58|Part 2 of —–22| Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代) 1393 —- 1467

Chapter 58 is the detailed part of chapter 22|Muromachi Period Sword.  Please read Chapter 22 before start reading this chapter.

As described in Chapter 22, the big change in the Muromachi Period was from Tachi  (太刀 ) to Katana (刀 ).  Refer to 22|Muromachi Period Sword.   By the end of the Nanboku-Cho period, the length of the sword became shorter.  In the Muromachi time, the length of the sword became shorter to approximately 2 feet and 3 or 4 inches in length, no more long swords.  This is because,  Nanboku-Cho period,  the fighting was done mostly riding horses but after Muromachi time, changed to infantry fighting.

Oei Bizen (応永備前 )

Oei is pronounced “O as Oh”, “ei as A of ABC”.  The Muromachi period was the declining time in sword making.  The early part of the Muromachi period is called Oei Bizen time.  Osafune Morimitsu (長船盛光 ), Osafune Yasumitsu (長船康光 ), Osafune Moromitsu (長船師光) are the main Oei Bizen swordsmiths.  Soshu Hiromasa (相州広正 )、Yamashiro Nobukuni (山城信國)  were also similar to Oei Bizen stylePlease refer to 22 Muromachi Period Sword for style, Hamon, Boshi, Ji-hada.

58 Moromitsu photo 158 Moromitus Oshigata                                  Bishu Osafune Moromitsu (備州長船師光)   from Sano Museum Catalogue

Above sword is 2 feet & 5 inches long, medium Kissaki, Hamon has a small wave-like pattern with continuous Gunome (half circle).   Boshi shows irregular waviness, pointed at the tip a little.  It shows Bo Utsuri (faint shadow shaped like a strip of wood).  Bo Utsuri is a well-known characteristic among all of the Oei Bisen. 

In the Bizen area until this time, there were many groups within Bizen, but in Muromachi time, only Osafune (長船) was the active swordsmith group.  Osafune (長船) is the name of the place,  but in Muromachi time, it started to become the last name.  Two other well-known swordsmiths among Oei Bizen are Morimitsu (盛光 ) and Yasumitsu (康光).  The Hamon by Morimitsu and Yasumitsu shows more works in it than the photo above.  That is described in 22 Muromachi Period Sword under the usual characteristic of Muromachi sword.

Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto

58 Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto

         Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto Shape

Hirazukuri-Ko-Wakizashi Tanto was in fashion during the early Muromachi time. Different swordsmiths in other area made like the one above.  But approximately 80 % of those 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 13 Tanto Middle Kamakura period).

13 Mune drawing

Hirazukuri Kowakizashi Tanto often shows many engravings like Hi with Soe-Hi (one wide and narrow on the side), Tokkotuki-Ken, Tsumetsuki-Ken, Bohji, etc.

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

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

 

50|Part 2 of —– 15|Late Kamakura Period Sword

This chapter is the detailed part of chapter 15| Late Kamakura Period Sword.  Please read chapter 15 before this section.

14 Ikubi kissaki Damadge

As I explained in chapter 14 Late Kamakura Period History (鎌倉後期), Ikubi Kissaki sword shows a flaw (above illustration) when the damaged area was repaired.  To compensate for this flaw, in Late Kamakura Period, swords smiths started to forge swords with longer Kissaki and a tip of Hi ends lower than Yokote-line.  So that in case the Yokote-line was lowered after the repair, Hi does not go higher than Yokote-line

15 Masamune (Sano)15 Masamune hamon (Sano)

Above photo is Goro Nyudo Masamune( 五郎入道正宗 ).  Please look at the size and shape of Kissaki.  This is definitely different than previous Ikubi Kissaki, or Ko-Gissaki.  This is a typical late Kamakura period Kissaki style.  This is O-Suriage (largely shortened).  Under Kamakura Bakufu, many swordsmiths moved to Kamakura.  They were Toroku Sakon Kunituna (藤六左近国綱 ) of Yamashiro Awataguchi  group(山城粟田口),  Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真) and Kunimune (国宗 )of Bizen area.  They are the origin of Soshu-Den (相州伝).  Eventually, Tosaburo Yukimitsu (藤三郎行光)  appeared and his son is the famous Masamune (正宗)On the illustration above, Kinsuji, Inazuma is shown inside the Hamon.  The clear line inside the Hamon is Inazuma and Kinsuji.  Kinsuji, Inazuma are the collection of Nie looks like a line.  Masamune is famous for Inazuma, Kinsuji.  Masamune lived in Kamakura, his Hamon looks like an ocean wave when it is viewed sideways.

50 part 2 of 15 吉岡.photo50 part 2 of 15 吉岡

The above picture is Yoshioka Ichimonji (吉岡一文字).  Kissaki is also like the one of Masamune.  It is longer than previous Ikubi Kissaki or Ko-Gissaki.  This is Chu-Gissaki.  Kissaki like this is the important point to determine what period the sword was made.  Hamon has Choji, Gunome, Togariba (pointed tip), very tight Nie.

 

50 part 2 of 15 運生 photo50 part 2 of 15 運生 

Above photo is Ukai Unsho (鵜飼雲生).  This is also the sword from the late Kamakura period.  But it has Ko-Gissaki.  This sword does not have the late Kamakura period Chu-Gissaki style.  Narrow Hoso-Suguha is somewhat like earlier time than the late Kamakura period.  I chose this sword here to show that the sword does not always have the style of that period.  To Kantei*, first, look at the style and shape and give yourself some idea of the period of the time you think it was made.  But in this case, Kissaki does not indicate late Kamakura periodNext thing to do is to look at the different characteristic of the sword one by one like Hamon, Nie or Nioi, Jihada, etc,  and determine what period, which Den, which province and finally come up with a swordsmith’s name.  This process is called Kantei.

*Kantei – – – – – – to determine the name of the swordsmith by looking at the characteristic of the sword without looking at the Mei (inscription).  Mei is not always there either because it is shortened or some other reasons.

All the photos above are from Sano Museum Catalogue.  Permission to use is granted.

22|Muromachi Period Sword

21 Muromachi period Timeline

The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

Long strife between North and South Dynasty ended.  Even though the government was corrupted at the latter part of the Muromachi Period, at least until the “Onin-no-Ran”, (refer 21 Muromachi period historyMuromachi period was a rather peaceful time.  Nanboku-Cho style long sword became useless and they were shortened.  This is called Suriage.  In general, the Muromachi period was a declining time for sword making.

Tachi and Katana

Until the end of the Nanboku-Cho period, the sword was suspended from the waist, cutting side faces down.  Swordsmiths inscribed their names facing out when it was worn.  That means when you see the inscription, the cutting side comes right.  This is called Tachi.  Around the Muromachi period, swords were worn inside the belt, the cutting side up, and the inscription of the name facing out when it is worn.  That means when you see the inscription, the cutting side comes left.  This is called the Katana.  Samurai usually wore one pair of swords together called Dai-Sho(大小), that means large and small.  A longer one is Katana and the shorter one is Wakizashi.  In general, Tachi is longer and Katana is shorter, Wakizashi is even shorter but longer than Tanto. The difference between Tachi and Katana comes from the way it was worn, not the length.

2b Tachi & Katana difference

O-Suriage ( shortened 磨上げ)

When the shortened (suriage) sword was appraised as a valuable one, Hon’ami family (Connoisseur family continued many generations) judged the make of the sword and wrote sword smith’s name on the front side of the hilt and signed the connoisseur’s name on the back of the hilt.  When the sword was shortened a lot, it is called O-Suriage.

 Shu-Mei (朱明 )———————————————————-name written in Vermilion Kinpun-Mei (金粉名 )———————————————-name lacquered in gold powder  Gin-Zougan (銀象嵌 )————————————————————-name inlaid in silver Kin-Zougan (金象嵌 )—————————————————————name inlaid in gold

Shape (Sugata 姿)———Usually approximately 2 feet 3 or 4 inches (71cm) long. The shape of the Muromachi period Katana is somewhat like Heian period Tachi style.  But Muromachi Katana is not as grand, not as graceful as Heian period sword.  They are Koshizori.  Koshizori shape means the highest curvature comes lower than the center of the blade.  Suitable length and shape for wearing inside the belt. The width and the thickness of the sword are well balanced with the length.  Small Kissaki.

Hirazukuri-Wakizashi———–Hirazukuri means a flat surface with no Shinogi and no Yokote line.  Usually One foot and 1 or 2inches long.  No curvature.  Hirazukuri-Wakizashi appeared During Muromachi time.

 

22 Muromachi sword shape

Hamon (tempered line 刃文) ———————- Nioi base. Tempered are is well balanced to the width of the blade.  Koshi-hiraita-midare mixed with Choji midare.

22Hamon (Koshi Hiraita midare)
from Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

 

Boshi ————– Midare-komi, short turn back. Midare is irregular wave like hamon pattern.  Look at the illustration above.

Jitetsu (地鉄)  area between the tempered line and Shinogi)————Soft look, large wood grain pattern, Jiutsuri (faint smoke or cloud-like effect) shows.

Horimono (carvings 彫物) ———- Bo-hi (single groove), Soe hi (narrow groove), Futasuji hi (double narrow groove), Sanscrit, Tokko- tsuki –ken, Tsume-tuki-Ken, Names of God, Dragon.  Carvings became elaborate.

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji20 Tokko, tume Ken

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sword Smiths during Muromachi Period

Bizen Den ———-Osafune Morimitsu (長船盛光), Yasumitsu (康光), Moromitsu (師光)      Yamashiro Den———————————————–Yamashiro Nobukuni (山城信国)

 

22 Muromachi sword from Sano
From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)Bizen Osafune Naomitu (備前長船尚光)
img057
Ise Masashige (伊勢正重) Family owned.               Classified as Juyo Token(重要刀剣)

 

19|Nanboku-Cho (North and South dynasty) Period Sword

18 Nanbokucho time line

                           The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

During Nanboku-Cho period, Samurai demanded large, elaborate and practical swords. Soshu Den style — elaborate, large, and impressive  —became the most popular style. Nanboku-Cho period was the height of the Soshu Den.  Many sword smiths moved to Kamakura and forged Soshu Den style swords.  Other schools and provinces also made Soshu Den style swords in their own places.

19 Nanboku-cho Sword style

 

Shape (Sugata 姿)—-Originally the length of the swords were 3, 4, 5, feet long, but shortened to approximately two and a half feet in the later time. Shortening a sword greatly is called O-Suriage.  Nanboku-Cho sword has a shallow Kyo-zori (also called Torii-zori) shape (refer 6. Heian period)highest curvature comes around the center of the body.  Wide body, high Shinogi, and narrow Shinogi-Ji (refer 4 Names of parts) and thin body.  High Gyo-no-Mune or Shin-no-Mune, sometimes Maru-Mune (round back).

19 Nanboku-cho 3 kinds Mune

Hi, Horimono (groove and engraving 樋, 彫刻)—– On Shinogi-Ji (refer 4 Names of parts) area, often appears Bo-hi (one groove), double hi, Bonji (Sanscrit), spear, Dragon engraved

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji

Hamon (Tempered line) —– Lower area of the body shows narrow tempered line, higher area of the body shows wider showy tempered line.  Course Nie.  O- Midare (large irregular), Notare-Midare (wavy irregular), Gunome-Midare (repeating pattern of half circular and irregular mix).  Inazuma, Kinsuji (refer 15 Late Kamakura Period sword) action appears

 

19 Hamon Notare 319 Mamon choji gunome

*From Sano Museum Catalogue ( Permission granted).

 

Jitetu or Jihada (between tempered line and Shinogi) (4 Names of parts)——Wood grain pattern (Itame 板目). Tobiyaki (patchy tempered spot in jihada) appears.

Boshi, Kissaki —– O-Kissaki (Stretched long Kissaki). Fukura kareru (no Fukura). Midare-Komi (tempered line continues into Boshi), with kaeri fukashi (look at the illustration above),  sometimes Ichimai (tempered entire Boshi).  Look at the above illustration.

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

From Soshu————————————————————Hiromitu (広光) Akihiro (秋広  ) From Yamashiro ————————————————–Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重)  From Bizen (called So-den Bizen)————-Chogi (長儀 )group, Kanemitu (兼光 ) group From Chikuzen —————————————————————Samoji (左文字 ) 19 Chogi photo from Sano book

14|Late Kamakura Period History (鎌倉後期)

 

14 Timeline                                                     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.  Mongol sent a large number of soldiers with all kinds of supplies on their huge numbers of ships.  Those ships had to dock side by side and front and back very closely at the limited area of the shore of Kyushu.   When the strong wind came, ships were swayed, hit each other and capsized.  Many people were drowned and lost supplies in the water.  Even though they landed and attacked Japan, because of the typhoon and ships wrecking, they left Japan.  As a result, Japan won.   Actually, Mongol 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 Japanese individual fighting method.  This is the time the word “Kamikaze” (God 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 Kissaki Tachi 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).  Functionally, short Ikubi Kissaki becomes even shorter, and Hi goes up too high into a Boshi area became a flaw.  To compensate for this flaw, a new style began to appear in the later part of the Kamakura period

14 Ikubi kissaki Damadge

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 surface of swords.  Generally speaking, Hamon and 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 (presently Kanagawa prefecture area).  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 minutes walk from the Kamakura train station.  When 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 name is Yamamura, he still makes wonderfull swords in Kamakura.  He also makes superb kitchen knives too.  To find his place, ask the information center at the Kamakura train station.

6 |Heian Period Swords

6-Heian-Timeline.jpg

                         The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

This is the time, the shape of the swords changed to curved shape.  Until this time, swords were straight.

The study of swords is the swords made from the Heian period on.  Elegant and graceful taste of Fujiwara culture reflects on the swords made during the Heian period.  Their preference of their lifestyle reflected vividly on the swords.  A group of the sword smiths in Kyoto area was called Yamashiro school.  Their style of the swords had a graceful shape.  During the Heian period, Yamashiro Den (school) represents the Heian period sword style.

6a Heian period sword style

 

General Heian period sword style

Shape———-Lengths of the swords are approximately 30 inches ± a couple of inches.  Elegant and graceful shape.  The width of the blade is narrow.  Small Kissaki(小切先), Kyo-zori (京反り) and deep curvature.  Kyo-zori means the highest curvature comes around the halfway of the blade.  Lower part of the sword has A-line curve (flare out) that is called funbari (踏ん張り).  Deep curvature.

6b A line bottom

Hamon(刃文)———-Hamon means tempered line.  The Heian period tempered area is narrow,  and usually, suguha (直刃), means straight hamon.  Nie (沸) base.  Nie is a tiny granule like a particle on the border of the tempered line.  If you look closely, fine sand-like particles are visible. 6 Straigh tempered line(Suguha)

Jitetu (地鉄) ———- fine wood grained tone. Refer Jitetu, 4 |Names of Parts4

Nakago (中心)———- Nakago is a hilt area.  Sword makers inscribe his names here.  The shape of the Nakago during the Heian period is often Kijimomo shape(雉腿), that means pheasant thigh shape.

6 Kijimomo-nakago

Hi and engrave ———- Hi (樋) means an engraved straight line.  Hi and engraved design is rare in Heian period.  It became more common later time.

Kissaki (切先)———– Ko-kissaki (small kissaki). Boshi (Hamon around kissaki) is usually with komaru (小丸) means small round with a little return.6c Boshi Hamon

Names of the Heian period sword smiths

  • Yamashiro school——–  Sanjo Munechika(三条宗近) Sanjo Yoshiie(三条吉家)    Gojo Kanenaga(五条兼長) Gojo Kuninaga (五条国永)
  • Yamato school ——–Senju-in (千手院)
  • Bizen school ———– Bizen Tomonari(備前友成) Bizen Masatsune(備前正恒) Bizen Kanehira (備前包平)
  • Hoki (伯耆) ———–Yasutsuna (安綱) Sanemori (真守)
  • Buzen (豊前) ——— Cho-en (長円) Sinsoku (神息)
  • Satsuma (薩摩) ——-Naminohira (波平)