49| Part 2 of — 15 The Revival of Yamato Den (大和伝復活)

This chapter is a continued part of Chapter 15|The Revival of Yamato Den.   Please read chapter 15 before reading this section.

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

At the end of the Kamakura period, in the Yamato area, powerful temples expanded their territories.  See the map below for the location of the Yamato area.  Several big temples, especially those with large territories, had political and military power to control the area at the end of the Kamakura period.  Those big territories were called Shoen (荘園).  They employed a large number of monk soldiers called So-hei.  The demand for swords was increased by the increased number of Sohei (僧兵).  The increased demand revived the Yamato Den.  

Some of the prominent temples had their own swordsmiths within their territory. Todaiji Temple (東大寺) backed Tegai (手掻) sword group.  The Senjuin (千手院 ) sword group lived near Senju-do (千手堂) where Senju Kannon (千手観音) was enshrined.  The name of the sword group, Taima came from the Taima-ji Temple (当麻寺).  Shikkake group (尻懸) and Hosho group (保昌) were also Yamato Den sword groups.  Those five groups are called Yamato Goha (Yamato five groups).

51 Japan map Yamato

General Characteristic of Yamato Den

Yamato Den (大和伝) sword always shows Masame (柾目: straight grain-like pattern) somewhere on Ji-hada, Jigane, or Hamon.   Refer to 15| The Revival of Yamato Den(大和伝復活) for the general characteristic.  Masame is sometimes mixed with Mokume (burl like pattern) or Itame (wood-grain like).  Either way, Yamato Den shows Masame somewhere.  Some swords show Masame on the entire body, and some show less.  Because of Masame, the Hamon tends to show Sunagashi (brush stroke-like pattern) or a double line called Niju-ha.

Taima (or Taema) group (当麻)

  • Shape ———————– Middle Kamakura period shape and Ikubi-kissaki style    
  • Hamon ———–Mainly medium Suguha.  Double HamonSuguha mixed with Choji.  Often shows Inazuma and Kinsuji, especially Inazuma appear under the Yokote line.
  • Boshi ————————- Often Yakizume.  Refer Yakizume on 15| The Revival of Yamato Den(大和伝復活)
  • Ji-hada ——————– Small wood grain pattern and well-kneaded surface.  At the top part of the sword, the wood grain pattern becomes Masame.

Shikkake Group (尻懸 

  • Shape —————- Late Kamakura period shape. Refer 14| Late Kamakura Period: Sword (鎌倉末太刀) 
  • Hamon ————————- Mainly Nie (we say Nie-hon’i).  Medium frayed Suguha, mixed with small irregular and Gunome (half-circle like pattern).  Double-lined, brush stroke-like Pattern may appear.  Small Inazuma and Kinsuji may show.      
  • Boshi ———————— Yakizume, Hakikake (bloom trace like pattern) and Ko-maru (small round)     
  • Ji-hada ———- Small burl mixed with Masame.  The Shikkake group sometimes shows Shikkake-hada, the Ha side shows Masame and the mune side shows burl.

Tegai Group ( 手掻 )

  • Shape —— Early Kamakura shape and thick Kasane (body).  High ShinogiKoshizori.
  • Hamon ————- Narrow tempered line with medium Suguha hotsure (frayed Suguha).   Mainly Nie.   Double tempered line.  Inazuma and Kinsuji appears.                                                                 
  • Boshi ————————————— Yakizume (no turn back), Kaen (flame like).   
  • Ji-Hada ————————————————— Fine burl mixed with Masame. 

51 Kanenaga photo Yamato51 Kanenaga ilustration Yamato

Tegai Kanenaga of Yamato.  From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted).  The illustration (called Oshigata) shows Notare (wave-like Hamon) and Suguha-hotsure (frayed Suguha) with kinsuji.

Below is my Yamato sword.  I obtained this sword at an Annual San Francisco swords show a few years back. 

Characteristics:  Munei (shortened and no signature).  Yamato Den, Tegai-ha (Yamato school Tegai group).  Length is two shaku two sun eight &1/2 bu (27 1/4 inches): very small kissaki and funbari.

My Yamato sword

The entire view of the sword and Kantei-sho (NBTHK Certification).  The ranking is “Tokubetsu Hozon Token”.

My Yamato sword 5

My Yamato sword 4

My Yamato sword.jpg 2

In Hamon, Sunagashi, Niju-ba shows very faintly.   My photo of Boshi is not good, but it looks like Yakizume Jihada is Itame with Masame, almost Nashiji-hada (possibly because of my eyes).  Nie-hon’i.  Please ignore the cloth pattern underneath reflecting on the blade.

 

38|Part 2 of — 5 Heian Period Sword 794-1192 (平安太刀)

This chapter is a continued part of Chapter 5 Heian Period Sword.  Please read Chapter 5 before reading this section.  More sword terminologies will be used in the coming chapters.  They were explained between chapters 1 to 31.  For unfamiliar sword terminologies, please read chapter 1 to 31.

0-timeline - size 24 Heian                   The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this sect         

There are several active schools of swordsmiths during the Heian period.  We use the word “Den” for school.  They are Yamashiro Den (山城伝), Yamato Den (大和伝), Bizen Den (備前伝).  Also, the following areas are other active groups during the Heian period:  Houki-no-Kuni (伯耆の国), and Oo-U (奥羽).  Oo-U is pronounced “Oh,” and “U” as uber.

 Yamashiro Den (山城伝 )

During the Heian period, among Yamashiro Den swords, the most famous sword was “Mikazuki Munechika “ (三日月宗近) by Sanjo Munechika (三条宗近).  Mikazuki means crescent.  It was named Mikazuki Munechika because the crescent-shaped Uchinoke (collection of Nie) pattern appears in Hamon.  It has a graceful shape, narrow-body, Koshi-zori, Funbari, and small Kissaki.  It shows the wood grain pattern surface and Suguha with Nie mixed with small irregular, sometimes Nijyu-ha (double Hamon: 二重刃) appears.  Sanjo Munechika lived in the Sanjo area in Kyoto.  His sword style was carried on by his sons and grandsons: Sanjo Yoshiie (三条吉家), Gojo Kanenaga (五条兼永), and Gojo Kuninaga (五条国永 ).  Gojo is also an area in Kyoto.

38Sanjo Munechika

    三日月宗近    Mikazuki Munechika  東京国立博物館蔵 Tokyo National Museum           Photo from “Showa Dai Mei-to Zufu 昭和大名刀図譜” published by NBTHK

Houki -no-Kuni (伯耆の国)

Houki-no-Kuni is today’s Tottori Prefecture.  It is known as the place to produce good iron.  The sword, “Doujigiri Yasutsuna”  (童子切安綱) made by Houki-no-Yasutsuna (伯耆の安綱) was one of the famous swords during the time.   

The characteristics of Yasutsuna’s sword———-It has a graceful shape with small Kissaki, narrow Hamon (often Suguha with Ko-choji), coarse Nie on Hamon area, large wood grain pattern mixed with Masame on Ji-hada Hamon area often shows Inazuma and Kinsuji.  Boshi area is Yakizume, Kaen (pronounced ka as a calf, en as engineer) with a small turn back. 

6 Sano Hoki Yasutuna

   伯耆の安綱 (Hoki no Yasutsuna) 佐野美術館図録 (Sano Musem Catalogue)                     Permission to use granted 

Bizen Den (備前伝 )

Bizen is today’s Okayama Prefecture.  It is known as the place to produce good iron.  From the Heian period until now, Bizen has been famous for the sword-making tradition.  The sword-making group in this area during the Heian period was called the Ko-bizen group.  The most famous swordsmith in the Ko-bizen group was Bizen Tomonari (備前友成), Bizen Masatsune (備前正恒), and Bizen Kanehira (備前包平).                                                                      

Ko-bizen group’s characteristics ——-  A graceful narrow body, small Kissaki, narrow tempered line with Ko-choji (small irregular) with Inazuma and Kin-sujiJi-hada is a small wood grain pattern.

6 Sano Kanehira

   Bizen Kanehira (備前包平) Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館図録)                          (Permission to use granted)

I saw Ko-Bizen Sanetsune (真恒) at Mori Sensei’s house.  That was one of the Kantei-to of that day.  I received Douzen*ᴵ.  The book written by Hon’ami Koson was used as our textbook.  Each time I saw a sword at Mori Sensei’s house, I noted the date on the swordsmith’s name in the book we used.  It was Nov. 22, 1970.  It had a narrow body line, small kissaki (that was Ko-bizen Komaru), Kamasu*2  (no fukura), and SuguhaKamasu is the condition where the fukura (arc) is much lesser than usual.  Thinking back then, it is amazing we could see famous swords like this as our study materials.

Kantei-Kai

Kantei-kai is a study meeting.  Usually, several swords are displayed, with the Nakago part being covered.  The attendees guess the name of the sword maker and hand in the answer sheet to the judge.  Below are the grades.

Atari —– If the answer is right on the exact name, you get Atari.  That is the best answer.

Dozen  —- The second best is dozen.  It means almost the right answer. The subject sword was made by the family or the clan of the right Den.   Dozen is considered very good.  It indicates the student has a good knowledge of the particular group.

Kaido Yoshi —– This means correct about the line, but not about the family.

Jidai Yoshi——- It means the time or period is right. Each Kantei-kai has different grading systems.  Some may not have “Jidai Yoshi” grade.

Hazure—– the wrong answer. 

After all the answer sheets are handed in, the answer sheets are graded and returned.  The judge reveals the correct answer and explains why.

*1 Dozen:  Almost the same as the correct answer. 

 *2 Kamasu:  The name of a fishIt has a narrow and pointed head.

 

 

 

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