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


47|Part 2 of –12 Ikubi Kissaki(continuedfrom Chapter 46)

This chapter is a detailed part of Chapter 12 and continued from the previous chapter 46.  Please read Chapter 12 and Chapter 46 before reading this section.

12 Red Middle Kamakura Timeline                    
                       The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section.

Bizen Saburo Kunimune (備前三郎国宗)

Another swordsmith that needs to be mentioned in this section is Bizen Saburo Kunimune (備前三郎国宗).  In the middle Kamakura period, the Hojo clan invited top swordsmiths to the Kamakura area.  Awataguchi Kunitsuna (粟田口国綱) from Yamashiro of Kyoto, Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真) from Bizen area, Bizen Kunimune (備前国宗 ) from Bizen area moved to Kamakura with his circle of people.  Those three groups started the Soshu Den (相州伝).  Refer to 14|Late Kamakura Period History(鎌倉後期)

Sugata (shape)  —– Ikubi Kissaki style.  Sometimes Chu-gissaki.    Thick body.  Narrow Shinogi width.  Koshi-zori

Horimono (Engravings)  —– Often narrow Bo-hi (single groove)

Hamon (Tempered line) —– O-choji Midare (large clove irregular) with Ashi.  Or Ko-Choji Midare (small clove irregular) with AshiNioi base with Ji-nie (Nie in the Hada area).  Some Hamon is squarish with less Kubire (less narrow at the bottom of the clove).  Hajimi (刃染み rough surface) may show.  Often the Kunimure swords are as follows; Lower part shows Choji, the upper part shows less work without Ashi. 

12 «Part 2» 国宗刃紋 佐野

Kunimune Squarish Kawazuko Choji (tadpole and clove-like)Hamon                                                                                  (Sano Museum Catalog, Permission granted)

Boshi  —– Small irregular.  Yakizume or short turn back.

Ji-hada —–Woodgrain.  Fine Ji-hada with some Ji-nie (Nie inside Ji-hada).  Midare Utsuri (irregular shadow) shows.  A few Hajimi (rough surface).

12 «Part 2» 国宗  

Above photo is Kunimune   (国宗 Sano Museum Catalog, permission granted)  Even though Kunimune is famous for Ikubi Kissaki,  and this is the chapter for Ikubi Kissaki, this one is Chu-Gissaki.

12 (second part 2) 照国神社

Above photo is a picture from the official site of Terukuni Shrine in Kyushu.  You can go the site by clicking,  http://terukunijinja.pkit.com/page222400.html

The above photo is the National treasure Kunimune of the Terukuni Jinja Shrine in Kagoshima prefecture.  This Kunimune sword was lost after WWII.  This is the sword Dr. Compton, the chairman of the Board of Miles Laboratory in Elkhart Indiana, found in an antique store in Atlanta.  I mentioned Dr. Compton in Chapter 34.  When he saw this sword, he realized this is not just an ordinary sword.  He bought it and inquired to the Nihon Bijutu Token Hozon Kyokai (Sword museum) in Tokyo.  It turned out to be the famous missing National treasure of Kunimune from Terukuni Jinja ShrineHe returned the sword to Terukuni Jinja without compensation in 1963.  My father became a good friend with him around this time through Dr. Homma and Dr. Sato (both were leading sword experts).  Later, Dr. Compton asked Dr. Honma and my father to examine his swords which he kept in his house (he had about 400 swords) and swords of New York Met, Philadelphia Museum, and the Boston Museum.  Father wrote about this trip and swords he examined in those museums and published a book in 1965; the title is “Katana Angya (刀行脚)”.  For Dr. Compton and my father, around this time must be the best time of their life.  The business for both of them was doing good and could spend time on their interest and having fun.  It was the best time of me too.

One time while I was visiting Compton’s house, he showed me his swords in his basement for hours almost all day.  His house was huge and the basement he built as his study room was with fire prevention system and correct lighting for viewing swords.   It was functionally correct as a storage place for his many different art objects.  Then his wife, Phoebe said to him that he cannot keep a young girl (I was a college student) in the basement all day long.  He agreed and then he took me to his cornfield to pick some corns for dinner.  Basement to a cornfield, not much improvement?  So his wife Phoebe decided to take me shopping and lunch in Chicago.  Good idea,  but it is too far.   The distance between Elkhart and Chicago is about two hours by driving a car then, too far just for shopping and lunch.  To my surprise, we took their company’s helicopter and landed on the rooftop of the department store then do the shopping and lunch came back  the same way.

Miles Lab. and a well-known Japanese large pharmaceutical company had a business tie-up then.  Dr. Compton used to come to Japan quite often, officially for business purposes.  But whenever he came to Japan he used to spend days with sword people and I used to follow my father.  One of the female workers of this pharmaceutical company, her job description was to translate the sword book into English.  My parents’ house was filled with Miles products.  Miles Lab. had a big research institute in Elkhart Indiana.  I visited there several times.  One day I was sitting with Dr. Compton in his office, looking into the sword book with our head together.  That day, a movie actor John Forsythe was visiting the research lab.  He was the host of the TV program the Miles Lab was sponsoring.  All the female employees were making a big fuss over him.  Then he came into Compton’s room to greet him thinking the chairman must be sitting in his big chair at his desk looking like a chairman.  But he saw Compton looking into the sword book with his head against my head.  The appearance of Dr. Compton was just like any chairman of the board of a big company one can imagine, and I was a Japanese college student looking like a college student.   John Forsythe showed a strange expression on his face that he did not know what to think.


32|Sword Making Process

7 Kamakura timeline

As a part of the sword study, it is necessary to describe the process of making a sword.  This chapter explains only a very basic procedure of sword making, the outlines of the procedure of sword making, since I don’t know much about it.  When I was small, I used to see the process of metal being heated up in the furnace in my father’s factory.  He used to own a machine tool company and forging factory.  It was fascinating to see the metal being heated up, taken out of the furnace, pounded by two men then put it back and pounded again and again.  To this day, I still can remember the exact color of the metal when it should be taken out of the fire.  Strange thing to learn for a small girl.  Not only that it is dangerous for a child to look into the furnace when the metal is being heated.  But those days people’s idea of safeties was different.  I think factory guys were enjoying seeing my brother and I were so impressed, so amazed and looked them up as  heroes.  We kept watching until father moved the factory to a bigger place.  Today, I would never allow my grandchildren to be near a furnace.

The sword-making process is a very involved process and each swordsmith has his own secrets.  Anybody interested in a more detailed explanation, please refer to the book written by a famous swordsmith, Mr. Yoshihara Yoshindo, and the DVD made by his son. Their information is below.  You should be able to buy Mr. Yoshihara’s book from Amazon.  DVD is sold on Japan Amazon.  It may be necessary to go through the proxy service; Zen Market since the DVD is sold on Japan Amazon.

Book: The Art of the Japanese Sword ————-The Craft of Sword making and its Appreciation by  Yoshihara Yoshindo, Leon and Hiroko Capp      Published by Saviolo Edizioni

DVD:  Katana/On Ko So Shin—–Katana project by Yoshihara Yoshikazu (吉原義一)         (Use proxy service-Zen Market, since only Japan amazon sells it)

Tamahagane (玉鋼  )

In the old days, an early sword making time, swordsmiths created steel from iron sand and refined it himself for a sword material.   By the Kamakura period (refer to the timeline above), steelmaking was done by a separate entity.  Swordsmiths buy steel called “Tama-Habane” from a steelmaker.  “Tama-Hagane” is the most important part of the sword making.  “Tama-Hagane” is the steel made with the Tatara process, which is a unique Japanese smelter.

32 Tamahagane 2

Tama-Hagane from Mr. Yoshihara

Kawa-Gane(側金) and Shin-Gane(芯金 )

The Japanese sword is made from two different hardness of steel.  Kawa-Gane is for outer steel.  Shin-Gane for inner steel.  Kawa-Gane is harder steel which contains about 0.6% carbon contents.  Shin-Gane is a softer steel that contains about 0.25% carbon contents.  Japanese swords are made with the harder steel wraps around softer steel, therefore, hard to bend, hard to break

Kawa-Gane (outer steel 側金) —– Shita Gitae (Base forging 下鍛)

Heat up a piece of Tama-Hagane —– Hit with a hammer and make a flat piece—– While Tama-Hagane is still hot, quench in water quickly —– Break into small pieces —– Separately forge a rectangle plate from Tama-Hagane —– Connect this plate with a handle (or a lever called Teko) —– Stack up the previously broken metal pieces on the Teko (handle or lever) carefully and closely.

32 Pile up drawing

—– Cover the stacked up Tama-Hagane with ashes and clay for protection purpose —– Heat this up in the furnace —– Take it out from the furnace, hit with a hammer —– Repeat this process many times to stretch out Tama-Hgane about twice as long —— While Tama-Hagane is still hot, make a notch in the center and fold back into half —– Continue the same process of heat up, hammer to stretch out, fold back (half in sideways and half in lengthwise alternatively approximately 6 or 7 times depends on the original carbon contents in Tama-Hagane).  This process reduces the carbon contents to the desired level.

32 folding drawing

Kawa-Gane (outer steel側金) —–Age Kitae (Finish forging上鍛 )

At the end of Shita Gitae, the block of Tama-Hagane is chiseled to divide into two or three sections —– quench in water —– Cool down —– break into pieces where marked before   —- Combine this and repeat heating, folding, hammering.  This process is for Kawa-Gane (側鉄).  Usually the folding process is done 6,7 time for Shita Gitae (base forging) and 6,7 times for Age Kitae (finish forging), total 12times or so depends on the original carbon contents in Tama-Hagane.  This process is for Kawa-Gane ( 側鉄 )

Purpose of heating hammering and folding

  • Each time the heating and folding process is done, Tama-Hagane loses carbon contents. For outer steel, ideal carbon contents should be approximately 0.6%. If the carbon contents are too high, steel is hard and as a result, the sword can crack.   If it is too low, the sword will be too soft and can bend. A swordsmith judge by his eye to determine the right amount of carbon contents. This is the professionalism and the art of the swordsmith.
  • Removing the slag and impurity from Tama-Hagane.
  • Each heating and folding processes create many layers of thin steel that create the Ji-hada pattern (surface patterns like wood grain, burl look, straight grain or mixture of those)

Shin-Gane (inner steel 芯金 )

Shin-Gane is the inner metal that is softer steel with lower carbon .  By having the softer inside, the sword has flexibility.  Having hard outer steel with higher carbon, it prevents to crack or break.  To make the Shin-gane steel, mix softer steel with Tama-Hagane.  Repeat the same process as Kawa-Gane.

Tsukuri  Komi (造り込み) Sunobe (素延 )

Wrap the Shin-Gane with the Kawa-Gane then weld two pieces together by heating, hammering, and stretch out to make a steel bar like.  There are several ways to wrap the Shin-Gane, but the most common way is called Kobuse (甲伏). The illustration below is the cross-section.

32 Kobuse drawing

Sword Micro (3)

The above photo is the cross-section of a sword that was taken by my husband.  Many years ago, our sword club member gave us a very rusty sword.  My husband cut the sword and took the micro photo of the cross-section.  This sword has a more complicated construction than the usual Kobuse method.  Looks like 3 (4?) different hardness of steel.  It shows this sword was one of the top swords made by the top sword-maker.

Hizukuri (火造 )

Hizukuri is to make the final shape from Sunobe by heating and hammering.  At this point, Ha (cutting edge ) gets thinner, Shinogi side gets higher, and starts to form the shape of a sword.

Arashiage (荒仕上げ  )

This process is rough finishing.

Tuchitori (土取)

Mix clay, pine tree ash, ground stone, and water. Paint this muddy mixture on the sword.  Around the Hamon area, scrape off a thin layer of the muddy mixture a little, then dry out.  By doing Tuchitori process, Hamon is created and cutting-edge hardens at the same time.

Yaki-Ire (焼入れ)

After the muddy paste is dried, heat up the sword evenly in the furnace.  Judging by the color of the heated sword, pull out the sword from the furnace then quench into the water.  Usually, this process is done after the sun goes down so that the swordsmith can see the color of the metal and can judge the temperature of the heated sword better.  This is the most important process since all the work done up to this point may be ruined if he fails to judge the precise color of the heated sword,  water temperature, and the timing of quenching.

The final process is to send the sword to a polisher.  A polisher called Togishi polishes and sharpens the blade.   He brings out the beauty of the surface and sharpness of the sword, that completes the process.  Every step of sword-making is important but this final process is a very important part.




25| Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代)


25 Sengoku period Time line red

The red circle 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 forward or outward unlike Takenoko-zori, Chukan-zoridoes.   

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 ———————— The length of a tanto should be up to one shaku* (approx. 12 inches, 30.5cm).  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  >  Sun-zumari Tanto

*Shaku is a Japanese old measurement unit for length.

Takenoko-zori Jo-sun Tanto (筍反定寸) ———– This type of tanto was made during the Sengoku period.  This type of sword resembles the sword made by Rai Kunimitsu of Yamashiro Den.  (Below illustration)

Hamon (刃文)———–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)——— Shirake (白け) whitish surface) sometimes appears.  Uturi (the whitish faint cloud-like effect) on Ji-hada  appears.

Sun-nobi Tanto (寸延短刀)———Tanto of this type is similar to the Sakizori tanto which is the one from the late Soshu Den style.  You may see hitatsura (see below illustration).   But unlike Soshu Den, the hitatsura type hamon shows more on the lower part of the tanto, less on the upper part.


                                             25 Sun-Nobi Tanto      25 Hitatsura

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

This is a unique tanto for the Sengoku period.   Hirazukuri means a flat surface sword without a shinogi, no yokote line, or no obvious kissaki.   Takenoko-zori means the shape of a bamboo shoot (back of the sword curves inward).   Sun-zumari means shorter than 10 inches long (shorter than 8.5 shaku, 25.7 cm).  The width of the lower part of the blade is wide and thick, the width of the tip is narrow and thin.  It has a sharp look.

  •  Horimono(彫り物: Carving) ——-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 deep.
  • Ji-hada (地肌)———–fine and wood burl.

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

Double-edged blade with a hamon on both edges. Often bonji (sanscrit) is curved.

  • Hamon (刃文) ——— Wide tempered line.   Nioi base.  Irregular hamon, wide suguha (straight) and Chu-suguha (medium straight).  Hamon turns back deep.
  • Ji-hada (地鉄)——- Fine and wood burl.


25-moroha-tanto1 Moroha Tanto

Name of swordsmith during the Sengoku Period (Tanto maker)

Swords during the Sengoku period are called the Sue-bizen sword.  Bizen Osafune Yoso Zaemon Sukesada (与三左衛門祐定) is the representative 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 the most representative swordsmith.
















20 | Nanboku-Cho Tanto(南北朝短刀)

18 Nanbokucho time line

The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section


During the Nanboku-Cho Period, the 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, each time the Emperor changed, we changed the names of the era.  Enbun was from 1356 to 1361, Jyoji was from 1362 to 1368


20 Enbun Jyoji Kowakizashi Tanto

Shape (Sugata 姿) ——-It is common idea that the length of Tanto should be 1 shaku or less.  Shaku is an old Japanese measurement unit, which is very close to 1 foot.  8.5 sun (old Japanese measurement unit) is approximately 10 inches. This is the standard length Tanto called Jo-Sun Tanto.  Anything longer than Jo-Sun Tanto is called Sun-Nobi Tanto.  Anything shorter than Jo-Sun is called Sun-Zumari Tanto.  Most of the Nanboku-Cho Tanto is approximately 1 foot 2 inches long, therefore they are called Hirazukuri-Kowakizashi-Sun-Nobi Tanto Sakizori (curved outward at the top.  See the illustration above).  Wide width and thin body.  Fukura Kareru (No Fukura). Shin-no-Mune.  See the illustration below.


20 Fukura           20 Shin-no-Mune

Hi, Horimono (Goove and engraving , 彫刻) —– Groove on Mune side.  Bonji (Sanscrit, described in 17 Bonji Suken), Koshi-bi (Short groove) and Tokko- Tsuki Ken, or Tumetuki Ken (see below) appears.  Curving of Ken (dagger) is done wide and deep in the upper part, the lower part was curved shallow and narrower.  This is called Soshu-Bori (Soshu carving).

20 Tokko, tume Ken

Hamon (Tempered line) —– Narrow tempered area at the lower part, gradually grows wider as it goes up toward the top then similar look wide Hamon goes into the Boshi area.  Hamon in Kissaki area is Kaeri Fukashi (turn back deep) as the illustration below.  Coarse Nie. O-Midare (large irregular 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 Tobiyaki is called Hitatsura (illustration above).

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

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)

19| Nanboku-Cho Period Sword (North and South Dynasty Sword)

18 Nanbokucho time line

                           The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

During the Nanboku-Cho period, Samurais demanded large, elaborate, and impressive, yet practical sword.  The Soshu-Den style sword in Nanbochi-Cho time was just that.  This is the most popular style then.  The Nanboku-Cho period was the height of the Soshu Den.  Many swordsmiths moved from other provinces to Kamakura area and forged the Soshu-Den style swords.   Other schools and provinces outside Kamakura area also made the SoshuDen style swords in their own places.

19 Nanboku-cho Sword style

Sugata ( 姿: Shape)———-The original length of a swords was 3, 4, or 5, feet long, but shortened to approximately two and a half feet long at a later time.  A greatly shortened sword is called O-Suriage.

The Nanboku-Cho style sword has a shallow Kyo-zori (also called Torii-zori).  Refer Chapter 6 Heian period.  The highest curvature comes around the middle of the body.  A wide body, high Shinogi, narrow Shinogi-Ji.  Refer Chapter 4 Names of parts.  The thin body called Kasane is a distinctive feature for the Nanboku-cho style.  High Gyo-no-mune or Shin-no-mune, sometimes Maru-Mune (round back).


19 Nanboku-cho 3 kinds Mune

Hi (: groove) and Horimono (彫刻: engraving)—– On Shinogi-Ji area (refer to Chapter 4 Names of parts)often a single hi (Bo-hi), double hi, Suken (dagger), Bonji (Sanscrit), Dragon are engraved.


9 Hi, Suken, Bonji

Hamon (刃: Tempered line) —- The lower part of the body shows a narrow tempered line, with the higher part shows a wider showy tempered line.  Course Nie.   O-midare (large irregular hamon), Notare-midare (wavy irregular hamon), Gunome-midare (a mix of repeated half circular and irregular hamon).  Inazuma, Kinsuji (refer to Chapter 15 Late Kamakura Period sword) also sometimes appears

19 Hamon Notare 319 Mamon choji gunome19 Hitatsura Hamon Hiromitsu

*From Sano Museum Catalogue ( Permission granted).

Jihada (地肌: Area between shinogi and tempered line)  Refer to Chapter 4 Names of parts——Wood grain pattern (Itame 板目). Sometimes Tobiyaki, a patchy tempered spot(s) appears on jihada.

Kissaki (切っ先) and Boshi (Tempered line at Kissaki area) —– O-Kissaki (long and large kissaki). Fukura kareru (less arc).  Midare-komi (body and boshi have a similar tempered line), with kaeri fukashi (hamon deeply turns back), sometimes Hitatsura (entirely tempered).  See the above illustration.

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

From Soshu———————————————————Hiromitsu (広光)  Akihiro (秋広)  From Yamashiro ————————————————–Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重)  From Bizen (called So-den Bizen)————-Chogi (長儀 )group  Kanemitsu (兼光 ) group  From Chikuzen —————————————————————-Samoji (左文字 ) group


19 Chogi photo from Sano book

The distinctive characteristics of the Nanboku-Cho period sword on the photo above      

  • The trace of an engraving of Suken on the nakago indicates that this area was once a part of the main body.
  • Long kissak








16| The Revival of Yamato Den(大和伝復活)

14 Late Kamakura Period timeline                    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 704).  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.  See chapter 6.

*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

15| Late Kamakura Period Sword

14 Late Kamakura Period timeline                      The circle represents the time we discuss in this section

The beginning of the Soshu style

A new sword style called Soshu Den emerged after the Mongolian invasion of the latter part of the Kamakura period.  Kamakura area became prosperous under the rule of the Hojo (北条).  Many swords smiths moved to Kamakura.  Those people are Kunituna (国綱 )and his group from Yamashiro area and Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真), Kunimune (国宗) from Bizen area.  They are the origin of Soshu Den (school 相州).  A star swordsmith, Goro-Nyudo-Masamune (五郎入道正宗) appeared during this time.

15 Soshu sword with explanation


Shape (Sugata 姿) ——- O-Kissaki (large-Kissaki 大切先) and Chu-Kissaki (medium kissaki 中切先).   Tip of Hi ends lower (see below illustration).  HamaguriHa was eliminated, instead, it became a thinner body.  The original length was approximately 3 feet or so but the majority of them were shortened to 2 feet and 3 or 4 inches in a later time.  This is called O-Suriage(大磨上).

15 Kissak shape of 4

15 Hi ends lower

Hamon——————–Narrow Hamon and wide Hamon.     

Narrow Hamon ——-Suguha (straight) mixed with Ko-Choji (small clove) and Ko-Gumome (continuous half-circle like).  Small Nie base. (left drawing below)

10 Nie & Nioi

Wide Hamon———–Notare (wavy) midare, O-gunome.  Nie base.  Ashi-Iri (short line goes inward, the right drawing below).  Inazuma (lightning-like line), Kinsuji (a gold line like) appears on a tempered line.  But Inazuma and Kinsuji require trained eyes to detect.  It is hard to notice the Inazuma, Kinsuji, etc. for beginners.

15 Late Kamakura Soshu Hamon

Boshi————-The same type of Hamon into Boshi area then turn back a little or Yakizume.  You may also see O-maru  (large round), Ko-maru (small round), Kaen (flame like), and Nie-kuzure.  Refer chapter 13 Middle Kamakura period Tanto for Yakizume and Kaen.

15 three boshi name


Jihada or Jitetsu (between Shinogi and Tempered line)—– Strong Ji-Nie (地沸), that is a sand-like small dots appears on Ji (between tempered line and Mune).  Yubashiri (cluster of Ji-Nie),  Kinsuji (lined Nie looks like a golden line), Inazuma  (lightning-like irregular line) and Chikei (similar to Kinsuji appears on Ji-Hada).

15 Yubashiri, Chikei, Inazuma

Late Kamakura Period Soshu School Sword Smiths

From Bizen———–Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真) Kunimune (国宗 )   From Yamashiro ————————————–Toroku- Sakon- Kunituna (藤六左近国綱) 

Those above three are the beginning of Kamakura swordsmiths.  Later, Tosaburo-Yukimitu and his son, famous Goro-Nyudo-Masamune appeared.

Masamune Juttetsu  (Main Soshu Style swordsmiths other than above)

From Yamashiro (山城)—— Rai Kunitsugu (来国次), Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重) From Ettshu (越中) province ———————Gou- no-Yoshihiro (郷義弘) Norishige (則重) From   Mino (美濃) province ——————————————–Kaneuji (兼氏) Kinjyu (金重) From   Chikuzen (筑前) province —————————————————-Samoji (左文字)

15 Masamune (Sano) 15 Masamune hamon (Sano)     Goro-Nyudo-Masamune(正宗)   Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館図録) Permission granted    *Because Masamune lived in Kamakura that is a beach town, his Hamon style was inspired by an ocean wave.  Therefore his Hamon sometimes looks like wave design.

15 Masamune, Yoshioka Ichimonji Endo


15 Masamune, Yoshioka IchimonjiOnce family-owned swords

13| Tanto ( 短刀) Middle Kamakura Period

13 Red Middle Kamakura Timeline

The red circle indicates the area we discuss in this chapter 

It is very rare to see a tanto (small short sword) made during the Heian period.  During the middle Kamakura period, a large number of wonderful tanto were made.  They were called takenoko-zori shape.  Takenoko means bamboo shoot.  The back of the dagger curves inward slightly.

13 Middle Kamakura Period Tanto

Sugata (shape)———-Hirazukuri , it means no shinogi, no yokote line, as you see in the illustration above.  Standard tanto size is about 10 inches.  The width is well balanced to the size of Tanto that means not too wide not too narrow.  The Body is slightly thick.  High Gyo-no-mune (行の棟) and Shin-no-mune (真の棟)

13 Mune drawing

Hamon (刃文) —————- Tempered area is narrow.  Nioi base.  Irregular straight line (suguha midare) or straight line with small choji (suguha-choji).  The tempered edge line may show a frayed look.

Boshi(tempered line at Kissaki area) ———Yakizume,   Kaen,   Niekuzure.

13 Hamon and Hi

Engravings (彫刻 ) ———- Often different kinds of engravings are done at the lower part of the body of Tanto.  These may be a groov or two grooves, Sanskrit, spear (Suken), dragon, etc,.  For Sanskrit and spear, look at the illustration inside Chapter 9.

13 Hamon and Hi

Tanto group and Swordsmiths in the Middle Kamakura Period

Awataguchi group(粟田口)———————————Awataguchi Yoshimitu (粟田口吉光)  Rai group (来) ——————————————————————-Rai Kunitoshi(来国俊)  Soushu Group  (相州) ——————————————Shintougo Kunimitu (新藤五国光)  Bizen group (備前) —————————————————— Bien Kagemitu (備前景光) Bungo no Kuni Group (豊後の国) ——————–Bungo-no-kuni Yukihira (豊後の国行平)


13 Rai kunimitsu Tanto photo 2  来国光(Rai Kunimitsu)

This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA                         Creative common  Free media  Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported (CC BY-SA 3.0)

12| Ikubi Kissaki (猪首切先)

12 time line
The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this chapter.

After the live experience of the war of Jokyu-no-ran (Chapter 11), people started to move toward sturdier, grander, wider swords.  The swords made around this time is called Ikubi Kissaki (猪首切先).  Ikubi means a wild boar neck.  Ikubi Kissaki style sword has a stout look like a wild boar neck.  This is the era of the golden time of sword making.  Many top swords smiths created wonderful swords during this time.  It is said that there is no mediocre sword among Ikubi Kissai swords.

12 Ikubi Kissaki sword style

SUGATA (shape) —— Originally 3 feet or longer, therefore it is often shortened at a later time.  Wide width, thick Kasane (thick body) with Hamaguri-ha (蛤刃).  Hamaguri-ha means the thickness of the sword is shaped like a clam (see below).  The width at the Yokote line area and the width at the Machi are not much different.  Shinogi (鎬) is high, and shinogi width is narrow.

12 蛤刃と鎬

KISSAKI  —— Ikubi kissaki.  Ikubi means a wild boar neck.  Wild boar looks like no neck, stout look shape.  Short Kissaki but wide at the yokote line.  The illustration below is exaggerated a little to show the idea

12 Ikubi Kissak drawing

Hamon (刃文) —— Kawazuko-Choji (tadpole head shape). O- Choji (clove-like shape) and Ko-Choji mixed.  Irregular waviness mixed with a straight line and choji, this is called suguha-choji.

12 Hamon Kawazuko-choji                     O-choji                          Ko-choji                  Suguha-choji     (tadpole head)                   (large clove)                (small clove)      (straight and clove)

Boshi(鋩子) ——— Yakizume, that is Hamon ends close to the tip, as below.  Nagamitu(長光), Kagemitu( 景光), Sanenaga(真長) created  Boshi called Sansaku Boshi(三作鋩子).  Sansaku Boshi narrows down at Yokote Line, Illustration below.

12 Yakizume
12 Sansaku Boshi(三作


Ikubi Kissaki Sword Smiths

Fukuoka Ichimonji Group (福岡一文字) ————–Fukuoka Ichimonji Norimune (則宗) Kamakura Ichimonji Group(鎌倉一文字) ———— Kamakura Ichimonji Sukezane (助真) Soshu Bizen Kunimune Group(相州備前国宗)——– Soshu Bizen Kunimune (国宗)Bizen Osafune Group(長船)——————Bizen Osafune Mitutada(長船光忠) Nagamitsu(長光)   Ugai Group————————————————————————- Ugai Unji (鵜飼雲次)



From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)                                                                    Osafune Nagamitsu(長船長光 )

img028   img027

Osafune Mitsutada(長船光忠)                          Osafune Mitsutada(長船光忠)                        *Were family sword This photo was taken by my father and writings on the white paper were written by him.