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Jean

Umabari / Bashin

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Hi mates,

 

I am in my educational phase

 

Following some information given by Ford, I have decided to launch a new thread on Umbari :lol: :lol:

 

Umbari

Utility : only for bleeding horses?

Period of forging ?

Forging location : Which province (Higo?)

Are they found mainly in Higo koshirae?

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Its correct name is Bashin (馬針). And it is also called Kankyuto (貫級刀).

I do not think that it is only connected with Higo, though Higo koshirae was sometimes equipped with Bashin.

I heard that Bashin was used as a throwing knife as well as a tool for horses. And during Sengoku era, it was used to support a cut head of enemy when it was examined.

 

FYI;

http://www.e-sword.jp/sale/0710_6034syousai.htm

http://www.e-sword.jp/sale/0710_6037syousai.htm

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Its correct name is Bashin (馬針). And it is also called Kankyuto (貫級刀).

:idea: BTW, I forgot to mention that Kankyuto (貫級刀) means a sword to pierce a head.

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Hi Koichi,

 

the reference to piercing a head is very intriguing. Could this be to do with the manner of handling severed heads for formal head viewing after battle? I seem to remember a reference to the head being pierced in the ear to provide a handle, so to speak.

 

thanks and regards, Ford

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Hi Ford,

 

Yes, I think that I read some articles about its usage of handling severed heads for formal head viewing (首実検: kubijikken) after battle by supporting the head like a stand.

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To All,

 

Sorry but I have forgotten in my post the "a" of "Umabari", everybody will have corrected.

 

I suggest to renamed the Topic :

 

Bashin (馬針)

 

Which is the right word as indicated by

Koichi

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Thanks Koichi,

 

I am salivating at seeing this Kanetsune blade with its koshirae :) :)

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Having paid a large sum of money to purchase one of these, I was looking for information regarding this (these) and was linked into this thread. Very interesting indeed. I would like to find more information on the presentation of the enemy's head and the role if any of the Kankyu-tou in this. Koichi san. Where did you get your information?

 

I found an illustration on a Russian web page, but unfortunately I can't read it. I think it may be showing how to pierce, hold and display the head. :shock:

http://bugeisha.ru/aiki/coldjapweap6.shtml

 

Hi everyone! Glad there's an edit button here. I wonder for how long after posting we are allowed to go back and correct our posts, though? Just had a quick read of the Welcome page where Brian says to include a name/initial.

So, here goes! Piers :)

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I would like to find more information on the presentation of the enemy's head and the role if any of the Kankyu-tou in this. Koichi san. Where did you get your information?

 

I found an illustration on a Russian web page, but unfortunately I can't read it. I think it may be showing how to pierce, hold and display the head. :shock:

http://bugeisha.ru/aiki/coldjapweap6.shtml

I only have read a brief explanation about Kankyu-to on a magazine before.

 

The article you refered seems to be based on Gunyoki (軍用記) which was published in Edo period. Some pages of the book can be seen on the web page below, though the auction already ended.

http://page2.auctions.yahoo.co.jp/jp/auction/b81954489

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Yes, thank you, I read that (well, skimmed it) just today, but I couldn't find any reference to Kankyu-to or Bashin... perhaps there is and I missed it, though.

 

But an amazingly informative article, nevertheless. Wonderful.

 

Is the head 'pierced' through from the left ear, with the point sticking out of the right? Or were the ears pierced with the 'hari' and some kind of string or cord passed through from which to carry the head, I wonder?

 

Piers

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All, I have a copy of Gunyoki and bashin are not included, in the illustrations at least.

Years ago whilst cataloguing the Royal Armouries' Japanese collection I came across a strange item I had never encountered before. It was an iron rod, about a foot long, with a rounded end and at the other what looked like an enlarged armour piercing arrowhead - all forged out of the bar with the head end polished. My first though was that it was some form of trial piece of arrowhead forging. It certainly wasn't what a previous curator thought - a crossbow bolt. It ended up in the 'items to be worried about later' box for a few months. I then found an illustration of the self same item in a Japanese dealer's catalogue (don't ask i couldn't remember if I tried) labelled as a bashin. Clearly this was not a sword accessory but a tool.

 

I have read that these items are for bleeding horses (?) or for exciting their muscles (?). I think I'd get excited if somebody started stabbing me with one. My view of horses is that they have a brain the size of a walnut and no brake pedal. Why would you want to stab them? They are difficult enough to control as it is. Handling heads makes far more sense.

 

Ian

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Bleeding horses has been a health regimine for horses for thousands of years. In England was a tool called a 'fleam' that was used for bleeding and repair to the hooves. Some parts were sharpened spoons and there were hooks to clean the hooves. The bashin may have served this equestrian function as well as other uses, yes, no? John

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Ian, I hold you personally responsible for the hard work of cleaning my computer keyboard; it took me at least 20 minutes - using stacks of tissues and Q-tips - to remove the orange juice that gushed through my nose while reading your post. Not to talk about the burning sensation that the acids in the juice inflicted upon my upper respiratory system.

 

Anyhow, there are a lot of urban legends, even in Japan, about Kogai and Bashin. While the latter is probably just another form of the Kozuka/Kogatana as a utility knife, I have yet to see any evidence that Bashin or Kogai where used to mark slain enemy's heads. From what I heard over the years, the Kogai was used to a) clean one's ears, and b) scratch your scalp. The Samurai had pulled back their oiled hair in an elaborate top-knot, usually not every day since that would have meant too many (expensive) trips to the barber shop, and it was the only way to scratch your head without messing up your hairdo. The Europeans did almost the same thing a couple of hundred years ago when wigs and heavy make-up were the norm, and bathing was unheard of. They carried little sticks with a carved "hand" at the end to scratch themselves - same principle. Certainly not as romantic or entertaining as the idea about sticking stuff into slain enemy's ears (so how many Kogai exactly did one have to take to the battlefield, just in case?) but much more plausible.

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There is actually not a lot of information even on Japanese sites when you run a search.

 

Many of the Bashin/Kankyuto that I have seen slip nicely into the Hitsu in the saya as if they were Kogai or two-sectioned Kozuka.

 

There seem to be a wide variety, however, and although they fall generally clearly into either Bashin (Horse needle) or Kankyu-to (Piercing blade) there are many examples which seem to be a mix of the two. They range from rudimentary to highly decorative and seem to be all different sizes. Some even look like miniature Yari spears with wooden hafts and a clear head. Japanese people, even if they've heard of Bashin, will not have heard of Kankyuto, and will certainly not be able to tell you what they were or how they functioned. Ninja favoured smaller hand-held versions of them too, apparently, and whereas J comics or TV dramas suggest the Kogai or Kozuka could be thrown, it was more likely the heavier bashin/kankyuto.

 

I bought a Bashin/Kankyuto out of curiosity the other day on the J auction and was annoyed to discover it was brand new but 'aged' cleverly. Very expensive lesson. There's a place called Seki in Japan which is making huge volumes of fake armour.

 

Following this I decided to buy a really good one with some lovely writing all over it. (Too good as it turns out and it turns out the signature is quite possibly a fake.) As someone pointed out, the Umabari is a Needle, and the Kankyuto ends with 'to' as in Nihonto, and has a proper blade, often double-sided. So mine is a Kankyuto, I reckon, even if everyone says "Look, a Bashin!"

 

Clearly the Bashin was a horse tool originally and with Japanese horses wearing straw sandals instead of horseshoes, highly necessary, I imagine.

The question about Kyushu is interesting and I look forward to hearing the answers, especially as I have a Higo gun!

 

I couldn't find anywhere on my armor/armour to keep my first Kankyuto, pushing it through the string on the Kote, etc., ... ended up shoving it into the saya hitsu where it sat quite happily!

 

Having spoken about their 'clear' differences however, the hole in the hilt is thought-provoking. This hole makes the Kankyuto a needle as well as a knife, and that is why I asked whether it was used for pushing a cord through the enemy's head. The Kanji for 'Kan' or 'Tsuranuku' means open a hole and push through from one side to the other, among other things.

 

Looking forward to this thread attracting all the information available!

 

8) Piers

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PS To add to the urban myths, ;) one antique dealer (whom I rather respect in general) told me that the Kankyuto was a sort of name tag that the samurai pushed into his hair so that when he was slain the enemy would know exactly who he had killed! (Might as well post everything! :lol: )

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I had read where the kogai had been used to mark heads on the battlefield when there was combat btween two men who had challenged each other to single combat before the melee. Apparently it was ritualised, giving family and status. This was done with the kogai which had the crest on it. I am starting to wonder at the credibility of it though, since one of the hairpieces still used by Japanese women is called a kogai. These do not look the same at all though. The bashin would have been a very utilitarian blade whatever its origins. I have a wakizashi koshirae that has a bashin where the kogatana would normally rest. It is definitely more robust and nicely balanced for throwing. I include a picture of it. In bad shape and not pretty, a tool only. John

bashin.gif

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Ian,

 

Yes, like Guido, I has some explaining to do to the ppl around me, when I laughed out loud while staring at the screen :D

 

I go with Guido's explanation when it comes to kogai. Makes perfect sense to me, and hot days on the battlefield would have required such a tool when the hair was done up, and maybe even for reachign those hard to reach places under the armor when you had an itch :)

 

When it comes to bashin, my own opinion is any of the offered possibilities except marking bodies on the battlefield. That is just too much of a stretch, and you would not consider the work on most of these disposable.

 

Piers, your comments about Kankyu-to are very interesting, and had not heard of them before. So they are different to kogatana, kogai and bashin? If so, and from your explanation, I was wondering if we didn't finally solve the mystery of the item that Dirk posted about here?

http://militaria.co.za/nihontomessagebo ... php?t=2201

 

Great info from everyone, love discussions like this :)

 

Brian

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Well, my opinion doesn't stand above any other just because I spent most of my adult life in Japan, basically spending any free minute with collectors, dealers and scholars of swords and fittings. However, I think that my explanation makes sense. Something that I don't see in most of the posts in this thread.

 

Again, are there *any* historical documents, sketches, woodblock prints or the like that relate Bashin or Kogai to marking enemy heads or bleeding horses? If not, I have to assume that we're just dealing with urban legends and wild guesses, however emotional they might be. I'm sorry if this sounds kind of rude, but put up or shut up.

 

BTW, my left ear lobe and right testicle are tattooed with a Masonic symbol; if I'm ever decapitated by the Yakuza (or Bōryokudan as they are officially called by Japanese police), authorities will be able to put the pieces together. Up to you: tall story or truth?

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Yes, Brian that 'dirk' looks very much like a cross between a Kankyuto and a Kozuka, especially as it's separable. It's double-bladed, it has the appearance of a yari, the blade is removable and the haft has the Kankyuto hole.

 

John, yours looks very like my Kankyuto. You have posted the flat back, right? The hole is round, where many of them are Inome 猪目(heart-shaped).

 

Guido, what you say may be the real truth. I stumbled across this excellent thread and thought maybe at last we can get to the bottom of these rumours if everyone pools their knowledge. I too would be very happy to see some actual proof of the stories. Get the rumours on the table and any supporting evidence. An itch scratcher maybe, but mine has a very sharp and purposeful blade, and one of the inscriptions says it was owned by Ooishi Yoshio (the real name of Oishi Kuranosuke of 47 Ronin fame, Karo of Ako Castle!)

 

Oh, and I have been here for 30 years, although with nothing like your experience of input and expertise. Please forgive the newcomer....

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All,

I fully agree that a kogai is for cleaning ears, scratching the head and helping to re-dress the hair after taking off a helmet. Warikogai seem to come into fashion about the same time as the heavily pomaded hairstyles. Interestingly, the kanamono half way down the rear edge of o-sode is called a kogai kanamono (although shaped more like a kozuka). This at least suggests kogai have been around for quite a long time, since o-sode rather went out in the Muromachi.

 

Most of the bashin I've seen in swords were in tanto and rather diminutive little things but sharp edged. And yes, most had inome at the top end. John, you are right about bleeding and fleams. You come across plenty of old vetinary ones that look like a folding pocket knife. I suppose that is their use. The idea of handling a head with one stuck in the ear is rather improbable. Gunyoki by the way shows heads for display being held in the hands with a label tied onto the hair. Nice touch!

Ian

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OK, I made the effort to read the Cyrillic Russian site, and there's a suprising amount of info in there. I'll give it for what it's worth :

 

Apparently Kankyuto or the russian descriptive equivalent of the word is made up out of two characters meaning "to pierce" and "with a cord" in old Japanese. They limit the blade from 12-15cm. They go on to say that both surfaces are flat with the exception of a ridgeline on one of them. They were made out of one piece and if you put all those features together you have a very strong "tool" (i'm just using the word "tool" here for argument's sake)

 

Initially, they were strictly used on the battlefield and it had a unique purpose : the head of each killed enemy soldier should be handed over for reporting (with the purpose of receiving awards). There was a strict etiquette about this. When on a battlefield, they cut off the victim's head and drove the Kankyuto ( I think through the ear, can't quite make out that bit) almost full-length into the head.

For them this was a way to calculate the general "defeat of arms" (i think bodycount is what they mean here) This was important because before the battle every commander of a division had some set goals to achieve and this "headcount" was used to determine to what level these goals were reached. This was checked by an official treasurer or the commander-in-chief seeing it was their duty to measure the level of defeat they inflicted on the enemy.

 

It then says something vaguely that they used the cut off heads to predict the future, weather,...

There was also a different way to "present" the heads. Instead of driving the bashin almost all the way through, they stopped at the handle. This way the head rose for convenience of the examining official representative of the treasurer or the treasurer himself.

 

On the battlefield high ranking officers and important samurai took along a great number of kankyuto, but still there were often shortages. They brought them along in various places in their armour and there is also evidence of secret fastenings in the forearms of the armour in order to carry more kankyuto. There were also fighting techniques described to use any of these weapons in battle, but the text doesn't go into it.

 

Bashin meaning horseneedle were used to bleed horses. After a while the horse's veins swelled up, and bleeding was done to relieve the pressure. Apparently the bashin was part of a set of three horsetools, the other two being a short stick for disobedient horses and a small sickel to cut off grass for the horses but the latter could also be used in battle to cut off the girths of the opponent's horse.

 

Although both Kankyuto and Bashin were designed as tools, they certainly had their value on the battlefield as stabbing knives. The edges were small and strong and they were easy for hiding in clothes and comfortable in hand. If gripped normally they were rested against strong curtailed little finger. If held turned they rested against a bend between the first and second phalanx of the big finger. It ends saying they were also really good throwing knives.

 

So my curious dirk (Dirk's dirk :D )still isn't solved, although I agree it seems to hold the middle between the two of these. I gave this translation for what it's worth. I apologize for the grammar, but I hope this info is usefull in finally putting this matter to rest !!!

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I call attention to the NUMEROUS books on samurai lores written by Turnbull..............

I think most of the info presented here are treated in English , including the way to interpret futures by the facial expressions of the " victims "..........

 

milt the flying ronin

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Dirk,

 

Great article, even if a few of the points sound a bit like some of the fallacies we have heard. Some interesting points too.

I just wanted to ask if the page has any references where they got the info from? Do they reference any Japanese books at all?

 

Regards,

Brian

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Sorry Brian, but the Cyrillic is a real pain if it comes to hiragana, nevertheless I'll give it a go tomorrow ;)

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My Japanese friend is quite dismissive about Bashin. He says it was a tool for paring horses' hooves.

 

Two questions arise.

 

1. Is he dismissive because there is something associated with this tool that he doesn't like? That it's unclean in some way?

2. If 1. above has any truth in it, would the use of it on an enemy be a deliberate insult? Horses' hoof... to human head?

 

Just idle thoughts... Piers

 

PS Zanshin. The translation from the Russian was a great job. Many thanks.

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