59| Second part of —– 23|Sengoku Period History (戦国時代) 1467 —1596

23 Sengoku period  Time Line.jpg        The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

Chapter 59 is a detailed part of chapter 23 Sengoku Period History.  Please read chapter 23 Sengoku Period History before start reading this chapter.

The different way of dividing the time for political history and sword history was explained in Chapter 23| Sengoku Period History (戦国時代).  The timeline above shows the Sengoku Period (戦国時代) ends in 1597 for sword history.  This is because the Keicho (慶長) Era starts in 1597.  The swords made after the Keicho Era is called Shinto (new sword), swords before the Keicho Era is called Ko-To (old sword).  Keicho Shinto is the swords made during Keicho Era.

Chapter 23| Sengoku Period History (戦国時代) described the overview of the Sengoku Period.  At the beginning of the Sengoku Period, 30 or so small Sengoku Daimyo fought fiercely each other by forming an alliance with a neighboring country on and off and sometimes betraying each other.  The weaker Daimyo were taken over by the stronger ones, Little by little the number of Daimyo gets lesser.  The names of known powerful Daimyo are Imagawa Yoshimoto (今川義元), Takeda Shingen (武田信玄), Uesugi Kenshin (上杉謙信), Hojo Soun (北条早雲), Oda Nobunaga (織田信長),  Tokugawa Ieyasu (徳川家康), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉).  Their final goal is to defeat others and advance to Kyoto (京都) to be the top of political power.

Oda Nobunaga (織田信長) defeats Imagawa Yoshimoto at Okehazama (桶狭間編)

Around 1560, Imagawa Yoshimoto (今川義元 ) controlled a big area of  Suruga (today’s Shizuoka prefecture.  See the map below).  He was the most powerful Sengoku Daimyo at that time who could be the top ruler of the country.  He decided to advance his army toward Kyoto to take over the governmentHe took 25,000 men troop with him.  On his way up to Kyoto, there lies Owari (愛知 Aichi prefecture today.  See map below) that is Oda Nobunaga’s territory.   Oda Nobunaga (織田信長 ) was still a young man with much lesser means than Imagawa Yoshimoto.  It was quite obvious that no chance for Oda Nobunaga to win.  He just became the head of Owari after his father’s death.  Also, at that time, Nobunaga was called “idiot of Owari” because of his strange unconventional behavior (actually he was a genius),  not too many people had much confidence in him.  Among  Oda vassals, some insisted to hold the castle instead of fighting since Nobunaga could only gather 3,000 men.  But in the end, to everyone’s surprise, Oda side won.  Here is how it happened.  While Imagawa Yoshimoto was advancing, Nobunaga scouted which route Imagawa will take.  Imagawa side was sure to win this easy battle since Oda clan is small and their top person is supposed to an idiot.  Imagawa troop decided to stop and rest at the place called Okehazama.   Okehazama is a long narrow road.  Knowing Imagawa troop came to this route, Nobunaga sent out his men disguised as farmers and offered food and sake to Imagawa soldiers.  Oda Nobunaga made a surprise attack on Imagawa troop.  When Oda troop attacked them, all of a sudden, heavy rain started to pour.    The rain was so heavy that Imagawa troop could not even see the Oda troop were coming.  In the end, Imagawa Yoshimoto was killed by Oda troop in the battle.  After this, the Imagawa clan declined.

59 Okehazama drawing

Bishu Okehazama Gassen (備州桶狭間合戦) by Utagawa Toyonobu (歌川豊信)

Public Domain (http://morimiya.net/online/ukiyoe-big-files/U896.html)

 

59-imagawa-and-oda-map.jpg

 

Oda Nobunaga(織田信長) and Akechi Mitsuhide(明智光秀)

After the battle of Okehazama, Oda clan grew bigger rapidly.  Oda Nobunaga became the major power.  While his reign, he did several not so wonderful things like the burning of the Enryakuji Temple (延暦寺) that killed many people,  yet his economic measure encouraged people’s commercial activity.  Things were going somewhat smoothly for Nobunaga later part of his life.  On 1582 Nobunaga was killed by his own top vassal Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀) at Honnou-Ji (本能寺) temple.  He was 49 years old.  There are a few theories why Akecdhi attacked Nobunaga but we don’t know what really happened behind.  One theory is Akechi had a grudge against Nobunaga.  There were many incidents Nobunaga mistreated Akechi.  Another theory is just simply Akechi saw a chance to attack Nobunaga (Nobunaga was with very few men that day) and took the chance.  Another one is Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiaki (足利義昭) ordered Akechi to kill Nobunaga since Akechi once worked under Shogun Yoshiaki and Shogun Yoshiaki was afraid that Nobunaga became too powerful.  More theories go on.  We really don’t know the real reason.  After this happened, the news was relayed to Toyotomi Hideyoshi who was another top vassal of Nobunaga who happened to be a place called Bicchu (備中, Okayama prefecture today), that is about 230 KM (143 miles) away from Kyoto. See the map below.   Hideyoshi quickly returned to Kyoto with his troop to fight against Akechi and killed him.  Here is another mystery.  The time between Nobunaga was killed and the time Akechi was killed by Hideyoshi was only 10 days.  Hideyoshi was 230 KM (143 miles) away.  That means in 10 days, Hideyoshi received the information of Nobunaga’s death, hurried back 230 KM (143 miles) to Kyoto and fight against Akechi and kill him.  Even though Hideyoshi had communication route established between Nobunaga’s inner circle all the time,  it is an amazing speed.  So there is another theory that Akechi and Hideyoshi both were behind together.  After Akechi was killed by Hideyoshi, Hideyoshi maneuvered cleverly, he ended up the top of the power.  While he was in power, he mined a large amount of gold from the gold mine he owned.  An old document was found stating that Hideyoshi buried a huge amount of gold and its location.  Many people looked for this buried gold but no one has found it yet.  Hideyoshi was a poor farmer’s son who became the top of the power, his success story fascinates Japanese.  Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu is the three most depicted subject on TV programs and movies.  After Hideyoshi’s natural death, Tokugawa Ieyasu became Shogun and Edo period started.  Ninja had existed since the Heian period but during the Sengoku period, they really played an active part in gathering information.  Ninja is known for its fancy ability and method of fighting, but their actual main role was to gather information of the enemies.

59-bicchu-map.jpg

28|Main 7 Areas Among Shin-To Sword (Part A)

S27 Shinto time line
The circle indicate the subject of this chapter

There are seven prosperous areas where a large number of swordsmiths were living and actively making swords.  Top three are Yamashiro (山城) at Kyoto, Settu ( 摂津 ) at Osaka, Musashi (武蔵  ) at Edo.  Then follows Hizen (肥前 ) at Saga, Satsuma (薩摩 ) at Kagoshima, Echizen ( 越前 ) at Fukui, and Kaga ( 加賀 ) at Kanazawa.  Each of these swordsmiths had its own local characteristics common among themselves.  To know each of that characteristic of this area is the easiest way to understand Shinto.  But keep in mind that each swordsmith had his own way of making the sword.  The following descriptions are only general guidelines.

Below is the map of Japan.  Since Hokkaido was a provincial area and swords were not made there during the Edo period, omitted from this map.

28 Map with number 7

 

 

1.  Yamashiro (山城 ) Kyoto

Yamashiro Shinto sword has a solid and strong look.  Hamon at the bottom part of the blade, above Machi (区) area shows Suguha (straight Hamon), this is called Kyo-Yakidashi (京焼出), that means to start out with straight Hamon.  Then abruptly changes to the design of O-Midare (大乱).  O-Midare changes to gentle look below Yokote line about 1 or 2 inches, then continues into Boshi with a wavy HamonBoshi design is Komaru-Boshi.  Ji-hada is somewhat rough (this depends on the swordsmith).  Masame-hada (straight grain pattern) may show on Shinogi-Ji (the area between back and ridgeline).  Among Yamashiro Shinto, there was a group called Mishina ( 三品) group.  They were Mino (美濃) related, therefore, Boshi often is Jizo boshi (地蔵鋩子), this is called Mishina Boshi ( 三品鋩子).  Therefore, they often made their Boshi, Jizo boshi (地蔵鋩子).

28 Kyo-Yakidashi, kyo, Mishina-Boshi

Well known swordsmiths in Yamashiro area are Umetada Myoju (梅忠明寿), Horikawa Kunihiro (堀川国広  ), Dewadaijyo Kunimichi ( 出羽大掾国路 )

img067

Iganokami Kinnmichi (伊賀守金道) Previously Family owned

continue to part two next chapter.

27|Over view of Shinto (新刀)

27 Shinto time line

The circle indicates the subject discussed here

The last chapter 26, stated that the Edo period is from 1603 to 1868.  This is according to political history.  Also, when you look at the diagram above, Azuchi Momoyama period overlaps into the Edo Period.  Some people think the Azuchi Momoyama period is from 1575 to 1600.   Around this time, the division of the period has several opinions as regards to political history.   For swords, it is more clear cut.  Sword made from around 1596 (Keicho Era, 慶長) to 1781 (Tennmei Era, 天明) is called Shinto.  The sword made after that until the Meiji period is called Shin-Shinto. 

After Toyotomi Hideyoshi almost united the country, the country could enjoy a peaceful society.  This peaceful time changed the geographic distribution where swords smiths lived.  There are three major areas where sword making took place.  Those are Kyoto, Osaka and Edo area.  Then the rest of swordsmiths were gathered around each big Daimyo‘s (大名 feudal lord ) territory near their castles.

KyotoUmetada Myoju (梅忠明寿) group thrived.  Followed by people like, Horikawa Kunihiro (堀川国広 ), Kunimichi (国路 ), Kunisada (国貞), and Kunisuke (国助).

Osaka— Osaka became a commercial city and became the center of commerce.  They made swords and distributed to the local area.  They produced swords like Tsuda Sukehiro ( 津田助広 ), Inoue Shinkai ( 井上真改 ).

Edo—-Because Tokugawa Iyeyasu was the shogun, many swords smiths gathered to Edo (Tokyo now, 東京). Here are well-known swords smiths in Edo at this time; Nagasone Kotetsu (長曽祢虎徹), Yasutsugu (康継), Noda Hannkei (野田繁慶).

By the time the grandson of Tokugawa Iyeyasu、that is Tokugawa Iyemitsu, became Shogun (around Kanei era, 寛永1624 – 1643), swords smith’s geographical distribution spread to the other provinces.  In each big Daimyo territory, swordsmiths had their shop near the castle, and they fulfilled the demand by daimyo and his followers.  By the Genroku (元禄, 1695) era, swords making technic declined and people demanded picturesque designs like Kikusui (菊水, flower design) and Fujimi (富士見, Mount Fuji).

Difference between Koto (before 1596) and Shinto (after 1596)  

Next part is about the difference between Ko-to and Shin-to.   But keep in mind, there are always exceptions to this rule.

  1. The length of the Shinto Katana is usually about 2 feet and 3 inches ± a little.   Wakizashi is 1 foot and 6 inches ± a little.   Shallow curvature.  Wide width.  Thick body.   Gyo-no-Mune. Chu-gissaki with slightly stretched look.13 Mune drawing
  2. Koto sword feels light. Shinto feels heavy.
  3. Bo-hi ends around Yokote line. The Bottom of Hi ends round above Machi.27. Hisaki & marudome
  4. In general, carvings are less common. Yet some swordsmith is famous for its carving.  The design is fine and in detail.
  5. If it is mainly made with Nie, coarse Nie.
  6. Around Machi area (the bottom part of the illustration below), starts out with the straight tempered line, then Midare or different types of Hamon, then finish with Suguha (straight Hamon)  around Boshi (the top part of the illustration below). This type of Hamon is done in general, there is always an exception.  27 Keshou Yasuri & suguha
  7. All the area in Japan, sword material (iron) is the same kind.  Very hard, dark color, and glossy.
  8. The Nakago has a properly balanced shape.  The tip of Nakago it gradually narrows down.  The type of Yasurime (file mark) is Kesho-Yasuri.  Engraved inscriptions show name, area, and province, with an imperial era.27 Keshou Yasuri & suguha