61|Part 2 of — 27 Shin-to Main 7 Regions (part A)

This chapter is a continued part of chapter 27| Shinto Main 7 Regions  (Part A).  Please read chapter 27 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Shin-to                        The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

Chaptern 27, Shinto Sword — Main Seven Regions (Part A :主要7刀匠地) and Chapter 28, Shin-to Main Seven Regions (part B 主要7刀匠地)described an overview of the seven main regions.  This chapter and the next chapter show the representative swords from these regions.  They are Yamashiro (山城 in Kyoto), Settsu (摂津today’s Osaka), Musashi (武蔵  Edo), Satsuma (薩摩  Kyushu).  But Echizen (越前) and Kaga (加賀), Hizen (肥前) are skipped.29 Map with number 7

With the Ko-to swords, the shape, Hamon condition, Kissaki size, the length, and the shape of the Nakago, etc., indicate when the sword was forged.  In Ko-to time, the Bizen swordsmiths forged the Bizen Den swords; the Yamashiro swordsmiths forged the Yamashiro Den swords, the Mino swordsmiths forged the Mino Den sword.  But with the Shin-to-time swords, that is not the case.  The Den and the location of a swordsmith often do not match.  For Shin-to sword, we study the swordsmiths and their main seven regions and their characteristic.

Regarding the swords made in the Ko-to time, if a sword has a wide Hamon line with Nie, usually, its Ji-hada shows large wood grain or large burl grain.  Also, when you see a narrow Hamon line, it usually has a fine Ji-hada. 

However, with Shin-to swords, if a sword has a wide Hamon with Nie, it often has small wood grain or small burl grain pattern on Ji-hada.  And if it has a narrow Hamon line, it may have a large wood grain pattern Ji-hada.  That is the Shin-to characteristic.   

Here is an exception; some of the early Soshu Den swords during the late Kamakura period show wide Hamon with Nie with small burls on Ji-hada.  Because of that, whether it is Ko-to or Shin-to is confusing.  Even so, other features like Ji-hada or other parts should indicate the Shin-to or Ko-to.

  1. Yamashiro (山城: Kyoto)

64-kunihiro-sword.jpg 64 Kunihiro IllustrationHorikawa Kunihiro   (堀川国広)   From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

Horikawa Kunihiro (堀川国広)

Horikawa Kunihiro was considered a great master swordsmith among Shin-to swordsmiths.  He forged his swords in many styles with different characteristics.  Hamon types are O-notare, O-gunome, Togari-ba (pointed hamon), Chu-suguha with Hotsure (frayed look), Hiro-suguha with Sunagashi effect, Inazuma, or Kinsuji appears.  Kunihiro liked to make his sword shape look like O-suriage (shortened Nanboku-Cho style long sword).  Kunihiro‘s blade gives you a massive feeling.  Kunihiro‘s swords often have beautiful carvings on them; designs include a dragon, Sanskrit letters, etc.  Since his swords are in many different styles, there is no general characteristic on his swords other than that Hamon is mainly Nie.  His Ji-hada is finely forged.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

img067.jpg  img068.jpg           Iga-no-Kami Kinnmichi (伊賀守金道)           Dewa Daijyo Kunimichi (出羽大掾国路)        Both Juyo Token (重要刀剣), once my family owned, photos were taken by my father.

Iga-no-Kami Kinmichi ( 伊賀守金道)

Kinmichi family is called the Mishina group.  Refer 27|Shinto Sword — Main Seven Regions (Part A 主要7刀匠地)Iga-no-Kami Kinmichi received the Japanese Imperial chrysanthemum crest. 

The characteristic of Kinmichi ——- wide sword, shallow curvature, extended Kissaki, Sakizori (curvature at 1/3 top),  wide tempered line, Kyo-yakidashi (refer 27|Shinto Sword — Main Seven Regions (Part A 主要7刀匠地), Hiro-suguha (wide straight Hamon), O-notare (large wavy), Yahazu-midare, Hako-midare (refer 24| Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代短刀)Boshi is Mishina-boshi, refer 27|Shinto Sword — Main Seven Regions (Part A 主要7刀匠地).  Fine wood burl, Masame appears on Shinog-ji area.

Dewa Daijo Kunimichi (出羽大掾国路)

Dewa Daijo Kunimichi was the best student of Horikawa Kunihiro.  The right photo above.  Like Kunihiro, the shape of the sword looks like a shortened Nanboku-cho sword.  Shallow curvature, wide-body, somewhat stretched Kissaki, and Fukura-kareru (less arch in fukura).  Wide tempered line, large Gunome, Nie with Sunagashi, or Inazuma shows.  Double Gunome (two Gunome side by side) appears.  Fine Ji-hada.

  1. Settu (摂津) Osaka (大阪 )

Settu (Osaka) has many well-known swordsmiths.  They are Kawachi-no-Kami Kunisuke (河内守国助), Tsuda Echizen-no-Kami Sukehiro (津田越前守助広), Inoue Shinkai (井上真改), Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (一竿子忠綱), etc.                                                                                                     

The Settsu (Osaka) sword’s main characteristic ———— The surface is beautiful and fine, almost like a solid look with no pattern or no designs surface.  The below two photos are of the Settsu sword.

                 62 Ikkanshi photo  62 Ikkanshi illustration                  Ikkanshi Tadatsuna from Sano Museum Catalogue.  Permission granted to use.

Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (一竿子忠綱)

Ikkanshi Tadatsuna was famous for his carvings.  His father was also a well-known swordsmith, Omi-no-Kami Tadatsuna (近江守忠綱).  Ikkanshi Tadatsu was the second generation of Omi-no-kami Tadatsuna.  Therefore he was also known as Awataguchi Omi-no-Kami Fujiwara Tadatsuna (粟田口近江守藤原忠綱), as you see in the Nakago above photo.                                               

The characteristics of Ikkanshi Tadatsuna —————- longer kissaki and Sakizori (curved at a higher part of the body), wide tempered line with Nie.  Osaka Yakidashi (transition between the Suguha above Machi and Midare is smooth.  Refer to 27|Shinto Sword — Main Seven Regions (Part A 主要7刀匠地) for Osaka Yakidashi.  O-notare with Gunome, Komaru-boshi with a turn back, and very fine Ji-hada with almost no pattern on the surface.

61 Inoue Shinkai 1

 Inoue Shinkai (井上真改) from “Nippon-to Art Swords of Japan” The Walter A. Compton Collection

Inoue Shinkai (井上真改)

Inoue shinkai was the second generation of Izumi-no-Kami Kunisada (和泉守国定), who was a student of Kunihiro.                                                                                                                         

The characteristic of Inoue Shinkai’s swords ——-Osaka Yakidashi, the tempered line gradually becomes wider toward the top.  O-Notare and deep Nie.  Very fine Ji-hada with almost no design on the surface.

40|Part 2 of — 7 Overview of Kamakura Period Sword (鎌倉太刀概要)

This is the second part of Chapter 7| Overview of the Kamakura Period Swords (1192-1333).  Please read chapter 7 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Kamakura Period

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

The Kamakura period was the golden age of sword making.  Approximately half of the well-known swords at present were made during the Kamakura period.  It is probably because the war between the Genji and the Heishi demanded many swords, and the swordsmiths improved their swords through the war experience.  Also, Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽) invited many skilled swordsmiths to his palace and treated them highly, and encouraged them to create excellent swords by giving them high ranks.  During the Kamakura period, the techniques of sword making improved significantly.

Middle Kamakura Period —- Yamashiro Den (山城伝)

The Middle Kamakura period was the height of the Yamashiro Den.  Among Yamashiro Den, there were three major groups (or families).  They are Ayanokoji group (綾小路), Awataguchi group (粟田口), and Rai group (来).

Among the Awataguchi group, six swordsmiths received the honor as the “Goban-kaji ” from the Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽上皇).  Awataguchi is the name of an area in Kyoto. 

Ayanokoji ( 綾小路 ) group lived in the Ayanokoji area in KyotoMy sword textbook had a note that I saw Ayanokoji Sadatoshi (綾小路定利 ) on March 22nd, 1972.  The note was not much but it said O-suriage, Funbari, narrowbody, and Ji-nie.

Rai group started from Rai Kuniyuki (来国行 ).  Rai Kuniyuki and Ayanokoji Sadatoshi are said to have had a close friendship.  Rai Kuniyuki created many well-known swords.  His famous Fudo Kuniyuki (不動国行) was owned by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru (足利義輝 ), then changed hand to Matsunaga Danjo (松永弾正), then to Oda Nobunaga ( 織田信長 ) to Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀 ), then to Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉).  They were all historically famous powerful Daimyo.  It is said that Toyotomi Hideyoshi held this sword for the memorial service of Oda Nobunaga.  Rai Kuniyuki’s son was Niji Kunitoshi.  He also created well-known swords.

Middle Kamakura Period —– Bizen Den (備前伝)

The Bizen Den during the Heian period was called Ko-bizen.  They are similar to the one in the Yamashiro Den style.  The true height of the Bizen Den was in the Middle Kamakura period.  The Bizen area (today’s Okayama prefecture) had many ideal aspects for sword making: the good climate, the good production of iron, the abundant wood for fuel, and the convenient location. Naturally, many swordsmiths moved there, and it became a major place to produce swords.

The Bizen region produced many swords whose quality level was higher than other sword groups and more famous swordsmiths.  Fukuoka Ichimonji Norimune (則宗) and his son Sukemune (助宗 ) received the honor of the Goban-kaji from the Emperor Gotoba.

 Among the Osafune group (長船), famous Mitsutada (光忠) and Nagamitsu (長光) appeared.  My father owned four Mitsutada.  Three Tachis and one Tanto.  He was so proud of owning four Mitsutada that he asked his tailor to monogram Mitsutada on the pocket inside of his suit jacket.

From Hatakeda group (畠田), Hatakeda Moriie (畠田守家), and from Ugai (鵜飼) group, Unsho (雲生 ) and Unji (雲次) appeared.  The famous Kunimune (国宗) also appeared around this time.   Because there were many swordsmiths in the Bizen Den, a large number of Bizen swords exist today.  Each swordsmith showed his own characteristics on their swords.  Therefore, kantei on Bizen  swords can be complex.  This is the time Ikubi Kissaki appeared.

The classification of the sword ranking from the top

  1. Kokuho (国宝: National Treasure)
  2. Jyuyo Bunkazai (重要文化財: Important Cultural Property)
  3. Jyuyo Bijutu Hin (重要美術品: Important Artwork)
  4. Juyo Token (重要刀剣: Important Sword)        more to follow

Below are my father’s four Bizen Osafune Mitsutada.  He took those pictures many years ago at home.  You can see he was not much of a photographer.  He wrote the name of the swordsmith, the period the sword was made, the name(s) of Daimyo who owned it in the past, and the classification on a rectangular white paper.

img027               img028                Osafune Mitsutada (Juyo Bukazai)                 Osafune Mitsutada (Juyo Bunakzai)

img029            img030 Osafune Mitsutada (Juyo Token)                 Osafune Mitsutada(Juyo Bunkazai)

Late Kamakura Period —– Soshu Den (相州伝 )

Yamashiro Den started to decline in the latter part of the Kamakura Period.  At this time, many swordsmiths moved to the Kamakura area under the new power of Kamakura Bakufu (鎌倉幕府) by the Hojo clan.  The new group, Soshu Den (相州伝 ), started to emerge.  Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真) and Kunimune (国宗) from Bizen moved to KamakuraToroku Sakon Kunitsuna (藤六左近国綱) from Awataguchi group of Yamashiro Den moved to KamakuraThose three are the ones who originated the Soshu Den in Kamakura. Kunitsunas son is Tosaburo Yukimitsu, and then his son is the famous Masamune (正宗)Outside of Kamakura area, Yamashiro Rai Kunitsugu (来国次), Go-no-Yoshihiro (郷義弘) from Ettshu (越中) province, Samoji  (左文字) from Chikuzen province (筑前) were the active swordsmiths.

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