History of katana and Japanese sword

What is the history of Japanese swords?

The history of Japanese swords,it can be divided into Jokoto period, Koto period, Shinto period, Shin-shinto period and Gendaito period, but different researchers have different opinions on how to date generations in different periods, and there is no unified conclusion. In fact, the evolution of the Japanese sword is also gradual, and it is impossible to have earth-shattering changes within one year. It is generally believed that the Jokoto period began in the late Heian period, during which there were five periods, namely the Heian, Kamakura, Southern and Northern Dynasties, Muromachi, and Taoshan, which lasted about 600 years.The Koto period is preceded by the Jokoto period.The Shinto period is roughly equivalent to the early Edo period. The late 19th century was the Gendaito period after the Meiji Restoration, and some people took the issuance of the Knife Scrapping Order of 1876 as the boundary between the Shinshinto period and the Gendaito period, which can only seek common ground while reserving their own.history of the katana

Note: The age of Japanese sword inscriptions is indicated by (nengo), which is the traditional Japanese historical era.

The Changes in the Shape of the Japanese Sword

1.Before the Nara period
Mostly hira-zukuri and kiriha-zukuri chokuto blades(without curvature).
2.Late-Heian through early-kamakura periods(late 12th to early 13th C.)
Shinogi-zukuri blades appear with curvature.The center of curvature is
deepest in the base of the blade(koshi-zori).
3.Mid-Kamakura period(13th C.)
This era was the peak of the warrior class.Many fine robust tachi were produced.
4.Late-Kamakura period(late 13th to early 14th C.)
The kissaki becomes extended,and slight curvature appears the upper part 
ofthe blade. Funbari(p.53) appears less prominent.
5.Nanbokucho period(14th C.)
Blades become wide, large sized tachi with o-kissaki.No-dachi also appear in this
6.Early-Muromachi period(late 14th to 15th C.)
Blades are similar in shape to that of the Kamakura period, except that they now
also have curvature in the upper part of the blade (saki-zori).
7.Late-Muromachi period(15th to 16th C.)
The combat style changes to mass infantry warfare, and many uchi-gatana are
8.Azuchi-Momoyama period(late 16th C.)
Swords are produced in the same shape as Nanbokucho period blades,but in their
shortened form.
9.Early-Edo period(17th C.)
The curvature becomes very shallow, and the blade narrows noticeably. This
shape is called Kanbun-shinto.
10.Mid-Edo period(17th to 18th C.)
Compared to Kanbun-shinto blades,swords of this era become deeper in curvature.
11.Bakumatsu era(19th C.The end of the Edo period)
Many blades are recreated in the shapes of blades from the Kamakura and
Nanbokucho periods.

JOKOTO and KOTO period

Early stage

The earliest swords found in Japan are stone swords and bronze swords. These swords seem to have been used mainly in ceremonies, so they may not have had the function of weapons. The earliest steel swords in Japan appeared in the ancient tomb era (250-538 AD), which was characterized by construction. Many large earthen tombs were constructed. It is speculated that these early steel swords, along with steel smelting and forging technologies, were introduced from China via South Korea. Many of these swords were unearthed from the earthen tomb, but in poor condition. However, a batch of swords from the early 8th century were kept in very good condition at Sho-so in Nara, a storehouse for government property, and it is generally believed that they were imported from China. Thanks to the maintenance, grinding and restoration of these swords, we have a chance to see the lemon appearance of some early Japanese swords today. These swords are called (iokoto) or (chokuto) and were made at least between the 4th or 5th century and the 10th or 11th century.
These early iokoto were chokuto with flat sides. Zhengcangyuan also has a collection of swords (kiriha-zukuri) that belong to this type, but are relatively late. The two sides are flat and symmetrical, and the egg shape is tilted at a large angle or shinogi very close to the blade. The sides of the blade begin to shrink inward from the pickaxe, making the blade look rather dull. Zhengcangyuan also collects another type of sword with a thicker and wider blade that looks more practical. Some swords have double blades that extend a short distance from the point to the hilt. This type of sword is called "kissaki moroha-zukuri", which can be used as an example of Japanese swords and Chinese straight swords before the 8th century.


Heian period (AD 794-1185)

The Jokoto blade is narrow and straight, and generally lacks strength and clarity. However, it seems that since the Asuka period, Japanese swordsmen began to use sticky notes to make blades.
After that, jihada and blade wen became obvious, and (suguha) was also clearly visible. Jokoto in katakiriha-zukuri began in the early or possibly middle Heian period. The Japanese sword developed and evolved during this period, beginning in the middle of the Heian period.
A blade similar to the modern Japanese sword appeared. This type of sword is larger and longer than the sword of the Asuka period and Nara era (710-794 AD), with a curved blade and a single blade, the blade, shinogi, extends longitudinally along the upper part of the blade body, and the blade body is wider and thicker than in earlier times. At the end of the Heian period, the "shinogi-zukuri" style, which is very close to gendaito, began to appear. The position of the shinogi is moved up closer to the back of the knife, allowing the blade to have a sharper acute angle than jokoto. The blade text is wider and more complex, belonging to the category of (choji), and there is also a blade with "boshi" in gendaito. The famous sword makers of this period are Munechika in Yamashiro, Yasutsuna in Hoki, Kanehira and Tomonari in Bizen.

Japanese sword of the Heian period

1.tachi inscription: Yasutsuna (どうじぎり やすつな)
national treasure
Tokyo National Museum Collection
Peace time
Length: 80.2 cm Sori:2.7 cm
This is a tachi made by An Gang of Bo-Guo in the 12th century. The modern design shows that the Japanese sword has developed almost completely in this period. The blade has not been modified, the length is about 80.2 cm, the curvature is obvious, and the original blade shaft and inscription can also be seen. The blade is very complicated, but it is very narrow and distributed along the whole blade. The boshi is very wide, which shows that this knife has almost completely retained its original shape.
2.tachi inscription: three items (みかづきむねちか)
Collection of Tokyo National Museum
Peace time
Length: 80 cm Sori:2.8 cm
This tachi was made in the late Heian period by Tsuchijin, who lived in Kyoto, then the capital of Japan. The blade is 80 cm long, narrow and complicated, distributed along almost the whole body of the sword and widening near the tip. Boshi shows that this sword is in good condition, although it is very old, it still retains its original shape. The tip of the blade is partly cut inwards, and the length is also slightly shortened: the part near the tip of the blade is very narrow, and the denier starts at the grinding part.
The lower part suddenly widens, and this shape is called (kii-momo, short chicken leg).


Kamakura era(AD 1185-1333)

By the end of the Heian period in the 12th century, the samurai class was accumulating more power and influence, and there was a great demand for Japanese swords with actual combat effectiveness. This trend continued until the samurai class dominated Japan's Kurakura era. At this time, the sword had a more obvious aura and was bolder, suitable for actual combat: the sword maker also began to write money on his work. At the same time, the "koshirae" and appearance of ritual knives and actual combat knives began to differ. The body of most ritual knives is a straight sword, obviously derived from the early jokoto. The design of the sword in this period is very close to that of the modern Japanese sword. However, the Japanese sword has continued to evolve and improve since the early days of the Mukura era. The new shogunate advocated building a better and more powerful sword, and the Mongol invasion of Japan also led to changes in the design and manufacture of the sword. Improvements in design include wider and more complicated blades, and the addition of soft core iron to the main body of the sword during forging. The way the steel is made can also be improved. The first shogunate in power in the early days of Kamakura called swordsmiths from all over Japan to Kamakura City in Soshu to forge a better sword. This was the beginning of the biography of Xiangzhou. Phase model Sagami (also known as Xiangzhou) is the area where Kamakura is located, and it has been a heavy burden of the sword in the Kurakura Shogunate for about 130 years. At the same time, other schools of sword forging developed in various parts of Japan. Many tanto (daggers), naginata (long-handled weapons), and tachi (long swords) from this period are still preserved today. Swordsmiths often carve the name, year, and location of the workshop on the sword. In the foreshore area of central Japan (near present-day Okayama), there are several important groups of swordsmiths, distributed in Fukuoka, for example. Yoshi, Osafune, and other places. Long ships and Fukuoka are the most The production area has produced a large number of standby sword in hundreds of years. Part of the high production capacity before preparation can be attributed to good quality sand iron, sufficient charcoal and reliable water source, and stable transportation. Beiqian may be the birthplace of modern Japanese sword, and it is also the region that produced the most Japanese sword in about 400 years from the middle of Kamakura era in 1250 to the early Edo era in 1603.

Japanese sword in the early Kamakura period

3.Tachi inscription: びぜんこともなり
Important cultural treasures
Early Kamakura period
Length: 79.2 cm Sori:2.6 cm
This 79.2 cm long Youcheng tachi is the same as the two tachi in the picture above, and it is a long sword with an obvious radian that seems to have retained its original shape. Youcheng was a man in the late Heian period who made the sword in the school of Ko-Bizen, a predecessor. The blade of the hilt sword is narrow and intricate, with distinct gunome or chuoji waves distributed along the entire blade. The body of the blade and the blade shaft do not appear to have been modified.

4. Tachi inscription: リダィレクト
National Treasure
Late Heian or early Kamakura period.
Length: 77.6 cm Sori:2.5 cm
This Tachi was made by リダィレクト This sword is in very good condition, the blade is long and narrow, and the large boshi represents the original shape of the blade. The shape of the blade is excellent, and there are many dense and continuous gunome ripples and ashi. Tail-Ended
The straight break, the fixing hole at the bottom of the blade shaft and the position of the inscription (in the middle of the blade shaft) all indicate that the blade shaft was shortened.

Japanese sword in the Kamakura period


5.Tachi inscription: Bizen Osafune Nagamitsu Work

February auspicious day in 正安 two years.
Important cultural treasures
Kamakura Tomodai
Length: 77.3cm Sori: 2.6cm.
In about the middle of Kamakura (the middle of the 13th century), Tiki sword was created by nagamitsu, bizen osafune is the second generation leader. The sword is 77.3 cm long, with moderate radiant and powerful appearance. The lower part of the blade is obviously a small choji blade, and the upper part is transformed into a suguha blade with ashi. Compared to many earlier works of the same period, the blade inscription of this sword is very internal.convergence.

6.Tachi inscription: よしふさ
national treasure
Early Kamakura period
Length: 73.9 cm Sori: 3.4 cm
This sword was made by よしふさ, who was a sword maker of the Fukuoka Yiwenyu school in the early Kamakura era. This sword is about 800 years old, but it is almost perfectly preserved. The sword is 73.9 cm long, with obviously radian, wide blade and body, and amazing blade writing, which shows that the Japanese sword has fully developed. There are clear hook lines on the blade, and clear choji and gunome ripples are distributed along the entire blade.

7. Tachi stroke: 國行
Kamakura Tomodai
Length: 69.8cm Sori: 1.5cm.
This sword was made by the 國行, which was founded in the mountain town of Kamakura (Rai). The sword is 69.8 cm long and the inscription is just below the center mounting hole, which is original.
hole. The blade is a series of gunome ripples, and clear lines are distributed along the entire blade. There are (horimono, carved flowers) on both sides of the blade, carved with chokuto like a sword.

Southern and Northern Dynasties (AD 1331-1392)

In the early Southern and Northern Dynasties, the size of some swords obviously increased, and the tachi produced were very large, called (no-dachi) and (o-dachi), and some smooth blades were as long as 90 cm or more. The samurai of this period fought on foot instead of on horseback, which also influenced the size and design of these large swords. The huge and bulky blade is characteristic of the Southern and Northern Dynasties.

Japanese sword in the Southern and Northern Dynasties

8. Tachi inscription: preparing for the former land
Important Cultural Wealth
Southern and Northern Dynasties
Length: 74.2cm Sori: 2cm
This sword was made by 盛景 in the Northern and Southern Dynasties. The sword is 74.2 cm long and has a large tip. The narrowing from the top of the blade shaft to the tip of the blade is very small, which is another feature of the Southern and Northern Dynasties. There are waves of ashi, gunome and choji on the sword, and clear and continuous white lines.
9. Tachi inscription: Hasebe Kuninobu
Important works of art
Southern and Northern Dynasties
Length: 79.4cm Sori: 3.3cm.This Southern and Northern Dynasty sword was made by Kuninobu, with a length of 79.4 cm and a large tip. The hilt is very special, but the most amazing thing is the jumping and irregular blade. This type of blade is called hitatsura, and the upper surface of the blade body is hardened together with the blade. As far as this sword is concerned, there are surface lines similar to the blade along the mune, which extend down to the normal blade area near the blade, and the surface of the blade that represents these parts has also been hardened. This genre originated from the Daiwa biography in Nara and later moved to Kyoto.
10. Tachi inscription: 備州おさふね ひでみつ
Major Cultural Relics
Southern and Northern Dynasties
Length: 81.6 cm Sori:3 cm
October, 4th year of 慶安.
This sword was made by しゅうこう. Like other swords of the Southern and Northern Dynasties, the tip of the knife is very large. The length of the blade is 81.6 cm, and there are delicate and continuous hook lines, gunome waves and ashi on the blade. One side of the blade has a rigid horimono, and the shinogi-ji on both sides are engraved with large grooves. The end of the blade is straight, which means that the length has been temporarily shortened.

Muromachi period (AD 1336-1573)

In 1336, Ashikazu established a new shogunate regime. The Ashikaga shogunate is located in Muromachi, Kyoto, next to the emperor. During the Warring States Period (Sengogu), from about 1467 to 1600, civil wars continued as the famous names tried to unite and take over the whole country. A large number of "ashigaru" (infantry) went into battle. These part-time soldiers were farmers when there was no war, and they were not trained to fight with swords. Therefore, the (yari) became the preferred weapon of the infantry. Yari refers to a simple straight knife with a blade length of about 15-25 cm attached to a long pole: some poles used to attach yari could be as long as 4 meters. However, samurai also developed many fighting skills using yari, and yari of different sizes, such as (su-yari), (jumonji yari), and many other types. These yari are forged from jade steel and have a blade, but the decoration is often rough. In most cases, yari are made by craftsmen who specialize in making yari (although occasionally there are sword craftsmen who can make yari). The standard is not as high as that of the Japanese sword, which is the opposite of the naginata, another large long weapon. The naginata was originally a weapon used by soldiers in the Heian period and was further developed in the Kamakura period. The blade is as large as the Japanese sword, of good quality, and well made. It was forged by the sword maker with the same skills as the sword. In the early Warring States period, many soldiers began to use (uchigatana). . Uchigatana can be used with one hand, which is more suitable for closed spaces such as buildings or fortresses. Compared to the long and heavy tachi, it is lighter and easier to use. The uchigatana is about 60-70 cm long, while the traditional tachi can be up to 1 meter long. There are also differences in the way the sword is hung: the tachi has the blade facing down and the scabbard is hung from a belt around the waist. Uchigatana has the blade facing up and is worn directly under the belt. Because the uchigatana's scabbard is attached to the belt, the sword can be drawn with one hand, while the tachi requires two hands to draw the sword. However, the uchigatana has to be shorter than the tachi, otherwise it is impossible to pull it out of the scabbard. After the popularity of the uchigatana, swordsmiths began to make smaller swords in all aspects. From this period, the simple black lacquer scabbard used to store the uchigatana evolved into a traditional accessory of the Japanese sword.

Japanese sword in Muromachi era

11.Tachi inscription: 備州長船康光
應永 thirty-two years March day
Important cultural treasures
Early Muromachi period
Length: 80.6 cm Sori: 2.1 cm
This tachi was made by やすみつ, who made knives in preparation for the Muromachi era. The sword is 80.6 cm long and has a moderate radian. Blade writing is an active preparation style, including choji writing, gunome, ashi, and gunome with a sharp tip. The three holes in the shaft represent that the sword has been shortened twice since forging, and the bottom hole is the original hole because it is shortened from the end of the shaft.
12.Tachi stroke: 和泉守藤原兼定作
Particularly important sword
Late Muromachi era
Length: 64.84cm Sori: 1.8cm.
This sword was made by かねさだ, and his workshop was in Guanshi in the late Muromachi era. The completion time of the sword is close to the end of the Koto period, which is a bit like the development of the Shinto period.Out of style. The sword is 64.84 cm long and has a relatively small arc. This sword looks solid and practical, not as elegant as the previous koto.

Shinto and Shin-shinto Period

Atuchimomoyama period (AD 1568-1600)

The Atuchimomoyama period was one of the renaissance periods in Japan, and a large amount of foreign trade led to the rise of a wealthy merchant class. During this period, the shogunate, the emperor and the princes often used the Japanese sword with expensive equipment as a gift or reward. Therefore, the accessories became very expensive and exquisite. Sword craftsmen began to add gold, paint and other precious materials to accessories, making tsuba, fuchi, kashira, menuki, knives, kozuka and other decorations. Many time-consuming and expensive techniques such as carving, touch carving, and mosaic became more common. In addition, from the end of the Muromachi era to the Atuchimomoyama era, sword makers often made exquisite and elegant works, which are signed. There are generally two types of katana in the latter period. The first is the actual combat sword, with very simple accessories and emphasis on functionality. The second type is a magnificent katana, with luxury, decorations and metal fittings, usually used as gifts or exclusively for high-ranking warriors. The use of sword and its style gradually evolved in Muromachi and Yasushima era, and by the early Edo period (1603-1867), it was a common practice for samurai to hang the size of sword. The size pair sword includes a long sword (large) of at least 60 cm, and a short sword (small) of usually about 40-45 cm. Sword can have magnificent accessories for ceremonies or formal occasions, or you can choose practical simple accessories. Only the samurai class can carry a pair of swords, but non-samurai can carry a wakizashi alone as long as it is shorter than 60 cm. Businessmen often hire craftsmen to make exquisite and beautiful accessories for their wakizashi, which also allows many skilled craftsmen to make a living.

Edo period (AD 1603-1867)

In the early Edo period, famous Japanese names needed the source of swords to supply their hired warriors, so they became loyal customers of sword craftsmen. Major cities such as Edo, Osaka, and Kyoto attracted a large number of skilled sword craftsmen, which was the beginning of the Shinto period. Many important swordsmiths were produced during this period. The word "koto" was used in Japanese sword books at that time to refer to the sword made in the Heian period from the early and middle period to the end of the Atuchimomoyama period, and the knife made after about 1600 AD was called "Shinto". The Edo period was a time of peace. Japan was unified and maintained for nearly 300 years under the powerful rule of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Since there was almost no war after the early Edo period, the demand for swordsmiths was not what it used to be. Therefore, from the late 1600s to the late 1700s, during these nearly one hundred years, the quality and design of Japanese swords generally declined. At this time, many sword may even have difficulty making a living. Since the late 1700s, there has been a wave of revival of the traditional Japanese sword by the craftsman すぃんしまさ. He traveled all over Japan to study koto, sword and steel making methods, with special emphasis on the famous koto of Kamakura and the Southern and Northern Dynasties. すぃんしまさ These swords worked hard to create a beautiful and practical shinto as koto in the past, which created the bud of the shinto period. And utility, in appearance, steel and blade are obviously different from the previous Japanese sword (although shin-shinto is based on the sword in Kamakura era), so it has created its own.Clear style and characteristics. These swords are often narrow, long and straight, reflecting the influence of taking koto as a model. The shin-shinto period lasted from the す̄しんまさひで era (about 1780 or 1790) to the Meiji Restoration in 1868, when the Tokugawa Shogunate was abolished and the Emperor was restored to power, and at the end of the Edo period. The social unrest in Bakumatsu strengthened the demand for actual combat swords and stimulated the production of Japanese swords.

Japanese sword in the Early Edo Period

13.Sword stroke: 出羽大掾藤原國路
Important cultural treasures
Early Edo period
Length: 70.3 cm Sori: just over 1.5 cm.
In the late koto period and early shinto period, the state-owned sword was one of the outstanding swords in the early shinto period. This sword was made in the Qing Dynasty (1596-1614), which is generally accepted as the beginning of the Shinto period. The sword is 70.3 cm long, with a very flat arc and a big knife tip; the outline of the blade stem is clear and modified, and the blade body looks strong and practical. The wide and irregular blade markings consist of gunome and choji markings of different sizes. This sword is a good example of the Shinto style.

14. sword inscription: 津田越前守助 February, 7 th,廣延寶
Important cultural treasures
Early Edo period
Length: 71.2 cm Sori: 1.5 cm
This sword was made in the Kanbun period (Kanbun, 1661-72 AD). It is full of movement, the sword is in excellent condition and the blade is unique in wave shape. The Kanbun era sword is characterized by a relatively straight shape. This sword was made by Tsuda Suekhiro, and the workshop was located near Osaka during the Shinto period. Sukhiro invented this type of blade writing called toranba, inspired by the broken waves written by Japanese swords in Osaka during the Shinto period.
Features, but also appeared in other regions of the sword.

Japanese sword in the late edo period

15.Sword stroke: 造大慶直胤(花押).
天保 Five years in the middle of spring.
Major works of art
Late Edo period
Length: 72.4 cm Sori: 2.3 cm.
This is a tachi made by Naoyo. It is generally accepted that Naoyo was one of the top five sword makers of the Shin Shinto period. This sword, forged in 1834, is like other swords of the same period based on the earlier koto. The blade is quite straight, about 72.4 cm long and still in its original condition. The blade is narrow and serrated.


Meiji era (A D 1868-1912)

Generally speaking, swords made since the Meiji Restoration (1868 AD) belong to (gendaito). In 1876, the new government of Emperor Meiji issued the Order of Abolishing Swords (hairtorei), making it illegal for people to admire swords in public. This law made it difficult for swordsmen to make a living, and eventually only a few swordsmen were able to continue this work. Since then, most of the value of the traditional Japanese sword lies only in being a work of art, and it is no longer a practical weapon.

During the Meiji Restoration, the new government began to modernize the Japanese army and navy, and the traditional Japanese sword was no longer a practical weapon in modern warfare. Although officers still admired the sword, the Japanese tried to adapt to the modern warfare environment.
In 1886, Japan introduced the gunto, which is very similar to the sword used by European troops, but it has a long handle and a D-shaped armguard, but the blade body is a traditionally forged Japanese sword, which is usually short and about 60-65 cm long.
In 1899, Japan began to mass produce swords for military use. However, in order to control cost and time, the steel used in these swords is smelted by modern smelting plants and forged by modern machines. Blade Wen uses oil to stir the fire, not water. These swords, also called "Murata-to", are meant to commemorate one of the heroes who built the modern Japanese army.
In 1906, Emperor Meiji appointed GassanSadakazu and MiyamotoKanenori as "TeishitsuGigei-in", or royal craftsmen, in order to support the traditional Japanese sword craftsmen. The government has also taken another measure, which is to nominate and praise the important Japanese sword as a national treasure, in order to maintain the public's interest and understanding of the Japanese sword. This policy was implemented in 1897. Originally, it was only intended to recommend Japanese swords collected in shrines or temples, but in 1929, the scope of implementation was expanded. No matter who the owner is, as long as it is an important Japanese sword, it will be commended.

Modern (AD 1912-present)

By the early 1920s, it was impossible for swordsmen to make a living, and only a small number of swordsmen were still engaged in this skill. However, due to technology and knowledge, it is not yet lost, and a few swordsmen who still make swords are still learning from traditional swordsmen, so at this stage there is still a flap method to create a completely traditional Japanese sword.

In the middle of the Meiji era, Japan greatly expanded its army, and the Japanese felt that officers should still carry handmade swords made in the traditional way, which created a demand for Japanese swords. In order to revive the sword making process, several organizations were established in Japan, including Nihonto Denshujo and Nihonto Tanren Kai. The goal of these organizations is to train new swordsmen and expand the talent pool for traditional Japanese swords. Another goal is to provide a large number of traditional swords to meet the needs of the Japanese Army and Navy. At that time, the sword craftsmen in Guanshi were very active in the production of Japanese swords.

Japanese sword exercise meeting at Yasukuni shrine

In 1933, at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, a group of sword artisans formed a Japanese Sword Forging Association called the "Japanese Sword Practice Club". Their goal is to use traditional materials and create a Japanese sword using 100% traditional methods, never using modern tools such as power tools. The club requires its members to use the sword created by Nagamitsu in the Kamakura era (1185-1333) as a model. The specifications of these swords are very detailed, which makes the Japanese Sword Training Club develop a very clear style that can be recognized by the shape and details. This group of "Yasukuni" sword makers can be said to be the last.
The traditional sword school, they developed their own unique style and high quality craftsmanship. According to records, during 1933-1945, these sword made 8100.Sword, trained about 30 sword craftsmen and related craftsmen.
The qualified sword craftsmen trained by the Japanese Sword Training Club are all given names beginning with the word "Jing" of Jing State, including (Yasutoku), (Yasunori), and (Yasuoki).


In the early 1930s, Kurihara Yansaburo, the founder of the Japanese Sword Institute, took a group photo with the sword maker.
Members and supporters of the Japanese Sword Training Association pose for a group photo with the management, taken at the Yasukuni Shrine on the first day of its founding in 1933.

Japanese sword training institute

Another important organization for the preservation of the Japanese sword, the Japanese Sword Institute, was founded in 1933. This organization is also located in Tokyo and its founder is Hikosaburo Kurihara. The Japanese parliament (House of Representatives) asked Kurihara, a member of the parliament, to do something for the preservation of the Japanese sword, so he organized the "Japanese Sword Institute" in his own house in Tokyo and apparently also contributed funds: Ren.
Anyone who wants to learn how to forge a Japanese sword is welcome. I hope this organization can train about 1000 swordsmen. Kurihara, who worked hard for this, became a key figure in the movement to preserve Japanese swordsmanship. He trained about 150 swordsmen in the workshop and later founded a sister organization, Nihonto Gakuin, which also aimed to train swordsmen. Most of the swordsmen who won the title of "National Treasure on Earth" after the war were trained in the workshop or studied with someone who studied in the workshop, which fully demonstrates the important position of this organization founded by Kurihara.
When the workshop first opened, there were no students, and Kurihara placed an advertisement in the newspaper to recruit new students. The first person to respond to the advertisement and enter the workshop was Yoshindo Kuniie, the grandfather of Yoshihara Yoshihara and Yoshihara Shoii. He was not only the first student, but also became the head of the establishment of Japan's Sword College. The students live in the workshop and also study the sword made by the workshop. When the students pass the examination and obtain the qualification of sword craftsman, the workshop gives them a name that includes a word in Kurihara's name. Most of the students in the workshop signed their names with the name (aki), such as (Akihiro), (Akitomo), and (Akifusa).
Shortly after its establishment, the Chuanxue Institute planned to start a new sword exhibition in Tokyo, but they couldn't find enough new swords to exhibit. At that time (1934) there were less than 50 active traditional swordsmiths in Japan, but by 1942 the number of swordsmiths had increased. In the annual list of the most popular active swordsmen in Japan in 1942, (Sadamitsu Gassan) was ranked as the most popular swordsman in western Japan, while the most influential swordsman in eastern Japan was Yoshihara.

A group photo of sword craftsmen in Guancheng after World War II.

Guanshi has always been the production center of Japanese swords, which lasted for about 700 years and belonged to five branches of Mino. Some people say that during the Edo period (1603-1867 AD), most of the swords produced in Japan came from Guanshi. It was not a large city, but by the end of the Meiji era, it is estimated that about half of the 30,000 residents were involved in sword-related industries. There is an organization called Seki Tanren Jo in Guanshi, which was founded in 1907. It is composed of swordsmiths and other people who want to promote and protect the traditional skills of sword making. The swordsmiths of this organization receive financial support from the Gifu Prefectural Government and other sources. Similar to the "Training Institute" and the "Japanese Sword Exercise Club" established at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo in 1933, Nihon Token Tanren Jo was also established to train new swordsmiths.


One of the main results of the great demand for Japanese swords by the Japanese army is the production sword (Showa-to). Many in the Showa Era (1926-1989)
The forged Japanese swords were all called Showa-to, especially since the early 1930s. These swords look like traditional Japanese blades, but they are forged with steel from modern steel mills instead of the traditional fused jade steel. Although Showa-to has the appearance of a traditional Japanese sword, it may also have a blade or hardened blade, but anyone familiar with Japanese swords knows that these knives do not have the unique surface and surface texture (jihada) of Japanese swords. In addition, even if there is a blade, the quality is different from the traditional Japanese sword forged with jade steel.
It is much cheaper (in terms of labor and materials) to make a Japanese sword with modern steel than with new jade steel taken from worn rails or structural steel from abandoned buildings. Since soldiers have to pay for swords themselves, many people need cheaper substitutes than the expensive modern swords forged in the traditional way. Showa-to produced in large quantities during the war is often of excellent quality, and people who are not deeply involved with Japanese swords are usually unable to tell the difference between Showa-to produced in large quantities and traditionally forged Japanese swords.
However, the price difference between these swords is very large. A high quality Japanese sword that came to the Japanese Sword Training Club in Baijingguo can be compared to the work of some of the best swordsmen of the early Edo period (the price at that time was about 100-125 yen). On the other hand, the best coins are 100-125 yuan). On the other hand, the price of the best Showa-to is about 60 yen, and the price of the inferior Showa-to is even lower, as long as it is about 25 yen. In order to make it easier for buyers to identify Showa-to, the government decided in 1937 that all swords forged from non-jade steel must be stamped on the hilt to indicate the non-traditional forged swords. The government also requires Showa-to to complete the process of engraving a stamp on the knife handle before 1940.
Japanese sword production at Guanshi is the best example of Showa's wartime production scale. From the late 1930s to the mid-1940s, Guanshi shipped about 18,000 swords per month, of which about 17,000 were mass-produced Showa swords for the Japanese Army and Navy, and the rest were traditional Japanese swords forged from jade steel. Because Showa-to is mass-produced, the quality of war swords made in Japan is not as good as the koto forged in ancient times. In fact, the Japanese wartime sword forged of jade steel is exquisite in workmanship and quality, and in quality it is on par with the koto forged before the Meiji Restoration.
The picture shows the accessories of a naval sabre produced during the Second World War. The scabbard is usually wrapped in shark skin or something similar, and there are two rings to attach the sword to a belt or hook.
The accessories and scabbard of an army officer are dark brown, and the scabbard is covered with a thin layer of metal. This type of accessory is not common, so it is useful to use the double ring and double rope of the sword hanging from his belt; this type of sword usually has only a single ring and a single rope.
Accessories of a Japanese sword made during the Russo-Japanese War (1904). Koto, Shinto and Gendaito made of modern steel often use such accessories. The wide D-ring next to the hilt is characteristic of Japanese swords of this period.

Japanese sword after World War II

After the end of World War II in 1945, Japan banned the manufacture of all weapons. In addition, the foreign troops who took over the country began confiscating all weapons, including the Japanese sword. The action of confiscating the traditional Japanese sword lasted for almost a year until the American authorities decided that the traditional sword was not a modern weapon but something of cultural and artistic value. However, during this period, the occupation authorities kept a considerable number of Japanese swords in the Japanese arsenal and in every army.
Anyone could take a sword home as a souvenir, and many soldiers brought a Japanese sword back to the United States and Europe. Therefore, in the 1950s, the number of Japanese swords in the United States may be more than that in the Japanese forests.
Due to the total ban on the production of weapons, no Japanese sword was produced from 1945 to 1951. Kurihara Yanzaburo, the founder of the Japanese Sword Institute, began organizing a project to forge 300 new swords to commemorate the end of World War II and the founding of the United Nations, and to present these swords to world leaders. In 1952, the Japanese government allowed Yansaburo to begin this project. Within a month, he was traveling all over Japan meeting with sword makers and asking them to participate. The project was launched and several new swords were completed, but in 1954 Yansaburo died,
He died of illness.
Although the project ended with Kurita's death, it reawakened the swordsmiths to forge Japanese swords in a completely traditional way, so this project is of extraordinary importance. Many swordsmiths started making swords again at that time. They said that it was impossible for them to return to making swords without Kurita Yansaburo preparing this project. Since then, despite the political economy, the economic situation is very different from the past, but Japan has resumed its activities to control the sword. Nevertheless, the reason why Japan was able to make a Japanese sword in 1952 was precisely because all the traditional technology, together with the knowledge and skills of refining jade steel, had been preserved intact from the feudal era.

Today's sword in Japan

Although the Japanese government allowed the swordsmith to resume making swords in 1953, some restrictions still exist today, the main purpose of which is to require the swordsmith to make only high quality traditional Japanese swords,in order to ensure this, the government limited the number of swords that each swordsmith could make. The authorities carefully observed the system of Yukihira Miyairi, one of the most outstanding swordsmen of the time, who decided that he could make almost two swords a month, so he decided to limit the monthly output of swords to two long swords or three shorter swords (such as wakizashi or tanto). This specification allowed Swords to make a living in post-war Japan and ensure production quality.

The government was able to impose such restrictions because of the Gun and Knife Law passed after the end of World War II, which required all Japanese sword owners to report to the local police unit for registration. If an unregistered sword is confiscated, the owner is punished. In addition, craftsmen such as grinders are not allowed to take unregistered Japanese swords, and dealers are not allowed to buy or sell them. When a sword craftsman makes a new sword, he must register it. Only licensed swords can be registered, and the sword maker must receive government approval to make the new sword. To become a licensed sword maker, a new sword maker must serve as an apprentice to a qualified sword maker for five years, and then build a new sword from scratch in front of a committee of qualified sword makers.
This is a very high standard, so it is not easy for young people to become qualified swordsmiths in Japan today. At present, there are hundreds of qualified swordsmiths, some of whom make swords their full-time occupation, and some of whom may make several new swords a year and also do other kinds of forging and cutting tools as their main

business.Japan Fine Arts Sword Preservation Association (NBTHK)

The full name of the Japan Fine Arts Sword Preservation Association is Nihon Bjutsu Token Hozon Kyokai, usually referred to as NBTHK. This organization was founded shortly after World War II to support all matters related to the traditional Japanese sword. The NBTHK is a quasi-governmental organization that supports all activities related to the appreciation and preservation of Japanese swords, including the publication of Japanese Swords Monthly magazine, the holding of regular Japanese sword inspection and research meetings, the holding of formal evaluation meetings and the issuance of appropriate certificates to mark quality and origin, as well as other activities to promote Japanese sword research and support sword craftsmen. The NBTHK building is located in Yoyogi, Tokyo, which also houses a sword museum.
NBTHK also holds an annual competition and exhibition called "Sinsaku To Mei To Ten". Sword entered the competition with his new work sword, all of which can be scored and ranked.
can score and rank. The sword with the highest score wins the prize, and all entries are exhibited in Tokyo after the competition. After winning several first prizes, the swordsmith is awarded the title of (mukansa), which means "censorship-free". Since then, his works do not need to be censored and can be sent directly to the exhibition. The swordsmiths who received the title of "Important Intangible Cultural Property" (in layman's terms, "National Treasure on Earth") were selected from among the swordsmiths without a rating level. There is another reason why this annual competition is important for young swordsmen. As long as they rank higher in the competition and gradually build up their reputation, their works can be sold at higher prices. Therefore, a young swordsmith who wants to make a living making swords must do well in these annual competitions.

Now sword craftsman

The sword has a very long history in Japan, and it continues to evolve in response to the changing demands for weapons. Although many people still practice traditional martial arts with the Japanese sword, today's Japanese sword master considers the sword a work of art.
If it is a work of art. Although the history is so long, the core technology, shape, characteristics and features of the Japanese sword as we know it today were all developed in the Kamakura era in the 12th and 13th centuries. Although the Japanese sword continued to change from the 13th century until the end of the feudal era in 1868, these later changes did not break away from the framework developed in the Kamakura era. Even today, sword craftsmen are still trying to forge a better sword. They can learn knowledge and use a lot of modern technology, metallurgy and advanced science to understand steel. However, any change must conform to the framework defined by classical or traditional Japanese sword.


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