The Sword holds a hallowed and handy place in any WEAPON LEGENDS HALL OF FAME…
(…well, it would…though shiro hasn’t finalised his yet…sorry…):–cos
there were few times in martial history when it’s use was not applied.
ALL FOR THE
LOVE OF SWORDS.
Long esteemed as an individual and collective icon and national symbol,
JAPAN too venerates the SWORD…
as an ideal
and a representation of the strength of the individual to collectively defend the nation.
ALL FOR THE LOVE OF SWORDS.
Along with the Ancient Sacred Mirror and Beads,
the Sacred SWORD is one of Japans trio sets of National Treasures. (click)
The ORIGINS of this sword appreciation society approach is indeed an ancient one. Even within this collective LEGEND, there are those whose blade shone brightest due to the inspiration their acts endow.
One such whose growing appetite for sword knowledge was so keen;
that his own chosen lot from Emperor to blacksmith apprentice…
ALL for the LOVE OF SWORDS became a LEGEND indeed.
EVERYWHERE A SMITH…
Blacksmithing (Jap.kajiya) was arguably the most important cultural trade in any country.
Essential infrastructure in every village, castle or army. Most tech or machinery was made/repaired by the smiths. There are several colors and types of smith too.
- black / white / tin / red / brown / copper / silver / gold / hammer / blade / nai(l) / arrow / shoe / six(sickle) etc
The names are basic/self explanatory; referring to a weapon, item or metal type/color.
In the Western World the anglo saxon germanic connection for example meant for many years a persons profession/family trade…
was their surname too.
This fact also explains such names as smithson in the obvious manner… a son of a smith.
The LEGENDS of FIRE
are also inextricably bound with that of Smithing…
Official records indicate too that swords were/have been occasionally used as votive divine offerings for nearly two thousand years.
Swords sacrificed to/for the GODS.
FALLING SMELTING IN LOVE
The process of sword smithing in Japan had its boom period from around 1100-1500’s.
This work had soon become almost ritualized, akin to a religion. The smiths themselves became honorable society members, their profession/position almost venerated.
The particular methods used to create the iconic samurai sword are long and labour intensive.
Some of the smiths specialised in particular processes such as forging the blade or tempering, so swords were oft. the product of several experts.
The approach and dedication of these tradies ensured the jap. sword its deserving place in martial history and legend.
For those with an interest;
a closer look at the sword smiths work can be found here…(click)
or here…(click).Also sweet.
HOW NOT TO GIVE
…MASAMUNE A HAND !
Precise technical details were oft.treasured secrets.
One of the LEGENDARY SMITHS...for example:
the great MASAMUNE, being visited by another local smith, had reason to use one of his bladed creations… on the visitor.
Placing his hand in one of Masamune’s tempering baths… to ascertain temp and ingredients presumably…
the visiting smith soon found himself without…
Masamune, with one neat sword swish strike-removed the offending body part:
SECRET SAVED… SAMURAI SWORD-SMITH STYLE !
…swish LEGEND, though… not so sweet…
if you were the next
all hands… and any other appendages… away… NOW!
SHIRO’s SMITHING LOCALE
Very few extant records exist of the very early days of sword making…
pre 1100’s only smiths in small numbers seemed to be mentioned-
approx 900+ the swordsmith YASUTSUNA and another , around 100yrs later-
named as MUNECHIKA are considered worthy of note it seems.
Some 200+ years later however…
the LEGENDS OF JAPANS SWORDSMITHING period began to be recognised.
Looking back now…
5 major areas/PROVINCES were producing some 80% of this period’s weapons.
LOTSA SWORD WORK THEREIN.
THE MAJOR PROVINCES OF…
BIZEN , MINO , SOSHU/SAGAMI , YAMASHIRO and YAMATO.
BIZEN : it’s geographical location and ideal weather conditions, esp. in the east of the province ensured the production of high quality weaponry for much of this time.
MINO : legends associate Masamune students with this area and early works show excellent sword-smithing though long term the quality suffered and MINO lost its importance and influence in this tradition.
SOSHU/SAGAMI : a main centre of influence , esp. in Kamakura where the First SHOGUNATE was established… the black-smithing necessity… obvious… even though its locale and climate… not entirely desirable.
YAMASHIRO : the province of the then capital, KYOTO… sword-work in high/great demand for many years.
YOSHIMITSU-SAN… of the KAMAKURA period, a favourite of shiro’s.
YAMATO : locale of a previous capital, NARA… then the later, Temple/monk/sect movements into the area around 1200+ ensured a continuing good/high quality presence and contribution to the Jap.sword work traditions for some time.
…so many smiths… so lil time and space.
The sword intel reveals a listing of many many names in japan alone who have done good sword work.
Just using the main 5 provinces…
more than several hundred just in this period of history.
Yet, amongst these many…a small handful still stood out.
Known as the MASTER-SMITHS or MASTER-MAKERS; these 3 groups collectively represent the ALL. Their exemplary skills even acknowledged as extraordinary by their peers.
Many of their weapons became famous in their own way via other samurai legends and tales.
A bonus for reading this far-
Shiro has done an addition of his own…to this master-smith listing.
The last name is well known…though a lil infamous-
and whilst the purists of jap sword history seem intent on refusing his deserved place…
They say…he is unlucky, a smith on the edge of insanity… one whose blades reflect his madness. ALL his work classified as ignoble and unworthy… struck off the records of the experts guilds too.
By men of superstition and plain prejudice sayeth shiro.
For Shiro knows full well the edge of madness…
WE ALL DO… if we but dare look close to the edge.
Shiro knows too… like children;
madmen and women…tend to tell… the plain truth.
HE deserves and has earnt his place at last; here at least-
Amongst friends… and fellow madmen he dreams-
Make him feel welcome… remember him too.
LEGEND of a SWORD-SMITH.
EACH AND ALL it seems.
AT LAST, BUT NOT LEAST,…ON THE LIST…
BLADE WORK BY MURAMASA…LAST BUT NOT LEAST ON THE LIST. LEGEND.
THE LIST…OF LEGENDS.+
shiro’s addition…at LAST…
but not least for YOU.
- The BIZEN SANHEI = The 3 MASTER-SMITHS OF BIZEN = KANEHIRA, SUKEHIRA & TAKAHIRA.
- The KYOTO SANJO = The 3 MASTERS OF KYOTO = ARIKUNI, KANENAGA & YOSHIIE.
- The elite SANSAKU = The 3 MASTER-MAKERS = MASAMUNE, YOSHIHIRO & YOSHIMITSU.
and last but not least…
- MASTER-MAKER MURAMASA…of ISE PROVINCE… He whom, the purists forgot…
( on purpose btw…i mean…just cos that fumbly SHOGUN IYEYASU cut himself…twice…on a MURAMASA…surely doesn’t mean anything???…hmmm???…might throw some salt over my left shoulder…just in case methinks…and get someone else to clean THAT SWORD too perhaps !?).
OK…back to the intel shiro.
ON MY RESUME…
o…perhaps Emperor too.
Sometime in the late 1100’s…
Somewhere in Japan…
ICHIMONJI NORIMUNE the black-smith,
now knew the EMPEROR was a man after his own heart.
The EMPEROR GOTOBA was a man in love…
deeply in love.
GOTOBA’s passion was now so incensed, so aflame…akin to the forge, which, in turn was soon to become his Temple.A proclamation issued, there was no turning back…the first of its kind…a proclamation of love–
FROM EMPEROR TO BLACKSMITH APPRENTICE…GOTOBA was to be.
ALL FOR THE
In the heady days that followed the black-smith found he was not alone.
GOTOBA was a willing student who learnt well (click).
Not satisfied with the lone wolf approach the EMPEROR put other wheels in motion.Each and every month, one of 12 provincial smiths worked hand in hand with GOTOBA.Others were held in reserve.
Teams of smiths too had been set up in various locales to aid the EMPEROR, now BLACKSMITH APPRENTICE…but still EMPEROR, who had so decreed (click).
FROM EMPEROR TO BLACKSMITH APPRENTICE…I AM TO BE-
ALL FOR THE LOVE OF SWORDS.
GOTOBA = EMPEROR, SWORD-LOVER, SWORD-SMITH, LEGEND.
Though blunted by the ninja creed
(of all/every weapon…is useful etc)…
shiro does have a soft spot for the lines of a good sword.
The look, feel and natural swinging weight do indeed elicit admiring glances…
and interesting techniques too.
Some of the blades ooze ‘ sword appeal ‘.
The hand made ones are a collectors delight, all with their differences yet all made with the same sword love.
HARD AT WORK.
SHIRO’s SHINOBI SWORD TIP:
For those who appreciate such things;
to ensure a quicker draw than your opponent…
use a shorter weapon…or none at all.
idreamofninja…do you have a dream?
Here’s a song and 3 more…sharp and sweet…or not…shiro’s choice for sure: