How to appreciate Japanese swords


Japanese swords have been polished up by innumerable swordsmiths over a long time

including the history of many civil wars. 

Even now, Japanese swords are the sharpest edged tools in the world and their function

is exceptionally excellent.

Unlike other swords in the world, Japanese swords are great not only in their function

but also artistically. 

There are many ways in which to appreciate Japanese swords, but I would like to explain

the points which are basic and are very important, this time.

 

●a curve

The curve of a sword is vital to its shape and symbolizes a beautiful Japanese sword.

In order to cut anything effectively, you need to strike it and pull it. A curve was created

to absorb the impact and to facilitate pulling it out. 

According to a change in the way of fighting, the shape of a curve went through

various alterations.

A curve is roughly divided into the following 3 types. 

 

1. Koshizori

A curve is created between a nakago (a hilt) and a blade. It has the strongest usage.

It can be seen on the swords made from the end of the Heian-era to the beginning

of the Muromachi-era.

This type tends to appear in the swords which were made in Bizen (present Okayama prefecture). 

 

 

2. Chuzori

The center of a curve is placed in the middle of a sword. It is called Wazori in another word.

The curve is uniform from the kissaki (edged point) to the nakago (a hilt) and it has

an extremely beautiful shape. 

 

3. Sakizori

The curve is more rounded at the monouchi (the part from the edged point to

6-9cm down towards the hilt).

It can be seen on the swords in the Muromachi-era and the Age of Civil Wars.

This is the concluded shape after pursuing the convenience of pulling out the sword

from its scabbard.

 

●Hamon

Hamon means the pattern on a sword blade.

There are various patterns depending on the swordsmith’s originality.

They also differ depending on an era or a style.

Therefore it is one of the good points when appreciating a sword.

The typical Hamons are as follows.

 

1. Suguha

It is a straight pattern. Compared to other Hamons, it is relatively plain, but is

a professionally preferred one. 

 

2. Thouji

It has small ruffled patterns. The name was taken from the berries of Thouji (clove),

as the pattern resembles the Thouji.

 

3. Gunome

It is the pattern which looks like the continuous round go (Japanese chess game) pieces.

 

●Nie & Nioi

Nie

Nioi

When you closely look at the pattern of a blade, you can see the large particles

like sand and the small particles resembling a haze.

The former one is called Nie and the latter one is called Nioi.

 

●Boushi

The shape of the edged point is called Boushi.

A shape varies depending on a swordsmith’s habit and technique.

It is crucial to identify the craftsman of a sword.

There are many other ways in which to appreciate Japanese swords.

Please feel free to ask any questions when you look at Japanese swords. 


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