The red circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section
The discussion of this chapter is about the famous Muramasa (村正). Usually, many well-known swordsmiths were from one of the Goka Den (五家伝: The primary five schools: Yamashiro Den, Bizen Den, Soshu Den, Yamato Den, and Mino Den). However, Muramasa was not from the Goka Den but Ise Province. The first generation Muramasa was known as a student of He’ian-jo Nagayoshi (平安城長吉) of Yamashiro Den. The Muramasa family lived through the mid-Muromachi period. They had three generations from the mid-Muromachi period to the Sengoku period.
Here is one of Muramasa’sTanto that was made during the Sengoku period. Since this is the Sengoku period Tanto, the blade shows the Sengoku period sword style. It shows Mino Den characteristics, with the Soshu Den Characteristics added.
Muramasa (村正) from Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)
Characteristics on this Tanto
Muramasa’s Tantos are often 10 inches ± half inches or so. Hirazukuri (平作り). Thin blade with a sharp look. Nioi base with small Nie and Sunagashi (brushed sand-like patterns, the illustration below) appears. Boshi (the top part of Hamon) is Jizo (a side view of a human’s head). The tempered line has wide areas and narrow areas. Some areas are so narrow, close to the edge of the blade, while others are broad. Hako midare (box-like shape) and Gunome (lined-up beads pattern) appear. O-notare (large gentle waviness) is a Muramasa’s signature characteristic. The pointed tempered line is a typical Mino Den characteristic (Sanbon-sugi). Refer to 23| Sengoku Period Sword(戦国時代刀）and 24| Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代短刀).
Sunagashi (Brushed sand-like trace. My drawing is exaggerated)
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-nobiTanto (寸延び短刀), and less than ten 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
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
Minamoto Kiyomaro(源清麿) Once my family possession
Tosa (四国: Shikoku area) ———————————————— Sa Yukihide (左行秀)
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.
The red circle above indicate the time we discuss in this section
The Muromachi period was a relatively peaceful and prosperous time until a little before “Onin-no-Ran,” which happened at the end of the Muromachi Period. Refer to Chapter20|Muromachi Period History (室町時代歴史) . The Nanboku-cho style long sword became useless; thus, they were shortened. The shortened blade is called Suriage. In general, the Muromachi period was the declining time for sword making.
Tachi and Katana
Until the end of the Nanboku-cho period or the beginning of the Muromachi period, Samurai suspended swords from one’s waist, the blade side down. When a sword was worn this way, the swordsmith inscribed his name to the side that faces outward, which means that the blade comes on your right when you see the inscription. In this case, the sword is called Tachi.
Yet, around the Muromachi period, a sword was worn between one’s belt, with the blade side up. The swordsmiths inscribed his name to face outward when it was worn. Therefore, when you see the inscription, the cutting edge comes on your left. Then it is classified as Katana.
Around the beginning of the Muromachi period, Samurai started to wear a pair of swords called Dai-sho (大小), meaning large and small. The long one is Katana, and the short one is Wakizashi. In general, Tachi is longer than Katana. Katana is longer thanWakizashi, and Wakizashi is longer than Tanto. Here is the order of the length.
Tachi > Katana > Wakizashi > Tanto
The difference between Tachi and Katana comes from the way it was worn, not the length.
O-suriage ( 大磨上: Katana shortened by great length)
How much the sword should be shortened depends on the sword’s original length and how much the owner wants it shortened. O-suriage is a kind of sword that is shortened by a great length. Once a blade is shortened that much, the inscription of the maker’s name is cut off. When Hon’ami family (本阿弥家, a sword connoisseur family who have appraised Japanese swords for generations since the Muromachi period till today) appraised such a Suriage sword, they wrote the make of the sword and the swordsmith’s name on the front side of the hilt, and the connoisseur’s name with his Kaou (similar to signature) on the back. There are several ranks of writings. Which level it should be done is depending on the quality of the sword and how an owner wants it. Below are the classes (lower to highest).
Shu-Mei (朱明 )————————————————————-name written in Vermilion Kinpun-Mei (金粉名 )———————————————–name lacquered in gold powder Gin-Zougan (銀象嵌 )————————————————————name inlaid in silver Kin-Zougan (金象嵌 )————————————————————-name inlaid in gold
Sugata (姿: Shape)———— The average length is usually 2 feet and 3 to 4 inches (68~71cm). The shape of the Muromachi period Katana is somewhat similar to the Heian period Tachi style. However, Muromachi Katana is not as grand or graceful as the Heian period sword. The curvature is usually the Koshizori shape. Koshizori means the highest curvature comes at the lower part of the blade. The length and shape are suitable for wearing between the body and the belt. The width and the thickness are well balanced with the size of the sword. Small Kissaki.
Hirazukuri-Wakizashi———–Hirazukuri means a flat surface with no Shinogi and no Yokote line. Usually One foot and 1, 2 inches long. No curvature. Hirazukuri-Wakizashi appeared during the Muromachi time.
Hamon (刃文: tempered line) ———————- Nioi base. Tempered area is well balanced to the width of the blade. Koshi-hiraita-midare mixed with Choji-midare.
Boshi (Tempered line at Kissaki area) ————– Midare-komi, short turn back. See the above illustration. Midare is an irregular wave-like pattern.
Ji-hada (地肌: An area between the tempered line and Shinogi————Soft look, large wood grain pattern, Ji-utsuri (faint smoke or cloud-like effect) shows.
Horimono (彫物：Engravings) ———-Bo-hi (single groove), Soe-hi (Hi accompanied with a thin groove), Futasuji- hi (double narrow groove), Sanskrit, Tokko-tsuki ken, Tsume-tsuki Ken, name of God, and dragon. Carvings became elaborate.
Sword Smiths during Muromachi Period
Bizen Den ——–Osafune Morimitsu (長船盛光), Yasumitsu (康光), Moromitsu (師光)
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.
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)
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.
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.
Tanto 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) —————————————————— Bizen Kagemitu (備前景光) Bungo no Kuni Group (豊後の国) ——————–Bungo-no-kuni Yukihira (豊後の国行平)
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