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

The Muromachi period was a rather peaceful and prosperous time until a little before “Onin-no Ran”, which was the later part of the Muromachi Period, (Refer Chapter 21 Muromachi Period History).  Nanboku-Cho style long sword became useless, as a result, they were shortened.  The shortened sword 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 or beginning of the Muromachi period, the sword was suspended from one’s waist, the blade side down.  When a sword was worn this way, swordsmith’s inscription faces outsite.  That means when you see the inscription, the cutting side comes right.  This is called Tachi.  Yet, around

the Muromachi period, swords were worn between one’s belt, the blade up.   The inscription of the swordsmiths faces outside when it is worn.  That means when you see the inscription, the cutting edge comes your left.  This is called the Katana.  Around the beginning of the Muromachi period samurai started to wear one pair of swords together called Dai-Sho(大小), which means large and small.  A longer one is called Katana and the shorter one is called Wakizashi.  In general, Tachi is longer and Katana is shorter, Wakizashi is even shorter but longer than Tanto.  Here is the order of the length.

                                            TachiKatana  >  Wakizashi  >  Tanto        

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

22 tachi & Katana

 

O-Suriage ( shortened a large length, 大磨上げ)

How long a sword should be shortened is depends on the original length of the sword and how long an owner want it shortened.  O-suriage is when a sword is shortened a great length.  Once a sword is shortened, the inscription is cut off.  When a suriage sword was appraised by the Hon’ami family (本阿弥家:Connoisseur family continued since mid Edo period till almost recent day), if he  appraised it as a valuable one,  he writes the make of the sword and sword smith’s name on the front side of the hilt and writes the connoisseur’s name and his Kaou (similar to signature) on the back of the hilt.  There are several ranks.  Which rank it should be done is depending on the quality of the sword and how an owner wants it.  Below are the ranks (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)———Usually approximately 2 feet and 3, 4 inches (71cm) long. The shape of the Muromachi period Katana is somewhat like the 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.

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 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 ————– 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, Jiutsuri (faint smoke or cloud-like effect) shows.

Horimono (carvings 彫物) ———- Bo-hi (single groove), Soe hi ( accompanied thin groove), Futasuji hi (double narrow groove), Sanscrit, Tokko- Tsuki –ken, Tsume-Tsuki-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 Naomitsu (備前長船尚光)
img057
Ise Masashige (伊勢正重) Once Family-owned   Classified as Juyo Token(重要刀剣)

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

18 Nanbokucho time line

                           The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

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

19 Nanboku-cho Sword style

Sugata ( 姿: Shape)———-The original length of a 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 sword is called O-Suriage.

The Nanboku-Cho style sword has a shallow Kyo-zori (also called Torii-zori).  Refer Chapter 6 Heian period.  The highest curvature comes around the middle of the body.  A wide body, high Shinogi, narrow Shinogi-Ji.  Refer Chapter 4 Names of parts.  The thin body called Kasane is a 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)—– On Shinogi-Ji area (refer to Chapter 4 Names of parts)often a single hi (Bo-hi), double hi, Suken (dagger), Bonji (Sanscrit), Dragon are engraved.

 

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji

Hamon (刃: Tempered line) —- The lower part of the body shows a narrow tempered line, with the higher part shows a wider showy tempered line.  Course Nie.   O-midare (large irregular hamon), Notare-midare (wavy irregular hamon), Gunome-midare (a mix of repeated half circular and irregular hamon).  Inazuma, Kinsuji (refer to Chapter 15 Late Kamakura Period sword) also sometimes appears

19 Hamon Notare 319 Mamon choji gunome19 Hitatsura Hamon Hiromitsu

*From Sano Museum Catalogue ( Permission granted).

Jihada (地肌: Area between shinogi and tempered line)  Refer to Chapter 4 Names of parts——Wood grain pattern (Itame 板目). Sometimes Tobiyaki, a patchy tempered spot(s) appears on jihada.

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 line), 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 trace of an engraving of Suken on the nakago indicates that this area was once a part of the main body.
  • Long kissak

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

14|Late Kamakura Period History(鎌倉後期)

14 Late Kamakura Period 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.  Mongols sent to Japan a large number of soldiers with all kinds of supplies on their huge numbers of ships.  Those ships had to stay at a shore side by side and front and back very closely in the limited area of the shore of Kyushu.   When the strong wind came, ships were swayed, hit each other and capsized.  Many people fell, drowned and lost supplies in the water.  Even though Mongol soldiers landed and fought with the Japanese army, because of the typhoon and ships wrecking, they did not have much choice but to leave Japan.  As a result, Japan won.   Actually, Mongols 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 the Japanese individual fighting method.  This is the time the famous Japanese expression, “Kamikaze” (divine 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).  Short Ikubi Kissaki becomes even shorter, and Hi goes up too high into a Boshi area.  Aesthetically, it is not an appealing look, functionally does not work.  To compensate for this 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 style of swords to compensate for this fault.  Also, people’s enthusiasm that was raised by driving back Mongolian reflected on the appearance of swords.  Generally speaking, Hamon and the 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 (Soshu is the Kanagawa area now).  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 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 direct descendants of Masamune.  His last name is Yamamura, he still makes wonderful swords in Kamakura.  He also makes superb kitchen knives too.  The name of his shop is called “Masamune Kogei”, a short walk from the Kamakura train station.  To find his place, ask at the information center at the train station.

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

6 |Heian Period Swords

 

6 Heian Time line

                        The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

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 begins from the Heian period.  The elegant and graceful taste of Fujiwara culture reflects on the swords that were made during the Heian period.  The preference of their lifestyle reflected vividly on the swords.  One of the active groups of swordsmiths in the Kyoto area was called Yamashiro school or Yamashiro DenDen means school.  Their style 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.  The lower part of the sword has an A-line curve (flare out) that is called funbari (踏ん張り).  It flares out like the shape of the lower part of the Eiffel tower.

 

 

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 hamonNie (沸) base.  Nie is a tiny granule like a particle on the border of the tempered line.  Refer below.  If you look closely, fine sand-like particles are visible. 6 Straigh tempered line(Suguha)

10 Nie & Nioi

Jitetsu (地鉄) ——–fine wood-grained tone.  The location of Jitetsu is in 4 |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 engraved design is rare in the 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 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)