60|Part 2 of — 24 Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国短刀)

Chapter 60 is a Continued part of chapter 24|Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代).  Please read chapter 24|Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代)  before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Sengoku Period

       The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section  

Muramasa (村正)

The discussion of this chapter is about the famous Muramasa (村正).  Usually, many well-known swordsmiths were from one of the Goka Den (五家伝:primary five schools: Yamashiro Den, Bizen Den, Soshu Den, Yamato Den, and Mino Den).  However, Muramasa was not from the Goka Den but Ise Province.  The first generation Muramasa was known as a student of He’ian-jo Nagayoshi (平安城長吉) of Yamashiro Den who lived the mid Muromachi period.  Muramasa has three generations from the mid Muromachi period to the Sengoku period.

61 Ise map

Here is one of Muramasa’s tanto that was made during the Sengoku periodSince this is the Sengoku period tanto, the blade shows the Sengoku period sword style.  It shows Mino Den Characteristics, with the Soshu Den Characteristics added.

61 Muramasa photo  61 Muramasa illustration

Muramasa (村正) from Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

Mino-Den Characteristic of the Sengoku period that shows on this Tanto

Muramasa’s tantos are often 10 inches ± half inches or so.  Hirazukuri (平作り). Thin blade with a sharp look.  Nioi base with small Nie and Sunagashi (brushed sand-like, the illustration below) appears.  Boshi (the top part of hamon) is Jizo (a side view of a human’s head).  The tempered line has wide areas and narrow areas.  Some areas are so narrow, close to the edge of the blade, while others are broad.  Hako midare (box-like shape) and Gunome (lined-up beads pattern).  O-notare (large gentle waviness) is a Muramasa’s signature characteristic.  The pointed tempered line is a typical Mino Den characteristic (Sanbon-sugi).  Refer 24Sengoku period sword.

61 Sunagashi 2

Sunagashi (Brushed sand-like trace.  My drawing is exaggerated)

57 |Part 2 of —–21 Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代刀)

Chapter 57 is the detailed part of chapter 21|Muromachi Period Sword.  Please read Chapter 21 before reading this section.

57 Muromach-timeline size 22

                              The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

After the Muromachi period, swords changed to Katana(刀) from Tachi (太刀), as described in chapter 21 Muromachi Period Sword.  Refer to Chapter 21 Muromachi Period Sword.  By the end of the Nanboku-cho period, the swords’ length became shorter to approximately 2 feet ± a few inches.  The 3-to-5 feet long swords seen in the Nanboku-cho period were no longer created.  The reason was that, during the Nanboku-cho period, warriors fought mostly riding horses, but after the Muromachi time, infantry fighting became more common.

Oei Bizen (応永備前)

The pronunciation of Oei is“O as Oh” and “ei as A of ABC.”   The Muromachi periodwas the declining time in sword making.  The swords made during the early Muromachi period in Bizen were called Oei BizenOsafune Morimitsu (長船盛光), Osafune Yasumitsu (長船康光 ), Osafune Moromitsu (長船師光) were the main Oei Bizen swordsmiths.  Soshu Hiromasa (相州広正 )、Yamashiro Nobukuni (山城信國)  were also similar to the Oei Bizen style.  Please refer to Chapter 21 Muromachi Period Sword for Muromachi sword shape, hamon, boshi, and Ji-hada.

57 Moromitsu photo (必要分 57 Moromitus Oshigata

Bishu Osafune Moromitsu (備州長船師光)   from Sano Museum Catalogue

The above Osafune Moromitsu sword is 2 feet 5 inches long with medium kissaki.  The hamon has a small wave-like pattern with continuous Gunome (a line of half-circles).  The boshi area shows irregular waviness with a slightly pointed tip.  Very faint Bo-utsuri (soft shadow shaped like a strip of wood) shows on Ji-hadaBo-utsuri is a distinctive characteristic among all of the Oei Bizen.

Before the Muromachi period, there had been many swordsmith groups in the Bizen area, but by the time the period began, Osafune (長船) was the only remaining active group.

Osafune (長船) was the name of a region, but it became the last name of the swordsmiths during the Muromachi time.  Two other well-known swordsmiths among the Oei Bizen are Osafune Morimitsu (盛光) and Yasumitsu (康光).  The hamon by Morimitsu and Yasumitsu shows more works than that of the sword in the photo above.  Chapter 21 Muromachi Period Sword describes the sword’s typical characteristics of the swords in the Muromachi period.

Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto

58 Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto

Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto Shape

Hirazukuri Ko-wakizashi Tanto was the trendy style during the early Muromachi time. Swordsmiths in different areas created the tanto like the one above.  But approximately 80 % of those types were made by Oei Bizen swordsmiths.

The characteristic of the Hirazukuri ko-wakizashi Tanto ——— Usually 1 foot 1 or 2 inches long.  No yokote line, no shinogi, and no sori (no curvature, straight back). Average thickness.  Narrow width.  Gyo-no-mune (refer 12| The Middle Kamakura Period Tanto

13 Mune drawing

Hirazukuri Ko-wakizashi Tanto often shows many engravings; hi with Soe-Hi (parallel double line, wide and narrow side by side ), Tokko-tsuki-ken, Tsume-tsuki-ken, Bonji, etc.

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji20 Tokko, tume Ken  58 tsumetukiken and Hi

*drawings from “Nihonto no Okite to Tokucho” by Honami Koson


55|Part 2 of —– 20|Muromachi Period History (室町歴史)

This is a detailed part of the 20 | Muromachi Period History.  Please read chapter 20 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Nuromach & Sengoku

                                  The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this chapter

Until the Muromachi (室町) period, the political history and the sword history are parallel in our study.  The above timelines show:  the middle line is for the sword history, and the bottom line is for the political history.

The styles of swords were distinctively different between those in the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period (戦国時代).  Therefore, for sword study, the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period have to be separated.   Japanese history textbooks define that the Muromachi period is from 1393 (the end of Nanboku-cho) until 1573 when Oda Nobunaga(織田信長) removed Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki (足利義昭) from Kyoto (the fall of the Muromachi  Bakufu).   In those textbooks, the Sengoku period was described as a part of the Muromachi period.  However, we need to divide the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period for the sword study’s purpose.

Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満)

The best time during the Muromachi period was when Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満, Grandson of Ashikaga Takauji) was in power.  He moved the Bakufu to Muromachi (室町) in Kyoto, therefore, it is called the Muromachi period.  By the time, most of the South Dynasty samurasi went under the North Dynasty.  The South Dynasty accepted the Shogun Yoshimitsu’s offer to end the fight against the North Dynasty.  This acceptance established the power of the the Ashikaga family in the Muromachi Bakufu .

Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu created a tremendous amount of profit from trades with China (Ming).  He built a famous beautiful resort villa in Kyoko, the Golden Pavillion (Kinkaku-Ji Temple 金閣寺*).  It is said that he created the Golden Pavillion to display his power and wealth.  The beautiful culture called the Kitayama Bunka (Kitayama culture 北山文化) was created around this time.

*Golden Pavilion (Kinkaku-Ji Tempe金閣寺)  —– The official name is Rokuon-Ji Temple (鹿苑寺).  Saionji Kintsune (西園寺公経) built it first as his resort house in the Kamakura period. Shogun Yoshimitsu acquired it in 1397, and he rebuilt it as his villa.  He also used it as an official guesthouse.

After Shogun Yoshimitsu’s death, the villa was converted to Rokuon-Ji Temple.  It is a part of Rinzaishu Sokoku-Ji Temple, which is the head temple of a denomination of the Zen sect, Rinzaishu Sokoku-ji group(臨済宗相国寺派).  Kinkaku-Ji is a reliquary hall containing relics of Buddha.

Kinkaku-Ji Temple represents the glorious Kitayama Bunka (Kitayama culture).  In 1994, it was registered as a World Cultural Heritage Site.

57 Kinkakuji trip 2019

The photo was taken in May 2019, a family trip to Kyoto

Ashikaga Yoshimasa (足利義政)

After Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満) died, the Muromachi Bakufu became less financially prosperous, and the military power decreased.  As a result, daimyos (feudal lords) gained more control.  A few generations after Shogun Yoshimitsu, Ashikaga Yohimasa became the 8th shogun).  His wife was the famous Hino Tomiko (refer  Chapter 20 Muromachi Period History

It is said that Shogun Yoshimasa was not interested in his job as a shogun, but he was much more interested in art and culture.  He created the foundation of today’s Japanese art and culture, such as the Japanese garden, Shoin-zukuri (書院造)* interior design, tea ceremony, flower arrangements, painting, and other art forms.  His cultural attribute is called Higashiyama Bunka (Higashiyama culture (東山文化).

As described in Chapter 20 Muromachi Period History (室町時代), Shogun Yoshimasa did not have a child.  His brother Yoshimi (義視) was supposed to be the next shogun.  But his wife, Hino Tomiko, gave birth to a son, Yoshihisa (義尚).  Hino Tomiko asked Yamana Sozen (山名宗全; powerful family) to back up her son.  At the same time, brother, Yoshimi, tied up with Hosokawa Katsumoto (another powerful family 細川勝元).  The problem was that Shogun Yoshimasa was paying too much attention to all his cultural hobbies, did not pay attention to the problem he created by not being clear who should be the next shogun.  He did not yield the Shogunate to either one.

In 1467, on top of the successor problem, because of other conflicts of interests of other powerful daimyos, a civil war, “Onin-no-Run (応仁の乱 )” broke out.  All daimyos were divided and sided either the Hosokawa group or the Yamana group.   Eventually, the war spread to the rest of Japan and last over ten years.  Finally, in 1477, after both Hosokawa Katsumono and Yamana Sozen died, Shogun Yoshimasa decided to transfer the Shogunate to his son Yoshihisa.  Because of this war, Kyoto was devastated.  The power of the Muromachi Bakufu declined significantly.

While all this was happening, and people were suffering, Yoshimasa was still spending money to build the Ginnkaku-ji Temple (The Silver Pavillion: 銀閣寺).  He died without seeing the completion of the Ginkaku-ji Temple.  The Onin-no-Run would lead to the next Sengoku period, the 100-year-long Warring States period).

*Shoin-zukuri (書院造)———- A traditional Japanese residential interior style with Tatami mats, an alcove, and a Shoji screen, sliding door.  This style is the base of the interior of today’s Japanese house.

Shoin Zukuri style Japanese room

57 Shoin zukuri

Public Domain   GFDL,cc-by-sa-2.5,2.0,1.0 file: Takagike CC BY-SA 3.0view terms      File: Takagike Kashihara JPN 001.jpg

My japanese room

My Japanese room

22| Sengoku Period History (戦国時代歴史)

0-timeline - size 24 Sengoku Period

The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

The above timeline shows two red circles.  In political history, the Sengoku period (戦国時代) is a part of the Muromachi (室町) period, which is shown on the third line.   However, in the sword history, we separate the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period (Warring States period), shown on the centerline.  In sword history, we divide the time this way because, in those two periods, the sword style changed, and the environment of sword making also changed.

After the Onin-no-Ran (応仁の乱) had started (discussed in 20|Muromachi Period History(室町歴史) , the beautiful capital city, Kyoto (京都 ) was in a devastating condition.  The shogun’s (将軍) power reached only to the very limited small area.  The rest of the country was divided into 30 or so small independent states.  The heads of those independent states were called Shugo Daimyo (守護大名).  They were initially government officials, who had been appointed and sent there by the central government.  Also, powerful local samurais often became the head of those states.  They fought against each other to take over other’s land.  During the Sengoku period, vassals would kill his master and stole his domain, or farmers would revolt against their lords.  A state like this is called “Gekoku-jo (lower class samurai could overthrow the superior).”

This is the time of the Warring States called the Sengoku period.  The head of a state was called Sengoku Daimyo (戦国大名: warlord).  The Sengoku period lasts about 100 years.  Little by little, powerful states defeated less powerful ones after long hard battles and gained more territory.  Thirty or so small countries became 20, then ten and so on.  Eventually, a few dominant Sengoku Daimyo (warlord) were left.  Each daimyo of those states tried to fight his way up to Kyoto and unite the country.  The first one who almost succeeded was Oda Nobunaga (織田信長).  However, he was killed by his vassal, Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀), but shortly after, Akechi was killed by his colleague, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉)

After Toyotomi Hideyoshi defeated Akechi Mitsuhide and his troop and a few more significant warlords, he almost completed uniting Japan.  Yet, Hideyoshi had one more rival to deal with to complete his job.  That was Tokugawa Iyeyasu (徳川家康).  Now, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu were the last contenders for the top position.  Both knew that their opponents were smart and able.  Any wrong move on either part would be a fatal mistake.  So, they decided to keep an amicable co-existing relationship on the surface for a while.  Though Toyotomi Hideyoshi tried to make Tokugawa Ieyasu his vassal, Tokugawa Ieyasu somehow maneuvered to avoid that.  In the mind of Tokugawa Iyeyasu, since he was younger than Toyotomi Hideyoshi, he knew that he could just wait until Hideyoshi‘s natural death.  At that time, he could destroy Hideyoshi’s heir.  And that happened eventually.  

After Hideyoshi’s death, Tokugawa Ieyasu fought Hideyoshi’s vassals and won at the Battle of Sekigahara (関ヶ原の戦い) in 1600.  Then, in 1615, at the battle of the Osaka Natsu-no-Jin (大阪夏の陣), Tokugawa won against Hideyoshi’s son, Hideyori’s army.  After this, the Toyotomi clan ceased to exist entirely, then the Edo (江戸) period started.  The period is called the Edo period because Tokugawa Ieyasu lived in Edo, current Tokyo (東京). 

*The Sengoku period is often depicted in TV dramas and movies.  People who lived through the Sengoku period had a tough time, but it was the most exciting time for making TV shows and movies.  The life of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and, Tokugawa Ieyasu is the most favorite story in Japan.  Especially the story of Toyotomi Hideyoshi is one of the most popular ones.  His background was a poor farmer, but he eventually became the top ruler of Japan.  That is one fascinating success story.

23 Toyotomi_hideyoshi

20|Muromachi Period History(室町歴史)    

0-timeline - size 24 Muromach
                     The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

The Muromachi period began after Ashikaga Takauji  (足利尊氏) and several other prominent leaders ended the Nanboku-cho period.  (discussed in 17|Nanboku-cho Period History (1333-1393).

The grandson of Ashikaga Takauji, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満:often called Shogun Yoshimitsu), built a new beautiful palace at Muromachi (室町) area in Kyoto.  The palace became the center of the government called the Muromachi Bakufu (室町幕府Muromachi Government).   This is the beginning of the Muromachi period.  Ashikaga Yoshimitsu built the famous “Kinkaku-Ji Temple* (Golden Pavilion)” in Kyoto as his second house.

Kinkaku-Ji Temple* (金閣寺: Golden Pavillion) —————-Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満) built Kinkaku-Ji Temple in 1397.   Later, it became Rinzai-Shu (臨済宗) school Buddhist temple, but it was initially created as the second house for Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and a state guesthouse.  Today, it is designated as a world heritage site.  This temple was burnt down by an arsonist in 1950 but was rebuilt in 1955.  The novelist Mishima Yukio wrote the novel “Kinkaku-Ji” related to the Golden Pavillion and the arsonist.  The famous quote in the book is, “The Ho-oh (A mythic golden bird, a Chinese version phoenix) on the roof of the Kinkaku-Ji Temple is stationary, but it flies through the time eternally.”

In the Muromachi period, the emperor’s power became declined.  The Shogun (将軍) held all the political power.  Little by little, several groups of samurai who were officially appointed as a Shugo Daimyo (守護大名: high-ranking officials) started to gain political and economic power by holding the critical positions in the Muromachi Bakufu.  They also owned a large land.  A couple of powerful Shugo Daimyo were the Hosokawa (細川) family and the Yamana (山名) family.

The Ashikaga family made a great effort to make the Muromachi Bakufu sound and robust through politics.  The beginning of the Muromachi period was peaceful and prosperous.  Yet by the time Ashikaga Yoshimasa (足利義政) became the 8th Shogun, the Ashikaga Bakufu became corrupted very severely.  Shogun Yoshimasa did not pay much attention to his job, governing the country as a shogun.  Instead, he was chasing women (his mother had to scold him for that), spent a large amount of money on building the Silver Pavilion called “Ginkaku-Ji Temple (銀閣寺) and retreated himself there.  Shogun Yoshimasa did not have an heir.  Therefore, his brother, Yoshimi (義視), was named as the next Shogun.

However, later, Yoshimasa’s wife Hino Tomiko (日野富子)* had a son, Yoshihisa (義尚).  Now, brother Yoshimi (義視) allied with a family of a high-ranking official, the Hosokawa’s (細川) while the son, Yoshihisa, tied with another powerful family, the Yamana’s (山名), and several other smaller groups of samurais allied with either side and the war broke out.  This war is called Onin-no-Ran (応仁の乱) in 1467. It spread out all over the country and continued for 11years.

Hino Tomiko (日野富子)*——————The wife of Shogun Yoshimasa.  She took advantage of her political privileges to make a large amount of money by investing in the rice commodity market to control the price of rice and sold with a high profit.  Then she loans the money to the high ranking officials with high interest.  The corruption reached an uncontrollable level.

As a result of Onin-no-Ran, beautiful Kyoto was burnt down to ashes.  The authority of the Muromachi Bakufu only reached the vicinity of the small surrounding area of Kyoto.  Onin-no-Ran caused the next period called the Sengoku period (戦国時代 ), that is the Warring States period.  During the Sengoku period, Japan was divided into 30 or so small independent countries and fought each other until Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Iyeyasu united Japan as one country.  See the above timeline.

57 Kinkakuji trip 2019

 The photo was taken in May 2019, a family trip to Kyoto

17| Nanboku-cho Period History (南北朝歴史 1333-1392)

0-timeline - size 24 Nanboku-cho

            The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section.

After Jokyu-no-Ran (10| Jokyu-no-ran (承久の乱) 1221, the power of the Imperial Court declined significantly.  The successor, the Hojo clan with a dominant power during the Kamakura period, also began to have financial difficulty and started to lose control over the regional warlords.  One of the reasons was the cost incurred by the Mongol invasion.  The Kamakura Bakufu (government) could not reward well to those warlords who worked hard during the war.  As a result, they were very dissatisfied with the Bakufu.  Seeing this as a chance, Emperor Go-Daigo attempted to attack the Kamakura Bakufu two times but failed both times.  He was exiled to Oki island.  Meantime, Ashikaga Takauji (足利尊氏) and several groups of anti-Kamakura samurais gathered arm forces and succeeded in destroying the Kamakura Bakufu (1333).  This war ends the Kamakura period.

Emperor Go-Daigo, who had been exiled to Oki island, returned to Kyoto and attempted political reforms.  This reform was called Kenmu-no-Chuko (建武の中興).  His reform, however, failed to satisfy most of the ruling class.  Taking advantage of this situation, Ashikaga Takauji attacked the Imperial Court in Kyoto, deposed Emperor Go-Daigo, and placed a member from the other branch of the Imperial family on the throne. 

Emperor Go-Daigo, however, insisted upon his legitimacy, moved to Yoshino in the South of Kyoto, and established another Imperial court.  Thus began the Northern and the Southern Imperial Courts.  With much strife between these rival courts and their problems within each Court,  more Samurai groups began moving to the Northern dynasty.  About 60 years later, the Southern dynasty was compelled to accept the Northern Dynasty’s proposal.  Consequently, the Northern Dynasty became the legitimate imperial Court.  These 60 years are called Nanboku-cho or Yoshino-cho period. 

During the Nanboku-cho period, Samurais demanded larger and showy, yet practical swords.  Soshu Den was its height of their prominence.  However, the Soshu group was not the only group that made all the swords. Other schools and provinces of the different areas also made Soshu Den style swords.

Well-known Early Soshu-Den Swordsmith In the Late Kamakura Period

Tosaburo Yukimitsu (藤三郎行光)   Masamune (正宗)      Sadamune (貞宗)

18 Masamune photo    18 Masamune hamon (Sano)

Masamune from Sano Museum Catalog (permission granted)

Well known Middle Soshu-Den swordsmiths (North and South dynasty time )

Hiromitsu (広光)    Akihiro (秋広)

18 Hiromitu photo 20 Hitatsura Hiromitsu Hitatura )

Hiromitsu from Sano Museum Catalog (permission granted)