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Favorite Era for Sword Making

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Hello all. I hope everyone had a good Christmas and New Year's?

 

So, I was reading through Wikipedia, going through the line of Era's in Japanese history and I started thinking. Which Era is your favorite? Not which we think is the "best" for sword making as that would likely be Kamakura, etc... but which Era do you tend to gravitate towards when looking for pieces?

 

Its funny but I keep gravitating towards the Kanbun Era. I myself love Koto blades but I find the Kanbun Era to have allot of decent smiths with very attractive swords. Why is this? Lack of wars with more time to concentrate on arts?

 

Kanbun Era also established the "Christian Courts" in villages to try and eradicate the spread of Christianity. Just a little tidbit of info haha

 

So which Era do you prefer if any?

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If you’d asked me when I started collecting , I would have said Kanbun too. Now, I have to say that the nature of the jigane and the the Hamon have taken over any era. I’m trying to assemble a piece for about every broad period. Money being tight, Kamakura and Nambokucho will likely be only one sword, but it’s also the only period I still have to get a sword for. After that, I’ll consider my collection complete. Then, I may buy a sword here and there according to my falling in love with such or such piece.

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Yes, master Hoppen told me sooner or later you will end with koto. But I am a shin shinto guy and will end with Suishinshi Masahide school and Naotane den.

 

Best

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just look at swords with differing steel and wear, not bothered about age, just whats appealing. Cool swords in every era

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Visually, koto hands down. Functionally, which to me is also an important part of art and why I prefer say nihonto over most paintings, statues etc. I am not sure.

Shinshinto swords tho less rich in the jigane were made more uniform (or with lesser skill to some) and with newer steel, thus perhaps more durable in use?

Then to counter that argument I've read some suggest utsuri might been a way to strengthen the blades without falling into the trap of tempering the whole blade and thus go to brittle town.

 

Still rowing along on the lake trying to find the sweet spot.

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I found answering this question harder and harder as one gets more into collecting. All books say Kamakura, however this is influenced by the Edo period notion of Kamakura being vastly superior to anything associated with Ashikaga usurpers and thus quite a few Soshu masterpieces are traditionally attributed not based on sugata, but based on tradition.

 

If one is looking for deals and likes Soshu, than Nambokucho hands down is the best era. Lots of hard to judge works with random shinsa attributions where one's bet can pay off in the long term - or not.

Kamakura proper (pre 1300) pieces tend to be tachi, and they tend to be already recognized for what they are and Juyo+ unless having serious issues. And most are very tired.

There is late Kamakura, 1300-1333, which probably should be treated separately from the rest of Kamakura period, and is very interesting in many aspects, but does require very significant numbers to access the top quality. But it has some of the best artistic works.

Other than that pre-Tembun Muromachi tends to be good and relatively cheap, and Momoyama has also quite a few good pieces that can be had for relative peanuts. Almost nothing of substantial value was made between 1515 and 1570.

 

If one likes shinto look, then Kambun masterpieces are great, but they will cost you full price. I very personally would argue that by comparison early shinto masters beginning with Umetada are while very rare, greatly over-valued. The best Sukehiro or Inoue Shinkai towers over Kunihiro and Yasutsugu. But in Kambun period there were also mid-name masters who did substantial works once in a while. And condition of everything Momoyama and later will be a substantial improvement over pre-Tembun.

Shinshinto is thing of itself. I personally like only Satsuma school and what stylewise closely relates to its Soshu works. Some people prefer the period's Bizen works.

 

Kirill R.

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Yes, master Hoppen told me sooner or later you will end with koto. But I am a shin shinto guy and will end with Suishinshi Masahide school and Naotane den.

 

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To be honest, lately I've been noticing allot of nice swords from Shin Shinto, also from WW2 era. Originally I would disregard them as too "new" but recently they seem to be growing on me!

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just look at swords with differing steel and wear, not bothered about age, just whats appealing. Cool swords in every era

I agree. It's just weird that the last few swords seem to be in the Kanbun Era. It's to the point now where I can call it before I even see it so to speak.

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As my knowledge has grown (slowly), I look more & more to Kamakura & Nanbokucho.

In my dreams! I'm currently saving for a sword from either of those eras. A nice ubu Tachi or a Tanto but really it could be anything in old polish and decent shape.

 

Truly what I want is too expensive. Yuhindo has some nice items lately.

 

https://www.nihonto.com/tachi-by-ko-bizen-hironao-%E5%8F%A4%E5%82%99%E5%89%8D%E5%BC%98%E7%9B%B4100119/

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Any era maker that made quality masame swords :)

You have to admit that some eras were better than others? Not just the typical "Muromachi" "Edo" "Meiji", etc... but each little micro era.

 

I just find it interesting how the changes in society also created change for sword techniques and style.

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In my dreams! I'm currently saving for a sword from either of those eras. A nice ubu Tachi or a Tanto but really it could be anything in old polish and decent shape.

 

Truly what I want is too expensive. Yuhindo has some nice items lately.

 

https://www.nihonto.com/tachi-by-ko-bizen-hironao-%E5%8F%A4%E5%82%99%E5%89%8D%E5%BC%98%E7%9B%B4100119/

 

yeah, this is the kind of blade I’d like to add to my collection. Sadly, this will never happen, unless an unknown billionaire uncle suddenly makes me heir to his fortune. I’ll have to settle for much less.

 

Surprised such a blade is only TH...

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Showa.   For many reasons:

 

First of all, they're the ones I encounter 95% of the time at militaria and gun shows.  More importantly, my retirement budget doesn't allow purchases of fine Nihonto. 

It doesn't make sense, at my age, to try and learn about the thousands of smiths from the past; when I will probably never own or even see specimens of fine quality and history. 

 

They might not be Art Swords, but they are definitely real swords, the last combat battle swords ever made. They were made with a mission by the same culture that brought us past masterpieces, only this time they're using technology, new steels, and fresh experience from the battlefield about what works, and what breaks. 

They come in a wide range of quality and styles. You never know what will come out of that gunto koshirae; maybe a real Nihonto; but probably a warrior sword from the recent past, still wearing grease and grime from a brutal conflict that helped shape our present world. Their history is fresh; and some of our relatives faced them.

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Having gone through various stages of "this is my favourite period" I came to the conclusion there are masterworks from all eras and I would rather have a masterpiece from the shin-shinto period than an also ran from earlier.

Having said that the majority of swords I truly enjoy are from the Kamakura period, just running over in to the Nambokucho. During this period in a number of places everything just seemed to come together to produce work which, although varied between traditions, was as close to perfection as one is likely to see.

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“All books say Kamakura, however this is influenced by the Edo period notion of Kamakura being vastly superior to anything associated with Ashikaga usurpers and thus quite a few Soshu masterpieces are traditionally attributed not based on sugata, but based on tradition.”

 

Kiril - will you elaborate please? Soshu blades are often suriage and thus sugata cannot be fully evaluated. Perhaps Nanbokucho and Soden blades could somewhat get attributed on the remainders of sugata but Soshu is attributed on the basis of skilful hada (usually refined but could be more ostentatious like matsukawa) with lots of chikei and jinie and hamon filled with nie-based sunagashi and kinsuji. So I agree that it is not sugata based but is what I described broadly what you meant?

 

“Kamakura proper (pre 1300) pieces tend to be tachi, and they tend to be already recognized for what they are and Juyo+ unless having serious issues. And most are very tired.”

 

Well, “most” which most people see might be tired, but not the good Juyo or TJ blades. Also, there are so many suriage Kamakura blades that they are now referred to as katana, even though likely they were tachi

 

 

There is late Kamakura, 1300-1333, which probably should be treated separately from the rest of Kamakura period, and is very interesting in many aspects, but does require very significant numbers to access the top quality. But it has some of the best artistic works.

 

 

Kirill R.

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For Soshu dating issues I would compare first the kamakura sugata Masamune tanto as well as his tachi with smaller kissaki, with emphasis on hada's quality and presence of Masamune kantei features and second - Masamune with substantially larger kissaki (Musashi Masamune etc.), and various tanto of substantially larger proportions, including the hocho series.

 

For expected condition of Kamakura pre-1300 blades, attached is a fragment of period's major blade with major papers. 

 

Kirill R.

post-2253-0-79649200-1579049169_thumb.jpg

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Collecting showa then gendai started as an interest in militaria, and the lower entry level prices made them more accessible. 

As I moved up the qualify (and price) scale, some really great swords were added, Yasukuni, Minatogawa, Gassan Sadakatsu, to name a few. 

I feel you can study and learn a lot from gendaito, they are more available, and, even for great examples, affordable. 

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Favourite to admire: Heian & Kamakura

Favourite to research: Meiji/Taisho/Gendai

Favourite to own: All of them!

 

From the end of the Shin Shinto to end of WW2 fascinates me, you went from barely a handful of active smiths in Meiji to a veritable explosion in Taisho-Showa resulting in some absolute masterpieces and the large revitalization we still see today. My own collection has some holes, namely Heian & Nanbokucho, however I would have to liquidate my entire collection to acquire a "good" sword from those periods. Definitely agree with Neil on alot to study with Gendaito, even during wartime the variety and quality of some blades is astounding.

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Showa. For many reasons:

 

First of all, they're the ones I encounter 95% of the time at militaria and gun shows. More importantly, my retirement budget doesn't allow purchases of fine Nihonto.

It doesn't make sense, at my age, to try and learn about the thousands of smiths from the past; when I will probably never own or even see specimens of fine quality and history.

 

They might not be Art Swords, but they are definitely real swords, the last combat battle swords ever made. They were made with a mission by the same culture that brought us past masterpieces, only this time they're using technology, new steels, and fresh experience from the battlefield about what works, and what breaks.

They come in a wide range of quality and styles. You never know what will come out of that gunto koshirae; maybe a real Nihonto; but probably a warrior sword from the recent past, still wearing grease and grime from a brutal conflict that helped shape our present world. Their history is fresh; and some of our relatives faced them.

Im beginning to appreciate that era for the same reasons. If WW2 smiths are included in Showa?

 

I picture the smiths during that period having the same seriousness and pride that the smiths of old had during Koto times preparing for war.

 

Actually there are some very well made swords during that period I think.

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Having gone through various stages of "this is my favourite period" I came to the conclusion there are masterworks from all eras and I would rather have a masterpiece from the shin-shinto period than an also ran from earlier.

Having said that the majority of swords I truly enjoy are from the Kamakura period, just running over in to the Nambokucho. During this period in a number of places everything just seemed to come together to produce work which, although varied between traditions, was as close to perfection as one is likely to see.

I had a chance to purchase a late Edo early Shin Shinto sword that had the most awesome hamon where it looked like fire and demon horns. It was so vivid and well made and in a beautiful koshirae as well.

 

I was debating between that and a Nanbokucho blade but by the time I decided, the other blade was sold. I haven't seen anything like it since

post-4634-0-20773200-1579291172_thumb.jpg

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Hey, Dwain, Thanks for agreeing with me... hope it doesn't get you in trouble!

 

Showa era is listed as 1926 to 1989; but I'm really talking about the war years. After the war, the emphasis was no longer on funtional weapons; which is why I am leery about modern swords. 

The smiths needed to make huge numbers of swords; and much knowlege had been lost. But they experimented and tested and struggled with resources; and did the best they could. 

 

I wholeheartedly agree with your statements!

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Hey, Dwain, Thanks for agreeing with me... hope it doesn't get you in trouble!

 

Showa era is listed as 1926 to 1989; but I'm really talking about the war years. After the war, the emphasis was no longer on funtional weapons; which is why I am leery about modern swords.

The smiths needed to make huge numbers of swords; and much knowlege had been lost. But they experimented and tested and struggled with resources; and did the best they could.

 

I wholeheartedly agree with your statements!

Yeah i mainly stick with the war years as well. I've been taking a second look at the swords from that era to see which smiths actually made good swords but they seem to be rally expensive when found.

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I am bit torn two ways. I find myself looking after the "stereotypical" Enbun-Jōji sugata (well not necessarily from that actual time frame but the massive grand shape) and on the contrary I am also liking slender and very curved tachi shape. For me it is the shape before anything else. Well of course in ideal world I could match great quality with the shape but need to stay in reality...

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I am bit torn two ways. I find myself looking after the "stereotypical" Enbun-Jōji sugata (well not necessarily from that actual time frame but the massive grand shape) and on the contrary I am also liking slender and very curved tachi shape. For me it is the shape before anything else. Well of course in ideal world I could match great quality with the shape but need to stay in reality...

Interesting that I feel the same way. Someone offered me 2000$ for one of my wakizashi but I couldn't part with it. For some reason the shape and feel in the hand is just something I've never felt before. I love that Tachi style Sugata/Sori but I can appreciate the reason for needing the typical katana style sori

 

This pic below shows the extreme Sori on a 20" Wakizashi. I've got it leveled from the bottom of the Tsuka. I think this is either early Edo (Kanbun) or Momoyama. I think this is what they call the typical "Kanbun Sugata"? Genroku Shinto Sugata?

post-4634-0-18083300-1579727409_thumb.jpg

post-4634-0-52426700-1579727757_thumb.jpg

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I don't have a favourite era as such, but most of my favourite blades are o-suriage from the late Kamakura period.

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