52|Part 2 of —–17|Late Kamakura Period Tanto (Early Soshu-Den Tanto)

Chapter 52 is the continued part of chapter 17 Late Kamakura period Tanto (17 | Late Kamakura period Tanto ——- Early Soshu-Den Tanto.  Please read Chapter 17 before chapter 52.

After studying the general common characteristics of the late Kamakura period Tanto style (that is early Soshu-Den Tanto) on chapter 17, what points do the next two swords fit in with the common characteristic of early Soshu-Den Tanto?

53 Masamune Tanto photo53 Masamune Tanto Oshigata

Goro Nyudo Masamune (相州伝五郎入道正宗) from Sano Museum Catalog (permission granted).

Masamune was born in Kamakura as a son of Tosaburo Yukimitu.  Masamune is a very well-known sword smith even among those who are not interested in a sword.  His tombstone is in Honkaku-Ji (本覚寺) temple near Kamakura train station, approximately 6 minutes’ walk from the station.

Characteristic—– Hira zukuri.  Very slightly sakizori (tip area curves slightly outward).  Bo-hi and Tsure-hi.  Boshi is Ko-maru.   Hamon is Notare (wavy).  From the illustration above, Sunagashi, Nijyuu-ba can be seen.  One of the important characteristics to connosseur sword is Nie or Nioi and Ji-hada.  It is not possible to see it from this photo, but Masamune does Nie and usually wood grain surface.  Nie is the Soshu-Den characteristic.  This type of Nakago is called Tanago-bara.   Masamune Tanto is often MuMei (no signature).

53 Kunisuke photo53 Kunisuke illustration

Higo Province Enju Kunisuke  From Sano Museum Catalogu (permission granted)

Enju  group lived at Kikuchi county in Higo Province (Kyushu).  The characteristic of Enju group is very similar to the one of Yamashiro style.  Because  Enju Kunimura who started the Enju group was said to be the son-in-law of Rai Kuniyuki of Yamashiro-Den. 

Characteristic—-Hamon is Hoso Suguha (straight temper line).  Boshi is Ko-maru.  Front engraving is Suken (left photo of the sword) and the engraving on the back is Gomabashi ( right photo of the sword).  Jitetsu or Jihada is tight Itame.  Nie

51| Part 2 of —– 16 The Revival of Yamato Den (大和伝復活)

This chapter is the continued part of chapter 16|The Revival of Yamato Den (大和伝復活 .   Please read chapter 16 before reading this chapter.

51 Japan map Yamato

At the end of the Kamakura period, in the Yamato area, powerful temples expanded their territory.  They had the political and military power to control the area.  Especially a few powerful temples owned a large territory.   They were called Shoen (荘園).  The demand for the Sword increased by warrior monks called Sohei (僧兵).  That started the revival of Yamato school.  Some of the big temples had their own swordsmiths within their territory.  Todaiji-temple (東大寺) backed Tegai (手掻 ) group.  Senjuin (千手院 ) group lived near Senju-Do (千手堂 ) where Senju Kannon (千手観音 ) was enshrined.  The name of the Taima group came from Taima-Ji temple (当麻寺).  Shikkake group (尻懸 ) and Hosho group (保昌 ) as well.  Those five groups are called Yamato Goha  (Yamato five groups).

General Characteristic of Yamato Den

Yamato Den (大和伝) sword always shows Masame (柾目, straight grain like) on somewhere on Ji-Hada,  Jigane or Hamon.   Please refer to the 16 Revival of Yamato Den (大和伝復活) for its general characteristic.  Masame is sometimes mixed with Mokume (burl like) or Itame (wood grain like).  Either way, Yamato sword shows Masame somewhere.  Some sword shows Masame entirely or some shows a lesser amount.  Because of that, Hamon tends to show Sunagashi (brush stroke like) or a double line like Hamon called Nijyu-ha.

Taima or Taema group (当麻 )

  • Shape —– Middle Kamakura period shape and Ikubi Kissaki style
  • Hamon —–Mainly  Medium Suguha.  Double Hamon.  Suguha mixed with Choji. Shows Inazuma, Kinsuji, especially under Yokote line Inazuma appears.
  • Boshi —– Often Yakizume. Refer Yakizume on 16 Revival of Yamato Den (大和伝復活)
  • Ji-Hada Ji-Tetsu —– Small wood grain and well knead surface.  At the top part of the sword, wood grain pattern becomes Masame.

 Shiikkake Group (尻懸  )

  • Shape —– Late Kamakura period shape. Refer 15 Late Kamakura Period Sword
  • Hamon —– Mainly Nie (we say Nie Honni). Medium suguha frayed, mixed with small irregular and Gunome (half circle).  Double lined, brush stroke like pattern.  Small Inazuma, Kinsuji
  • Boshi —– Yakizume, Hakikake (swept trace by broom) and Ko-maru ( small round)
  • Ji-Hada, Ji-Gane —– Small burl mixed with Masame.  Shikkake group sometimes shows Shikkake Hada.  That is,  Ha side shows  Masame and Mune side shows burl.

Tegai Group ( 手掻 )

  • Shape —– Early Kamakura Thick Kasane (body).  High Shinogi.  Koshizori.
  • Hamon —– Narrow tempered line with medium Suguha Hotsure (frayed Suguha).  Mainly Nie.  Double tempered line. Inazuma, Kinsuji shows.
  • Boshi —– Yakizume (no turn back ), Kaen (flame like).
  • Ji-Hada Ji-Gane —– Fine burl mixed with Masame.  


51 Kanenaga photo Yamato51 Kanenaga ilustration Yamato

Tegai Kanenaga of Yamato.  From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

The illustration shows Notare (wave-like Hamon) and Suguha Hotsure (frayed Suguha) and Kinnsuji.

Example of Kantei process how to figure out the maker of the sword using the above photo

  • To determine Jidai (time) by Sugata (shape) —-—-Heian (possible),  Early Kamakura (possible),   Middle Kamakura (possible),  Late Kamakura (possible),  Nanboku – Cho (unlikely),  Muromachi (possibly No),   Sengoku (possibly No),  Shinto ( possibly No),  Shinshin-To (No)
  • To judge from Hamon (actual view shows Masame)——-Yamashiro-Den (possible),  Yamato-Den (very possible),  Bizen-Den (unlikely possible),  Soshu-Den (unlikely possible),  Mino- Den (No)
  • Jihada (actual view shows Nie a lot) —–Yamashiro-Den (possible),  Yamato-Den (very possible),  Shoshu-Den (unlikely possible),  Bizen-Den (unlikely ),  Mino-Den (unlikely)

By looking at the bold letter above, analyzing the above information, you conclude and come up with the name of the swordsmith.  In reality, to Kantei, bring more checkpoints and come up the name.


43| Part 2 of —– 9| Middle Kamakura Period Yamashiro Den (鎌倉中期山城伝)

This is the detailed section of Chapter 9.   Please read chapter 9 one more time before reading this chapter.

During Middle Kamakura Period, there are three main groups among Yamashiro Den.  They are Ayano-Koji (綾小路) group, Awataguchi (粟田口) group, and Rai (来) group.

Ayano-Koji group (綾小路 )

Names of Swordsmiths among Ayano-Koji:  Ayano-Koji Sadatoshi (綾小路定利) Sadanori (定則) .

When we refer to a certain group, we say, “xxx haxxx ippa   “, or  “xxx ichimon “.  We use those three words interchangeably.  For example, we say Ayano-Koji ichimon, indicate Ayano-Koji group.

Sugata (shape or figure) ———- In general, gentle or graceful Kyo-zori shape.  The difference between the width of the  Yokote line and the width of Machi is not much.  The sword is slender yet thick.  Small Kissaki                                   

Hi and Engraving ———- Bohi (one groove) or Futasuji-hi (double groove)        

Hamon ———- Nie base with Ko-choji (small clove shape) and Ko-midare (small irregular).   Small Inazuma and Kinzuji.   Double Ko-choji appears.                      

Boshi (tip area) ———- Ko-maru (small round), Yakizume (refer to the illustration below), and Kaen (flame like shape)  

Jitetsu ———- Small wood grain with a little Masame (straight grain)  Ji-nie       

Nakago (tang) ———- Long, slight fat feeling

Awataguchi group (粟田口)

Names of Swordsmiths among Awataguchi group:  Awataguchi Kunitomo (粟田口国友 ),  Hisakuni (久国),  Kuniyasu (国安),  Kuniyasu (国安), Kunikiyo (国清)

Many swordsmiths of Awataguchi group (or Awataguchi Ichimon) received the honor as the Goban Kaji from Gotoba Joko (Emperor Gotoba 後鳥羽上皇 ).  In general, their typical characteristic is as follows.

Sugata (Shape or figure) ———- Elegant shape  Torii-zori (or Kyo-zori)

Hi and Engraving ———- The tip of Hi are all the way up and fill in the Ko-shinogi The end of the Hi can be Maru-dome (the end is round),  Kakudome  (the end is square) or kakinagashi.

9 «part 2» 大小丸,焼詰,丸角止, 掻流     Maru-dome (rounded end)             Kaku-dome (square)                Kakinagashi

Hamon ———- The slightly wider tempered line at the bottom then the narrow tempered line at the top.  Nie base (this is called Nie honni).    Straight tempered line, straight-tempered line mixed with Ko-Choji (small clove)  or Ko-Choji.  Sometimes wide straight line mixed with Choji.  Awataguchi Nie appearance.  Awataguchi Nie means fine, deep and sharp shiny Nie around tempered line area.   Fine Inazuma (lightning) and Kinsuji (golden streak) appearance.

Boshi (tip area) ———- Ko-maru (small round)  or O-maru (large round) both return is sharrow.  Yakizume, Nie Kuzure, and Kaen (flame).Yubashiri



Yakizume       O-maru       Ko-maru     Yakikuzure

Jitetsu ———- Fine Ko-Mokume(wood swirls) with Ji-nie.  Yubashiri, Chikei appears.       

Nakago ———- Often two letter inscription

Rai group ()

Names of swordsmiths among Rai group:  Rai Kuniyuki (来国行),  Rai Kunitoshi (来国俊) or Niji Kunitoshi (二字国俊),  Ryokai (了戒 )

Rai Kunitoshi is said to be Rai Kuniyuki’s son.  Ryokai is said to be Rai Kunitoshi ‘s son

A general characteristic of Rai Kuniyuki and Kunitoshi is as follows.  However, each sword has its own different characteristic.

Sugata (shape or figure) ———- Gracefull with dignity.  Thick body.  Rai made Ikubi Kissaki.                                                                                                                 

Hi and Engravings ———- Wide and shallow Hi.                                             

Hamon ———- Nie base.  Suguha (straight), wide suguha, ko-midare (small irregular), and choji  (clove).  Sometimes large choji at the lower part and narrow suguha at the top.  Inazuma and Kinsuji appear around yokote area.

Boshi ———-  Komaru, Yakizume (refer to the illustration above)

Jitetsu ———- Finely forged Itame (small wood grain) sometimes mixed with masame (parallel grain).  Fine Nie.  Rai group sporadically shows Yowai Tetsu which means weak surface.  This may be the core iron.

Rai Kuniyuki (来国行)Juyo Bijutsuhin   (重要美術品)Once family owned Photo taken by my father with his writing on the left


9 «part 2» Rai Kuniyuki photo.jpg

Rai Kuniyuki (来国行)Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館)  permission granted



20 | Nanboku-Cho Tanto(南北朝短刀)

18 Nanbokucho time line

The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section


During the Nanboku-Cho Period, the type of Tanto called Hirazukuri-Kowakizashi-Sunnobi-Tanto was made.  Hirazukuri means a flat sword without the Yokote line and without Shinogi.  Ko-Wakizashi means a shorter sword.  Sun-Nobi Tanto means longer than standardThis is also called Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto.  It is called this way because the majority of this type Tanto was forged around Enbun, Jyoji Imperial era.  In Japan, each time the Emperor changed, we changed the names of the era.  Enbun was from 1356 to 1361, Jyoji was from 1362 to 1368


20 Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto

Shape (Sugata 姿) ——-It is common idea that the length of Tanto should be 1 shaku or less.  Shaku is an old Japanese measurement unit, which is very close to 1 foot.  8.5 sun (old Japanese measurement unit) is approximately 10 inches. This is the standard length Tanto called Jo-Sun Tanto.  Anything longer than Jo-Sun Tanto is called Sun-Nobi Tanto.  Anything shorter than Jo-Sun is called Sun-Zumari Tanto.  Most of the Nanboku-Cho Tanto is approximately 1 foot 2 inches long, therefore they are called Hirazukuri-Kowakizashi-Sun-Nobi Tanto Sakizori (curved outward at the top.  See the illustration above).  Wide width and thin body.  Fukura Kareru (No Fukura). Shin-no-Mune.  See the illustration below.


20 Fukura           20 Shin-no-Mune

Hi, Horimono (Goove and engraving , 彫刻) —– Groove on Mune side.  Bonji (Sanscrit, described in 17 Bonji Suken), Koshi-bi (Short groove) and Tokko- Tsuki Ken, or Tumetuki Ken (see below) appears.  Curving of Ken (dagger) is done wide and deep in the upper part, the lower part was curved shallow and narrower.  This is called Soshu-Bori (Soshu carving).

20 Tokko, tume Ken

Hamon (Tempered line) —– Narrow tempered area at the lower part, gradually grows wider as it goes up toward the top then similar look wide Hamon goes into the Boshi area.  Hamon in Kissaki area is Kaeri Fukashi (turn back deep) as the illustration below.  Coarse Nie. O-Midare (large irregular pattern).


20 Hitatsura
From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

Jihada —– Loose wood grain pattern called Itame.  Yubashiri (discussed in  17 Yubashiri, Chikei.jpg), Tobiyaki (Irregular patches of tempered metal) appears.  Crowded Tobiyaki is called Hitatsura (illustration above).

Nakago (Tang) —- Short Tanago-bara.  That means the belly of Japanese bitterling(fish) shape.

20 Tanago Bara

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

Soshu Den ———————————————————-Hiromitu( 広光) Akihiro (秋広) Yamashiro Den ————————————————–Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重)   Bizen Den ——————————————————— Kanemitu (兼光) Chogi (長義 )

20 Hiromitu (Sano Museum)