64| Part 2 of –30 Shin Shin-To : Bakumatsu sword (新々刀)

Chapter 64 is a detailed chapter of 30|Bakumatsu Period, Shin Shin-to.  Please read chapter 30 before reading this chapter.

0-timeline - size 24 Bakumatsu

                  The circle Above indicates the time we discuss in this chapter.

Swords made between the Tennmei era (天明 1781) and the end of Keio era (慶應) are called Shin Shin-to.  Please see the timeline above.  It was the time Japan was moving toward the Meiji Restoration.  It was the Bakumatsu time.  During the time, sword making was active again.  Below are the well-known swordsmiths in the main areas.

Musashi no Kuni  (武蔵の国: Tokyo today)

Suishinshi Masahide (水心子正秀) ———- When Suishinshi Masahide made Yamashiro Den style swords, the shape was similar to one of the Ko-to time swords; Funbari, elegant shape, Chu-suguha (medium straight), Komaru-boshi, fine wood grain.  When he forged the Bizen style, he made a Koshizori shape, just like a Ko-to by Bizen Osafune.  Nioi with Ko-choji, and Katai-ha (Refer to  30| Bakumatsu Period Sword 新々刀).  I wrote  in my sword textbook that I saw Suishinshi in November 1970 and October 1971.

Taikei Naotane  (大慶直胤) ————-Although Taikei Naotane was within the Suishinshi group, he was among the top swordsmiths.  He had an amazing ability to forge all kinds of different styles of swords wonderfully.  When he made a Bizen Den style, it looked like Nagamitsu from the Ko-to time with Nioi.  Also, he did Sakasa-choji as Katayama Ichimonji had done.  Katai-ha appearsMy note on the textbook says that I saw Naotane in August 1971.

Minamoto no Kiyomaro (源清麿) —————— Kiyomaro desired to join the Meiji Restoration movement as a Samurai; still, his guardian realized Kiyomaro’s ability as a great swordsmith and helped him become one.  It is said that because Kiyomaro had a drinking problem, he was not so eager to forge swords.  At age 42, he committed SeppukuKiyomaro, who lived in Yotsuya  (a part of Shinjuku, Tokyo, today), was called Yotsuya Masamune because he was as good as Masamune.  His swords were wide width, shallow Sori, stretched Kissaki, and Fukurakareru Boshi has Komaru-boshi.  Fine wood grain Ji-gane.

Settsu no Kuni    摂津の国   (Osaka today )

Gassan Sadakazu  (月山貞一) ——- Gassan was good at Soshu Den style and Bizen Den style, but he could make any kinds of style.  He was as genius as Taikei Naotane.  One needs to pay attention to notice a sword made by Gassan from a real Ko-to.  He also had an amazing ability in carving.  His hirazukuri-kowakizashi forged in Soshu Den style looks just like a Masamune or a Yukimitsu.  He forged the Yamashiro Den style with Takenoko-zori with Hoso-suguha or Chu-suguha in Nie.  He also forged the Yamato Den style with Masame-hada.

 

 

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. 

                                       Tachi   >   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