58|Part 2 of — 24 Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代短刀)

Chapter 58 is a Continued part of chapter 24|Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代).  Please read chapter 24|Sengoku Period Tanto (戦国時代)  before reading this section.

0-timeline - size 24 Sengoku Period

      The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section  

Muramasa (村正)

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: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 periodThey had three generations from the mid-Muromachi period to the Sengoku period.

61 Ise map

Here is one of Muramasa’s Tanto that was made during the Sengoku periodSince 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.

61 Muramasa photo  61 Muramasa illustration

Muramasa (村正) from Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)

Sengoku Period Mino-Den Characteristic that shows 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, 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).  O-notare (large gentle waviness) is a Muramasa’s signature characteristic.  The pointed tempered line is a typical Mino Den characteristic (Sanbon-sugi).  Refer 24Sengoku period sword.

61 Sunagashi 2

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

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| 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

In Chapter 12 Kamakura Period Tanto described that the shape of a 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 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.

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

0-timeline - size 24 BakumatsuThe 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
  • Many swords often have hi or detailed
  • One swordsmith would make more than one style swords like Soshu Den, Bizen Den, and Shin-to style together.
  •  Often shows Katai-ha. Refer to Chapter 24 Sengoku Period Sword.

30 katai-ha

                                                                                     Katai-ha

  • Weak (not tight)
  • Yakidashi (2to 3 inches above machi) is often Suguha(straight line), 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)    Previously owned by my family

  • 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 blades.  Both are famous historical characters during the Meiji Restoration, called Meiji Ishin.  Both of them were a part of the Kin’no-to group which supported the Emperor and renewed the political system.

21| Muromachi Period Sword (室町時代刀)

0-timeline - size 24 Muromach

       The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

The Muromachi period was a relatively peaceful and prosperous time until a little before “Onin-no Ran,”  which was the later part of the Muromachi Period.  Refer 20|Muromachi Period History(室町歴史)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, samurais suspended swords from one’s waist, the blade side down.  When a sword was worn this way, the swordsmith’s inscription 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 up.   The inscription of the swordsmiths faced 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 than Wakizashi, and Wakizashi is 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 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 a 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 that have appraised Japanese swords for generations since the mid-Edo period till almost recent days) 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 depends 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)——— length is usually approximately 2 feet and 3 to 4 inches (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.

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 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.

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, 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.

8 Hi, Suken, Bonji                  21 Tsume-tuki-ken tokko with caption

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)

img057 21Masashige      21 Muromachi sword from Sano

Ise Masashige (伊勢正重),                    Bizen Osafune Norimitsu (備前長船尚光)        Juyo Token(重要刀剣)                           Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)     once owned by my family.

12| The Middle Kamakura Period Tanto (鎌倉中短刀)

0-timeline - size 24 Middle Kamakura

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

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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