History[change | change source]
The late Kamakura period is often referred to as the greatest period of sword making in Japanese history. The Soshu tradition was one of the dominant traditions. Smiths like Kunitsuna and Sukezane combined their knowledge with methods from Yamashiro and Bizen traditions. Finally, a group of famous sword smiths culminated with Masamune (1264-1343 AD) and his school.
Types of Sword[change | change source]
The rare swords were made out of five separate pieces and heat-treated at high temperatures. The swords of the Masamune School were harder than any of the swords made before. Masamune trained a group of at least ten followers. Two of his students (Kanemitsu and Nagayoshi) were from the Bizen province. In this way, during the early 14th century, the Masamune school attracted many smiths from other schools. Kanemitsu is believed to be the one who created the Soden School, which combined Bizen and Soshu techniques.
At the same time Chogi was developing his school. The Chogi works show a stronger influence of the Soshu tradition than Kanemitsu swords.
Divisions[change | change source]
The division by regions[change | change source]
- Yamato-Den – Derived from five big schools attached to different temples.
- Bizen-Den – Considered the starting point for the manufacturing of the traditional Japanese sword.
- Yamashiro-Den - Started in late Heian period. Thin and slender blades.
- Soshu-Den - Started in late Kamakura period under the effect of Kamakura Shogunate.
- Mino-Den – The youngest of the five traditions.
The divisions by people[change | change source]
There are several famous schools created by sword masters:
- Nagayoshi made better products by using the best ideas from both the Bizen and Soshu schools. He was successful because of the softer Bizen steel which is made at higher temperatures than that of the Soshu school used to be.
- Kaneuji I - it is believed that he created the Mino school in the Shizuyama region. In his creation of swords he used the Shoshu style and added his own methods. Later his tradition was known as the Shizu school.
- Kanemichi I - he founded the Mishina school in Mino province. His swords were appreciated for their quality and sharpness. He was so famous that he received the honorable title of Mitsu-(no)-Kami.
- Emperor Gotoba (1184 to 1198 A.D), the 82nd Emperor of Japan was one of the best known sword makers.
- Miyairi Akihira School is a continuation of Soshu tradition. In 1953 he obtained a sword-making license. Then, in 1973, he changed his name to Yukihira and his school was named after him. His school was based on Soshu-den and Shizu Kaneuji traditions.