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Title: Japanese Swords
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Japanese Swords" ***

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127, New Bond Street, London.

April, 1913.


Amongst the numberless articles of Japanese attire, works of art or mere
household objects which the Restoration of 1868 compelled the Japanese
to cast upon the market, none has met with such wide fame and yet with
such a limited study as the Sword. When, in 1877, the Government
prohibited the Samurai from wearing any longer the two swords which had
been the privilege and distinctive mark of their martial caste, the
Imperial wish was obeyed, notwithstanding the feeling that something was
snapping in the life of the nation. Blades had been treasured for
centuries, handed from father to son, looked upon as the soul of the
owner for the sake of which he would refrain from any deed unbecoming a
gentleman; some possessed histories going far back into the eleventh and
twelfth centuries, when the country was at war within itself, around
others were entwined romances, and above all, the sword was the faithful
friend with which the Samurai might honourably end his life, either in
the field or on the mats. A blade given by a father to his daughter on
her wedding day was the emblem of that purity of life which the woman
was expected to keep, and it was also the weapon with which she might
seek repose in death, should occasion arise. The Restoration breaking up
the old feudal system compelled the Samurai to part with their worldly
goods to secure the necessities of life, the rich became poor, the poor
lost all support, hence anything which might tempt the foreign buyer
went swiftly out of the country; the circumstances had become rather
more straitened for the Samurai class when the edict of 1877 compelled
them to put aside their swords, and blades followed the lacquer, the
paintings, the carvings which eager curio buyers snapped at inadequate
prices. Many swords of first quality crossed the waters, besides
thousands of poor blades which could be bought in dozens in the stores
and bazaars of the old world. Hardly any attempt was made at keeping in
the country any blades except those which were, so to speak, entailed
heirlooms or those whose owners refused to part with at any price.
Later, a few earnest people banded themselves into a Society for the
preservation and study of the National weapon: the Sword Society of
Tokyo, which has published, during the last twelve years, a mass of
information about swords. Collecting swords has become a national
propensity, and the modern sword lover may have more blades, carefully
kept and oft admired, than his ancestor of a century ago who could only
wear two at a time. Magazines have sprung into existence dealing only
with the sword and its accessories. Both in Europe and in America
articles on the sword have been published, most of which, based upon the
paper of Hutterott and nearly all inadequate. It is to be hoped that
some more comprehensive work will soon appear to give the Western public
a better knowledge of the ancient swords. In Japan, there are hundreds
of books dealing with their makers, from ancient books now rare and
costly to modern works crammed with information and obtainable for a few
pence. What then is there about the Japanese blade which compels
admiration? Far back in the Sung Dynasty a Chinese Poet sang its
praises, later the Mediæval European writers spoke in wonderment of the
Katana, of its keenness of edge, of its swift stroke, of the respect
paid to it; later still, folks were awed by the form of suicide we call
seppuku, some saw in it only a barbarous disembowelment, few, perhaps,
grasped that other important feature--the test of the truest
friendship--that confidence in the bosom friend one entrusted with the
cutting of one's head. Romance alone would not have made the blade an
object of interest to the positive mind, attracted by the efficiency of
the weapon, by its qualities _qua_ sword, by the marvellous skill
evinced in its forging, in the shaping of its harmonious curves.
Further, the blade presented a characteristic temper; unlike the
European swords evenly tempered throughout, it had a mere edge of great
hardness backed by enough softer metal to ensure toughness, and to allow
bending in preference to snapping when the sword blow met an unexpected
resistance. Then it was realised that all those characteristic
peculiarities required study, for they presented variations of
appearance intimately associated with the various swordsmiths, with the
periods, the schools. How numerous those smiths were may be guessed, but
it may come as a surprise to some, that over 11,000 names are recorded
in one book alone.

To study a blade and appreciate its points is a matter of considerable
interest, the various portions of the blade have their names and their
peculiarities; one must pay attention to every part of the body, of its
edge, of the handle, etc., and with practice an expert may become able
to recognise the technique and style of a smith by the peculiarities of
the blade, silent witnesses left in the metal itself. Thus, in Japan,
the Honami family of sword experts were professionally engaged for over
350 years in examining and certifying blades.

In feudal days a man's life was at his lord's call, and he might never
feel sure that the following day would not be his last, either in fight
or by self infliction under orders of the death penalty for some breach,
however slight, of the stiff code of Samurai etiquette. Hence his sword
was selected and cared for, its edge must be keen enough to cut a man's
head at a blow, leaving, if skilfully done, a shred of skin on the
throat for the head to hang on the breast.

[Illustration: TERMINOLOGY OF THE SWORD, FROM JOLY'S _Sword Book_.]

His sword was tested, sometimes officially by cutting up corpses, and
thus we come across blades on the tang of which is inscribed a statement
that it cut one or two or even three bodies at a blow. No sword in
Europe ever came through such an ordeal; indeed, it is doubtful whether
its shape and constitution would have allowed a similar test to be
successful. Looked upon as a cutting weapon, the Japanese blade has been
pronounced perfect by all experts; that perfection is the result of
thorough work undertaken with only one aim in view: to turn out a sword
which was not only reliable, but a credit to the maker as well; and,
indeed, the names of the smiths are as well known as those of the
foremost painters, they rank with the expert calligraphers, with the
poets, with the writers and the statesmen, with those who made history,
Masamune, Muramasa, are names which have found their way even amongst
the novels of the West; not a dozen names of Japanese sculptors can be
mentioned, although their works are to be found in any and every temple,
but 11,000 names of swordsmiths remain.... Where the carver could repair
a faulty chisel stroke the smith has no such resource, a slight flaw in
welding his metal, a little dirt remaining between two layers of steel,
and where in a smithy can one exclude dirt? Overhaste in heating the
metal resulting in a wrong temper, or in spots on the blade, and, lo, a
fortnight's patient work was wasted, a patron offended, a reputation

No less important than the smith's skill was that of the polisher
grinding away the blade to its final shape, settling the planes and the
curves, whose intersections are geometrically true on every side of the
blade. A volume rather than a preface is required to do the scantiest
justice to the Japanese blade, but space is limited, and the blades
exhibited here speak for themselves.

H. L. J.



  1. KATANA. _2 shaku, 2 sun, 6 bu._ 890, 685, 17 mm.[A] Ko Gunomé midare
     yakiba, deep Kaeri bōshi, signed Sasaki Niudo Ippo of Gōshū.
     Kwanyei period (1624-1643).

  2. KATANA. 855, 650, 11 mm. Narrow yakiba, engraved on one side with
     Ono no Tofu, the frog and willow, on the other with characters,
     _Yanagi amé Kan Ki_.                                      [_Plate._

  3. KATANA. _2 shaku, 1 sun._ 795, 645, 13 mm. Very fine wave yakiba
     with deep niyé, signed Kagekuni of Settsu. (Manji period.)

  4. KATANA. _2 shaku, 2 sun, 8 bu._ 880, 695, 11 mm. Midare yakiba Bōshi
     majiri, signed Kaneuji, in gold inlay, attributed to Kaneuji of

  5. KATANA. Large heavy blade. _2 shaku, 4 sun, 4 bu._ 932, 710, 6. With
     long bōshi kaeri, midare yakiba, wave form with tsuyu, signed
     Korekazu, attributed to Fujiwara Korekazu of Yedo, Bushu. Circa
     Kwanbun (1661-1672).

  6. KATANA. 825, 645, 17. With Ogunomé yakiba, signed Tsuta Omi no Kami
     Sukenao, dated Tenwa 3, second month (1683).

  7. KATANA. _2 shaku, 3 sun, 5 bu._ 917, 718, 18. Large Choji yakiba,
     bōshi kaeri, signed Awataguchi Ikkanshi Tadatsuna. Circa Kwanbun
     (1661-1672).                                              [_Plate._

  8. KATANA. _2 shaku, 2 sun, 5 bu._ 892, 685, 10. With nokogiri yakiba,
     double yasurime, signed Mutsu no Kami Daido, (Omichi of Mino).

  9. KATANA. _2 shaku, 2 sun, 8 bu._ 880, 695, 17 mm. With long wave
     yakiba and deep groove, signed Harumitsu of Osafuné, Bizen.

 10. KATANA. _2 shaku, 2 sun, 4 bu._ 885, 680, 19 mm. Narrow yakiba,
     maru bōshi, signed Kunimura, attributed to Kunimura of Kikuji Higo.

 11. KATANA. _2 shaku, 3 sun._ 860, 70, 21. Hitatsura on all jigané but
     not on shinogi, signed Akihiro of Sōshu, dated second year of
     Teiji.                                                    [_Plate._

 12. KATANA. _2 shaku, 1 sun, 5 bu._ 840, 650, 33. Ogunomé midare yakiba
     with Rio no me tsuyu imitating splashing waves, signed Made at Toto
     (Yedo) by Kato (chounsai) Tsunatoshi, dated Bunsei 10, first month.

 13. KATANA. _2 shaku, 5 sun, 3 bu._ 1,010 mm., 755 mm., 8 mm. sori, 75
     mm. bōshi, shinogi tapering from 10 to 8 mm. Very fine double
     yakiba, ko gunomé midare and hitatsura, signed Muramasa.  [_Plate._

 14. KATANA. _2 shaku, 3 sun, 4 bu._ 920, 710, 23. Ko midare yakiba,
     signed Bushu no jiu Yamamoto Geki Toshinaga, Kyoho, 1716-1735.
     _Jiugo mai Kabuto buse_, i.e., made of metal folded fifteen times.

 15. SHOBU BLADE. 520, 400, 8. Uno kubi style, Kammuri otoshi, with Ken
     engraved and treble groove on other side up to the middle,
     unsigned, attributed to Hiromitsu.

 16. KATANA. Bizen blade. _2 shaku, 4 sun, 5 bu._ 950, 740, 22. Broad
     gunomé midare yakiba, attributed to _Yoshimitsu_.

 17. KATANA. Very curved blade, the lengths being 950 mm., 758 mm. and
     _sori_ 26. Ko midare yakiba, narrow shinogi, signed Fuyuhiro of
     Sōshu (Sagami).

 18. KATANA. Broad blade. _2 shaku, 2 sun, 2 bu long._ 940, 745, 18 mm.
     sori. With irregular yakiba in breaking waves style, the shinogi
     reduced on one side by two grooves (_Hi_), stopping a third of the
     way up, the portion nearer the heel being grooved singly and
     deeper, with tama reserve, single groove on other side, tapering
     nakago, signed Nagasoné Okisato Niudo Kotetsu Saku.       [_Plate._

 19. KATANA. The blade _2 shaku, 6 sun, 7 bu_. 1,004 mm., 810, sori 10
     mm. Choji midare yakiba, signed Kiushu, Higo Dotanuki Nobuyoshi
     (Shin-ka). Eiroku period.                                 [_Plate._

 20. KATANA. _2 shaku, 5 sun._ 990, 752, 20. Broad blade with tapering
     nakago, midare yakiba, signed Kawachi no Kami, Minamoto Motoyuki
     (Hon-ko), dated Genroku 9, the eighth month. _Saijo nichi Goku Shin
     Kitai_, i.e., the very truest forging on the most auspicious day.

 21. BIZEN KATANA. _2 shaku, 3 sun, 5 bu._ 940, 710, sori 27 mm.
     Unsigned, grooved on both sides, attributed on its character to
     Kumotsugu (_Unji_) of Bizen, period Ōan (1368-1374). The double
     blood grooves on shinogi, the lower one ground down.      [_Plate._

 22. KATANA. 915, 710, 8. Broad blade with long boshi, wide shinogi on
     one side with engraved Ken, the other side with deep groove
     engraved with a Bonji in reserve. Unsigned. Wide midare yakiba.

 23. KATANA. _2 shaku, 3 sun, 3 bu._ 915, 705, 17. Hitatsura blade,
     signed Nobusada, of Kyoto. Eikyo period (1429-1440).      [_Plate._

 24. KATANA. 690, 560, 18. With midare yakiba, engraved Amakurikara and
     Bonji characters, much rubbed down, unsigned.

 25. KATANA. 878, 675, 6. Narrow yakiba with deep niyé and niòi, ken and
     Amakurikara ken horimono, signed Kotsuke no Suke, Minamoto
     Yoshimasa.                                                [_Plate._

 26. KATANA. 940, 730, 17. Narrow yakiba, heavy blade, signed Yokoyama
     Sukemuné of Osafuné, Bizen, dated the third year of Bunkiu, the
     eighth month, 1863.

 27. KATANA. 920, 695, 8. Very heavy blade with broad straight yakiba,
     signed Yamato no Kuni Heijo (Hira-shiro) Fujiwara no Michiharu
     (Dōsei), inscribed Naniwa sattei (Satsuma) Temmangu shi tomo ni
     Koreō tsukuru ken no do tetsu wo motte, Keio 2 (1866), eighth
     month--made of the same iron as the sword which I made for Temmangu
     Satsuma Yashiki in Osaka.

 28. NARROW KATANA. 805, 635, 15. With straight yakiba, the _Hi_ ground
     down, signed Riokai Muneyoshi, dated Taiyei 3 (1523), eighth month.

 29. KATANA. 840, 665, 17. Fine narrow blade with sanbon sugi yakiba,
     unsigned.                                                 [_Plate._

 30. KATANA. 810, 610, 18. Gunomé midare yakiba, signed Sukemuné,
     engraved with Taishakuten as a Chinese warrior, sword in hand,
     standing on a dragon, and on the other side the characters
     Taishakuten, fittings of shakudo, and silver, with dragon and waves
     design. Red and black lacquer scabbard with dragon in silver and
     gold lacquer in relief.                                   [_Plate._

 31. WAKIZASHI. Shobu blade. 495, 370, 9. Curious yakiba, ishikaki
     style, signed Kuniyuki.                                   [_Plate._

 32. WAKIZASHI. Broad blade. 605, 455, 12 mm. sori. Large midare yakiba,
     Bōshi Kaeri, signed Nagasada (Ei-tei) and dated Keio, first year,
     fourth month.

 33. WAKIZASHI. Bizen blade. _1 shaku, 6 sun, 5 bu._ 637, 495, 10.
     Grooved on both sides, midare yakiba, Kaku muné, tanzaku,
     signature, Bizen Osafuné Norimitsu, dated Kiotoku, fifth year,
     second month (1456), interesting blade.

 34. WAKIZASHI. _1 shaku, 6 sun, 8 bu._ 645, 510, 17. With midare
     yakiba, signed Kuninaga, attributed to Senjiuin in Shoō period,

 35. WAKIZASHI. 580, 435, 12. With remarkable kiku-sui yakiba, signed
     Setsuyo Okamoto Yasutomo, dated Bunkwa third year, eighth month.
     Shakudo fittings, nanako, red sparrows, and man walking on a path.

 36. WAKIZASHI. 590, 460, 15. Brass tsuba with stags, the fuchi and
     Kashira cranes in low relief. _Mensoku sosei Niudo Taro Sadataka._
     Kozuka Jurojin, signed Joi.

 37. WAKIZASHI. Bizen blade. 550, 435, 17. With plain polished shakudo
     tsuba, all other mounts shibuichi inlaid with cranes, and water
     plants minute iroyé in relief, unsigned.

 38. WAKIZASHI. 650, 465, 10. Hitatsura blade, signed Fujiwara no
     Kanemichi (Kindo) Iga no Kami, Nihon Kaji Sasho; on the other side,
     sixteen-petal chrysanthemum and the characters, Jorai (Kaminari
     yoké, protection against thunder).                        [_Plate._

 39. WAKIZASHI. 510, 395, 10. Shobu, kammuri otoshi, signed Kanemoto.
     Shakudo tsuba nanako with animals of the zodiac, dragon,
     menuki-fuchi and kashira, tiger and waves, shibuichi, signed

 40. WAKIZASHI. Heavy blade. 510, 370. Signed Kanefusa. Mounted in
     shakudo nanako with Hotta mokko crests in relief.

 41. TANTO. 360, 260 mm. Straight hiratsukuri with horimono of Dragon
     and Ken, _Amakurikara Rio_, sugu-ha, signed Kagehira.

 42. TANTO. 375, 275. Unsigned, with silver mounts engraved with a
     creeper, signed Riushosai Takahisa. Black scabbard with Karakusa in
     gold togidashi.

 43. TANTO. 250, 190. Signed Mitsuhiro. Mounted entirely in metal,
     embossed with dragons and tigers, partly gilt.

 44. TANTO. Kammuri otoshi. Suguha 350, 255. Signed Fujiwara no Ason
     Shizukuni (Chinkoku) Heianjo ni oite, dated Mèiji, 3. Made to the
     order of Taira no Ason Takechika. Copper Kozuka with bamboo in
     sumiyé, signed Dairiusai Mitsuhiro. Ribbed red scabbard.

 45. TANTO. 320, 240. Suguha, signed Kanesada, shibuichi mounts with
     cherry blossom on waves, signed Togintei Yoshiteru. Kozuka
     shibuichi with cherry blossom and maple leaves iroyé in relief,
     signed _Goto Mitsumasa_.

 46. TANTO. 370, 275. Signed Kanenori. Silver fittings, tiger and waves.
     Katakiri, signed Soyu, black scabbard with waves in relief.
                                                  _Ex Gilbertson, coll._

 47. TANTO. 440, 325. Mounted with shibuichi tsuba in the shape of two
     butterflies, small fittings, shakudo kebori and hirazogan, flowers
     of the four seasons, signed Sugioka Ikkio, Kozuka and Kogai to
     match, iroyé in relief. Red scabbard with fukiyosé gold.
                                                  _Ex Gilbertson, coll._

 48. TANTO. 370, 275. Fittings in Hosono school, signed Hakuōsai
     Toshihisa. The Kozuka, signed Hosono Sozaemon Masamori.
                                                  _Ex Gilbertson, coll._

 49. TANTO. 380, 280. Mounted in the style of the Tanaka school, all the
     fittings ivory with clouds in relief and gold nunomé, lacquer
     scabbard in Wakasa technique.                _Ex Gilbertson, coll._

 50. TANTO. Mounted in carved scabbard, inlaid with a mother-of-pearl
     snake. The tsuba shibuichi, with cranes in relief, signed Shokatei
     Tomotsuné. Kashira with Kiri crest in gold on shakudo nanako.
                                                  _Ex Gilbertson, coll._

 51. TANTO. 370, 270. Narrow yakiba, signed Kanemune, the fittings
     nigurome with big nanako and plum blossoms in relief silver--Kozuka
     bamboo in shibuichi.

 52. AIGUCHI. 340, 240. Midareba. Shakudo mounts, with engraved floral
     _mon_, signed Kanahara Naomichi, Kozuka shakudo nanako, flowers of
     Autumn, iroyé in relief, black lacquer scabbard with suzuki grass
     and dew-drops of silver.

 53. AIGUCHI. 245. With narrow yakiba, fitted on silver mounts decorated
     with chidori and waves, Katakiri. Scabbard lacquered black with
     chidori decoration.

 54. BOKUTO (wooden sword) decorated with a rabbit and waves, signed


[A] The dimensions in millimetres represent the whole length, the length
from Bōshi to Habaki moto, and the Sori respectively.


[Illustration: YAMANAKA & Co. Plate I.]

[Illustration: YAMANAKA & Co. Plate II.]

[Illustration: YAMANAKA & Co. Plate III.]

[Illustration: YAMANAKA & Co. Plate IV.]

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