Celebrated Swords & Makers - Japanese
Old weapons are frequently presented to Kami shrines, especially those dedicated to Hachiman and Dai Jin Gu. The following are some of the numberless renowned blades and their forgers. Ama-kuni of Yamato, who lived about A. D. 700, was a celebrated maker. One of his blades is said to have been carried off by a crow during the reign of Kuwammu-Tenno, A. D. 782, and has since been known by the name of the Kogarasu maru * (little crow). In A. D. 940 Taira Sadamori became the possessor of this sword, which was drawn by him in the wars with Masakado, who was until lately deified at Kanda, Yeddo. Shin-soku, who lived at Usa no Mia of Buzen, was ordered to forge a blade for the son of the Emperor Heizei Tenno in A. D. 8o6, and he cut his name on the blade, the first time this was done. There is a legend that Riu Jin t came to his assistance. Of ninety-nine swords he is said to have made, only eight had his name on them, and the Hachiman shrines are named as being in possession of most of these blades, many of which are now little else than a mass of rust.
Ohara Taru daiyu Yasutsuna of Hoki, a contemporary of Shin-soku, forged a blade which in A. D. 947 was used by Raiko (Minamoto Yorimitzu) to kill Shi ten doji, a celebrated robber. He dreamed that this sword, then still at the Ise shrine, alone had power to break through the
* Names were given to swords as to vessels, horses, and other favorite possessions; the commonly used affix Maru meaning perfect. Formerly even the young sons of nobles were thus styled, as Take chi yo maru, a common title for the heir to the Tokugawa line; as also to castles, such as Hon maru (true perfect), or Nishi maru (west perfect).
Riu Jin is the same as the old man living at the bottom of the sea in Riugu (Dragon Shrine). The father of Toyotama hime, Hiko, quarrelled with his brother, and descending into the depths of the sea became enamored of Toyo, and lived with her in coral caves until she was about to bring forth her child. Hiko then built her a hut on the seashore, roofing it with cormorants' wings.. Here Fuki was born, and his mother Toyo then became a crocodile, and returned to her home in the deep, Hiko having displeased her. She left her sister Tama-yori-hime behind, who married Fukiawasedzu, and Jimmu Tenno was their fourth child.
spell of invincibility that surrounded this celebrated robber, who is even now known to children as a ghoul. This sword was placed in the Ise Mia as an offering by the Shogun Tamura. Another sword of the same make was likewise placed at Kehi-miojin in Echigo by the Shogun Toshihito.
Ohara Sane-mori, another maker of celebrated swords, lived at the same time. One of his blades was called Nuke maru, from its having flown out of its sheath and destroyed the Ja (enormous serpent) that came to swallow up Taira Tadamori, who had laid the weapon sheathed beside his pillow when lying down to rest. Another blade called Korgarashi maru, in the possession of the Heiki family, was reputed to cause trees to wither if it was laid down touching them.
About A. D. 985, Yukihira was another celebrated sword-maker. One of his swords was used by Watanabe, the follower of Yorimitzu (Raiko), to cut off the arm of the Oniee (ghoul) when sent by Raiko to exterminate the wicked ghouls, dragons, ja, etc.
There lived A. D. 1003, in Yamashiro, Yoshi iye, to whom appeared Sumiyoshi Daimo Jin (of the temple of Osaka) and ordered the best blade that could be welded. When it was finished, the maker was on his way to the temple, as ordered, but while crossing the water he dropped the sword into its depths. A cormorant dived, and finding, flew away with it. Shortly afterwards a new sword was found at the shrine of Sumiyoshi, which proved to be the lost blade, and it is now called Wuno muru (Wu, a cormorant).
In A. D. 1204, Yoshimitzu worked at Awadaguchi, in the province of Yamashiro, commonly known as Toshiro. His make of swords having cut through a druggist's metal mortar (called Yagen), are known as Yagen Toshiro. In 1279 Naga-mitzu made a sword, afterwards worn by Iyeyasu, called Adzuki naga-mitzu, from its cutting a bean (Adzuki) thrown into the air.
A. D. 1322, Mura-masa of Senjiu mura in Ise, commonly spoken of as Senjiu-in Mura-masa. His swords would, it is said, cut a sheet of paper floating on the stream if the sword were only held in the water to meet the paper. Such was the reputed keenness of these weapons, and so great the desire to test it possessed the owners, that when a fitting opportunity occurred, the Tokugawa government forbade their being worn.
In 1326 Masa-mune, the most celebrated of sword-makers, forged some of his best blades, now still in existence. The welding shows a peculiar golden tinge, like forked lightning through a dark cloud. He folded his metal from four sides, beat it out, and refolded it in a peculiar manner.
All swords made since 1570 are called Shinto (new swords), and the old but inferior blades are included with these. The swords of previous make are called Koto (old swords). Subsequent makers are numerous, but as there are no special legends connected with their blades, or particular characteristics pertaining to them, the list of their names is omitted here. The edge of the Japanese sword is tempered separately from the body by being covered with clay when placed in the fire, and this process brings out the marking peculiar to these swords, called ya-ki-ba (burnt head).
( Originally Published Late 1800's )