64|Part 2 of — 28 Shin-To Main 7 Region (part B)


This chapter is a continued part of chapter 28 Shin-to Main 7 Regions (part B).  Please read chapter 28 before reading this chapter.  Below are the regions 2,3,7, skipped 4,5,6.

0-timeline - size 24 Shin-to

The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section    

29 Map with number 7


2. Settu (摂津) at Osaka (大阪 )

Settu Osaka has many well-known swordsmiths.  They are Kawachi-no-Kami Kunisuke (河内守国助), Tsuda Echizen-no-Kami Sukehiro (津田越前守助広), Inoue Shinkai (井上真改), Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (一竿子忠綱), etc.  The main characteristic of the Settsu Osaka sword is: The surface is beautiful and fine, almost no pattern, no design like a flat surface.  The below two photos are Settsu’s sword.

65 Ikkanshi illustration 65 Ikkanshi photo 

Ikkanshi Tadatsuna from Sano Museum Catalogue.  Permission granted to use.

Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (一竿子忠綱) is famous for his carvings.  His father was also a well-known swordsmith, Omi-no-Kami Tadatsuna (近江守忠綱).  Ikkanshi Tadatsu is the second generation of Omi-no-kami Tadatsuna.  Therefore he is also known as Awataguchi Omi-no-Kami Fujiwara Tadatsuna (粟田口近江守藤原忠綱), as you see on the Nakago above photo.  The characteristics of Ikkanshi Tadatsuna: Longer Kissaki and Sakiziri (curved at a higher part of the body)The wide tempered line with Nie.  Osaka Yakidashi (transition between the sugu-ha above machi and midare is smooth ).   Refer to 27 Shinto Sword –  Main 7 Regions(part A) for Osaka Yakidashi.  O-notare with Gunome.  Komaru boshi with turn backVery fine Ji-hada, almost no pattern on the surface.

 65-inoue-shinkai-photo-.jpg  65 inoue Shinkai illustration

Inoue Shinkai (井上真改) from Sano Museum Catalogue.  Permission granted to use.

Inoue Shinkai was the second generation of Izumi-no-Kami Kunisada (和泉守国定), he was the student of Kunihiro.  The characteristic of his sword:  Osaka Yakidashi.   The tempered line gets wider gradually toward the top.  O-Notare and deep Nie.  His Ji-hada is very fine, almost no design on the surface.

3. Musashi (武蔵:Edo)

We find many famous swordsmiths in Edo also.  They are 1st, 2nd, 3rd generations of Yasutsugu(康継), Kotetsu(虎徹), Noda Hankei (野田繁慶), Hojoji Masahiro (法成寺正弘), and more. 

 Two photos below are swordsmiths from Musashi (武蔵:Tokyo).   

65 Yasutsugu photo 65-yasutsugu-illustration-e1567313224375.jpg

Yasutsugu  From Sano Museum Catalogue.  Permission granted to use

Characteristics of Yasutusgu (康継):  Shallow curvature.  Chu-Gissaki (medium Kissaki). Hamon is wide Notare, Midare, O-gunome (sometimes double gunome).  The trace of Soshu Den and Mino Den shows in his work.  Woodgrain mixed with Masame on Shinogi-Ji.

65 Kotetsu photo    65 kotetu illustration

Kotetsu (虎徹) from Sano Museum Catalogue, permission granted to use

Here is the famous Kotetsu.  The formal name is Nagasone Okisato Nyudo Kotetsu (長曽祢興里入道虎徹).   Kotetsu began to make swords after he passed 50 years old.  Before that, he was an armor maker.   The characteristics of Kotetsu: Shallow curvature and wide width.  The wide tempered line with Nie.  Around the Machi area, the hamon is small Irregular, then the upper part of the blade becomes wide Suguha like Notare.  Fine Nie.  Boshi has Komaru with a short turn back.  Ji-hada is fine wood grain and burl.  Sometimes, you see O-hada (black core iron show through) at the lower part above the Machi area.  The illustration above shows the thick (or wide? Which should I use) tempered line between Ha and Ji consisted of Nie.  This is Kotetsu’s characteristic.  Once you see it, you will remember.  The next region is 7; skip the regions 4,5,6.

7. Satsuma (Kyushu)

65 Satsuma Masakiyo illustration 65 Satsuma Masakiyo photo

Miyahara Mondonosho Masakiyo (宮原主水正正清) from Sano Museum Catalogue, permission granted to use.

Miyahara Mondonosho Masakiyo was highly regarded by the Shimazu family of Satsuma Han (Satsuma domain).  Later he was chosen to go to Edo to forge swords for Shogun Yoshimune.  The characteristics of Mondonosho Masakiyo: Well balanced sword shape.  Shallow curvature.  Wide and narrow hamon with squarish hamon and pointed hamon mixed as in the photo above.  He engraved the Aoi crest (the hollyhock crest of the Tokugawa family) on Nakago.





42| Part 2 of —– 8 Middle Kamakura Period (Yamashiro Den) 鎌倉中期山城伝

This chapter is the detailed part of Chapter 8| Middle Kamakura Period –Yamashiro Den(鎌倉中期山城伝).   Please read Chapter 9 before reading this chapter.

13 Red Middle Kamakura Timeline

                          The circle indicates the time we discuss in this section

During the Middle Kamakura period, there were three main groups among the Yamashiro Den.  They are Ayano-koji (綾小路) group, Awataguchi (粟田口) group, and Rai (来) group.

When we refer to a certain group, we say, “xxx haxxx ippa   “, or  “xxx ichimon “.  We use those three words interchangeably.  They all basically mean a “group”.  For example, we say Ayano-koji Ippa, means Ayano-koji group.

Ayano-Koji Ippa (綾小路 )

Sugata (shape) ————- In general, gentle or graceful Kyo-zori shape.  The difference between the width of the yokote line and 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 (lightning like line) and Kinzuji (golden streak) may show.  Double Ko-choji (two Ko-choji side by side) may appears.                                     

Boshi (tip area) ——————Ko-maru (small round), Yakizume (refer to the illustration below), and Kaen (flame like pattern)                                           

Ji-hada ———- Small wood grain with a little Masame (straight grain)  Ji-nie shows.   

Nakago (tang) ———- Long, slighlyt fat feeling

Names of Ayano-Koji group ——Ayano-koji Sadatoshi (綾小路定利) Sadanori (定則)

Awataguchi Ichimon (粟田口)

Many swordsmiths of Awataguchi Ichimon (group) received the honor of the Goban Kaji (meaning top swordsmith) from Gotoba Joko (Emperor Gotoba 後鳥羽上皇 ).  In general, their typical characteristic is as follows.

Sugata (Shape) ——————————————– 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 becomes narrow tempered line at the top.  Nie base (this is called Nie-hon’i).  Straight tempered line mixed with Ko-choji (small clove) or wide straight line mixed with choji.  Awataguchi-nie appears.  Awataguchi-nie means fine, deep and sharp shiny nie around tempered line area.   Fine inazuma (lightning-like line) and kinsuji (golden streak) appears.

Boshi (tip area) ————- Ko-maru (small round)  or O-maru (large round) both return is sharrow.  Yakizume, Nie Kuzure, and Kaen (flame).


Yakizume      O-maru     Ko-maru         Yakikuzure

Ji-hada ————- Fine Ko-mokume(wood swirls) with Ji-nie.  Ji-nie is nie on Ji-hada. Yubashiri, Chikei appears.                                                                                                     

Nakago ——————— Often two letter inscription

Names of Awataguchi group ————– Awataguchi Kunitomo (粟田口国友 ),  Hisakuni (久国), Kuniyasu (国安),  Kuniyasu (国安), Kunikiyo (国清)

 Rai Ha ()

A general characteristic of Rai group is as follows.  However, each swordsmith has own characteristics.

Sugata (shape) ————— Graceful with dignity.  Thick body.  Rai made Ikubi Kissaki.   

Hi and Engravings ————– Wide and shallow Hi.                                                       

Hamon —————— Nie base.  Suguha (straight).  Wide suguha with ko-midare (small irregular) and choji (clove).  Sometimes large choji at the lower part and narrow suguha at the top.  Inazuma and Kinsuji appears around yokote area.

Boshi ———————-  Komaru, Yakizume (refer to the illustration above)

Ji-hada ———— Finely forged Itame (small wood grain) sometimes mixed with masame (parallel grain).  Fine nie.  Rai group sporadically shows Yowai Tetsu (weak surface) which may be a core iron.

Names of Rai Ha —  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.


                  Rai Kuniyuki (来国行)Once family-owned, photo taken by my father with his  writing.    
9 «part 2» Rai Kuniyuki photo.jpg       Rai Kuniyuki hamon
Rai Kuniyuki (来国行)Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館)  (permission granted)

37|Part 2 — 3 Names of the Parts

This chapter is the continued part of 3 |Names of Parts.  Please read chapter 3| Names of the Parts before reading part 2.

This chapter is how to find the Koshi-zori or Chukani-zoriChukan-zori is also called torii-zori or Kyo-zori.   Chukan-zori means the highest curvature comes around the middle, and for Koshi-zori, the highest curvature comes lower than the middle.  Every sword looks to be a curvature comes around the middle area, especially the photo of a sword in a sword book.  That is because a sword has to be placed to fit in a given available rectangle space.

The correct way to look for curvature is to stand the nakago (茎) vertically.   In this way, it becomes obvious where the curvature comes more precisely.  If the Nakago is not vertical, the curvature comes in the middle on every sword.  When you look at a sword, the first thing to do is to hold a sword so that the nakako is vertical.  When you look at a sword in a book, rotate (move or shift) a book slightly so that the Nakago is perpendicular.  You can see the real curvature of the sword in this way.

4 Heian Bize sori rotated with line


19 | Nanboku-Cho Tanto(南北朝短刀)


The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section

During the Nanboku-Cho Period, a type of Tanto called Hirazukuri-Kowakizashi-Sunnobi-Tanto was made.  Hirazukuri means a flat sword without the Yokote line and without Shinogi.  Ko-Wakizashi means a shorter sword.  Sun-Nobi Tanto means longer than standardThis is also called Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto.  It is called this way because the majority of this type Tanto was forged around Enbun, Jyoji Imperial era.  In Japan, a new imperial period starts when a new emperor ascends to the throne.  The Enbun era was from 1356 to 1361, and the Jyoji period was from 1362 to 1368.

20 Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto

Shape (Sugata 姿) ——- The length of a standard size tanto is approx. one shaku.   Shaku is an old Japanese measurement unit for length and, one shaku is very close to 1 foot.

8.5 sun (the sun is another old Japanese measurement unit for length) is approximately 10 inches.  This is the standard size tanto called Josun Tanto.  Anything longer than Josun Tanto is called Sun-nobi Tanto.  Anything shorter than Josun is called Sun-zumari Tanto.

Most of the Nanboku-cho tantos are longer than Josun Tanto,  approximately 1 foot 2 inches long.  Therefore they are called Hirazukuri Ko-wakizashi Sun-nobi Tanto.

Saki-zori (curved outward at the top.  See the illustration above).  Wide width and thin body.  Fukura Kareru (no Fukura means less arc).  Shin-no-mune.  See the drawing below.

20 Fukura           20 Shin-no-Mune

Hi, Horimono (Goove and engraving , 彫刻) —– A groove or grooves on the mune side.  Bonji (Sanscrit, described in Chapter 16 Late Kamakura Period  (Early Soshu-Den Tanto 鎌倉末短刀)Koshi-bi (Short groove),  Tumetuki Ken, Tokko-tsuki Ken (see below) appear.  Ken (dagger) is curved widely and deeply in the upper part and shallower and narrower in the lower part.  This is called Soshu-Bori (Soshu carving).

20 Tokko, tume Ken

Hamon (Tempered line) —– The narrowly tempered at the lower part gradually becomes wider toward the top.  Then a similar wide hamon goes into the Boshi area.  Hamon in the kissaki area is Kaeri-fukashi (turn back deep).  See the illustration below shows.  Coarse Nie. O-midare (large irregular hamon pattern).

20 Hitatsura
From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

Jihada —– Loose wood grain pattern called Itame.  Yubashiri (discussed in  17 Yubashiri, Chikei.jpg), Tobiyaki (Irregular patches of tempered metal) appears.  Crowded (busy) Tobiyaki is called Hitatsura (illustration above).

Nakago (Tang) —-—- Short Tanago-bara.  Tanago-bara means the shape of the belly of a Japanese fish Tanago (bitterling).20 Tanago Bara

Sword-smiths during Nanboku-Cho Period Soshu Den(school)

Soshu Den ———————————————————-Hiromitu( 広光) Akihiro (秋広) Yamashiro Den ————————————————–Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重)   Bizen Den ——————————————————— Kanemitu (兼光) Chogi (長義 )

20 Hiromitu (Sano Museum)

15| The Revival of Yamato Den(大和伝復活)

0-timeline - size 24 Late Kamakura

The circle indicates the time we discuss in this section

It is said that the first sword making started from Yamato province (present Nara prefecture) during the Nara period (710 to 794).  In the early sword making days, their forging technique was primitive.  At that time a large number of swordsmiths lived in Yamato, yet as time passes, the sword making declined in this area.

At the end of the Kamakura period, several powerful temples had power struggles against each other in the Yamato area.  Temples had strong political power and military power to control a large territory called Shoen (荘園) with their large number of worrier monks called Sohei (僧兵).  The most powerful group were called Nanto Sohei (南都僧兵)*.

The groups of Sohei demanded more swords to arm themselves.  The high demand for the swords from Sohei revitalized the Yamato Den (School) and led an increase in the number of swordsmiths in Yamato.   As a result, Yamato Den became active again. Yamato Den’s style is somewhat similar to that of Yamashiro Den.

*Nanto Sohei (南都僧兵)———Since around the 11th century, Buddhistic temples became powerful under the protection of the Joko (retired Emperor).  Those temples had a large number of Sohei (low-level monks who also acted as soldiers) under them.  When the power struggles between the temples occurred, Sohei fought as a soldier in the battlefields.  Nanto Sohei were monk soldiers of Kofuku-Ji temple (興福寺).  Several large temples like Todai-Ji (東大寺) temple and other temples controlled the Yamato area.

Shape (Sugata姿) —————-1. Graceful Yamashiro style. 2. Shinogi is high.  3. Mune is thin.  4. Some group of Yamato school has shallow Sori (curvature).

16 Yamato sword cross section

Hamon (Tempered line) ——-Narrow tempered line.  Mainly Nie (沸).  Chu-Suguha-Hotsure (medium straight with frayed look中直刃ほつれ), Ko-Choji-Midare (small clove-like pattern and irregular mixture 小丁子乱), Ko-Midare ( fine irregular小乱), Ko-gunome-komidare (small irregular continuous half-circle 小五の目小乱).  The main characteristic of Yamato school is Masame (straight grain), therefore, the tempered line often shows a double straight line called Nijyu-ha, Hakikake (brushed sand), and Uchinoke (Crescent-shape line).  See the illustration below.

16 Hamon Yamato

Boshi (鋩子)———-Inside the Boshi area, straight grain pattern also appears. Yakizume, Kaen(refer 13 Tanto Middle Kamakura period), O-maru, Ko-maru, Nie-kuzure (refer 15 Late Kamakura Period)

13 Hamon and Hi15 O-maru Ko-maru Niekuzure

Jihada or Jitetsu (the area between shinogi and hamon )——Mostly Masame hada (straight grain pattern 柾目肌). Fine ji-nie, Chikei, and Yubashiri shows (refer 15 Late Kamakura Period).

16 Masame Hada

Nakago (Hilt)——————Often shows the finishing file pattern as shown below.  This is called Higaki Yasuri (檜垣).

16 Higaki Yasuri

Names of the Yamato School Sword-smiths

Taema(当麻) Group————–Taema Kuniyuki(当麻国行) Taema Tomokiyo(当麻友清) Shikkake (尻懸) Group———————————————–Shikkake Norinaga (尻懸則長) Tegai (手掻) group —————–Tegai Kanenaga (手掻包永) Tegai Kanekiyo(手掻包清) Hoshou (保昌) group——–Hosho Sadayoshi ( 保昌貞吉) Hosho Sadamune (保昌貞宗)

16 Shaya Ensou

Yamato Senjuin Shaya Enso (大和千手院沙弥円宗) was once family sword

9 | Middle Kamakura Period: Bizen Den 鎌倉中備前伝

12 Red Middle Kamakura Timeline
The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this chapter 

There are large numbers of swordsmiths in Bizen (備前) school during the Heian period but their sword style is generally similar to Yamashiro school, called Ko-Bisen (古備前). The real Bizen school style started in the Middle Kamakura period.  Bizen province had many ideal conditions to produce swords.  It produced good quality steel and a large amount of fuel around the area and also the transportation was convenient.  Naturally, large numbers of swordsmiths gathered in this area and produced swords in quantities.  Because of that, to connoisseur Bizen sword is difficult.  In general, the Bizen sword has a higher quality standard than other schools.

Generally speaking, the next three characters are the most distinctive features of Bizen school.

  • Nioi base temper line (Nie is sand-like small dots on a tempered line, Nioi is finer dots than Nie, so small, it looks as if a line)  Technically speaking, those two are the same.  See the illustration below.
  • Jigane (sword steel) looks soft.
  • Reflection appears on the surface.

10 Nie & Nioi

Sugata (shape) — The length of the sword is about 33 inches ± a few inches. The width of the blade is slightly wide and it has a stout look.  The curvature of the blade is Koshizori (腰反)  means the highest curvature comes lower part.  The body has an average thickness.  Small kissaki.

10 Middle Kamakura ---備前刀姿

Horimono(engraving) — Engravings are rare. The shape of the tip of Hi is all the way up to Ko-Shinogi and fill up the whole area.

8 Hi

Nakago — Long and thin with curvature.  The end of the Nakago is rounded which has the shape of chestnut’s bottom.  This is called KurijiriSee the illustration of the sword above.

Hamon (tempered area pattern)— Nioi base. The tempered area is wide and the width is even, also the size of midare (irregular tempered line ) is uniform.

Boshi — The same tempered pattern continues to go up to the Boshi area.  You can see Choji midare (clove-like pattern) or Yakizume.

10 Boshi --- Bizen

Jitetu — Fine well forged, and soft look steel.  The surface of the steel has small wood grain pattern mixed with the large grain pattern.  Chikei (condensation of Nie) and cloud-like reflection appears.

Bizen School Sword Smiths during Middle Kamakura Period

Fukuoka Ichimonji (福岡一文字) group ———-Norimune (則宗)  Sukemune (助宗 )  Yoshioka Ichimonji (吉岡一文字) group ———-Sukeyoshi (助吉)   Sukemitsu (助光)         Sho-chu Ichimonji (正中一文字) group ———   Yoshiuji (吉氏)   Yoshimori (吉守)      Osafune (長船) group ———-Mitsutada (光忠)  Nagamitu (長光) Kagemitsu (景光)   Hatakeda(畠田) group ————————————-Moriie (守家)  Sanemori  (真守)          Ugai (鵜飼) group —————————————————— Unsho (雲生) Unji (雲次)

10, Ichimonji Photo

Ichimonji from Sano Museum Catalog (permission to use is granted)

5 |Heian Period: Swords

6 Heian Time line

                        The circle indicate the time we discuss 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 3 |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 HamonNames 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)