sanetsune (真恒 ) at Mori Sensei’s house.  That was one of the Kantei-to of that day.  I received Douzen*ᴵ.  The book written by Honami Koson was used as our textbook.  Each time I saw a sword at Mori Sensei’s house, I put down the date on the swordsmith’s name in this book where the author explains on him.  It was Nov. 22, 1970.  The deciding point was a narrow body line, small kissaki (that is Ko-bizen Komaru), kamasu*² (no Fukura), and suguhaKamasu is the condition where the fukura is much less than usual.  When I think back, it is amazing we could see a famous sword like this one for our study materials.  Today, I forget things easily, but I can remember each sword I saw in those days.

Kantei-Kai

Kantei-kai is the study meeting.  Usually, several swords were displayed hiding the nakago part.  The attendees guess the name of the sword maker and hand in the answer sheet to the judge.  Below is the grade.

Atari—–If the answer is the right on the exact name, you get atari, that is the best answer.

Douzen*ᴵ—-The second one is dozen.  The subject sword was made by the family and (or) clan of the right Den.  It means almost the right answer.  Dozen is considered very good.  It indicates the student has a good knowledge of the particular group.

Kaido Yoshi—– This means the same line, but not within the family.

Hazure—– Wrong

Jidai Yoshi—-Each Kanntei-kai has different grading systems.  Some have Jidai Yoshi, which means the time or period is correct.

After all the answer is handed in and the answer sheet is returned to the attendee, the judge reveals the right answer and explains about each sword.

*2 Kamasu is the name of a fish.  It has narrow and pointed head.

 

 

 

 

39|Part 2: 5|Heian Period History (平安時代) 794-1192

39 Heian Time line

The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

This chapter is the continued part of Chapter 5.  Please read chapter 5 before reading this section.

Around the 11th century in the Heian period, a novel, Genji Monogatari (Tales of Genji 源氏物語) was written by a female author, Murasaki Shikibu (紫式部).  She was an aristocrat court lady.  Her father was Fujiwara Tametoki (藤原為時), a scholar.   There were several novels and essays written by female authors around this time, but “Tales of Genji” is the worldly known literature as the greatest Japanese literature.  The Tales of Genji is a treasure for Japanese.  Because we love this novel so much, the Ministry of Japan Mint issued a 2000 yen bill *ᴵ with a scene from the novel.  The author herself is at the corner on the back of the bill.  We consider the bill very beautiful, instead of using it, people just keep it, so it does not circulate much.  I have four bills and I am keeping them, I can not bring myself to use it.  It is too nice to use.

The novel is about Hikaru Genji ‘s (光源氏) love history (yes, history) from the time he was about 16 years old until he dies.  There are 10 more chapters after his death, which is called Uji Jyu- jyo.   The title of the chapter he dies is “Vanishes into the cloud (雲隠れ)”, it is very poetic.  The Tales of Genji depict the daily life of the aristocrat society, their customs, lifestyle, and how people think in those days.  The description of the process of the courting is as I described in the chapter “5|Heian Period History 794- 1192”.   The author created Hikaru Genji (光源氏), the main character, as a high-level aristocrat, an illegitimate son of the emperor.  He is supposed to be a most charming, good-looking, smart, and sophisticated aristocrat, and all the women fall for him.  He goes around all kinds of female one after another, beautiful woman, not so good-looking but very smart, very young, older woman, stepmother, wealthy and not so wealthy, etc.   It sounds like the story from the tabloid magazine.  But Murasaki Shikibu depicts hero and heroines thought, emotion, daily life, how man think toward women vice versa with her amazing writing skill.  The author, Murasaki Shikibu created the novel to entertain the female audiences in the court where she was living.  It became very popular then, it is said that even the emperor at the time was asking her how the next story develops.  Genji Monogatari is translated into English.  You can buy the translated book on Amazon.

Once you have the general idea of how the Heian aristocrat life was like, it makes you realize why the Heian sword is shaped the way it is.  And it becomes easier to identify the Heian sword from amongst other swords that are made other times and other provinces.   All sword reflects the society where it was forged.

During the Heian period, the Yamashiro Den is the representative sword style of this time.  In the next section, the subject will be discussed mostly center around the Yamashiro Den, but there are other sword groups.

* 1    The back of 2000 yen bill

39 Part 2 Shikibu with arrow

5 Heian 3 photoes.jpg

Part of the Burke Album, a property of Mary Griggs Burke (Public Domain)          Paintings drew by Tosa Mitsukuni (土佐光国), 17 century.   The scenes are based on the Tales of Genji

 

 

 

5 | Heian Period History (平安時代) 794 – 1192

Heian period (平安時代)   794 – 1192

Heian period(平安時代 ) is from the time when the Emperor Kanmu(桓武天皇) moved the capital city to Heian-Kyo(平安京) at 794, that is Kyoto(京都) today.

5-time-line-diagram-1.jpg The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section.

During the Heian period, the Emperors ruled the country, yet early part of the Heian period, the political power shifted to the Fujiwara family, a very wealthy aristocrat family.  Fujiwara family managed their daughters to marry Emperors.  By doing so, real political power shifted to the family of the Emperor’s wife.  They were called “Sekkan-Ke” (摂関家) which means a guardian or a representative of the Emperor.  During the Heian period, aristocrats’ lifestyle was elegant, refined, and they had a graceful culture.  This is called Fujiwara culture.  Many essays and novels were written by females during this time.  The most famous one is “Tales of Genji (源氏物語)” by Murasaki Shikibu (紫式部).  The Imperial court held ceremonies quite often, followed by the elaborate and extravagant banquets.  Imperial social life became important for getting ahead in their political careers.  Women had participated actively in those occasions.  Many high officials had several huge houses.  Sometimes those houses were inherited by daughters.  The courting procedures were different then.  The aristocrats of the Heian period, they were polygamous society.   In the beginning, a man sends a poem called Waka to a lady whom he set his eyes on, carried by his servant, hoping she will write him a poem back.  Once he was accepted, at first, a lady allows him to visit her for a short time from some distance away.  Little by little, closer and longer stay.  After they are married, a groom visits the wife’s house a few days at a time or longer, unless she is the legal first wife.   A legal first wife lives with her husband in his house.  Children were raised by the wife’s family.  Those days (and next Kamakura period also), the wife’s side of the family (wife’s background) was considered important.  The middle part of the Heian period, the Emperors regained their power over the imperial court, since their mothers were not from the Fujiwara family

5 a Genji photo5 b Genji photo

Those two are scenes from the “Tales of Genji”.   I found those pictures in Kyoto sometime ago.

Origin of Samurai

Upper-class people during the Heian Period, their lifestyle may be graceful and elegant, but the Imperial court did not have strong political power to control the country.  There were many thieves, constant fires and combats everywhere.  It was unsafe and disorderly.  The imperial court, nobleman, and temples needed to protect themselves and maintain the public peace.  Those hired hand (forces) were the origin of Bushi (武士) or Samurai (侍).  Samurai spread their power by uniting among themselves and putting down uprisings, grew bigger and powerful.  Two large Samurai groups were Heishi (or Heike) and Genji.  Little by little they gained power in the Imperial court.  After many power struggles, Heishi (平氏) started to control the Imperial court.  Heishi also managed their daughters to marry the Emperors.  In the latter part of the Heian period, the political power shifted to the Heike family.  They became tyrannical and arrogant.  That behavior created too many enemies against Heike.  The Genji ( 源氏 ) joined with the Fujiwara family started a war against Heike and chased Heike to the place called Dan-no-Ura (壇ノ浦) at 1185 and defeated Heike.  This is called Genpei-Gassen (源平合戦).  The Heike’s loss was the end of the Heian period.

5-map-dan-no-ura-.jpg

The Heian Period is the time, the shape of the swords changed to the curved shape. Until this time, swords were straight.  The study of swords starts from the Heian period.  During this time, the elegant and graceful taste of Fujiwara culture reflected on the swords.  Their elegant lifestyle reflected clearly on the swords.  The group of wordsmiths in the Kyoto area created a certain sword style that was called Yamashiro Den(Yamashiro School).  Their shape of the swords shows a graceful line.  The most well-known sword during this time is Sanjo-Munechika (三条宗近), a national treasure.  Yamashiro Den represents the Heian period swords

 

 

 

2 | Timeline

Let’s look at the diagram below.  At the beginning of each chapter, you will see the time line as below.  It will be a good reference for you to understand which time period I am discussing in the chapter.Original Timeline 0

The top short line, from Jomon period to Nara period, is the time we call Joko-To period in terms of the history of Japanese swords.  The term, “Japanese sword” we use today refers to the swords made after the Heian period (平安 794-1185).  Usually, Joko-To is in the category of the archaeological study.  In the next chapter, we will discuss Joko-To.  The bottom timeline and short descriptions underneath are the timeline we see in the general history books in Japan.  The middle timeline is more specific for the sword study.  My discussion will follow the middle line.

As I mentioned earlier.  The time line diagram will appear in the beginning of each chapter for an easy reference.  The swords I discuss in this website are grouped together based on the shape, style, and the trend of the time.

The difference between Tachi (太刀) ,  Katana (),  Wakizashi (脇差), Tanto (短刀)

Swords made before the Muromachi period (before 1392) are called Tachi (太刀).  Swords made after the Muromachi (室町) period are called Katana (刀) and Wakizashi (脇差).  Katana and Wakizashi were worn together. Tanto is a short dagger.  Tanto was made throughout time.  The difference between Tachi and Katana is how they were worn.  Tachi was suspended from one’s waist belt, the blade side facing down.  Katana and Wakizashi (called Daisho 大小 means large and small) were thrust between the belt and body two together, the blade side up.  Usually Tachi is longer than Katana, wakizashi is shorter than Katana.  Tanto is shortest. When you see the swordsmith’s inscribed name, if the blade comes on the right, that is Tachi.  When you see the swordsmith’s inscribed name, if the blade comes on left, that is Katana and Wakizashi.

Tachi   >  Katana  >  Wakizashi   >  Tanto

22 tachi & Katana

Ko-To (古刀)   Shin-To (新刀)   Shinshin-To (新々刀)   Gendai-To (現代刀)

Ko-To is the swords made between the Heian period (794-1192) and the beginning of the Keicho Era (1597-1615).  Shin-To is the swords made between around Keicho Era (1596-1615) and Tenmei Era (1781).  Shinshin-To is during Bakumatu time (幕末期 1789-1868).  Gendai-To is from the Meiji Restoration (明治1868) through today.  Keep in mind, even though the names of the eras or time changed overnight due to the political or dynastical changes through the history, the changes in the sword style were always gradual.

In general history, the Bakumatsu time is between 1853 and 1868, however, for the sword classification, the time starts from Tenmei (天明 1781) through 1868.

Ko-To (古刀)   Shin-To (新刀)   Shinshin-To (新々刀)   Gendai-To (現代刀)

Ko-To is the swords made from the Heian period(794-1192) to the beginning of the Keicho Era(1597-1615).  Shin-To is the swords made from around Keicho Era (1596-1615) to Tenmei Era(1781- 1789).  Shinshin-To is the swords made during Bakumatu time (幕末期 1789-1868).  Gendai-To is the sword made after the Meiji Restoration (明治1868) until now.  Keep in mind, even though the political history changed its name of the time by a particular emperor or Shogun became the top power in a precise day and year, sword style changed very gradually

*Strictly speaking, Bakumatsu time is from 1853 to 1869.  But for sword classification, Bakumatsu time starts from Tenmei (天明1781 ) Era.