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



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








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)