47|Part 2 of —– 12|Middle Kamakura Period Tanto 鎌倉中期短刀

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

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

Chapter 12 Kamakura Period Tanto described that the shape of a tanto is 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 little exaggerated to show the curve.  The real Takenoko-zori curve is not so obvious.  Maybe a few millimeters inward.  Usually, the length of the Tanto is approximately 12 inches or less.  Tantos are described as follows; a tanto of approx. 10 inches is called Jyosun tanto (定寸短刀), longer than 10 inches is Sun-nobi tanto (寸延び短刀 ), and less than 10 inches is called Sun-zumari tanto (寸詰短刀).

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 Tanto drawing Mid Kamakur

13 «Part 2» Tanto photo

Tanto by Shintogo Kunimitsu (新藤五国光).  This style 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 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 bend inward very slightly.  Among the tanto producers, Shintogo Kunimitsu is considered 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.

39|Part 2 of — 5 Heian Period Sword (792-1192)

39 Heian Time line

                                  The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this sect

This chapter is the continued part of 5 |Heian Period Swords.  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 33.  For unfamiliar sword terminology, please read chapter 1 to 33.

There are several active schools of swordsmith 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 groups during the middle Kamakura period:  Hoki-no-Kuni (伯耆の国), and Oo-U (奥羽).

 Yamashiro Den (山城伝 )

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

6 photos Sanjo Munechika

Mikaduki Munechika(三日月宗近) Tokyo National Museum (東京国立博物館蔵)  “Token no mikata” by Yuichi Hiroi (“刀剣のみかた” 広井雄一)

Houki -no-Kuni (伯耆の国)

Houki-no-Kuni is today’s Tottori prefecture.  It is known for the place to produce good iron.  The sword name, Doujigiri Yasutsuna  (童子切安綱) by Houki-no-Yasutsuna (伯耆の安綱) is the most famous one.

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 mixed with masame on ji-hada Hamon area often shows Inazuma and kinsuji.  Boshi area is yakizume, kaen with 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)

Bizen Den (備前伝 )

Bizen is Okayama prefecture today.  It is known for the place to produce good iron.  Since 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 is called the Ko-bizen group.  The most famous swordsmith in Ko-bizen group is Bizen Tomonari (備前友成) and Bizen Masatsune (備前正恒) and Bizen Kanehira (備前包平)

The characteristics of Ko-bizen group———-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)

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 Honnami Koson was used as our textbook.  Each time I saw a sword at Mori Sensei’s house, I put down the date on the swordsmith’s name where the author describes.  It was Nov. 22, 1970.  It had a narrow body line, small kissaki (that is Ko-bizen Komaru), kamasu*2  (no fukura), and suguha and others.  Kamasu is the condition where the fukura (arc) is much lesser than usual.  Thinking back then, it is amazing we could see a famous sword like this one for our study materials.


Kantei-kai is the study meeting.  Usually, several swords were displayed covering the nakago part.  The attendees guess the name of the sword maker and hand in the answer sheet to the judge.  Below is the grade.

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

Dozen *1—-The second one is dozen.  The subject sword was made by the family and (or) clan of the right Den.  It means almost the right answer.  Dozen is considered very good.  It indicates the student has a good knowledge of the particular group.

Kaido Yoshi—– This means the same line, but not within the family.

Jidai Yoshi—-Each Kanntei-kai has different grading systems.  Some have Jidai Yoshi, which means the time or period is correct.

Hazure—– Wrong answer.

After all the answer sheet is handed in and the answer sheet is graded and returned, the judge reveals the correct answer and explains why.

*1 Dozen:  Almost the same as the collect answer.                                                    *2 Kamasu:  The name of a fish.  It has a narrow and pointed head.



31| Shin-Shin-To (Bakumatsu Period Sword 新々刀)1781-1868


30 Bakumatsu timeline                                 The circle indicates the subject we discuss in this chapter

The Bakumatsu is the later part of the Edo period.  See the circled area of the timeline above.  The swords made during this time is called Shin Shin-To.  They are also called the Fukko-To style (means revival sword 復古).  Fukko-To copied the shape of the sword, Hamon, Boshi, etc, of the Ko-to and Shin-to.  The characteristics of Shin Shin-To (新新刀) and well-known swordsmiths are those below.

The characteristic of Shin Shin-To

  • Katana, Wakizashi, Tanto, they all tend to be similar or copy of the previous shape
  • Many swords often have Hi or detailed engraving.
  • Unlike the previous time, one swordsmith makes several styles of swords, such as Soshu style, Bizen style, Shin-to style forging.
  • Often shows Katai-ha (refer 24Sengoku period sword.docx).

24 katai-ha                                                                         Katai-Ha

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

Settsu (Osaka area)——–Gassan Sadayoshi (月山貞吉)  Gassan Sadakazu (月山貞一)  Gassan family are famous for detailed carvings.

Musashi no Kuni (Tokyo area)——Suishinshi Masahide ( 水心子正秀 ) Taikei Naotane (大慶直胤)    Minamoto Kiyomaro (源 清麿 )   Taikei Yoshitane ( 大慶義種) is famous for his carvings.

img075Minamoto Kiyomaro (源清麿)  Previously owned by my family

Tosa no Kuni (Shikoku area)————————————————–Sa Yukihide (左行秀) Satsuma no Kuni (Kagoshima area)————————————Oku Motohira (奥元平 )

Meiji Ishin-To

Right before the Meiji Restoration, long swords (approximately 3 feet) with no curvature were made.  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.  Both of them are a part of  Kinno -To group which supports the Emperor and renews the political system.

28|Shinto Sword – Main Seven Regions (Part A)

29 Shinto Timeline

                                      The red circle indicates the subject we discuss in this section

There are seven main prosperous areas where a large number of swordsmiths gathered and actively made swords.  Those are Yamashiro (山城) in Kyoto, Settu (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 these areas have their local characteristics common among themselves.  Knowing each of these characteristics of their area is the easiest way to understand shin-to.  But keep in mind that even in each group, swordsmith has his way of making a sword.  The following descriptions are only in general.

Below is the map of Japan.  Hokkaido is omitted from the map because swords were not made there during the Edo period.

 29 Map with number 7 

  1. Yamashiro (山城) Kyoto

Yamashiro Shin-to sword has a solid and strong look.  Hamon at the bottom part of the blade right above machi (区) area shows suguha (straight hamon), this is called Kyo-yakidashi (京焼出), that means to start with a straight hamon.  Then it shows a sudden change to the design of O-midare (大乱).  O-midare (irregular waviness) changes to less waviness one or two inches below the yokote line, then continues into boshi with a wavy hamon.  The design inside the boshi is Komaru-boshi.   See the illustration below.  Ji-hada is 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, there was a group called the Mishina Group (三品).  They are Mino Den (美濃) related, therefore, often boshi is Jizo-boshi (地蔵鋩子), this is called Mishina Boshi ( 三品鋩子).  Jizo-boshi is the profile of a human 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



    Iganokami Kinnmichi (伊賀守金道) previously family owned

2.Settu (摂津) Osaka (大阪)

Settu (Osaka now) created more wakizashi than katana.  They tend to make it slightly sakizori (top half curves outward) and slightly stretched boshi.  Settu sword also has yakidashi the same way as the previous Yamashiro sword, except the area where suguha changes to notare (wavy pattern) are smooth.  This is called Osaka Yakidashi.

 Osaka Boshi ——Hamon continues up to yokote line, then Komaru with a turn back.       Ji-hada————-Very fine, almost a solid like smooth surface especially shinogi-ji (the area between ridgeline and back) is solid like surface.  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)


Awataguch Ikkanshi Tadatsuna (粟田口一竿子忠綱) previously family owned

15| The Revival of Yamato Den(大和伝復活)

0-timeline - size 24 Late Kamakura

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 794).  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.

*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

8| Middle Kamakura Period: Yamashiro Den 鎌倉中山城伝

12 Red Middle Kamakura Timeline

                   The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this section

Yamashiro school swords have the characteristics as below.

Sugata(shape)—–Generally the width of the blade is narrow, especially around yokote line.  The bottom of the blade has funbari (A-line shape or flares out like the lower part of Eiffel Tower).  Thick Kasane. The type of the curvature is kyo-zori (highest curvature comes around the middle of the sword) or Koshi-zori (lower curvature).  Small Kissaki with fukura (rounded).  Shinogi is high with Gyo-no-Mune (行の棟) or Sin-no-Mune ( 真の棟).

13 Mune drawing

9 鎌倉中期刀姿

Horimono(Engraving)—–The tip of a Hi (樋, groove) is the exact proper shape.  Sometimes you may see Bonj (Sanscrit) and suken (sword illustration).

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji

Nakago(中心)—–Long and thin with curvature

Hamon(刃文)—– Mostly suguha (straight line), double straight line, straight line with the irregular line.  Sometimes thin gold line shape like the lightning in the sky appears.  The temper line is Nie Base.  Nie and Nioi will be explained in the next chapter.

picture for 8
佐野美術館図録1 豊後国行平(Bungo-no-Kuni-Yukihira  Sano Museum Catalog) permission granted

Boshi(鋩子)—–   Small round and large round.

9 Fukura

Jitetu(地鉄)—–     Well forged fine surface.  Small burl pattern and wood grain pattern.  Lots of Ji-Nie(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)

Other provinces who made Yamashiro style at this time

Sagami-no-kuni-Yamanouchi-Kunituna (相模国山内国綱)

Bungo-no-kuni-Yukihira (豊後国行平)

Higo-no-Enjyu (肥後の延寿)

佐野美術館図録1 来国俊 ( Sano Museum Catalogue Rai-Kunitoshi) permission granted 

5 |Heian Period: Swords

6 Heian Time line

                        The circle indicate the time we discuss in this section

The Heian period is the time, the shape of the swords changed to the curved shape.  Until this time, swords were straight.

The study of swords begins from the Heian period.  The elegant and graceful taste of Fujiwara culture reflects on the swords that were made during the Heian period.  The preference of their lifestyle reflected vividly on the swords.  One of the active groups of swordsmiths in the Kyoto area was called Yamashiro school or Yamashiro DenDen means school.  Their style had a graceful shape.  During the Heian period, Yamashiro Den (school) represents the Heian period sword style.

6a Heian period sword style

General Heian period sword style

Shape———-Lengths of the swords are approximately 30 inches ± a couple of inches.  Elegant and graceful shape.  The width of the blade is narrow.  Small Kissaki(小切先), Kyo-zori (京反り) and deep curvature.  Kyo-zori means the highest curvature comes around the halfway of the blade.  The lower part of the sword has an A-line curve (flare out) that is called funbari (踏ん張り).  It flares out like the shape of the lower part of the Eiffel tower.

6b A line bottom

Hamon(刃文)———-Hamon means tempered line.  The Heian period tempered area is narrow,  and usually, suguha (直刃), means straight hamonNie (沸) base.  Nie is a tiny granule like a particle on the border of the tempered line.  Refer below.  If you look closely, fine sand-like particles are visible. 6 Straigh tempered line(Suguha)

10 Nie & Nioi

Jitetsu (地鉄) ——–fine wood-grained tone.  The location of Jitetsu is in 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 engraved design is rare in the Heian period.  It became more common later time.

Kissaki (切先)———– Ko-kissaki (small kissaki). Boshi (Hamon around kissaki) is usually with komaru (小丸) means small round with a little return.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)