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 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


13| Late Kamakura Period: Genko (鎌倉末元寇)

0-timeline - size 24 Late Kamakura

                       The circle represents the time we discuss in this section

GENKO 元寇  (1274 and 1281)

The grandson of Genghis Kahn, Kublai Kahn, attempted to invade Japan twice in 1274 and 1281.  Both times, a strong typhoon hit Japan.  Mongols sent a large number of soldiers with all kinds of supplies on a huge number of ships to Japan.  Those ships had to stay side by side and front and back very close to each other in the limited area of Kyushu‘s shore.   When the strong wind came, ships were swayed, hit each other, and capsized.  Many people fell into the ocean, drowned, and lost supplies in the water. Even though Mongol soldiers landed and fought with the Japanese army, they did not have much choice but to leave Japan because of the typhoon and ships wrecking.   As a result of this strong wind, Japan was saved and looked as if Japan won. 

This is the time the famous Japanese word, “Kamikaze” (divine wind) was created. Actually, Mongols had many  superior weapons than the Japanese.  They had guns, while the Japanese did not.  Their group fighting method was much more superior and effective than the Japanese one-to-one fighting method. 

After the Mongolian invasion, the need for changing the style of the Ikubi Kissaki sword became obvious.  When swords were used in a war, the area most frequently damaged was the Kissaki area.  Japanese soldiers used mostly Ikubi-kissaki swords in this war.  An  Ikubi-kissaki Tachi has a short Kissaki.  When a damaged area of the Kissaki was whetted out, the top part of the Yakiba (tempered area) disappears, and the Hi (a groove) goes up too high into the Boshi area (top triangle-like area).  Short Ikubi-kissaki becomes even shorter, and the Hi goes up too high into the Boshi area.  Aesthetically, it is not appealing.  Functionally, it does not work well.  To compensate for the flaw, a new style began to appear in the latter part of the Kamakura period.

14 Ikubi kissaki Damadge

During the latter part of the Kamakura period, the swordsmiths began to create a new swords style to compensate for this fault.  Also, the pride and confidence had grown among people after driving the Mongols away, which reflected on the swords’ appearance. Generally speaking, the Hamon and the shape of the body became stronger and showier.

Kamakura area became a very prosperous place under the power of the Hojo family.  A large number of swordsmiths moved to Kamakura from Bizen, Kyoto, and other places during this time and created a new style.  This is the beginning of the Soshu Den (Soshu is the Kanagawa area now).  Many famous top swordsmiths appeared during this time.

One of the famous swordsmiths is Goro-Nyudo Masamune (五郎入道正宗).  The Masamune’s tomb is in the Honkaku-Ji temple in Kamakura.  That is about a 5 or 6 minutes’ walk from the Kamakura train station. 

While I was attending the sword study group of Mori Sensei (teacher), one of the students I studied with was the 24th generation of the direct descendants of Masamune.  Although he does not bear the name of Masamune, he has been making wonderful swords in Kamakura.  He also makes superb kitchen knives.  The name of his shop is “Masamune Kogei (正宗工芸),and it is located a short walk from  Kamakura station.  To find his place, ask at the information center in the train station.

54 Yamamura 1 54 Honnkakuji 3         May 2019   Mr. Tsunahiro Yamamura and I                    Honkaku-Ji Temple