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 red 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 a 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.

67 Naotane photo

Taikei Naotane (大慶直胤)   Photo is from “Token no Mikata (The way to look at swords)” written by Koichi Hiroi,  Published 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 with wide width, shallow Sori, stretched Kissaki, and Fukurakareru Boshi has Komaru-boshi.  Fine wood grain Ji-gane.

67 Kiyomaro photo

Minamoto no Kiyomaro (源清麿)   Photo is from “Token no Mikata ( The way to look at swords)”, written by Koichi Hiroi, published 1971

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.  When you see his Ko-to style swords, it is hard to distinguish his sword from a real Ko-to sword because of his superb ability.   One needs to be careful not to mistake 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 Yamashiro Den style with Takenoko-zori with Hoso-suguha or Chu-suguha in Nie.  He also forged Yamato Den style with Masame-hada.

67 Gassan photo

Gassan Sadakazu (月山貞一)  Photo is from “Token no Mikata (How to look at swords)” written by Koichi Hiroi, Published in 1971

 

60|Part 2 of – – 26 Overview of Shin-To (新刀概要)

Chapter 60 is a Continued part of Chapter 26 |Over view of Shinto (新刀概要).   Please read Chapter 26 before reading this section.

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

The difficulty of Shin-to Kantei

Regarding the swords during Ko-to time, one can tell the approximate period when they were made by looking at the style and the shape.  Several conditions indicate what period and which Gokaden (五ヶ伝) created the particular sword by looking at several points, like how the Hamon showed or how the Ji-gane appeared.  But with the swords in the Shin-to time, that does not work. 

Even though there are some differences among the Shin-to swords made in the early Edo period, which is around the Keicho (慶長: 1596 ~) era, the middle Edo period that is around the Kanbun (寛文: 1661 ~) era, and the late Edo period that is Genroku era (元禄: 1688 ~), the differences are not much. 

The same is true about the Gokaden (五ヶ伝) during the Shin-to time.  In the Ko-to time, Bizen swordsmiths forged swords with Bizen characteristics.  The blades Yamato swordsmiths made usually showed the Yamato Den characteristics.  But in the Shin-to time, a swordsmith of one particular Den sometimes forged the style of another Den’s featuresAs a result, it is hard to determine who forged a specific sword. 

For Shin-to, we study the characteristics of seven main locations.  The following chapters will go over them.

Picturesque Hamon

In and after the Genroku era (元禄1688 – 1704), some picturesque Hamon became a trendy style.  Some swordsmiths made picturesque Hamon on Wakizashi or short swords.  Since it became very popular, especially among foreigners, most of them were exported outside of Japan around the Meiji Restoration time. Very few are left in Japan today.

The swordsmiths those who made picturesque  Hamon 

Yamashiro area ——————————————-Iga-no-kami Kinmichi (伊賀守金道),                                                                                  Omi-no-kami Hisamichi (近江守久道)

Settsu (摂津) area ———————————Tanba-no-Kami Yoshimichi  (丹波守吉道)                                                                           Yamato-no-Kami Yoshimichi (大和守吉道)

Below are examples.  Fuji is the Mount fuji designKikusui is chrysanthemum in the water.

63 fuji sakura hamon

        Fuji                                      Kikusui

34| Part 2 — 1 Timeline

Chapter 34 is a continued part of Chapter 1 Time line.   Please read Chapter 1 before reading this section.

36 Gendai-To timeline

                                The above red circle indicates the time we discuss here

Chapter 1 Timeline” explained that Gendai-to (現代刀) is the swords made between the Meiji Restoration (明治維新1868) and now.  It has been about 150 years since the Meiji Restoration.  Even though all swords made after the Meiji Restoration are categorized into one Gendai-to group, there are quite a few differences in quality and kinds.  The very different one is Gun-to (軍刀).  Those are military swords that were forged to use in World War I and World War II.  Some of them have a saber-like handle. With some exceptions, those were made not using the traditional sword making method of heat and fold technique.  Among the Gendai-to, Gun-to is usually considered much less value.   The Gun-to sword made around during World War II is called Showa-to.  It often has a brown leather scabbard.  Gun-to is not a part of the study of the Japanese sword.

*Refer to” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gunt%C5%8D”  for Japanese military sword.

                                Gun-to    From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

At the time of the Meiji Restoration (明治維新), swords called Meiji-ishin-to (明治維新刀) or Kin’no-to (勤王刀) were made.  These swords were owned by famous historical figures like Saigo Takamori (西郷隆盛), and Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬).  They are important historical figures who pushed the Meiji Restoration forward.  These swords are long and some of them are almost 3 feet long and have no curvature.

Today, many famous swordsmiths are forging wonderful swords. Some are recognized as Living National Treasure.  Gendai-to is the sword made after the Meiji Restoration till now, but please keep in mind that there is a wide range of differences in quality, variety, and purposes among them.

36img077

                       Sword forged by a Living National Treasure, Mr. Miyairi Shohei (宮入昭平)                         Once my family property

 

25| Edo Period History 1603 – 1867  (江戸時代歴史)

edo Period with Momoym
The red circle above indicates where we discuss in this chapter.

Between the Sengoku period (戦国時代) and the Edo period (江戸時代) on political history, there was the time called the Azuchi Momoyama period (安土桃山).  It was from around 1573 to 1614, as shown in the third (bottom) timeline above.  This was the time when Oda Nobunaga (織田信長), Toyotomi Hideyoshi(豊臣秀吉) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) played central roles in politics.

After Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康) won the battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦い) in 1600 and defeated Toyotomi’s vassals (Toyotomi Hideyoshi had already been deceased by then), Tokugawa Iyeyasu became the Shogun (将軍) in 1603.  This is the beginning of the Edo Period (江戸).  In sword history, as you see in the middle timeline above, the Edo period comes right after the Sengoku period.

At the end of the Sengoku period and during the Azuchi Momoyama period, the the economy grew a lot, and new culture flourished.  The gorgeous and spectacular art, such as paintings, architecture, interior designs, and handicrafts, were created.  The tea ceremony was developed by Sen No Rikyu (千の利休), and Kabuki also began to be performed around this time.  It was somewhat similar to the European Renaissance. Strangely, this new art emergence happened at the same time in Japan and Europe.

Around this time, many Europeans came to Japan.  That was the time of the exploration of the East by Europeans.  They were from England, Spain, Holland, and Portugal.  The novel “Shogun” by James Clavell was based on the real people’s stories, William Adams and Jan Joosten Van Londersteyn*¹ at the time.   You can see Jan Joosten’s statue in Tokyo Station today.  On my yearly visit to Japan, I stay at a hotel near Tokyo Station.  I often pass in front of “Yan Yoosten’s” statue.   It is located inside the Tokyo Station, underground in the middle of the bustling shopping area.  It can be very easily missed unless you look for it.  There is another statue of him outside the Station.

Shogun Tokugawa Iyeyasu hired William Adams and Jan Joosten (Japanese call him Jan Joosten, not his full name) as his advisers, and he acquired information on Europe from them.  Shogun Tokugawa Iyeyasu treated them well.  The area where Jan Joosten lived is now called Yaesu (八重洲) after his name, Jan Joosten.  William Adams changed his name to Miura Anjin and lived in the Miura area.  This place is approximately one hour and a half south by train from Tokyo today.  The records of these two people are well kept and can be found easily.

Europeans brought many European goods and ideas.  Although Christianity became popular and widely spread in the early Azuchi Momoyama period, Toyotomi Hideyoshi banned it later.  After the Meiji Era (1868), a religious restriction was lifted.

The Edo period began when Tokugawa Iyeyasu became the Shogun (1603).  It last until the Meiji (明治) Restoration in 1868.  Tokugawa Bakufu (Tokugawa government) is the only entity that governed the country during the Edo period.  The emperors existed, but the political power was shifted to the Tokugawa Bakufu.

Gradually, ports for the European ships were limited.  Eventually, Spaniards were not allowed to come to Japan, then Portuguese.  Japanese were forbidden to travel abroad.  By around 1640, a port town called Dejima in Hirato in Nagasaki prefecture was the only place in Japan that opened for foreigners to do business with the Japanese.  From Europe, only the Dutch were allowed to come.  Japan closed the country to the outside world until the Meiji Restoration (1868).

During the Azuchi Momoyama period and the early part of the Edo period, many European ships visited Japan.  Strangely, many of them shipwrecked near the shores around Japan.  One of the reasons is that Japan is a volcanic island.  Even if the sea’s surface does not show anything sticking up from the water, there are many obstacles underneath, such as underwater mountains and massive hidden reefs.  The Europeans did not have the waterway information that was common to the Japanese seamen.

Additional stories to share just for a fun

Another reason why many ships were wrecked was that those ships were looking for gold.  When Marco Polo traveled to China, he heard from Chinese people that there was a small island country further to the east.  The land was wealthy, and the emperors’ palace was made of gold and silver.  After Marco Polo went back to Italy, he wrote a book (in late 1300) about his journey and published it.  In his book, he mentioned what he heard in China about the island country, Japan.  He had never visited Japan himself. The book was widely read in many countries in Europe.  When traveling to the East became possible for Europeans, they came to Japan to find gold.

Yes, Japan produced a large amount of gold.  But for the Europeans, it was too late.  By then, most of the gold was mined by the Fujiwara family in the Oh-shu area (奥州 Northern part of Japan).  The area includes today’s Aomori, Akita, Fukushima, and Miyagi prefectures, where the big Tsunami hit a few years back.  Toyotomi Hideyoshi also owned many gold mines but already mined as much as possible with the skills they had then.  Japan used to have many gold and silver mines all over the country.  Those mines were already exhausted, and only a few were left for mining today.

Throughout history, there have been facts and rumors about “Maizo-kin: 埋蔵金.”  Maizo-kin is the gold buried or hidden by the people like Tokugawa Shogun, Hideyoshi, and wealthy Daimyos and merchants.  Without having today’s banks’ vault, burying in secret places is the only way to store gold then.  Several Maizo-kins have been found, including one in the middle of Tokyo, Ginza.  There are still several big ones that haven’t been found yet.  Those are said to be Hideyoshi Maizo-kin, Tokugawa Bakufu Maizo-kin, and a few more big onesAlthough several maps indicated the locations of the Maizo-kin, those maps were fake, of course.  Today, whenever the ground is dug to build a large building structure, people start talking about a possible discovery of a big Maizo-kin.

Gold flowed out to outside Japan little by little over the centuries until the Meiji Restoration time.  Because the exchange rate between gold and silver was much cheaper in Japan compare to the rest of the world.  Today, we still mine gold on a small scale.

It is said that the name of the country, Japan, comes from Marco Polo’s book.  He called Japan “Chipangu,” which means “gold country” in his book.*²   “From “Chipangu” to “Zipang” to “Jipang,” it eventually evolved to “Japan.”  Japanese don’t call the country Japan but “Nihon” or “Nippon” (日本).

ヤン ヨーステン Jan Joosten van Lodenstijn https://www.weblio.jp

                                       Or Jan Joosten van Londensteyn 

*² Wikipedia “Names of Japan” or  Jipangu 

26 map of Cipangu1492

Cipangu described in the 1492 Martin Beham glove.  From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository (Names of Japan)