Under the isolationist Tokugawa shogunate, swordmaking and the use of firearms declined. The master swordsmith Suishinshi Masahide (c.1750–1825); published opinions that the arts and techniques of the shintō swords were inferior to the kotō blades, and that research should be made by all swordsmiths to rediscover the lost techniques. Masahide traveled the land teaching what he knew to all who would listen, and swordsmiths rallied to his cause and ushered in a second renaissance in Japanese sword smithing. With the discarding of the shintō style, and the re-introduction of old and rediscovered techniques, swords made in the kotō style between 1761 and 1876 are shinshintō, "new revival swords" or literally "new-new swords." These are considered superior to most shintō, but inferior to true kotō.
The arrival of Matthew Perry in 1853 and the subsequent Convention og Kanagawa forcibly reintroduced Japan to the outside world; the rapid modernization of the Meiji Restoration soon followed. The Haitorei edict in 1876 all but banned carrying swords and guns on streets. Overnight, the market for swords died, many swordsmiths were left without a trade to pursue, and valuable skills were lost. The nihontō remained in use in some occupations such as the police force. At the same time, Kendo was incorporated into police training so that police officers would have at least the training necessary to properly use one.
In time, it was rediscovered that soldiers needed to be armed with swords, and over the decades at the beginning of the 20th century swordsmiths again found work. These swords, derisively called guntō, were often oil-tempered, or simply stamped out of steel and given a serial number rather than a chiseled signature. The mass-produced ones often look like Western cavalry sabers rather than nihontō, with blades slightly shorter than blades of the shintō and shinshintō periods.
Military swords hand made in the traditional way are often termed as gendaitō. The craft of making swords was kept alive through the efforts of a few individuals, notably Gassan Sadakazu (月山貞一, 1836–1918) and Gassan Sadakatsu (月山貞勝, 1869–1943), who were employed as Imperial artisans. These smiths produced fine works that stand with the best of the older blades for the Emperor and other high ranking officials. The students of Sadakatsu went on to be designated Intangible Cultural Assets, "Living National Treasures," as they embodied knowledge that was considered to be fundamentally important to the Japanese identity. In 1934 the Japanese government issued a military specification for the shin guntō (new army sword), the first version of which was the Type 94 Katana, and many machine- and hand-crafted swords used in World War II conformed to this and later shin guntō specifications.
Suguta Styles of Tanto:
1. Hira-tsukuri: flat sided (no shinogi), with mune.(common) 2. Katakiriha-tsukuri: totally flat on one side with chisel type edge on opposite. Commonly with chisel type kissaki.(rare) 3. Moroha: double edged, tapering to point, shinogi runs to point, diamond shaped cross section.(somewhat rare) 4. Hochogata-tsukuri: wide, "stubby" hira-tsukuri. Popular style of Masamune. 5. Unokubi-tsukuri: single edged, straight back with raised shinogi tapering to mune. Short, wide groove halfway up blade. 6. Kissaki-moroha-tsukuri: extremely long o-kissaki.(rare) 7. Kogarasumaru-tsukuri: shinogi to kissaki with front third of blade double edged. (rare) 8. Shobu-tsukuri: similar to shinogi-tsukuri but no yokote, may have groove half way up blade. (common) 9. Kubikiri-tsukuri: like katakiriha but with much more sori and edge is on INSIDE curvature. (rare) 10) Kanmuri-otoshi-tsukuri: Similar to unokubi-tsukuri but with the shinogi reaching the tip of the point instead of the mune. 11) Ken: double edged blade with central shinogi. Not actually a tanto but sometimes used like one. Often made from cut down yari. 12) Shinogi-tsukuri: don't generally see these unless a longer sword has been cut down greatly.
Koshirae Styles of Tanto:
Aikuchi: no tsuba: fuchi flush with mouth of saya. Commonly with unwrapped tsuka. Many with horn kashira.Hamidashi: small size tsuba.Kaikan: short tanto in aikuchi or shirasaya mounts(usually carried by women)."Kamikaze" tanto: basically shirasaya, some with horn mountings.
Tanto through History
Koto: Heian through Muromachi
We see the tanto begin some time in the Heian Period but was much more of a functional weapon and as a result of use few survive from this period. In the Early Kamakura Period we begin to see more tantos and the tanto begins a trend to a much more artistic weapon. The most common style is hira-tsukuri, uchi-sori. In Middle Kamakura we begin to see an abundance of tanto craftsmen, kanmuri-otoshi style seen in Yamato and Kyoto. In keeping with the style of tachi, tantos become longer and wider in the Late Kamakura period. Horimono is less decorative than religious. The new faith of Hachiman enters into carvings. The hamon of tanto are like the tachi with the exception of no choji-midare. It is not seen here. Instead, you see gunome midare and suguha. In Nambokucho, the style becomes even grander. Tanto become longer than 40 cm (beyond the normal 1 shaku) becoming like miniature wakizashi. Blades become thinner ura-to-omote but broader ha-to-mune. Two hamon styles prevail; 1) the old, fading, traditional, quiet, and 2) the new, ascending, bold and flashy such as in Soshu-den of Masamune. The Muromachi Period is ushered in, and with it comes incessant fighting. Mass production of swords spells a low point. However, custom ordered blades maintain high quality. Towards the end of this period the style of the sword shifts back to a narrower blade with shallow sori. There is also a higher frequency of very short pieces, less than five sun used as concealed daggers in robes. Generally Bizen-den and Mino-den are the most numerous smiths. Great smiths are rare in this period but include Bizen smiths Sukesada and Norimitsu. In Mino there is Kanemoto and Kanesada. In Ise we see Muramasa and Masashige. In Bungo, the Takata group is well known, and in the Northern Provinces we see the Fujishima group gain fame.
Shinto: Momoyama through early Edo
The unification of Japan brought 250 years of relative peace. This together with the change is style of wearing tachi and tanto to the wearing of katana and uchikatana (wakizashi) meant there was little call for the forging of tanto. The few that were made during the Momoyama period were copies of Nambokucho and Kamakura era works. In the Edo period, hamon become more flamboyant with billowing notare and bead-like gunome. Shapes tend to be long and slender with slight sori.
Shin-shinto: Late Edo
Still few tanto made - but more than in Shinto. Many copies of classic Kamakura, Nambokucho and Koto blades led by the influence of Suishinshi Masahide.
Gendai: Meiji to date
Quite a few tanto made prior to WW II as restoration of the Emperor caused return to classic Kamakura styles. Imperial court wearing tachi and tanto. Tanto relatively numerous. Many of unokubi and shobu style with short hi halfway up blade. Few modern era tanto made due to restrictions on sword production.
(The above material was abstracted in part from "TANTO" by Suzuki (JSS/US English translation)
Compiled by Richard Stein and Tony Thomas
of such a trend, the Guntō which has been saber form since national army foundation came to receive the influence. In 1932, the army revised the hilt of the Type 32 Guntō for a noncommissioned officer and privates in Japanese sword form (Type 32 Guntō Kai). This was Japanese sword form only the hilt, and the scabbard was a saber form as usual. On February 15, 1934, the army proclaimed the mounting of the new Guntō which made the Japanese Tachi the model as Guntō for officers. This is the army formality Guntō (common-name Type 94) of the 1934 establishment. It became March 10 enforcement of the Army Day.
The mounting was what arranged the Tachi from ancient times in a modern style, and was a perfect Type-Tachi Guntō with two suspension mounts.
The nihonto as we know it today with its deep, graceful curve has its origin in shinogi-zukuri (single-edged blade with ridgeline) tachi which were developed sometime around the middle of the Heian period to service the need of the growing military class. Its shape reflects the changing form of warfare in Japan. Cavalry were now the predominant fighting unit and the older straight chokutō were particularly unsuitable for fighting from horseback. The curved sword is a far more efficient weapon when wielded by a warrior on horseback where the curve of the blade adds considerably to the downward force of a cutting action.
The tachi is a sword which is generally larger than a katana, and is worn suspended with the cutting edge down. This was the standard form of carrying the sword for centuries, and would eventually be displaced by the katana style where the blade was worn thrust through the belt, edge up. The tachi was worn slung across the left hip. The signature on the tang (nakago) of the blade was inscribed in such a way that it would always be on the outside of the sword when worn. This characteristic is important in recognising the development, function and different styles of wearing swords from this time onwards.
When worn with full armour, the tachi would be accompanied by a shorter blade in the form known as koshigatana ("waist sword"); a type of short sword with no hand-guard (tsuba) and where the hilt and scabbard meet to form the style of mounting called an aikuchi ("meeting mouth"). Daggers (tantō), were also carried for close combat fighting as well as carried generally for personal protection.
The Mongol invasions of Japan in the thirteenth century spurred further evolution of the Japanese sword. Often forced to abandon traditional mounted archery for hand-to-hand combat, many samurai found that their swords were too delicate and prone to damage when used against the thick leather armor of the invaders. In response, Japanese swordsmiths started to adopt thinner and simpler temper lines. Certain Japanese swordsmiths of this period began to make blades with thicker backs and bigger points as a response to the Mongol threat.
By the fifteenth century, the Sengoku Jidai civil war erupted, and the vast need for swords together with the ferocity of the fighting caused the highly artistic techniques of the Kamakura period (known as the "Golden Age of Swordmaking") to be abandoned in favor of more utilitarian and disposable weapons. The export of nihontō reached its height during the Muromachi period when at least 200,000 nihontō were shipped to Ming Dynasty China in official trade in an attempt to soak up the production of Japanese weapons and make it harder for pirates in the area to arm.
In the 15th and 16th centuries, samurai who increasingly found a need for a sword for use in closer quarters along with increasing use of foot-soldiers armed with spears lead to the creation of the uchigatana, in both one-handed and two-handed forms. As the Sengoku civil wars progressed, the uchigatana evolved into the modern katana, and replaced the tachi as the primary weapon of the samurai, especially when not wearing armor. Many longer tachi were shortened in the 15th-17th centuries to meet the demand for katana.
The craft decayed as time progressed and firearms were introduced as a decisive force on the battlefield. At the end of the Muromachi era, the Tokugawa shoguns issued regulations controlling who could own and carry swords, and effectively standardized the description of a nihontō.
Thanks for visiting my blogger .Happy to share my thoughts with you ^ - ^
I have introduced many sword knowledge in above post.I sincerely hope to help sword lovers know more about these great swords .
My friends always ask me the same question: Are the sword real ? To be honest,I also hope I can get a old history sword,but the masterpiece was rarely left in the world, So there are many reputation in the market to make up people's regret.Before I feel very angry when I get a fake sword,I threw them out. but now I resurvey these swords .I find them look very beautuiful as the first sight.some of them is even as similar as the original.I marvel at the worker's talent ! May every sword was born in the world and worth of its own.Gradually I don't care real or fake.I am so happy when I stand in the sword world in my collecting room,then,I can begin to my own war:)
so friend,Don't annoy when you get a fake sword.every sword is unique.
The marshal sword of a baron and a marshal Nobuyoshi Muto full general.
He graduates from a Militery Staff College school with the top's results.
In 1932, he started for his new assignment to Manchuria as the Kwantung Army commander, a residence Manchuria ambassador plenipotentiary, and the Guandong director general.
He was registered into the marshal prefecture on May 3, 1933. And he died in Manchuria on July 28 (66 years old of age at death).
On August 6, 1933, he gives me a baron's peerage.
Remember that while a sword may be a beautiful work of art, it is primarily a weapon. Handling a Japanese sword is like handling a three foot long razor blade. Be alert and be careful. Do NOT test it for sharpness by running your thumb along the edge. Blood stains cause rust which damages the sword (not to mention what it does to your thumb). The sword is sharp - just believe it.
A few DO NOT'S:
Do not attempt to sharpen the blade. The use of sharpening stones or (heaven forbid) a grinding wheel can cause the total destruction of the sword from a collectors standpoint. It takes special training skill and tools to properly polish and sharpen the sword.
Do not use sandpaper, emory paper, steel wool or any abrasive materials on any part of the blade including the tang (nakago). These will scratch the blade and detract from its beauty.
Do not under any circumstances do ANYTHING to the tang (nakago) of the sword. This is one of the most critical areas of the sword when it comes to identification. ANY ALTERATION of the tang - any cleaning, rust removal, anything at all MUST BE AVOIDED. If the tang is altered, it can make identification nearly impossible and can reduce the value of the sword by half!!
Do not ever use a power buffing wheel on ANY part of the sword or its fittings. The heat may cause the blade to lose temper and thus destroy any value the blade may have. Also, buffers over-shine the blade. The Japanese sword blade was never intended to have a mirror polish.
Do not use silver polish or any metal cleaner which has any type of abrasive in it for the reason given above.
Do not try to see if the sword will cut things - it will. The Japanese sword was designed to cut only one thing - FLESH! Cutting hard objects like weeds, scrubs, tree branches, etc will damage the sword, usually beyond repair.
Do not use ANY type of metal polish on the parts of the sword handle, guard or scabbard. The fittings on the sword are generally not supposed to be bright and shiny. A different art ethic is at work here.
Do not handle the blade with bare hands. The oils and acids from your skin can cause the blade to rust (in some cases it may stain almost immediately). Use a clean cloth around the blade to handle it, but be careful the blade doesn't slip- it is sharp.
Do not EVER grab for a falling or dropped blade. You can, and probably will lose a finger or two - or at least get a very nasty laceration. If the blade drops just get out of the way. (This does not apply to super, high grade blades - I personally would risk a finger or two rather than have a really fine blade be damaged by hitting a hard floor,etc. But that's MY feeling and MY fingers - you may not feel the same way. :)
Do not unwrap the handle (tsuka). The stories that prayer papers are inserted in between the ito (silk cord) and same' (rayskin) are pure fiction. The small papers are simple spacers to aid in positioning the ito on the handle (tsuka). The process of tsuka-maki (handle wrapping) is quite complicated. Consult with someone trained in tsuka-maki if you need a handle re-built.
A few DO's:
Do care for your sword properly. It is a piece of the history and culture of Japan. Remember the Golden Rule of sword care above.
Do enjoy your sword. The trained eye can see marvelous workings in the steel and the artistry of the mounts is remarkable.
Do learn all you can about your sword. It may be possible to actually date the blade as to when and, sometimes even, who made it.
Do treat the blade with respect, both for its history and its artistry.
Do join a Japanese sword club. There is much to learn and a lot of great people to meet.
This process takes place in a darkened smithy, traditionally at night, in order that the smith can judge by eye the colour and therefore the temperature of the sword as it is repeatedly passed through the glowing charcoal. When the time is deemed right (traditionally the blade should be the colour of the moon in February and August which are the two months that appear most commonly on dated inscriptions on the nakago of the Japanese sword), the blade is plunged edge down and point forward into a tank of water. The precise time taken to heat the sword, the temperature of the blade and of the water into which it is plunged are all individual to each smith and they have generally been closely guarded secrets. Legend tells of a particular smith who cut off his apprentice’s hand for testing the temperature of the water he used for the hardening process. In the different schools of swordmakers there are many subtle variations in the materials used in the various processes and techniques outlined above, specifically in the form of clay applied to the blade prior to the yaki-ire, but all follow the same general procedures.
The application of the clay in different thicknesses to the blade allows the steel to cool more quickly along the thinner coated edge when plunged into the tank of water and thereby develop into the harder form of steel called martensite, which can be ground to razor-like sharpness. The thickly coated back cools more slowly retaining the pearlite steel characteristics of relative softness and flexibility. The precise way in which the clay is applied, and partially scraped off at the edge, is a determining factor in the formation of the shape and features of the crystalline structure known as the hamon. This distinctive tempering line found near the edge of the Japanese blade is one of the main characteristics to be assessed when examining a blade.
The martensitic steel which forms from the edge of the blade to the hamon is in effect the transition line between these two different forms of steel, and is where most of the shapes, colours and beauty in the steel of the Japanese sword are to be found. The variations in the form and structure of the hamon are all indicative of the period, smith, school or place of manufacture of the sword. As well as the aesthetic qualities of the hamon, there are, perhaps not unsurprisingly, real practical functions. The hardened edge is where most of any potential damage to the blade will occur in battle. This hardened edge is capable of being reground and sharpened many times, although the process will alter the shape of the blade. Altering the shape will allow more resistance when fighting in hand to hand combat.
The legitimate Japanese sword is made from Japanese steel "Tamahagane". The Japanese sword blade is formed from a combination of two different steels: a harder outer jacket steel wrapped around a relatively softer, inner core of steel. This creates a blade which has a unique hard, highly razor sharp cutting edge with an inner core which is resilient and able to absorb shocks in a way which reduces the possibility of the blade breaking or bending when used in combat. The hadagane, for the outer skin of the blade, is produced by heating a block of high quality raw steel, which is then hammered out into a bar, and the flexible back portion. This is then cooled and broken up into smaller blocks which are checked for further impurities and then reassembled and reforged. During this process the billet of steel is heated and hammered, split and folded back upon itself many times and re-welded to create a complex structure of many thousands of layers. Each different steel is folded a differing number of times to provide the necessary strength and flexibility to the different steels. The precise way in which the steel is folded, hammered and re-welded determines the distinctive grain pattern of the blade, the jihada, (also called jigane when referring to the actual surface of the steel blade) a feature which is indicative of the period, place of manufacture and actual maker of the blade.
The shingane (for the inner core of the blade) is of a relatively softer steel with a lower carbon content than the hadagane. For this, the block is again hammered, folded and welded in a similar fashion to the hadagane, but with fewer folds. At this point, the hadagane block is once again heated, hammered out and folded into a ‘U’ shape, into which the shingane is inserted to a point just short of the tip. The new composite steel billet is then heated and hammered out ensuring that no air or dirt is trapped between the two layers of steel. The bar increases in length during this process until it approximates the final size and shape of the finished sword blade. A triangular section is cut off from the tip of the bar and shaped to create what will be the kissaki. At this point in the process, the blank for the blade is of rectangular section. This rough shape is referred to as a sunobe.
Your purchase of a Samurai sword may be a once in a lifetime event. Before you buy, please take a little time to study these few items. We would encourage anyone interested in owning an authentic samurai sword to use all of these facts in deciding what sword you should buy.
1. The Steel: The most important consideration you should make regarding the purchase of a Samurai sword is with the steel. It is after all the extraordinary steel that the Japanese smith made with the forging and folding process that “beat” the impurities out of the raw iron ore.Over the past 100 years, metallurgy technology has progressed to the point that “pure” steel is available as a beginning material. Swedish Powdered Steel is one of these new steels. It is the purest form of steel with the least impurities. Picking steel with the most even distribution of carbon will insure that there will be no weak spots in the finished forged blade. Beginning with very clean Swedish steel allows for a very controlled and precise heat treatment regimen that results in a very fine grain structure. It is this fine grain that creates a blade that is stronger and less prone to deflection and breakage.
2. Forging: This process defines the Samurai Sword. Authentic Samurai Swords are forged. Many companies are selling “stock removal” steel swords. These blades are not forged and do not have the integrity of a forged blade. Ask for forged steel blades when purchasing your Samurai Sword. The one real benefit of a forged blade often overlooked is that each blade is unique and made by a skilled craftsman. Unlike modern blades that are stamped or milled out by the 1000’s, each identical to the last, every forged blade is a one of a kind piece. Forging allows the smith to determine how much each blade needs to be worked in order to obtain the best results. As each piece of steel is worked, it is folded repeatedly. This process tightens the grain pattern of the steel making for a more beautiful blade. This personal forging means that your sword is unique. No other blade will be the same as yours. Each forged and folded blade is an individual expression of the steel, the fire, and the smith.
3. Heat Treating: The authentic Samurai Sword has a differentially heat treated edge. (Ha) The pattern you see at the sharpened edge is the signature of the heat-treating. (Mon) The name of this attribute of all Samurai Swords is the Hamon. This heat treatment changes the molecular structure of the steel into martinsite at the edge (Ha) and a softer more ductile pearlite body. The heat treated Hamon allows you to “look” into the steel and see the beauty of the activity and the different crystalline structure. Always demand a truly differentially heat-treated Samurai Sword. Some manufactures either try to “polish on” this look or use a chemical etching to achieve this look. This only gives a cosmetic look to the blade and has not achieved the purpose of heat-treating which is to change the steel into the different molecular structures.
4. Design and Shape: The design and shape of your Samurai Sword should be historically correct. Authentic samurai swords follow historical tradition. There are many shapes and designs in the market place today that have very little in common with the “feudal era” sword. The shape and balance of a properly made Japanese sword evolved over centuries. The life of the warrior depended upon his sword and he depended on the smith to make a blade that he could rely on in the direst of circumstances. You should purchase a Samurai Sword from those that honor this tradition and manifest these qualities. The evolved shape of the authentic samurai sword determined the strength, the cutting performance, and the balance. You want all these attributes in your Samurai Sword.
5. Balance: Rarely considered by most is the balance of the sword. This is a very important factor in choosing a Samurai Sword. You should think of balance as functionality. Remember that the Samurai was a highly trained warrior and his sword had to be able to function in an extreme combat situation. Many modern swords are no longer made with this function in mind and are not capable of withstanding the stresses and strains of serious use. As you practice and train with your Samurai Sword you will acquire the strength to wield it properly. It is balance that will give you this benefit of strength when using a traditionally balanced blade in your training.
TIPS ON READING SWORD SIGNATURES (MEI)
The signatures on Japanese swords vary in style and complexity. The simplest is a two character mei which is just the smith's name. If there are three characters, the third will usually be saku, which means "made this".
Longer mei are more difficult. In longer signatures (reading from the top down), there may be the place of residence (province) - usually two characters ( Japanese province Kanji) - the second character is commonly shu, followed by the character ju or kuni meaning "resident of". That may be followed by an honorary title such as kami or daijo. Next may be the smith's family or clan name such as Taira , Fujiwara , Tachibana or Minamoto. The last characters in a long mei will normally be the smith's given name and may be followed by saku (made this).
Also, please be aware that for WW II era swords, a signature is no guarantee that the blade is hand forged. Many WW II era swords were machine made or only "partially" forged but may still bear a mei. See the gendai swordsmith page for more details. If both sides of the nakago are inscribed, the reverse side is normally a date inscription stating when the sword was made. To learn how to translate date inscriptions, go to the reading date inscriptions.
Nagamitsu saku (made by Nagamitsu)
Soshu ju Masahiro saku (made by Masahiro of Soshu)
Don't be disheartened or too frustrated if you can't translate the signature easily. Experts are sometimes confused and find it difficult. Reading mei is like trying to read someone's sloppy handwriting written in a language that you don't understand . There are also many ways to write the same Kanji. See these various forums at: Kanji Forms. Click on the specific Kanji to see the various ways it can be written.
Feel free to print and/or save these Kanji pages for personal, offline use. Attempting to decipher a mei by matching Kanji takes a lot of time!!
CHISA KATANA - short katana
CHOJI - clove shaped hamon
CHOJI OIL - oil for the care of swords
CHOJI-MIDARE - irregular choji hamon (temper line)
CHOKUTO - prehistoric straight swords
CHU - medium
CHU-KISSAKI - medium sized point (kissaki)
CHU-SUGUHA straight, medium width temper line
DAI - great or large
DAI-MEI - student smith signing his teacher's name
DAIMYO - feudal lord
DAISHO - a matched pair of long and short swords
DAITO - long sword (over 24 inches)
AOI - hollyhock, commonly used as a Mon
ARA-NIE - coarse or large nie
ASHI - legs (streaks of nioi pointing down toward the edge)
ATOBORI - horimono added at a later date
ATO MEI - signature added at a later date
AYASUGI - large wavey hada (grain)
BAKUFU - military government of the Shogun
BO-HI - large or wide groove
BOKKEN - wooden sword for practicing sword kata
BONJI - sanskrit carvings
BO-UTSURI - faint utsuri
BOSHI - temper line in kissaki (point)
BU - Japanese measurement (approx 0.1 inch)
BUKE - military man, samurai
BUSHIDO -the code of the samurai
Therefore, these selections were determined as the officer's funds and the conditions of a country. Rushing into Greater East Asia War, quality deteriorated extremely by the serious shortage of goods which transcends the grace of these mounting. The quality of the Type 98 Guntō had a very big gap. After the Type 3 Guntō establishment in 1943 was continued and manufactured.
The Type 98 is minor change which abolished the second Suspension mount (Haikan) of the Type 94.