58|Part 2 of — 24 Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代短刀)

Chapter 58 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 red 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: The 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.  The Muramasa family lived through the mid-Muromachi period.  They had 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)

Characteristics  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 pattern, 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) appear.  O-notare (large gentle waviness) is a Muramasa’s signature characteristic.  The pointed tempered line is a typical Mino Den characteristic (Sanbon-sugi).  Refer to 23| Sengoku Period Sword(戦国時代刀)and 24| Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代短刀).

61 Sunagashi 2

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

24| Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代短刀)

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

25 Chukanzori Tanto

Chukan-zori (中間反り) ————— Chukan-zori Tanto has a straight Mune(back).  Its back does not curve either inward or outward.   

Hamon (刃文: Tempered line) ———–Sanbon-sugi (三本杉), O-notare (大湾), Yahazu-midare (矢筈乱), Hako-midare (箱乱), Gunome-choji (互の目丁子), Chu-suguha (中直刃).   See below.

24 Sannbon sugi,hako, yahazu, O-midare)

Horimono (彫り物: Carving) —————Often Hi (grooves) is curved

Tanto Length ———————— Standard Tanto length should be no longer than one Shaku*¹ (approx. 12 inches, 30.5cm).  The standard size Tanto is called Jo-sun Tanto, which is 8.5 Shaku (approx. 10 inches, 25.7cm).  Longer than Jo-sun is called Sun-nobi Tanto (寸延)Shorter than Jo-sun is called Sun-zumari Tanto (寸詰).

             Sun-nobi Tanto  >  Jo-sun Tanto (approx. 10 inches) >  Sun-zumari Tanto

*¹ Shaku is a Japanese old measurement unit for length.

Takenoko-zori Jo-sun Tanto (筍反定寸短刀) ———– Takenoko-zori Jo-sun Tanto was made during the Sengoku period.  It resembles the swords made by Rai Kunimitsu of Yamashiro Den.  (Illustration below)

Hamon (刃文: Tempered line)———–Hoso-suguha (細直刃: Narrow straight Hamon).  Katai-ha (illustration below) shows somewhere on the blade.  Masamehada (Straight grain pattern) may appear on the Mune side.

                  13 Middle Kamakura Period Tanto                 24 Suguha katai-ha

Ji-hada (地肌: Area between shinogi and tempered line)————- Some Shirake (白け: a whitish surface) sometimes appears.  Some Utsuri (a light, whitish, cloud-like effect) on Ji-hada appears.

Sun-nobi Tanto (寸延短刀)————–This type of Tanto is similar to the Sakizori Tanto of the late Soshu Den time.  You may see Hitatsura type Hamon.  (Illustration below).  Unlike the Soshu Den style, the Hitatsura shows more on the lower part and less on the upper part of the Tanto.

                                             25 Sun-Nobi Tanto      25 Hitatsura

Hirazukuri Takenokozori Sunzumari Tanto (平造筍反寸延短刀)                                  

This is a unique Tanto in the Sengoku period.   Hirazukuri means a flat surface sword without Shinogi, Yokote line, or obvious Kissaki.   Takenoko-zori means bamboo shoot shape (back of the sword curves inward).   Sun-zumari means shorter than 10 inches long (shorter than 8.5 Shaku, or 25.7 cm).  The lower part of the blade is wide and thick, and the tip is narrow and thin.  It has a piercing sharp look.

  • Horimono(彫物: Engraving) ——-Deeply carved Ken-maki Ryu (a dragon wrapped around a spear).
  • Hamon (刃文: Tempered line)———Wide tempered line, Nioi base.  Irregular Hamon, wide Suguha (straight), and Chu-suguha (medium straight).  The Hamon in the Boshi area turns back long.
  • Ji-hada (地肌)———–fine and wood burl pattern.

Moroha-Tanto (諸刃短刀: Double-edged sword)

Double-edged sword with a Hamon on both cutting edges.  Often Bonji (Sanscrit) is curved.

  • Hamon (刃文: Tempered line) ——— Wide tempered line.   Nioi base.  Irregular Hamon, wide Suguha (straight tempered line), and Chu-suguha (medium straight  tempered line).  Hamon turns back deeply.
  • Ji-hada (地肌:Area between shinogi and tempered line)——- Fine and wood burl pattern.

25-moroha-tanto1 Moroha Tanto

The Swordsmith for Tanto during the Sengoku Period 

The Bizen swords during the Sengoku period are called Sue-bizenSue is pronounced “su” and “e“ as egg.   Bizen Osafune Yoso Zaemon Sukesada (与三左衛門祐定) is the most regarded swordsmith during the Sengoku period.  He also forged Tantos.  One thing to point out is that there were many swordsmiths called Sukesada.  Yoso-Zaemon Sukesada is, however, the one who represents the era.