61|Part 2 of – – – 25|Sengoku Period Tanto (1467 – 1596)

Chapter 61 is a detailed part of chapter 25|Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代).  Please read chapter 25|Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代)  before start reading this chapter.

Muramasa (村正)

The discussion in this section is about the famous Muramasa (村正 ).  Many well-known swordsmiths are from one of the Goka-Den (main 5 schools, that is Yamashiro- Den, Bizen- Den, Soshu- Den, Yamato- Den, Mino- Den).  Muramasa is not from Goka-Den but from Ise Province.

61 Ise map

It is said that Muramasa was a student of Heian-Jo Nagayoshi (平安城長吉) of Yamashiro-Den.  Muramasa has three generations through Mid Muromachi periodSince Muramasa lived through the Sengoku Period, his sword shows the characteristic of Sengoku period sword style that is Mino-Den characteristic with  Soshu-Den characteristic added.

61 Muramasa photo  61 Muramasa illustration

Muramasa from Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

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

Muramasa’s Tanto is often 10 inches ± half inches or so.  Hirazukuri (平作り). Thin blade.  Muramasa Tanto gives a sharp look.  Nioi base with small Nie and Sunagashi (brushed sand like, the illustration below) appears.  Boshi (Top part of Hamon) is Jizo (side view of the head shape).  Tempered line has a wide area and narrow area, that is some area of tempered line is close to the edge of the blade and another area is a wide tempered line.  See the illustration above.  Hako-Midare (box like shape) and Gunome (line up beads like shape).  O-Notare (large gentle waviness) is Muramasa’s characteristic.  The pointed tempered line that is the typical Mino-Den characteristic (Sanbon Sugi) shows .  Refer 24|Sengoku Period Sword(戦国時代).

61 Sunagashi 2

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

58|Part 2 of —–22| Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代) 1393 —- 1467

Chapter 58 is the detailed part of chapter 22|Muromachi Period Sword.  Please read Chapter 22 before start reading this chapter.

As described in Chapter 22, the big change in the Muromachi Period was from Tachi  (太刀 ) to Katana (刀 ).  Refer to 22|Muromachi Period Sword.   By the end of the Nanboku-Cho period, the length of the sword became shorter.  In the Muromachi time, the length of the sword became shorter to approximately 2 feet and 3 or 4 inches in length, no more long swords.  This is because,  Nanboku-Cho period,  the fighting was done mostly riding horses but after Muromachi time, changed to infantry fighting.

Oei Bizen (応永備前 )

Oei is pronounced “O as Oh”, “ei as A of ABC”.  The Muromachi period was the declining time in sword making.  The early part of the Muromachi period is called Oei Bizen time.  Osafune Morimitsu (長船盛光 ), Osafune Yasumitsu (長船康光 ), Osafune Moromitsu (長船師光) are the main Oei Bizen swordsmiths.  Soshu Hiromasa (相州広正 )、Yamashiro Nobukuni (山城信國)  were also similar to Oei Bizen stylePlease refer to 22 Muromachi Period Sword for style, Hamon, Boshi, Ji-hada.

58 Moromitsu photo 158 Moromitus Oshigata                                  Bishu Osafune Moromitsu (備州長船師光)   from Sano Museum Catalogue

Above sword is 2 feet & 5 inches long, medium Kissaki, Hamon has a small wave-like pattern with continuous Gunome (half circle).   Boshi shows irregular waviness, pointed at the tip a little.  It shows Bo Utsuri (faint shadow shaped like a strip of wood).  Bo Utsuri is a well-known characteristic among all of the Oei Bisen. 

In the Bizen area until this time, there were many groups within Bizen, but in Muromachi time, only Osafune (長船) was the active swordsmith group.  Osafune (長船) is the name of the place,  but in Muromachi time, it started to become the last name.  Two other well-known swordsmiths among Oei Bizen are Morimitsu (盛光 ) and Yasumitsu (康光).  The Hamon by Morimitsu and Yasumitsu shows more works in it than the photo above.  That is described in 22 Muromachi Period Sword under the usual characteristic of Muromachi sword.

Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto

58 Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto

         Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto Shape

Hirazukuri-Ko-Wakizashi Tanto was in fashion during the early Muromachi time. Different swordsmiths in other area made 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 and 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 13 Tanto Middle Kamakura period).

13 Mune drawing

Hirazukuri Kowakizashi Tanto often shows many engravings like Hi with Soe-Hi (one wide and narrow on the side), Tokkotuki-Ken, Tsumetsuki-Ken, Bohji, etc.

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

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

 

57|Part 2 of —– 21|Muromachi Period History (室町時代) 1393-1467


This is the continued chapter of 21 Muromachi Periods History Please read chapter 21 before this chapter one more time.

57 Muromachi time line      The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this chapter

Until the Muromachi (室町) Period, the way to divide the political history and sword history is the same.  Please look at the above timeline.  The middle line is for sword history and the bottom line is for political history.   The style of the sword has a distinct difference between Nanboku-Cho period (南北朝時代 ), Muromachi period, and the Sengoku period (戦国時代).  Therefore, it has to be divided into three separate periods for sword study.   But school history textbook shows that Muromachi Period is from 1333 (Fall of Kamakura Bakufu ) until 1573 when Oda Nobunaga(織田信長) removed Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki (足利義昭) from Kyoto (the fall of Muromachi Bakufu).   The school history textbooks describe that the Nanboku-Cho period and the Sengoku period is a part of the Muromachi period.  For the purpose of sword study, we need to divide into three periods, Nanboku-Cho period, Muromachi period, and Sengoku period.

Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満)

The best time for the Muromachi period was when Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満, Grandson of Ashikaga Takauji) was in power.  Ashikaga Yoshimitsu moved the Bakufu to the place called Muromachi (室町), therefore Muromachi period.  By Shogun Yoshimitsu’s time, the majority of the South Dynasty Samurai went under the North dynasty.  The South Dynasty side accepted Shogun Yoshimitsu’s offer to end to oppose to the North Dynasty that completed the power of Muromachi Bakufu of the Ashikaga family.  Shogun Ashikaga Yoshimitsu created a huge amount of profit from trade with China (Ming).  One of a famous beautiful temple in Kyoto, Golden Pavillion (Kinkakuji-temple 金閣寺) was built by Shogun Yoshimitsu*.  It is said that he created the Golden Pavillion to display his power and wealth.  The beautiful culture around this time was called Kitayama Bunka (Kitayama culture 北山文化).

*Golden Pavillion (Kinkaku-Ji 金閣寺)  —— Correct name is Rokuonji –Temple (鹿苑寺 ).  This is a Zen temple of Rinzaishu Sokoku-Ji group (臨済宗相国寺派 ).  The Kinkakuji-temple is one part of the Rokuonji-Temple.  Kinkakuji-temple is a Buddhist hall containing relics of Buddha.  This place was once owned by Saionji Kintsune (西園寺公経 ) in Kamakura period.  Shogun Yoshimitsu acquired it in 1397, and he rebuilt it as his own villa.  It is also functioned as an official guesthouse.  Kinkakuji-temple represents the height of the glory of Kitayama Bunka (Kitayama culture)After Shogun Yoshimitsu’s death, his villa was converted to a temple, called Rokuon-Ji temple.  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 Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (足利義満 ) died (49 years old), the Muromachi Bakufu became financially weaker that made the military power weaker.  As a result,  Daimyo (feudal lord) became powerful.  A few generations after Shogun Yoshimitsu, Ashikaga Yohimasa became a Shogun (8th Ashikaga Shogun).  His wife is the famous Hino Tomiko (refer 21|Muromachi Period History (室町時代.  It is said that Shogun Yoshimasa was not interested in his job as a Shogun, but he was a great culture person who influenced the base of today’s Japanese art, such as Japanese garden, Shoin Zukuri (書院造り)*, Tea ceremony, Flower Arrangement, Painting, and other art forms.  His cultural attribute is called Higashiyama Bunka (Higashiyama culture (東山文化).   As it is described in Chapter, 21|Muromachi Period History (室町時代, Shogun Yoshimasa did not have a child, his brother Yoshimi (義視) was supposed to be a next Shogun.  But his wife, Hino Tomiko gave birth to a son, Yoshihisa (義尚 ).  Hino Tomiko asked Yamana Sozen (powerful family 山名宗全 ) to back up her son, and brother Yoshimi joined with Hosokawa Katsumoto (powerful family 細川勝元).   The problem was Shogun Yoshimasa was paying attention too much 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 Shogunate to either one.  He kept enjoying his cultural hobby.   In 1467, on top of the successor problem, because of the other conflict of interest of other powerful Daimyo, “Onin-no-Run (応仁の乱 ) started.  All the Daimyo sided either Hosokawa group or Yamana group.   Eventually, the war spread to the rest of Japan and last over 10 years.  Finally at 1477, after both Hosokawa Katsumono and Yamana Sozen died, Shogun Yoshimasa decided to transfer Shogunate to his son Yoshihisa.  This war caused Kyoto to be devastated and weakened the power of Ashikaga Bakufu.  While all this is happening, people were suffering from the war, Yoshimasa still spent money to build Ginnkakuji Temple (silver Pavillion, 銀閣寺 ).  He died without seeing the completion of Ginkakuji temple.  Onin-no-Run will lead to the next Sengoku-Jidai (100-year warring States period).

*Shoin Zukuri (書院造り )———- Traditional Japanese residential architecture style.  That is with Tatami mat, an alcove on a wall and Shoji sliding screen.  Below picture.

Below 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

 

23| Sengoku Period History (戦国時代)

 

23 Sengoku period Time Line red

The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

 

Please look at the two red circles on the timeline above.  According to the political history, Sengoku period (戦国時代) is a part of the Muromachi (室町) period, that is on the third line.   But under the sword history, we separate the Muromachi period and the Sengoku period (Warring States period), that is on the second line.  On the 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 Onin-no-Ran (応仁の乱) had started (discussed in 21|Muromachi Period), the beautiful capital city, Kyoto (京都 ) was in a devastating condition.  Shogun’s (将軍) power only reached to the very limited small area.  The rest of the country was divided into 30 or so small independent regions.  The head of those independent regions was called a Shugo Daimyo (守護大名).  They are government officials, originally appointed and sent by the central government.  Also, powerful local samurais became a head of the independent regions.  Each of those regions fought against each other to take over each other’s land.  During the Sengoku period, vassals killed his superiors and stole his domain, farmers revolted against their lords.  This is called “Gekoku-jo (lower class samurai overthrow the superior)”. This is the time of the Warring States period called the Sengoku period.  The head of the region was called Sengoku Daimyo (戦国大名: warlord).  The Sengoku period lasts about 100 years.  Little by little, after long hard battles, more powerful regions defeated less powerful regions and gained more territory.  30 individual regions became 20 then 10 and so on.  Eventually, a few powerful big Sengoku Daimyo (warlord) were left.  Each of those heads of the larger regions tried to fight his way up to Kyoto to unite the country.  The first person who almost succeeded was Oda Nobunaga (織田信長).  But he was killed by his own vassal, Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀), and Akechi was killed by his colleague, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉)

After Toyotomi Hideyoshi defeated Akechi Mitsuhide and a few more major warlords, Toyotomi Hideyoshi almost completed uniting Japan.  But one more person was left.  That is Tokugawa Iyeyasu (徳川家康).  Now, two big powerful clans were left, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu.  Both knew that their opponents are smart and able daimyo, any wrong move on your part would be a fatal mistake.  So, they decided to keep the co-existed condition amicably on the surface for a while.  Though Toyotomi Hideyoshi tried Tokugawa Ieyasu to be his vassal, Tokugawa Ieyasu somehow maneuvered well 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.  And that happened eventually. After Hideyoshi’s death, Tokugawa Ieyasu fought with the vassals who used to be under Hideyoshi and won at the Battle of the Sekigahara (関ヶ原) in 1600.  Then 1615 Tokugawa won against Hideyoshi’s son, Hideyori’s army.  After this, the Toyotomi clan ended completely, then the Edo (江戸) period started.  Edo period is called the Edo period because Tokugawa Ieyasu lived in Edo, which is Tokyo (東京) now.

*The Sengoku period is often depicted on TV programs and movies.  People who lived through the Sengoku period had a very hard time but it is the most interesting time for TV shows and movies.  Stories of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu are the most favorite stories in Japan.  Especially the success story of Toyotomi Hideyoshi is one of the most popular ones.  His background was a poor farmer who became the top ruler of Japan, this is one fascinating success story.

23 Toyotomi_hideyoshi
Toyotomi Hideyoshi by Mitsunobu Kanou, owned by Kodaiji-Temple  from Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

 

21|Muromachi Period History (室町時代)

21 murimachi -timeline
            The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

Ashikaga Takauji(足利尊氏) and several other main leaders ended Nanboku-Cho period  and started Muromachi period  (discussed in 18|Nanboku Cho Time History (North and South Dynasty History) 1333-1393

AshikagaTakauji’s grandson, Ashikaga Yoshimitsu (often called Shogun Yoshimitsu 義満) built a new beautiful Palace at Muromachi (室町) area in Kyoto.  The palace became the center of the government called Muromachi Bakufu (室町幕府).   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 in 1397.   Later it became Rinzai-Shu (臨済宗) school Buddhistic temple, but it was originally built as a second house for Ashikaga Yoshimitsu and used as a state guesthouse.  Today it is designated as a world heritage site.  This temple was burnt down by an arsonist in 1950, rebuilt in 1955.  The novelist Mishima Yukio wrote the novel “Kinkaku-Ji” related to the Golden Pavillion and an arsonist.  The famous quote in his book, “The golden bird (Hou-ou in Japanese, it is a Chinese version phoenix) on the roof of the Kinkaku-Ji temple is stationary but fly through the space of the time eternally”

 

In the Muromachi period, the emperor’s power became weaker.  A 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) started to gain the political power and economic power by holding the important offices in the Muromachi Bakufu (government).  They also owned a large land.  Some of the names of Shugo Daimyo were the Hosokawa family and the Yamana family.

Ashikaga family made a great effort to make the Muromachi Bakufu a sound political power through the political maneuver.  At the beginning of the Muromachi period, the economy flourished and it was a peaceful time.   Yet by the time Ashikaga Yoshimasa (義政 8th Ashikaga Shogun) became the shogun, the Ashikaga Bakufu was corrupted very badly.  Shogun Yoshimasa did not pay much attention to his job as a politician.  Instead, he was chasing women (his mother had to scold him for that), spend a huge amount of money to build a Silver Pavilion called “Ginkaku-Ji” and retreated himself there.  Shogun Yoshimasa did not have an heir.  Therefore, his brother, Yoshimi was decided to be the next Shogun.  But later, Yoshimasa’s wife Hino Tomiko (日野富子)* had a son, Yoshihisa (義尚).  Now, brother Yoshimi (義視) allied with the Hosokawa family (細川) who was a high official in Muromachi Bakufu, and Yoshihisa (the son) allied with the Yamana (山名) family who was another high official in Muromachi Bakufu and several other smaller groups of Samurai allied with either side, and the war broke.  This is called Onin -no-Ran (応仁の乱) in 1467 and spread 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 raise a large amount of money by doing things like investing in the rice commodity market to raise the price of rice and sold with a high profit.  Then she loans the money to the high officials with high interest.  The corruption reached an uncontrollable level.

As a result of the Onin-no-Ran, beautiful Kyoto was burnt down to ashes.  The authority of Muromachi Bakufu was reduced only to 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 Japan was united by Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Iyeyasu.  See above timeline.

 

57 Kinkakuji trip 2019

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

18|Nanboku-cho Period History 1333-1393

18 -red timeline Nanboku-cho
The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section.

 

After Jokyu-no-Ran (11|Jokyu-no-ran ), the power of the Imperial court declined significantly.  The Hojo clan (the main power during the Kamakura period) began to have financial difficulty and started to lose control over the local lords.  One of the reasons was the cost incurred by the Mongolian invasion.  The Kamakura Bakufu (government) could not reward well to the local lords who worked hard at this war. The local lords became very dissatisfied with the Kamakura Bakufu.  Seeing this as a chance, Emperor Go-Daigo attempted to attack Kamakura Bakufu two times but failed both times.  He was exiled to Oki island.  Meantime, Ashikaga Takauji (足利尊氏) and several other groups of Samurai who were opposing the Kamakura Bakufu, gathered their power and succeeded in destroying the Kamakura Bakufu (1333).  This ends the Kamakura period.  Emperor Go-Daigo, who had been exiled to Oki island returned to Kyoto and attempted established a political reforms.  This is called Kenmu-no-Chuko (建武の中興).  But this new policy 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 the other branch of the Royal family on the Imperial throne.  But the Emperor Go-Daigo insisted upon his legitimacy, moved to Yoshino (located the South of Kyoto) and established a rival Imperial court.  Thus began the North and the South dynasty.  After much strife between the North and the South, together with the problems within themselves,  eventually more Samurai groups went under the control of the North dynasty.  About 60 years later, the Southern dynasty was compelled to accept the North Dynasty’s proposal.  As a result, North Dynasty established as the legitimate imperial court.  This 60 year is the time called Nanboku-Cho or Yoshino-Cho period.  During the Nanboku-Cho period, Samurai demanded larger and showy, and practical swords.  Soshu Den was its height of their prominence.  However,  Soshu group was not the only group that made all the swords. Other schools and other provinces also made Soshu Den style swords.

Well known Early Soshu-Den swordsmith (that is late Kamakura period time)

Tosaburo Yukimitu (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 SanoMuseum Catalog (permission granted)