51|Part 2 of –16 Late Kamakura Period: Tanto (Early Soshu-Den 鎌倉末短刀) 正宗墓

Chapter 52 is a continued part of 16| Late Kamakura period Tanto (Early Soshu-Den 鎌倉末短刀).  Please read Chapter 16 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Late Kamakura

                              The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section.

In  16| Late Kamakura period Tanto (Early Soshu-Den 鎌倉末短刀)Den), a general common characteristic of the late Kamakura period tanto style (early Soshu Den) was described.  Next two photos fit in with the typical characteristics of early Soshu Den tanto.


Goro Nyudo Masamune (五郎入道正宗) was born in Kamakura as a son of Tosaburo Yukimitu (藤三郎行光)Today, Masamune is a very well-known swordsmith even among those who are not very familiar with the Japanese sword.  His father Tosaburo Yukimitsu was also one of the top swordsmith among the early Soshu DenMasamune’s tomb is in Honkaku-JI (本覚寺) Temple near Kamakura train station, approximately 6 minutes’ walk from the station. 

Goro Nyudo Masamune (相州伝五郎入道正宗) from Sano Museum Catalog (permission granted). 

Masamune photo (above) —– Hira-zukuri (flat)Very slightly Sakizori (tip area curves slightly outward).  Bo-hi and Tsure-hi (parallel thin groove).  Ko-maru boshiItame-hada (wood grain).  Hamon is notare (wavy).  The illustration above shows Sunagashi and Niju-ba (double hamon) .  This type of nakago is called Tanago-bara.  Masamune tanto is often Mu-mei (no signature).  This particular tanto is called Komatsu Masamune (小松政宗).  The description of the Sano Museum Catalog stated that connoisseurs in the past had difficulty determining whether this sword had been made by Masamune because of the wide mihaba with sori and hamon is a little different for usual Masamune but by judging from the clear nie, chikei, and kinsuji, this sword should be judged as Masamune.

Enju Photo below

Higo Province Enju Kunisuke  From Sano Museum Catalog
(permission granted)

Enju group lived Higo Province in Kyushu.  The characteristic of the Enju group is very similar to that of the Yamashiro Den’s.  Because Enju Kunimura was related to Rai Kuniyuki of Yamashiro-Den. 

Enju Photo (above) —-Hamon is Hoso-suguha (straight temper line).  Boshi is Ko-maru.  The front engraving is Suken (left photo) and the engraving on the back is Gomabashi (right photo).  Ji-hada is a tight itame.  It is confusing to kantei (determining who made the sword) a sword like this because this sword is the one from the late Kamakura period, but it does not have the typical early Soshu Den look.

MasamuneTomb in Honkaku-ji Temple

Masamune (正宗) tomb is at Honkakuj-Ji Temple (本覚寺) in Kamakura.  Here is a map of Honkakuji temple and Masamune kogei store in Kamakura.  This store is owned by Tsunahiro Yamamura who is the 24th generation of MasamuneHonkaku-ji Temple is circled in red  and Masamune Kogei store is red circle with X.  Both are in approx. 6 to 7 minutes walking distance from the Kamakura station. 

Take Yokosuka line from Tokyo station (approx. one hour) — Get off at Kamakura Station (don’t get off Kita-Kamakura) —Exit from the East Exit (front exit) — Go straight and cross the road —Turn right and go up to the post office — Turn left at the post office (Honkaku-Ji sign is at the corner of the post office) — Honkaku-ji Temple is a short distance from the post office.

52 Honkakuji map in red

52 Honnkakuji 2 54 large Masamune monument only

52 Honkakuji 54 Small Masamune tomb only

2019 family trip to Kamakura

50| Part 2 of —– 15 The Revival of Yamato Den (大和伝復活)

This chapter is the continued part of Chapter 15|The Revival of Yamato Den.   Please read chapter 15 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Late Kamakura

                               The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

At the end of the Kamakura period, in the Yamato area, powerful temples expanded their territories.  See the map below for the location of the Yamato area.  Several big temples had a political and military power to control the area at the end of the Kamakura period, especially, the one with large territories.   Those big territories were called Shoen (荘園).  They employed a large number of monk soldiers called So-hei.  The demand for swords was increased by the increased number of Sohei (僧兵).  The increased demand revived the Yamato Den.

Some of the big temples had their own swordsmiths within their territory. Todaiji-temple (東大寺) backed Tegai (手掻) sword group.  The Senjuin (千手院 ) sword group lived near Senju-Do (千手堂) where Senju Kannon (千手観音) was enshrined.  The name of the sword group, Taima came from the Taima-Ji Temple (当麻寺).  Shikkake group (尻懸) and Hosho group (保昌) were also Yamato Den sword group.  Those five groups are called Yamato Goha (Yamato five group).

51 Japan map Yamato

General Characteristic of Yamato Den

Yamato Den (大和伝) sword always shows Masame (柾目: straight grain-like) somewhere on Ji-hada, Jigane, and/or hamon.   Please refer to 15| The Revival of Yamato Den(大和伝復活for its general characteristic.  Masame is sometimes mixed with Mokume (burl like) or Itame (wood grain like).  Either way, Yamato Den sword shows Masame somewhere.  Some sword shows Masame entirely or some show a lesser amount. Because of Masame, the hamon tends to show Sunagashi (brush stroke-like) or a double line called Niju-ha.

Taima or Taema group (当麻)

Shape ——————— Middle Kamakura period shape and Ikubi-kissaki style              Hamon —————-Mainly medium Suguha.  Double hamonSuguha mixed with choji.  Often shows Inazuma, Kinsuji, especially under Yokote line Inazuma appeares.         Boshi —– Often Yakizume.  (Refer 15| The Revival of Yamato Den(大和伝復活)        Ji-hada ———– Small wood grain and well-knead surface.  At the top part of the sword, the wood grain pattern becomes Masame.

Shikkake Group (尻懸)

Shape ——————— Late Kamakura period shape. Refer 14| Late Kamakura SwordHamon–Mainly Nie (nie-hon’i).  Medium frayed suguha, mixed with small irregular and Gunome (half-circle).  Double-lined, brush stroke-like pattern.  Small Inazuma, KinsujiBoshi ——————Yakizume, Hakikake (swept trace like) and Ko-maru ( small round)    Ji-hada —————— Small burl mixed with Masame.  Shikkake group sometimes shows Shikkake-hada, which is, that the ha side shows Masame and mune side shows burl.

Tegai Group ( 手掻 )

Shape ——— Early Kamakura shape and thick kasane (body).  High ShinogiKoshizori. Hamon ————————- Narrow tempered line with medium suguha hotsure (frayed suguha). Mainly Nie.  Double tempered line. Inazuma, Kinsuji shows.                              Boshi ———————————————–Yakizume (no turn back), Kaen (flame like).      Ji-Hada ————————————————- Fine burl mixed with Masame.

51 Kanenaga photo Yamato51 Kanenaga ilustration Yamato

Tegai Kanenaga of Yamato.  From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted).  The illustration shows Notare (wave-like hamon) and Suguha hotsure (frayed Suguha) and Kinsuji.

Below is my Yamato sword.  I obtained this sword at an annual San Francisco swords show a few years back.

Characteristic:  Munei (cut short and no signature).  Yamato Den, Tegai-ha (Yamato school Tegai group).  Length is 2 shaku 2 sun 8 &1/2 bu (27&1/4 inches).  Very small Kissaki and funnbari.

My Yamato sword

The entire view of the sword and Kantei-sho (NBTHK Certification).  It is ranked as “Tokubetsu Hozon Token”.

My Yamato sword 5

My Yamato sword 4

My Yamato sword.jpg 2

On Hamon, Sunagashi, Niju-ba shows very faintly.   I could not take a good photo of boshi.  But it is Yakizume like.  JiHada is Itame with faint Masame, almost Nashiji-Hada (possibly because of my eyes).  Nie-hon’i. 

39|Part 2 of — 5 Heian Period Sword (792-1192)

39 Heian Time line

                                  The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this sect

This chapter is the continued part of 5 |Heian Period Swords.  Please read chapter 5 before reading this section.  More sword terminologies will be used in the coming chapters.  They were explained between chapters 1 to 33.  For unfamiliar sword terminology, please read chapter 1 to 33.

There are several active schools of swordsmith during the Heian period.  We use the word, Den for school.  They are Yamashiro Den (山城伝), Yamato Den (大和伝), Bizen Den ( 備前伝 ).  Also, the following areas are other groups during the middle Kamakura period:  Hoki-no-Kuni (伯耆の国), and Oo-U (奥羽).

 Yamashiro Den (山城伝 )

During the Heian period,  among Yamashiro Den swords, the most famous sword is Mikazuki Munechika (三日月宗近) by Sanjo Munechika (三条宗近).  Mikazuki means crescent.  Because the crescent shape uchinoke (collection of nie) pattern appears in the Hamon area, it was named Mikazuki Munechika.  It has a graceful shape, narrow-body, Koshi-zori, Funbari, and small kissaki.  It shows wood grain surface, suguha with nie mixed with small irregular, sometimes Nijyu-ha (double hamon: 二重刃) appears.  Sanjo Munechika lived at the Sanjo area in Kyoto.  His sword style was followed by his sons and grandsons, Sanjo Yoshiie (三条吉家), Gojo Kanenaga (五条兼永), Gojo Kuninaga (五条国永 ).  Gojo is the area in Kyoto.

6 photos Sanjo Munechika

Mikaduki Munechika(三日月宗近) Tokyo National Museum (東京国立博物館蔵)  “Token no mikata” by Yuichi Hiroi (“刀剣のみかた” 広井雄一)

Houki -no-Kuni (伯耆の国)

Houki-no-Kuni is today’s Tottori prefecture.  It is known for the place to produce good iron.  The sword name, Doujigiri Yasutsuna  (童子切安綱) by Houki-no-Yasutsuna (伯耆の安綱) is the most famous one.

The characteristics of Yasutsuna’s sword———-It has a graceful shape with small kissaki, narrow hamon (often suguha with ko-choji), coarse nie on hamon area, large wood grain mixed with masame on ji-hada Hamon area often shows Inazuma and kinsuji.  Boshi area is yakizume, kaen with small turn back.

6 Sano Hoki Yasutuna

伯耆の安綱 (Hoki no Yasutsuna) 佐野美術館図録 (Sano Musem Catalogue)

Bizen Den (備前伝 )

Bizen is Okayama prefecture today.  It is known for the place to produce good iron.  Since the Heian period until now, Bizen has been famous for the sword-making tradition.  The sword-making group in this area during the Heian period is called the Ko-bizen group.  The most famous swordsmith in Ko-bizen group is Bizen Tomonari (備前友成) and Bizen Masatsune (備前正恒) and Bizen Kanehira (備前包平)

The characteristics of Ko-bizen group———-a graceful narrow body, small kissaki, narrow tempered line with Ko-choji (small irregular) with Inazuma and Kin-sujiJi-hada is a small wood grain pattern.

6 Sano Kanehira

Bizen Kanehira (備前包平) Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館図録)

I saw Ko-Bizen Sanetsune (真恒 ) at Mori Sensei’s house.  That was one of the Kantei-to of that day.  I received Douzen*ᴵ.  The book written by Honnami Koson was used as our textbook.  Each time I saw a sword at Mori Sensei’s house, I put down the date on the swordsmith’s name where the author describes.  It was Nov. 22, 1970.  It had a narrow body line, small kissaki (that is Ko-bizen Komaru), kamasu*2  (no fukura), and suguha and others.  Kamasu is the condition where the fukura (arc) is much lesser than usual.  Thinking back then, it is amazing we could see a famous sword like this one for our study materials.


Kantei-kai is the study meeting.  Usually, several swords were displayed covering the nakago part.  The attendees guess the name of the sword maker and hand in the answer sheet to the judge.  Below is the grade.

Atari—–If the answer is the right on the exact name, you get atari, that is the best answer.

Dozen *1—-The second one is dozen.  The subject sword was made by the family and (or) clan of the right Den.  It means almost the right answer.  Dozen is considered very good.  It indicates the student has a good knowledge of the particular group.

Kaido Yoshi—– This means the same line, but not within the family.

Jidai Yoshi—-Each Kanntei-kai has different grading systems.  Some have Jidai Yoshi, which means the time or period is correct.

Hazure—– Wrong answer.

After all the answer sheet is handed in and the answer sheet is graded and returned, the judge reveals the correct answer and explains why.

*1 Dozen:  Almost the same as the collect answer.                                                    *2 Kamasu:  The name of a fish.  It has a narrow and pointed head.



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