61|Part 2 of – – – 25|Sengoku Period Tanto (1467 – 1596)

Chapter 61 is a detailed part of chapter 25|Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代).  Please read chapter 25|Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代)  before start reading this chapter.

Muramasa (村正)

The discussion in this section is about the famous Muramasa (村正 ).  Many well-known swordsmiths are from one of the Goka-Den (main 5 schools, that is Yamashiro- Den, Bizen- Den, Soshu- Den, Yamato- Den, Mino- Den).  Muramasa is not from Goka-Den but from Ise Province.

61 Ise map

It is said that Muramasa was a student of Heian-Jo Nagayoshi (平安城長吉) of Yamashiro-Den.  Muramasa has three generations through Mid Muromachi periodSince Muramasa lived through the Sengoku Period, his sword shows the characteristic of Sengoku period sword style that is Mino-Den characteristic with  Soshu-Den characteristic added.

61 Muramasa photo  61 Muramasa illustration

Muramasa from Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

Mino-Den Characteristic of the Sengoku period that shows on this Tanto

Muramasa’s Tanto is often 10 inches ± half inches or so.  Hirazukuri (平作り). Thin blade.  Muramasa Tanto gives a sharp look.  Nioi base with small Nie and Sunagashi (brushed sand like, the illustration below) appears.  Boshi (Top part of Hamon) is Jizo (side view of the head shape).  Tempered line has a wide area and narrow area, that is some area of tempered line is close to the edge of the blade and another area is a wide tempered line.  See the illustration above.  Hako-Midare (box like shape) and Gunome (line up beads like shape).  O-Notare (large gentle waviness) is Muramasa’s characteristic.  The pointed tempered line that is the typical Mino-Den characteristic (Sanbon Sugi) shows .  Refer 24|Sengoku Period Sword(戦国時代).

61 Sunagashi 2

Sunagashi (Brushed sand-like trace.  My drawing is exaggerated)

48|Part 2 of —– 13|Middle Kamakura Period Tanto 鎌倉中期短刀

This chapter is a continued part of Chapter 13 Tanto Middle Kamakura PeriodPlease read Chapter 13 before you read this section.  13|Tanto ( 短刀) Middle Kamakura Period

As Chapter 13 described, during middle Kamakura period, the shape of Tanto is called Takenoko zori . That means the tip of Tanto curves inward a little.  The drawing on Chapter 13 is a little exaggerated to show the curve.  Refer 13|Tanto ( 短刀) Middle Kamakura Period.   But the real Tanto is not so obvious. Maybe a few millimeters.   Usually, the length of the Tanto is approximately 12 inches or less.  10 inch Tanto is called Jyosun (定寸 ), longer than that is called Sun-nobi (寸延び ), and less than that is called Sun-zumari (寸詰り )


13 «Part 2» Tanto photo 

The above photo is Tanto by Shintogo Kunimitsu (新藤五国光). This style is called Kanmuri Otoshi.  That means the steel of Mune side (opposite side of cutting edge)  is shaved off. The length is approximately 10 inches.  Wood grain surface, Nie on Ji (refer to the name of the parts 4 |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 Tanto producer, Shintogo Kunimitsu is considered the top Tanto Maker.


13 «Part 2»Tanto photo with Saya

Above photo is the same Shintogo Kunimitsu with Saya.  Saya is a scabbard.  The top white handle part is made with Sharkskin.  Both photos are from Sano Museum Catalog.  Permission granted.




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.

22|Muromachi Period Sword

21 Muromachi period Timeline

The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

The Muromachi period was a rather peaceful and prosperous time until a little before “Onin-no Ran”, which was the later part of the Muromachi Period, (Refer Chapter 21 Muromachi Period History).  Nanboku-Cho style long sword became useless, as a result, they were shortened.  The shortened sword is called Suriage.  In general, the Muromachi period was a declining time for sword making.

Tachi and Katana

Until the end of the Nanboku-Cho period or beginning of the Muromachi period, the sword was suspended from one’s waist, the blade side down.  When a sword was worn this way, swordsmith’s inscription faces outsite.  That means when you see the inscription, the cutting side comes right.  This is called Tachi.  Yet, around

the Muromachi period, swords were worn between one’s belt, the blade up.   The inscription of the swordsmiths faces outside when it is worn.  That means when you see the inscription, the cutting edge comes your left.  This is called the Katana.  Around the beginning of the Muromachi period samurai started to wear one pair of swords together called Dai-Sho(大小), which means large and small.  A longer one is called Katana and the shorter one is called Wakizashi.  In general, Tachi is longer and Katana is shorter, Wakizashi is even shorter but longer than Tanto.  Here is the order of the length.

                                            TachiKatana  >  Wakizashi  >  Tanto        

The difference between Tachi and Katana comes from the way it was worn, not the length

22 tachi & Katana


O-Suriage ( shortened a large length, 大磨上げ)

How long a sword should be shortened is depends on the original length of the sword and how long an owner want it shortened.  O-suriage is when a sword is shortened a great length.  Once a sword is shortened, the inscription is cut off.  When a suriage sword was appraised by the Hon’ami family (本阿弥家:Connoisseur family continued since mid Edo period till almost recent day), if he  appraised it as a valuable one,  he writes the make of the sword and sword smith’s name on the front side of the hilt and writes the connoisseur’s name and his Kaou (similar to signature) on the back of the hilt.  There are several ranks.  Which rank it should be done is depending on the quality of the sword and how an owner wants it.  Below are the ranks (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)———Usually approximately 2 feet and 3, 4 inches (71cm) long. The shape of the Muromachi period Katana is somewhat like the Heian period Tachi style.  But Muromachi Katana is not as grand, not as graceful as Heian period sword.  They are Koshizori.  Koshizori shape means the highest curvature comes lower than the center of the blade.  Suitable length and shape for wearing inside the belt. The width and the thickness of the sword are well balanced with the length.  Small Kissaki.

22 Muromachi sword shape

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 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.


22Hamon (Koshi Hiraita midare)
from Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

Boshi ————– 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, Jiutsuri (faint smoke or cloud-like effect) shows.

Horimono (carvings 彫物) ———- Bo-hi (single groove), Soe hi ( accompanied thin groove), Futasuji hi (double narrow groove), Sanscrit, Tokko- Tsuki –ken, Tsume-Tsuki-Ken, Names of God, Dragon.  Carvings became elaborate.

9 Hi, Suken, Bonji20 Tokko, tume Ken







Sword Smiths during Muromachi Period

Bizen Den ———-Osafune Morimitsu (長船盛光), Yasumitsu (康光), Moromitsu (師光)      Yamashiro Den———————————————–Yamashiro Nobukuni (山城信国)


22 Muromachi sword from Sano
From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)Bizen Osafune Naomitsu (備前長船尚光)
Ise Masashige (伊勢正重) Once Family-owned   Classified as Juyo Token(重要刀剣)

13|Tanto ( 短刀) Middle Kamakura Period

13 Red Middle Kamakura Timeline

The red circle indicates the area we discuss in this chapter 

It is very rare to see a tanto (small short sword) made during the Heian period.  During the middle Kamakura period, a large number of wonderful tanto were made.  They were called takenoko-zori shape.  Takenoko means bamboo shoot.  The back of the dagger curves inward slightly.

13 Middle Kamakura Period Tanto

Sugata (shape)———-Hirazukuri , it means no shinogi, no yokote line, as you see in the illustration above.  Standard tanto size is about 10 inches.  The width is well balanced to the size of Tanto that means not too wide not too narrow.  The Body is slightly thick.  High Gyo-no-mune (行の棟) and Shin-no-mune (真の棟)

13 Mune drawing

Hamon (刃文) —————- Tempered area is narrow.  Nioi base.  Irregular straight line (suguha midare) or straight line with small choji (suguha-choji).  The tempered edge line may show a frayed look.

Boshi(tempered line at Kissaki area) ———Yakizume,   Kaen,   Niekuzure.

13 Hamon and Hi

Engravings (彫刻 ) ———- Often different kinds of engravings are done at the lower part of the body of Tanto.  These may be a groov or two grooves, Sanskrit, spear (Suken), dragon, etc,.  For Sanskrit and spear, look at the illustration inside Chapter 9.

13 Hamon and Hi

Tanto group and 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) —————————————————— Bien Kagemitu (備前景光) Bungo no Kuni Group (豊後の国) ——————–Bungo-no-kuni Yukihira (豊後の国行平)


13 Rai kunimitsu Tanto photo 2  来国光(Rai Kunimitsu)

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