55 |Part 2 of —–21 Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代刀)

Chapter 55 is the detailed part of chapter 21|Muromachi Period Sword.  Please read Chapter 21 before reading this section.

57 Muromach-timeline size 22

                              The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

After the Muromachi period, swords changed to Katana(刀) from Tachi (太刀), as described in chapter 21 Muromachi Period Sword.  Refer to 21| Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代刀)  .  By the end of the Nanboku-cho period, the swords’ length became shorter to approximately 2 feet ± a few inches.  The 3-to-5 feet long swords seen in the Nanboku-cho period were no longer created.  The reason was that, during the Nanboku-cho period, warriors fought mostly riding horses, but after the Muromachi time, infantry fighting became more common.

Oei Bizen (応永備前)                                                                                                                          The pronunciation of Oei is“O as Oh” and “ei as A of ABC.”   The Muromachi period was the declining time in sword making.  The swords made during the early Muromachi period in the Bizen area were called Oei BizenOsafune Morimitsu (長船盛光), Osafune Yasumitsu (長船康光), Osafune Moromitsu (長船師光) were the main Oei Bizen swordsmiths.  Soshu Hiromasa (相州広正)、Yamashiro Nobukuni (山城信國)  were also similar to the Oei Bizen style.  Please refer to 21| Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代刀) for Muromachi sword shape, Hamon, Boshi, and Ji-hada.

57 Moromitsu photo (必要分 57 Moromitus Oshigata

Bishu Osafune Moromitsu (備州長船師光)   from Sano Museum Catalogue ((permission granted)

The above Osafune Moromitsu sword is 2 feet 5 inches long with medium Kissaki.  The Hamon has a small wave-like pattern with continuous Gunome (a lined half-circles).  The Boshi area shows irregular waviness with a slightly pointed tip.  Very faint Bo-utsuri (soft shadow shaped like a strip of wood) shows on Ji-hadaBo-utsuri is a distinctive characteristic among all of the Oei Bizen.

Before the Muromachi period, there had been many swordsmith groups in the Bizen area, but by the Muromachi time began, Osafune (長船) was the only remaining active group.

Osafune (長船) is the name of a region, but it became the last name of the swordsmiths during the Muromachi time.  Two other well-known swordsmiths among the Oei Bizen were Osafune Morimitsu (盛光) and Osafune Yasumitsu (康光).  The Hamon by Morimitsu and Yasumitsu shows more works than that of the sword in the photo above.  21| Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代刀) shows the Hamon by Morimitsu and Yasumitsu, also describes typical characteristics of the swords in the Muromachi period.

Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto

58 Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto

Hirazukuri Ko-Wakizashi Tanto Shape

Hirazukuri Ko-wakizashi Tanto was the trendy style during the early Muromachi time. Swordsmiths in different areas created the Tantos like the one above.  But majorities of this 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 12| The Middle Kamakura Period Tanto

13 Mune drawing

Hirazukuri Ko-wakizashi Tanto often shows many engravings.  Hi with Soe-hi (parallel double line, wide and narrow side by side ), Tokko-tsuki-ken, Tsume-tsuki-ken, Bonji, etc.

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

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

 

45|Part 2 of –11 Ikubi Kissaki (continued from Chapter 44)

This chapter is a detailed part of 11| Ikubi Kissaki (猪首切先) and continued from 44|Part 2 of —- 11|Ikubi Kissaki(猪首切先.  Please read Chapter 11 and Chapter 45 before reading this section.

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

Bizen Saburo Kunimune (備前三郎国宗)

Another swordsmith that should 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 their circle of people.  Those three groups started the Soshu Den (相州伝).  Refer to13| Late Kamakura Period: Genko (鎌倉末元寇) .

  • Sugata (shape)  ——————— Ikubi-kissaki style.  Sometimes Chu-gissaki.  Thick body.  Koshi-zori. Narrow Shinogi width.                                                                                                
  • Horimono (Engravings)  —————- Often narrow Bo-hi (single groove)
  • Hamon (Tempered line) ————- O-choji Midare (irregular large clove shape) with Ashi.  Or Ko-choji Midare (irregular small clove shape) 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 Kunimune swords are as follows; the lower part shows Choji, the upper part shows less work without Ashi                                                                                                                                                                                                                        

Kunimune Compton 1 Kunimune Compton 2Bizen Saburo Kunimune (備前三郎国宗)   Photo from “Nippon-to Art Sword of Japan, ” The Walter A. Compton Collection.   National Treasure

  • Boshi  ———————— Small irregular.  Yakizume or short turn back.
  • Ji-hada —————-Wood-grain pattern.  Fine Ji-hada with some Ji-nie (Nie inside Ji-hada).  Midare-utsuri (irregular shadow) shows.  A few Hajimi (rough surface).

12 (second part 2) 照国神社Above photo is a picture from the official site of Terukuni Shrine in Kyushu.     http://terukunijinja.pkit.com/page222400.html

This is the National Treasure, Kunimune, preserved at Terukuni Jinja Shrine in Kagoshima prefecture.  See the photos on the previous page.  This Kunimune sword was lost after WWII.  Dr. Compton, the board chairman of Miles Laboratories in Elkhart, Indiana, found it in Atlanta’s antique store.  I mentioned Dr. Compton in 32| Japanese swords after WWII  .  When he saw this sword, he realized this was not just an ordinary sword.  He bought it and inquired to the Nihon Bijutu Token Hozon Kyokai (The Japanese Sword Museum) in Tokyo.  It turned out to be the famous missing National Treasure, Kunimune, from Terukuni Jinja shrineHe returned the sword to the shrine without compensation in 1963. 

My father became a good friend of 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 he kept in his house (he had about 400 swords) and swords at The Metropolitan Museum of Arts in New York, Philadelphia Museum of Art, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.  My father wrote about this trip and the swords he examined in those museums and published the book in 1965; the title was “Katana Angya (刀行脚).”  

For Dr. Compton and my father, those days must have been the best time of their lives.  Their businesses were doing good, and they were able to spend a lot of time on their interest and had fun.  It was the best time for me, too.  One time, while I was visiting the 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 had a fire prevention system, and the lighting system was perfect to view swords and other art objects. 

Phoebe, his wife, said to him that he shouldn’t keep a young girl (college student then) in the basement all day.  He agreed and took me to his cornfield to pick some corn for dinner.  From a basement to a cornfield, not much improvement?  So, Phoebe decided to take me shopping and lunch in Chicago.  Good idea,  but it was too far.  Compton’s house was Elkhart, Indiana.  The distance between Elkhart and Chicago was about two and a half hours by car.  It was too far just for shopping and lunch.  To my surprise, the company’s employee flew us and landed on the rooftop of a department store, then did the shopping, had lunch, and flew back.

Miles Laboratories and a well-known large Japanese 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 spent days with sword people, including my father, and I usually followed him.  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 Laboratories 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 a sword book with our heads together.  That day, a movie actor, John Forsythe, was visiting the research lab.  He was the host of a TV program Miles Laboratories was sponsoring.  All female employees were making a big fuss over him.  Then he came into Dr. 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 Dr. 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.

31|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.  It is a simple outline of the sword-making process since I lack expertise in the field. 

When I was small, I used to see the process of metal being heated up in the furnace in my father’s factory.  He owned a machine tool company and a forging factory.  It was fascinating to see the metal was heated up, taken out of the furnace, pounded by two men, then put back in the furnace, and pounded again and again.  To this day, I can still remember the exact color of the metal when it should be taken out of the fire.  That was a strange thing to learn for a small girl.  Not only that, it was dangerous for children to be close to the furnace when the metal was being heated.  But those days, people’s idea for safety was different.  I think the factory workers enjoyed seeing my brother and me being so impressed, so amazed, and regard them as heroes.  We kept going to the shop until my father moved the factory to a bigger place.  Today, I would never allow my grandchildren to be near a furnace.

The sword-making involves very many detailed processes, and each swordsmith has his secrets. Anybody interested in more detailed explanations, please refer to a book written by a famous swordsmith, Mr. Yoshihara Yoshindo, and a DVD made by his son. Their information is below.  Mr. Yoshihara’s book is sold on Amazon.  DVD is sold on Japan Amazon.  DVD may be necessary to go through the proxy service; Zen Market since it is sold on Amazon Japan.

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 (温故創新)——-Katana project by Yoshihara Yoshikazu (吉原義一).  Use proxy service-Zen Market, since only Amazon Japan sell it.

Tamahagane (玉鋼)

In the old days, the early sword-making time, swordsmiths extracted iron from iron sand and refined it by themselves for sword material.   By the Kamakura period (refer to the timeline above), ironmaking was done by separate entities.  Swordsmiths buy iron called “Tamahabane” from ironmakers.  “Tamahagane” is the essential part of sword-making.  “Tamahagane” is the iron made with the Tatara process, a unique Japanese smelting process.

32 Tamahagane 2

Tama-Hagane from Mr. Yoshihara

Kawa-gane (側鉄) and Shin-gane (芯鉄 )     

The Japanese sword is made from steel of two different hardness.  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 softer steel that has about 0.25% carbon content. Japanese swords are made with softer steel inside, wrapped around by harder steel, this way it is hard to bend, and hard to break.

Kawa-gane (側鉄: outer steel) ——– Shita-gitae (下鍛: Base forging)

Heat a block of Tamahagane  Hit with a hammer and make flat pieces While Tamahagane is still hot, quench in water quickly Break into small pieces.

Separately forge a rectangle plate with Tamahagane  Connect this plate with a handle or a lever to create a Teko  Stack up the previously broken metal pieces on the Teko carefully and closely32 Pile up drawing

 Cover the stacked up Tamahagane with ashes and clay for protection Heat this in the furnace Take it out from the furnace and hit with a hammer Repeat this process many times to stretch out Tamahgane about twice as long.

While Tamahagane is still hot, make a notch in the center and fold in half Continue the same process of heating up, hammering to stretch, and folding half (widthwise and lengthwise alternatively approximately 6 or 7 times depending on the original carbon level in Tamagahane).  This process reduces the carbon content to the desired level.

32 folding drawing

Kawagane (側鉄: Outer steel) —– Age-gitae (上鍛: Finish forging )

At the end of Shita-gitae, chisel the block of Tamahagane so that it can be separated into two or three sections Quench in water Cool down Break it into pieces along with the markings Combine these pieces and repeat the heating, hammering, and folding processes.

Usually, the folding process is done 6 to 7 times for Shita-gitae (base forging) and 6 to 7 times for Age-gitae (finish forging).  Total 12 times or so depending on the original carbon contents in the Tamahagane used.  This process is for Kawa-gane (側金)

Purpose of heating hammering and folding

  • Each time the heating and folding process is done, Tamahagane loses carbon content.  For outer steel, the ideal carbon content should be approximately 0.6%.  If the carbon content is 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.  Swordsmiths judge by their eyes to determine the right amount of carbon content. This is the professionalism and the art of sword-making.
  • Removing slags and impurities from Tamahagane.
  • 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 a mixture of those)

Shin-gane (inner steel 芯鉄)       

Shin-gane is the inner metal that is softer steel with less carbon.  By having softer inside, the sword has flexibility.  Having hard outer steel with higher carbon with softer steel inside prevents the sword from cracking or breaking. To make the Shin-gane steel, mix softer steel with Tamahagane.   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.  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 (taken by my husband) shows a cross-section of a sword.  Many years ago, a member of our sword club gave us a very rusty, damaged sword.  My husband cut the blade and took the micro photo of the cross-section.  This sword has a more complicated construction than the usual Kobuse method.  It looks like it has 3 (4?) different hardness of steel.  This sword seems it was once one of the top swords made by a top sword-maker.

Hizukuri (火造 )

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

Arashiage (荒仕上げ)

This process is rough finishing.

Tsuchitori (土取)

Mix clay, pine tree ash, ground stone, and water.  Coat the sword with this muddy mixture.  Scrape off a thin layer of the mix a little around the hamon area, then dry out.  By doing the Tsuchitori process, hamon is created, and cutting-edge hardens at the same time.

Yaki-Ire (焼入れ)

After the muddy paste is dried, heat the sword evenly in the furnace.  Judging by the heated sword’s color, pull it out from the furnace, quickly quench it in 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 more accurately. This is the most crucial process since all the work done up to this point may be ruined if he fails to judge the heated sword’s precise color, water temperature, and quenching timing.

The final process is to send the sword to a polisher.  The polisher called Togishi polishes and sharpens the blade.   He brings out the beauty of the surface and the sharpness of the sword.  This completes the whole process of sword-making.  Every step is essential, but the polishers’ final process is as important as the rest of the work.

 

 

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.

 

 

19 | Nanboku-Cho Period Tanto(南北朝短刀)

53-red-timeline-nanboku-cho

The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section

During the Nanboku-cho period, a type of Tanto called Hirazukuri Ko-wakizashi Sun-nobi Tanto was made.  Hirazukuri means a flat sword without the Yokote line and Shinogi.  Ko-wakizashi means a shorter sword.  Sun-nobi Tanto means longer than standard Tanto.  This is also called Enbun Jyoji Ko-wakizashi Tanto.  It is called this way because most of this type of Tanto was forged around Enbun and 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

Sugata  (姿: shape) ——-  The length of a standard size Tanto is approx. one ShakuShaku 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.  Ten inches 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, (樋: Grooves) and Horimono (彫り物: Engraving) —- 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 stule 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.  Coarse Nie.  O-midare (large irregular Hamon pattern).

20 Hitatsura

                                        From Sano Museum Catalogue

Ji-hada (地肌: Area between shinogi-ji and tempered line)——— Loose wood grain pattern called Itame.  Yubashiri (refer Chapter 16| Late Kamakura period: Early Soshu-Den Tanto (鎌倉末短刀)), Tobiyaki (Irregular patchy tempered spot) appear.  Crowded (or busy) Tobiyaki is called Hitatsura (drawing 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 )

Compton Hiromitsu Soshu Hiromitsu     “Nippon-To Art Sword of Japan “   The Walter A. Compton Collection

 

18| Nanboku-Cho Period Sword (南北朝太刀)

 

                           The circle indicates the time we discuss in this section

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

19 Nanboku-cho Sword style

Sugata (姿: Shape)———-The original length of 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 blade is called O-suriage

The Nanboku-cho style sword has a shallow Kyo-zori (also called Torii-zori).  Refer to Chapter 5 |Heian Period: Swords.  The highest curvature comes around the middle of the body.  A wide-body, high Shinogi, narrow Shinogi-Ji (Refer to Chapter 3 Names of Parts).  The thin Kasane (thickness of the body) is the 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) ——– Often, a single Hi (Bo-hi), double Hi, Suken (dagger), Bonji (Sanscrit), and/or Dragon are engraved on the Shinogi-Ji area.  Refer to Chapter 3 Names of Parts.

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji

Hamon (: Tempered line) —- The lower part of the body shows a narrow-tempered line; gradually, the tempered line becomes wider and showy.  Course Nie.  O-midare (large irregular wavy Hamon), Notare-midare (wavy, irregular Hamon), Gunome-midare (a mix of repeated half-circular and irregular Hamon).  Inazuma, Kinsuji (refer to Chapter 14 Late Kamakura Period: Sword (鎌倉末太刀))  sometimes appears.

19 Hamon Notare 319 Mamon choji gunome19 Hitatsura Hamon Hiromitsu

                                  *From Sano Museum Catalogue ( Permission granted).

Ji-hada (地肌: Area between Shino-gi and tempered line) ———————-Wood-grain pattern (Itame 板目). Sometimes Tobiyaki (patchy tempered spots) appears on Ji-hada. For Ji-hada, refer to Chapter 3 Names of parts.

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 pattern), 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 engraving trace of Suken on the Nakago indicates this area was once a part of the main body.
  • Large and Long kissak

15| The Revival of Yamato Den(大和伝復活)

 

0-timeline - size 24 Late Kamakura

        The red circle above 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 techniques were 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 Buddhist temples in the Yamato area had power struggles against each other.  Temples had a strong political 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 was called Nanto Sohei (南都僧兵)*.  The groups of Sohei demanded more swords to arm themselves.  The high demand for swords from Sohei revitalized the Yamato Den (school) and increased the number of swordsmiths in the Yamato area.   As a result, Yamato Den became active again.  The Yamato Den style is somewhat similar to that of Yamashiro Den.    

*Nanto Sohei (南都僧兵)———Since around the 11th century, Buddhist temples had become powerful under the protection from the Jokos (retired emperors).  Those temples had a large number of Sohei (low-level monks who also acted as soldiers). When power struggles started between the temples, Sohei fought as their soldiers on the battlefields. Nanto Sohei were such soldiers at Kofuku-Ji Temple (興福寺).  Several large temples such as Todai-Ji (東大寺) Temple controlled the Yamato area.

Sugata (姿: Shape) —————-  Not much difference in style at the early part of Yamato Den and Yamashiro Den.   Shinogi is high.  Mune is thin.   Some types of Yamato Den have shallow sori (curvature).

16 Yamato sword cross section

Hamon (刃文Tempered line) ——————–Narrow tempered line.  Mainly Nie (沸).  Chu-suguha-hotsure (中直刃ほつれ: a medium straight line with a frayed pattern), Ko-choji-midare (小丁子: a mixture of small clove-like pattern and irregular wavy lines), Ko-midare (小乱: fine irregular wavy lines), Ko-gunome-komidare (小五の目小乱: small continuous half-circles mixed with wavy lines). 

The main characteristic of the Yamato Den style sword is Masame (straight grain).   Their tempered line often shows Nijyu-ha (double straight lines), Hakikake (tracing of a broom mark), Uchinoke (a crescent-shape line), or combinations of them.   See the illustration below.16 Hamon Yamato

Boshi (鋩子: Tempered line at Kissaki area)———-On the Boshi area, a straight grain Hamon pattern appears.  Yakizume or Kaen. (Refer Chapter 12 Middle Kamakura period: Tanto).  O-maru, Ko-maru, Nie-kuzure.  (Refer 14| Late Kamakura Period: Sword (鎌倉末太刀).  See the illustration below.

15 Kaen Ykizume

15 Omaru Komaru Niekuzure

Jihada or Jitetsu (the area between Shinogi and Hamon )——Mostly Masamehada (straight grain pattern 柾目肌). Fine ji-nie, Chikei, and Yubashiri shows (refer 14 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 Saya Enso (大和千手院沙弥円宗)  once my family sword

14| Late Kamakura Period Sword (鎌倉末太刀)

0-timeline - size 24 Late Kamakura

The red circle above indicates 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 in the latter part of the Kamakura period.  Kamakura region became prosperous under the rule of the Hojo family (北条).  Many swordsmiths moved to Kamakura.  Those people were Kunituna (国綱) group from Yamashiro area and Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真) and Kunimune (国宗) from Bizen area.  They are the origin of Soshu Den (相州伝).  A star swordsmith, Goro-Nyudo-Masamune (五郎入道正宗), appeared during this time.

15 Soshu sword with explanation

Shape (Sugata 姿) ——- Okissaki (large-kissak: 大切先) and Chu-kissaki (medium kissaki: 中切先).   The tip of Hi ends lower (see below illustration).  Hamaguriha was no longer in style.  The body became thinner.  The original length was approximately 3 feet or longer, but the majority of them were shortened to 2 feet and 3 or 4 inches at a later.  time.  The shortened sword is called O-suriage (大磨上).15 Kissak shape of 4

14 Hi end lower

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

Narrow Hamon ——- A mix of Suguha (straight) and Ko-choji (small clove-like pattern), and Ko-gumome (small ccontinuous half-circle like pattern).  Small Nie base. (shown below)

10 Nie & Nioi

Wide Hamon———– Notare-midare (wavy), O-gunomeNie base.  Ashi-iri (short line toward the blade, the right drawing below).  Inazuma (lightning-like line) or Kinsuji (bright, radiant line) may appear on a tempered line.  However, Inazuma and Kinsuji require trained eyes to be detected.  It is hard for beginners to notice the Inazuma or Kinsuji.

15 Late Kamakura Soshu Hamon

Boshi————- The main body and Boshi has the same type of Hamon.  At the tip of the Kissaki, turn back a little or Yakizume.  You may also see O-maru (large round), Ko-maru (small round), Kaen (flame like), or Nie-kuzure.  See “Chapter 12 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 the sand-like small dots appears on Ji (between tempered line and Mune).  Yubashiri (a cluster of Ji-nie), Kinsuji (bright, radiant line formed by Nie ), Inazuma (a lightning-like irregular line), or 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) 

The above three swordsmiths were the origin of the Soshu Den (school) in Kamakura.  Later, Tosaburo-Yukimitu and his son, famous Goro Nyudo Masamune appeared.

More  Soshu Den swordsmiths other than above

From Yamashiro (山城)———- Rai Kunitsugu (来国次), Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重) From Etchu (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)

14 masamune1 14 Masamune Hamon 

Goro-Nyudo-Masamune(正宗)   Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館図録) Permission granted  Since Masamune lived in a beach town, Kamakura, his hamon style sometimes looks like ocean waves.

14 Masamune, Yoshioka Ichimonji Endo.jpg 1

Once owned by my family

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

12| The Middle Kamakura Period: Tanto (Dagger 鎌倉中期短刀)

0-timeline - size 24 Middle Kamakura

The red circle indicates the area we discuss in this chapter 

It is very rare to see a Tanto (短刀dagger) made during the Heian period.  During the middle Kamakura period, a large number of high-quality Tanto were made.  They were called Takenoko-zori shaped Tanto.   Takenoko means bamboo shoot.  The back of the Tanto curves inward slightly.

12Tanto drawing Mid Kamakur

Sugata (shape)———- Hirazukuri.  It means there is no Shinogi, Yokote line.  See the illustration above.  The standard Tanto size is about 10 inches.  The width is not too wide, not too narrow, very well-balanced size.  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) —————-The tempered area is narrow.  Nie base.   Suguha-midare (straight line pattern with an irregular wavy pattern) or Suguha-choji (straight line pattern with small Choji).      The tempered edge line may show a frayed look.

Boshi(tempered line at Kissaki area) ———Yakizume,   Kaen,   Nie-kuzure.

13 Hamon and Hi

Engravings (彫刻 ) ———- Often, different kinds of engravings are done at the lower part of the body.   These may be a groove or two grooves, Sanskrit,  Suken (spear), dragon, etc.  For Sanskrit and spear, look at the illustration inside Chapter 8.

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)

 

11| Ikubi Kissaki (猪首切先)

 
0-timeline - size 24 Middle Kamakura
The circle indicates the time we discuss in this chapter.

Through the experience of the war of Jokyu-no-Ran (Chapter 10), the sword’s trend changed to a wider, sturdier, and grander style. The swords made around this time are called Ikubi-kissakiIkubi means a wild boar’s neck.  Ikubi-kissaki style swords have a stout kissaki that looks like the boar’s neck.

The middle Kamakura period was the golden age of Japanese sword making.  Many top swordsmiths created great swords during this time.  Experts agree that there is no mediocre sword among Ikubi-kissaki swords

IkubiKissakiSword  12 Ikubi Kissaki sword style

SUGATA (shape) —— Originally 3 feet or longer, therefore it is often shortened in later time.  Wide width, thick Kasane (thick body) with Hamaguri-ha (蛤刃).  Hamaguri-ha means the sword’s cross-section is shaped like a clam (see below).  The difference in the width between the Yokote line area and Machi is minimal.  Shinogi (鎬) is high, and shinogi width is narrow.  The cross-section of an Ikubi-kissaki sword is shown below. 

12 蛤刃と鎬

KISSAKI  —— Ikubi-kissakiIkubi means the neck of a wild boar.  It is thick, short, and stout looking.  Kissaki is short and wide at the Yokote line.  The illustration below shows an exaggerated image of an Ikubi-kissaki.

12 Ikubi Kissak drawing

Hamon (刃文) —— Kawazuko-choji (tadpole-head shape pattern). O-choji (large clove- shape pattern), Ko-choji (small clove-shape pattern), a mix of O-choji and Ko-choji, or Suguha-chojiSuguha-choji has a straight line mixed with Choji pattern (clove-shape).  

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

Boshi(鋩子) ———Yakizume: the hamon ends almost at the tip of kissaki, no turn back. Sansaku Boshi: created by Nagamitsu (長光), Kagemitsu (景光), and Sanenaga (真長), the hamon narrows at the yokote line.  See the below for Yakizume and Sansaku Boshi.                                     

12 Yakizume
                                                                

   Yakizume       11 Sansaku Boshi(三作Sansaku-boshi

 

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)

 

11 nagamitsu 1    11 Nagamitsu drawing  Osafune Nagamitsu(長船長光)    From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)         

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.