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Gokaden Part 1: Yamato-den

Gokaden Part 1: Yamato-den

In the history of Japanese swords, the five major sword-smithing regions are called Gokaden, each of which has developed in its own unique way. Although at first glance, Japanese swords appear to be made in the same way, in fact, each region has its own unique forging methods and styles. Here, we will explain each area, starting this time with Yamato-den.

The oldest group of swordsmiths

Yamato is in present-day Nara Prefecture, which was the political and cultural center of Japan until the Nara Period, also known as the Tenpyo Period. Therefore, Yamato-den has the oldest history among the Gokaden, and produced the legendary swordsmith Amakuni, who is said to be the founder of the Japanese sword and who is said to have created the Amenomurakumo no Tsurugi and the Kogarasumaru. However, there are few Yamato-den swords remaining to this day that we can be certain of due to the great length of time. The style can only be enjoyed by seeing the swords stored in the Shosoin Repository in Nara and Yamato-den swords that were handed down to various regions.

Yamato-den Katana Mumei Tachi(Senjuin School)

Yamato-den swords are characterized by thicker and wider shinogi-suji. However, the thickness of the mune tends to be thin, so the sword blade appears very thick as a whole. The center of the blade is the most curved. The jigane shows often straight with masame appearing as real wood. The hamon is often suguha, although some have a hazy pattern mixed with small grains of sand and some have small gunome that look like a row of round Go stones. Hataraki such as kinsen, sunagashi, and yubashiri can also be seen at the border between the blade and shinogi. Boshi is often yakizume along the layers of the forging, so they do not arc very deeply. Nie is the most prominent of the Gokaden.

Woodblock Print(Ukiyo-e) - Battle of Anegawa

There are five main schools of Yamato-den: Senjuin, Shikkake, Taima, Tegai, and Hosho. The Senjuin and Tegai schools are particularly popular even today. The Yamato-den was then propagated, not only in the Yamato region, but also in other parts of Japan as powerful samurai families and large temples of great influence in Kyoto and Nara took these swords to their manors that existed outside of Nara. For example, Sukekuni in Bingo and Kiyotsuna in Suo are swordsmiths who inherited the characteristics of the Yamato tradition, as well as the Shizu school in Mino and the Uda school in Ecchu. The swords that retained the characteristics of Yamato-den were made until the end of the Kamakura period. The Nambokucho period saw more and more of the Nioi characteristics.

Yamato-den swords, which are the roots of Japanese swords. Rarely seen on the market, these can only be seen in museums, but they are an indispensable part of the Japanese sword story.