46|Part 2 of — 12|Middle Kamakura Period: Tanto 鎌倉中期短刀

This chapter is a datiled part of chapter of 12| Middle Kamakura Period Tanto ( 短刀) .  Please read Chapter 12 before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Middle Kamakura

                   The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

In 12| The Middle Kamakura Period: Tanto  described that the shape of Tanto called Takenoko-zori had appeared during the middle Kamakura period.  This style of Tanto curves inward a little at the tip.  The drawing below may be a bit exaggerated to show the curve.  The real Takenoko-zori curvature is not so apparent.  Maybe a few millimeters inward. 

Usually, the length of the Tanto is approximately 12 inches.  Tantos are described as follows; a Tanto of approx. ten inches is called Josun Tanto (定寸短刀), longer than ten inches is called Sun-nobi Tanto (寸延び短刀), and less than ten inches is called Sun-zumari Tanto (寸詰短刀).

12Tanto drawing Mid Kamakur

 

Sun-nobi Tanto (寸延び)   >   Jyosun Tanto (定寸)   >  sun-zumari Tanto (寸詰り)  (longer than 10 inches)           (approx. 10 inches)                (less than 10 inches

13 «Part 2» Tanto photo

 46 Shintogo Kunimitsu Oshigata

Shintogo Kunimitsu (新藤五国光)  Sano Museum Catalogue, permission granted to use

The style above is called Kanmuri-otoshi (冠落し); the Mune side (opposite side of cutting edge) is shaved off.  The length is approximately 10 inches.  Woodgrain pattern surface, Nie on Ji (refer to 3 |Names of Parts).   Very finely forged.  Hamon is medium Suguha (straight).  Boshi is Ko-maru (small round).  Because of the Kanmuri-otoshi style, it may not be easy to see the Takenoko-zori; the Mune side bends inward very slightly.  Among the Tanto producers, Shintogo Kunimitsu is considered as the top Tanto maker.

13 «Part 2»Tanto photo with Saya

Above photo is also by Shintogo Kunimitsu (新藤五国光) with Saya.  Saya is the scabbard.  The handle of the scabbard (white part) is made with sharkskin.  Both photos are from Sano Museum Catalog.  Permission granted.

38|Part 2 of — 5 Heian Period Sword 794-1192 (平安太刀)

This chapter is a continued part of Chapter 5 Heian Period Sword.  Please read Chapter 5 before reading this section.  More sword terminologies will be used in the coming chapters.  They were explained between chapters 1 to 31.  For unfamiliar sword terminologies, please read chapter 1 to 31.

0-timeline - size 24 Heian                   The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this sect         

There are several active schools of swordsmiths during the Heian period.  We use the word “Den” for school.  They are Yamashiro Den (山城伝), Yamato Den (大和伝), Bizen Den (備前伝).  Also, the following areas are other active groups during the Heian period:  Houki-no-Kuni (伯耆の国), and Oo-U (奥羽).  Oo-U is pronounced “Oh,” and “U” as uber.

 Yamashiro Den (山城伝 )

During the Heian period, among Yamashiro Den swords, the most famous sword was “Mikazuki Munechika “ (三日月宗近) by Sanjo Munechika (三条宗近).  Mikazuki means crescent.  It was named Mikazuki Munechika because the crescent-shaped Uchinoke (collection of Nie) pattern appears in Hamon.  It has a graceful shape, narrow-body, Koshi-zori, Funbari, and small Kissaki.  It shows the wood grain pattern surface and Suguha with Nie mixed with small irregular, sometimes Nijyu-ha (double Hamon: 二重刃) appears.  Sanjo Munechika lived in the Sanjo area in Kyoto.  His sword style was carried on by his sons and grandsons: Sanjo Yoshiie (三条吉家), Gojo Kanenaga (五条兼永), and Gojo Kuninaga (五条国永 ).  Gojo is also an area in Kyoto.

38Sanjo Munechika

    三日月宗近    Mikazuki Munechika  東京国立博物館蔵 Tokyo National Museum           Photo from “Showa Dai Mei-to Zufu 昭和大名刀図譜” published by NBTHK

Houki -no-Kuni (伯耆の国)

Houki-no-Kuni is today’s Tottori Prefecture.  It is known as the place to produce good iron.  The sword, “Doujigiri Yasutsuna”  (童子切安綱) made by Houki-no-Yasutsuna (伯耆の安綱) was one of the famous swords during the time.   

The characteristics of Yasutsuna’s sword———-It has a graceful shape with small Kissaki, narrow Hamon (often Suguha with Ko-choji), coarse Nie on Hamon area, large wood grain pattern mixed with Masame on Ji-hada Hamon area often shows Inazuma and Kinsuji.  Boshi area is Yakizume, Kaen (pronounced ka as a calf, en as engineer) with a small turn back. 

6 Sano Hoki Yasutuna

   伯耆の安綱 (Hoki no Yasutsuna) 佐野美術館図録 (Sano Musem Catalogue)                     Permission to use granted 

Bizen Den (備前伝 )

Bizen is today’s Okayama Prefecture.  It is known as the place to produce good iron.  From the Heian period until now, Bizen has been famous for the sword-making tradition.  The sword-making group in this area during the Heian period was called the Ko-bizen group.  The most famous swordsmith in the Ko-bizen group was Bizen Tomonari (備前友成), Bizen Masatsune (備前正恒), and Bizen Kanehira (備前包平).                                                                      

Ko-bizen group’s characteristics ——-  A graceful narrow body, small Kissaki, narrow tempered line with Ko-choji (small irregular) with Inazuma and Kin-sujiJi-hada is a small wood grain pattern.

6 Sano Kanehira

   Bizen Kanehira (備前包平) Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館図録)                          (Permission to use granted)

I saw Ko-Bizen Sanetsune (真恒) at Mori Sensei’s house.  That was one of the Kantei-to of that day.  I received Douzen*ᴵ.  The book written by Hon’ami Koson was used as our textbook.  Each time I saw a sword at Mori Sensei’s house, I noted the date on the swordsmith’s name in the book we used.  It was Nov. 22, 1970.  It had a narrow body line, small kissaki (that was Ko-bizen Komaru), Kamasu*2  (no fukura), and SuguhaKamasu is the condition where the fukura (arc) is much lesser than usual.  Thinking back then, it is amazing we could see famous swords like this as our study materials.

Kantei-Kai

Kantei-kai is a study meeting.  Usually, several swords are displayed, with the Nakago part being covered.  The attendees guess the name of the sword maker and hand in the answer sheet to the judge.  Below are the grades.

Atari —– If the answer is right on the exact name, you get Atari.  That is the best answer.

Dozen  —- The second best is dozen.  It means almost the right answer. The subject sword was made by the family or the clan of the right Den.   Dozen is considered very good.  It indicates the student has a good knowledge of the particular group.

Kaido Yoshi —– This means correct about the line, but not about the family.

Jidai Yoshi——- It means the time or period is right. Each Kantei-kai has different grading systems.  Some may not have “Jidai Yoshi” grade.

Hazure—– the wrong answer. 

After all the answer sheets are handed in, the answer sheets are graded and returned.  The judge reveals the correct answer and explains why.

*1 Dozen:  Almost the same as the correct answer. 

 *2 Kamasu:  The name of a fishIt has a narrow and pointed head.

 

 

 

30| Shin-Shin-To 1781-1867 (Bakumatsu Period Sword 新々刀)

0-timeline - size 24 BakumatsuThe red circle indicates the time we discuss in this section

The later part of the Edo period is called Bakumatsu.  See the circled area of the timeline above.  Swords made during this time are called Shin Shin-to.   They are also called Fukko-to (復古刀: revived sword).  Fukko-to copied the shape, Hamon, Boshi, and other features of the Ko-to and Shin-to swords.  The characteristics of Shin Shin-to (新々刀) and well-known swordsmiths are those below.

The Characteristics of Shin Shin-to

  • Katana, Wakizashi, and Tanto all tend to be similar to or copy of the Ko-to and Shin-to in shape.
  • Many swords often have Hi or detailed engravings.
  • One swordsmith would make more than one style swords like Soshu Den, Bizen Den, and Shin-to style together.
  • Often shows Katai-ha.

30 katai-ha

                                                                  Katai-ha

  • Weak (not tight) Nioi.
  • Yakidashi (2 to 3 inches above Machi) is often Suguha (straight line Hamon), even though the rest is irregular    Boshi is often irregular Midare.
  • Detailed engravings, but more realistic than the previous times.

Well known swordsmiths of Shin Shin-to

  • Settsu (Osaka area) ——————Gassan Sadayoshi (月山貞吉) Gassan Sadakazu (月山貞一) Gassan family is famous for detailed carvings.
  • Musashi no Kuni (Tokyo area) ————-Suishinshi Masahide (水心子正秀)  Minamoto Kiyomaro (源 清麿)  Taikei Naotane (大慶直胤)  Taikei Yoshitane (大慶義胤) is famous for his carvings.

30 Kiyomaro entire

Minamoto Kiyomaro(源清麿)    Once my family possession

  • Tosa (四国: Shikoku area) ———————————————— Sa Yukohide (左行秀)
  • Satsuma (鹿児島: Kagoshima) ———— Oku Moptohira (奥元平) Namino Hira (波平)

Meiji Ishin-To

Right before the Meiji Restoration, long swords (approx. 3 feet) with no curvature were made.  Sa Yukihide (from Tosa) forged this type of sword.  Saigo Takamori (西郷隆盛)、 Sakamoto Ryoma (坂本龍馬) owned this type of swords.  Both are famous historical characters during the Meiji Restoration, called Meiji Ishin (明治維新).  Both of them were a part of the Kin’no-to (勤皇党) group which supported the Emperor and renewed the political system.

27|Shinto Sword — Main Seven Regions (Part A :主要7刀匠地)

0-timeline - size 24 Shin-to

                            The red circle indicates the subject we discuss in this section

In Shin-to time, there were seven main prosperous areas where many swordsmiths gathered and actively made swords.  Those are Yamashiro (山城) in Kyoto, Settsu (摂津) in Osaka, Musashi (武蔵 ) in Edo, Hizen (肥前) in Saga, Satsuma (薩摩) in Kagoshima, Echizen (越前) in Fukui,  and Kaga (加賀) in Kanazawa.  Swordsmiths of each area shared their own common regional characteristics of these places.  Knowing each of these characteristics is the easiest way to understand Shin-to.  But keep it in mind that each swordsmith in one group also has his own unique way of sword making.  The followings are only the general descriptions of these characteristics.

Below is a map of Japan.  Hokkaido is omitted from the map because swords were not made there at that time.

64Map with number with 8

1.  Yamashiro (山城) Kyoto

Yamashiro Shin-to sword has a solid and strong look.  Hamon at the lower part of the blade right above the Machi (区) area shows Suguha (straight hamon).  This is called Kyo-yakidashi (京焼出), which means starting with a straight Hamon.  Then it shows a sudden change to the design of O-midare (大乱).  O-midare (irregular waviness) becomes less wavy at one or two inches below the Yokote line, then continues into the Boshi as a wavy Hamon.  The design in the Boshi is Komaru-boshi.   See the illustration below. 

Ji-hada ———— Somewhat rough (this depends on the swordsmith).  Masame-hada (straight grain pattern) may show on Shinogi-ji (the area between ridgeline and back). 

Among Yamashiro Shin-to group, there was a group called Mishina Group (三品).  They were Mino Den (美濃) related.  Therefore, their Boshi was often Jizo-boshi (地蔵鋩子).  This is called Mishina-boshi ( 三品鋩子).  Jizo-boshi is a image of the side of a man’s head.

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

28 Mishina-Boshi Komaru-boshi, Kyo-Yakidashi

img067 Iganokami Kinnmichi (伊賀守金道) Yamashiro Den Once my family sword

2.Settu (摂津) Osaka (大阪)

Settsu (Osaka) created more Wakizashi than Katana.  They tend to make it slightly Sakizori (top half curves outward) and slightly stretched Boshi.  Settsu sword also has Yakidashi the same way as the previous Yamashiro sword.  Yet, unlike Yamashiro’ sword, in the area where Suguha changes into Notare (wavy pattern), the transition is not sudden but relatively smooth.  This is called Osaka Yakidashi.

Osaka Boshi ———Hamon continues up to the Yokote line, then Komaru with a turn.  Ji-hada————-Very fine, almost no pattern, solid surface like especially, Shinogi-ji (between ridgeline and back).  This is called Osaka-tetsu (iron).

29 Osaka Yakidashi Komaru Boshi

Well-known swordsmiths in Settsu area— Osaka Tsuda Sukehiro (大阪津田助広)                                                                                 Tsuda Sukenao (津田助直)                                                                                                   Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (一竿子 忠綱)

img073

 Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (一竿子忠綱) Once my family sword 

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 passed, 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 warrior 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

8| Middle Kamakura Period: Yamashiro Den (鎌倉中期山城伝)

        

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

The characteristics of Yamashiro Den swords

Sugata(shape)—– In general, the blade is narrow, especially near the Yokote line.  The bottom of the blade has fundari (A-line shape).  Kasane is thick.  The curvature type is usually Kyo-zori (the deepest curvature comes at about the middle).  It has a small Kissaki with Fukura.   Shinogi is thick with Gyo-no-mune or Shin-no-mune.  Please see the three illustrations below for Sugata.

13 Mune drawing

9 鎌倉中期刀姿

8 Fukura

Horimono (Engraving)—– The tip of a Hi (樋, groove) follows the exact shape of the Ko-shinogi line.  Sometimes you may see Bonj (Sanscrit) and Suken (see the illustration).

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji

Nakago (hilt: 中心)—————Long and thin with curvature

Hamon (tempered line: 刃文) —————Mostly Suguha (straight line), Niju-Ba (double Hamon), or Suguha with an irregular wavy line.  Sometimes a thin gold lightning-like line called Inazuma faintly appears.  The tempered line is mostly Nie.  The below is Suguha,

picture for 8
豊後国行平(Bungo-no-Kuni-Yukihira)  Sano Museum Catalog permission granted

   * Bungo-no-Kuni-Yukihira was a Yamashiro Den swordsmith from the Bungo area.

Boshi(鋩子)——– Komaru-boshi (small round)   Omaru-boshi (large round)                    Ji-hada (地肌) ——-Well forged fine surface.  Small burl pattern.  Jinie (地沸) on the surface.

Names of the swordsmiths during the middle Kamakura period

  • Ayano-Koji group ———————————– Ayano-Koji Sadatoshi (綾小路 定利 )
  • Awataguchi group ————————————- Awataguchi kunituna (粟田口国綱)
  • Rai group ————————-Rai kuniyuki (来国行) Rai Nijikunitoshi (来ニ字国俊)

8 Rai Kunitoshi

Rai Kunitoshi (来国俊)       Sano Museum Catalogue, Permission granted

 

 

5 |Heian Period Swords  (平安時代太刀)

0-timeline - size 24 Heian

                       
                                      The circle indicate the time we discuss in this section

The Heian period is the time when the shape of the swords changed to the present curved shape.  Until then, swords were straight.   It is a commonly accepted idea that the study of swords begins from the Heian period.   Swords before the Heian period are in the category of archaeology.  The main reason for that is the sword-making technique saw a significant improvement after the Heian period.

The elegant, graceful lifestyle and the Heian culture then were reflected upon the swords’ style.  A group of swordsmiths in the Kyoto region created a particular sword style called Yamashiro Den (Yamashiro School).  The shape of their swords shows a graceful line.  The most famous sword of this time is Sanjo-Munechika (三条宗近, Previous chapter), a national treasure today.  The style of Yamashiro Den represents Heian period swords.                                                                                                                                  6a Heian period sword style

General Heian period sword style

Shape———- The length of a sword is approximately 30 inches ± a few inches.  It has an elegant and graceful form with a narrow blade and a small kissaki(小切先).  The curvature is deep.  This style is called Kyo-zori (京反り) or Torii-zori (鳥居ぞり).  With the Kyo-zori style, the deepest part of the curvature comes around the halfway of the blade.  The lower part of the sword flares out, making an A-line shape like the lower part of the Eiffel Tower.  This flaring shape is called funbari (踏ん張り).

 

6b A line bottom

Hamon(刃文)———- Hamon is the line that was created when the sword was tempered.  The Hamon on the Heian period swords is narrow and usually Suguha (直刃).  Suguha means a straight line.  The Hamon is also Nie-base.  Nie(沸) is a tiny particle in the Hamon.   As shown below, if you look closely, you will see fine sand-like particles in the Hamon line.

6 Straigh tempered line(Suguha)

10 Nie & Nioi

Ji-hada (地鉄) ——– Fine wood-grained pattern.  The location of Ji-hada (or Ji-tetsu) is between Hamon and Shinogi (see 3 |Names of Parts)

Nakago (中心)———- Nakago is a hilt area.  Sword makers inscribe his names here.  The shape of the Nakago during the Heian period is often Kijimomo shape(雉腿), which means pheasant thigh shape.

6 Kijimomo-nakago

Hi and engrave ———- Hi (樋) means an engraved straight line.  Hi and other engraved designs are rare during the Heian period.  These became more common later time.

Kissaki (切先)———– The Heian sword’s kissaki is Ko-gissaki, meaning small kissaki. The Hamon line on the Kissaki is called Boshi.  In this period, the type of Boshi design is called Komaru, meaning small, round, and wrapping the tip.6c Boshi HamonNames of the Heian period swordsmiths

  • Yamashiro school——–  Sanjo Munechika(三条宗近) Sanjo Yoshiie(三条吉家)                                                Gojo Kanenaga(五条兼長) Gojo Kuninaga (五条国永)
  • Yamato school ————-Senju-in (千手院)
  • Bizen school ————— Bizen Tomonari(備前友成) Bizen Masatsune(備前正恒)                                                 Bizen Kanehira (備前包平)
  • Hoki (伯耆) —————–Yasutsuna (安綱) Sanemori (真守)
  • Buzen (豊前) ————– Cho-en (長円) Sinsoku (神息)
  • Satsuma (薩摩) ————Naminohira (波平)