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

 

48|Part 2 of — 14|Late Kamakura Period Sword : Early Soshu Den (鎌倉末刀)

This chapter is a detailed part of chapter 14| Late Kamakura Period Sword.  Please read chapter 14 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Late Kamakura

                         The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section.

14 Ikubi kissaki Damadge

In Chapter 14| Late Kamakura Period: Sword (鎌倉末太刀), the Ikubi-kissakui sword was explained.  The above illustration shows a flaw that was caused when the damaged area was repaired.  To compensate for this flaw, swordsmiths started a new sword style in the late Kamakura period.  They forged swords with a longer Kissaki and stopped the tip of Hi at a lower point than the Yokote line.   This way, if the Yokote line was lowered when it was repaired, the tip of Hi would stay lower than the Yokote-line.

15 Masamune (Sano)   15 Masamune hamon (Sano)

The above photo is a sword by Goro Nyudo Masamune (五郎入道正宗 ).  Please look at the size and shape of the Kissaki.  This is different from 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 KamakuraThey 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) from the Bizen area.  They were the origin of Soshu Den (相州伝)Eventually, Tosaburo Yukimitsu (藤三郎行光) and his famous son,  Masamune (正宗), appearedIn the drawing above, Kinsuji and Inazuma are shown inside the Hamon.  The shinning lines inside the Hamon are Inazuma and Kinsuji.  Inazuma and Kinsuji are a collection of Nie.  Masamune is famous for Inazuma and Kinsuji.  Masamune lived in Kamakura; his Hamon looks like ocean waves when it is viewed sideways.

50 part 2 of 15 吉岡.photo 50 part 2 of 15 吉岡

The above picture is a sword by a swordsmith of Yoshioka Ichimonji group (吉岡一文字).  The Kissaki is also like the one of Masamune’s.  It is longer than the previous Ikubi-kissaki or Ko-gissaki.  This is Chu-gissaki.  The Kissaki like this is one of the crucial points to determine what period the sword was made.  The Hamon has Choji, Gunome, Togariba (pointed-tip), and very tight Nie.

50 part 2 of 15 運生 photo 50 part 2 of 15 運生 

The above photo is a sword by Ukai Unsho (鵜飼雲生) of Bizen Den.  This sword is also 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 an earlier time than the late Kamakura period.  This sword indicates that the sword does not always have the style of that period.  To Kantei*, first, look at the style and shape then give yourself some idea of the period of the time it was made.  But in this case, Kissaki does not indicate the late Kamakura periodThe next thing is to look at the different characteristics of the sword one by one like Hamon, Nie or Nioi, Jihada, etc.,  and determine what period, which Den, which province and then come up with the name. This process is called Kantei.

*Kantei —  to determine the swordsmith’s name by analyzing the  sword characteristic without seeing the Mei (inscribed swordsmith name). Mei may be gone if it was shortened.

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

21| Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代刀)

0-timeline - size 24 Muromach

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

The Muromachi period was a relatively peaceful and prosperous time until a little before “Onin-no-Ran,” which happened at the end of the Muromachi PeriodRefer to Chapter 20|Muromachi Period History (室町時代歴史) .  The Nanboku-cho style long sword became useless; thus, they were shortened.  The shortened blade is called Suriage.  In general, the Muromachi period was the declining time for sword making.

Tachi and Katana

Until the end of the Nanboku-cho period or the beginning of the Muromachi period, Samurai suspended swords from one’s waist, the blade side down.  When a sword was worn this way, the swordsmith inscribed his name to the side that faces outward, which means that the blade comes on your right when you see the inscription.  In this case, the sword is called Tachi.

Yet, around the Muromachi period, a sword was worn between one’s belt, with the blade side up.  The swordsmiths inscribed his name to face outward when it was worn. Therefore, when you see the inscription, the cutting edge comes on your left.  Then it is classified as Katana. 

Around the beginning of the Muromachi period, Samurai started to wear a pair of swords called Dai-sho (大小), meaning large and small.  The long one is Katana, and the short one is Wakizashi.  In general, Tachi is longer than Katana.  Katana is longer than Wakizashi, and Wakizashi is longer than Tanto.  Here is the order of the length. 

                                       Tach   >   Katana   >   Wakizashi   >  Tanto

The difference between Tachi and Katana comes from the way it was worn, not the length.   22 tachi & Katana

O-suriage ( 大磨上: Katana shortened by great length) 

How much the sword should be shortened depends on the sword’s original length and how much the owner wants it shortened.  O-suriage is a kind of sword that is shortened by a great length.  Once a blade is shortened that much, the inscription of the maker’s name is cut off.  When Hon’ami family (本阿弥家, a sword connoisseur family who have appraised Japanese swords for generations since the Muromachi  period till today) appraised such a Suriage sword, they wrote the make of the sword and the swordsmith’s name on the front side of the hilt, and the connoisseur’s name with his Kaou (similar to signature) on the back.  There are several ranks of writings.  Which level it should be done is depending on the quality of the sword and how an owner wants it.  Below are the classes (lower to highest).

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

Sugata (姿: Shape)———— The average length is usually  2 feet and 3 to 4 inches (68~71cm).  The shape of the Muromachi period Katana is somewhat similar to the Heian period Tachi style.  However, Muromachi Katana is not as grand or graceful as the Heian period sword.  The curvature is usually the Koshizori shape.  Koshizori means the highest curvature comes at the lower part of the blade.  The length and shape are suitable for wearing between the body and the belt. The width and the thickness are well balanced with the size of the sword.  Small Kissaki.

22 Muromachi sword shape

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

Hamon (刃文: tempered line) ———————- Nioi base. Tempered area 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 (Tempered line at Kissaki area) ————– Midare-komi, short turn back.  See the above illustration.  Midare is an irregular wave-like pattern.
  • Ji-hada (地肌: An area between the tempered line and Shinogi————Soft look, large wood grain pattern, Ji-utsuri (faint smoke or cloud-like effect) shows.
  • Horimono (彫物Engravings) ———- Bo-hi (single groove), Soe-hi (Hi accompanied with a thin groove), Futasuji- hi (double narrow groove), Sanskrit, Tokko-tsuki ken, Tsume-tsuki Ken, name of God, and dragon.  Carvings became elaborate.

8 Hi, Suken, Bonji                  21 Tsume-tuki-ken tokko with caption

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)

img057 21Masashige     21 Muromachi sword from Sano

Ise Masashige (伊勢正重),                     Bizen Osafune Naomitsu (備前長船尚光)         Juyo Token(重要刀剣)                           Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)    once my family sword

 
 

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

13| Late Kamakura Period: Genko (鎌倉末元寇)

0-timeline - size 24 Late Kamakura

                       The circle represents the time we discuss in this section

GENKO 元寇  (1274 and 1281)

The grandson of Genghis Kahn, Kublai Kahn, attempted to invade Japan twice in 1274 and 1281.  Both times, a strong typhoon hit Japan.  Mongols sent a large number of soldiers with all kinds of supplies on a huge number of ships to Japan.  Those ships had to stay side by side and front and back very close to each other in the limited area of Kyushu‘s shore.   When the strong wind came, ships were swayed, hit each other, and capsized.  Many people fell into the ocean, drowned, and lost supplies in the water. Even though Mongol soldiers landed and fought with the Japanese army, they did not have much choice but to leave Japan because of the typhoon and ships wrecking.   As a result of this strong wind, Japan was saved and looked as if Japan won. 

This is the time the famous Japanese word, “Kamikaze” (divine wind) was created. Actually, Mongols had many  superior weapons than the Japanese.  They had guns, while the Japanese did not.  Their group fighting method was much more superior and effective than the Japanese one-to-one fighting method. 

After the Mongolian invasion, the need for changing the style of the Ikubi Kissaki sword became obvious.  When swords were used in a war, the area most frequently damaged was the Kissaki area.  Japanese soldiers used mostly Ikubi-kissaki swords in this war.  An  Ikubi-kissaki Tachi has a short Kissaki.  When a damaged area of the Kissaki was whetted out, the top part of the Yakiba (tempered area) disappears, and the Hi (a groove) goes up too high into the Boshi area (top triangle-like area).  Short Ikubi-kissaki becomes even shorter, and the Hi goes up too high into the Boshi area.  Aesthetically, it is not appealing.  Functionally, it does not work well.  To compensate for the flaw, a new style began to appear in the latter part of the Kamakura period.

14 Ikubi kissaki Damadge

During the latter part of the Kamakura period, the swordsmiths began to create a new swords style to compensate for this fault.  Also, the pride and confidence had grown among people after driving the Mongols away, which reflected on the swords’ appearance. Generally speaking, the Hamon and the shape of the body became stronger and showier.

Kamakura area 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 the Soshu Den (Soshu is the Kanagawa area now).  Many famous top swordsmiths appeared during this time.

One of the famous swordsmiths is Goro-Nyudo Masamune (五郎入道正宗).  The Masamune’s tomb is in the Honkaku-Ji temple in Kamakura.  That is about a 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 the direct descendants of Masamune.  Although he does not bear the name of Masamune, he has been making wonderful swords in Kamakura.  He also makes superb kitchen knives.  The name of his shop is “Masamune Kogei (正宗工芸),and it is located a short walk from  Kamakura station.  To find his place, ask at the information center in the train station.

54 Yamamura 1 54 Honnkakuji 3         May 2019   Mr. Tsunahiro Yamamura and I                    Honkaku-Ji Temple

5 |Heian Period Swords  (平安時代太刀)

0-timeline - size 24 Heian

                       
                                      The circle indicate the time we discuss in this section

The Heian period is the time when the shape of the swords changed to the present curved shape.  Until then, swords were straight.   It is a commonly accepted idea that the study of swords begins from the Heian period.   Swords before the Heian period are in the category of archaeology.  The main reason for that is the sword-making technique saw a significant improvement after the Heian period.

The elegant, graceful lifestyle and the Heian culture then were reflected upon the swords’ style.  A group of swordsmiths in the Kyoto region created a particular sword style called Yamashiro Den (Yamashiro School).  The shape of their swords shows a graceful line.  The most famous sword of this time is Sanjo-Munechika (三条宗近, Previous chapter), a national treasure today.  The style of Yamashiro Den represents Heian period swords.                                                                                                                                  6a Heian period sword style

General Heian period sword style

Shape———- The length of a sword is approximately 30 inches ± a few inches.  It has an elegant and graceful form with a narrow blade and a small kissaki(小切先).  The curvature is deep.  This style is called Kyo-zori (京反り) or Torii-zori (鳥居ぞり).  With the Kyo-zori style, the deepest part of the curvature comes around the halfway of the blade.  The lower part of the sword flares out, making an A-line shape like the lower part of the Eiffel Tower.  This flaring shape is called funbari (踏ん張り).

 

6b A line bottom

Hamon(刃文)———- Hamon is the line that was created when the sword was tempered.  The Hamon on the Heian period swords is narrow and usually Suguha (直刃).  Suguha means a straight line.  The Hamon is also Nie-base.  Nie(沸) is a tiny particle in the Hamon.   As shown below, if you look closely, you will see fine sand-like particles in the Hamon line.

6 Straigh tempered line(Suguha)

10 Nie & Nioi

Ji-hada (地鉄) ——– Fine wood-grained pattern.  The location of Ji-hada (or Ji-tetsu) is between Hamon and Shinogi (see 3 |Names of Parts)

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), which means pheasant thigh shape.

6 Kijimomo-nakago

Hi and engrave ———- Hi (樋) means an engraved straight line.  Hi and other engraved designs are rare during the Heian period.  These became more common later time.

Kissaki (切先)———– The Heian sword’s kissaki is Ko-gissaki, meaning small kissaki. The Hamon line on the Kissaki is called Boshi.  In this period, the type of Boshi design is called Komaru, meaning small, round, and wrapping the tip.6c Boshi HamonNames of the Heian period swordsmiths

  • 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)