THE HISTORY OF MASAMUNE
In the history of Japan there were many well noted
important swords, those of Sôshû had a very good representation of
these. In 1714 (the 4th year of Kyôho) the Kyôho Meibutsu Cho was
written, by the Honami, at the order of the Tokugawa Shogunate. It
was a set of 3 books which listed the best swords that Japan had.
The first book contained the blades by the "Nihon Sansaku". "The
Nihon Sansaku" were Etchu Matsukura Go Umanosuke Yoshihiro (16
blades), Awataguchi Toshiro Yoshimitsu (16 blades), and Goro Nyudo
Masamune (41 blades in the first book and 61 total blades in the
three books). Toyotomi Hideyoshi had choosen these as supreme sword
smiths, so their blades had a elevated status. The second book
contained 100 blades of other smiths. And the third book contained
81 blades that had been excellent but had been ruined or lost. This
book also contains 29 additional blades. These books also contain
comrmation about many other Sôshû blades. 21 Sadamune + 3 more
burnt, 5 Yukimitsu + 7 more burnt, 2 Shintôgo Kunimitsu, and 1
Hiromitsu. This brings the number of Sôshû blades to 100, which is
over 1/3 of the blades in this set of books. There are also a number
of blades by Sô-den smiths such as the 10 students of Masamune, and
the 3 students of Sadamune.
So the fact that Masamune was in
the Nihon Sansaku, and his blades were listed in the first book of
the Kyôho Meibutsu Cho gave some special status to him and his
blades. Many of his blades have a noted history, and very
interesting stories about them.
'Fudo Masamune' is a tantô
of 8 sun 6.5 bun, with a carving of Fudo on the Omote, as well as
gomabashi, and kurikara on the ura (at this point only the gomabashi
are present on the back). This is one of the very few existing
signed blades were the signature is not in question. Lord Hidetsugu
bought this blade for 500 Kan, and later gave it to the Shogun
Ieyasu. Then it was given to Lord Toshiie. Later Lord Toshitsune
gave it to Lord Ieyasu (after retirement?). After that it was handed
down in the Owari Tokugawa. This shows how blades traveled between
the Japanese lords.
The 'Hocho Sukashi Masamune' is one of
the famous Masamune kitchen knives that makes people think that he
made these very long wide blades. Masamunes tantô tend to be slim,
and elegant. On this blade there is gomabashi carved in sukashi
(cutout). After the restoration (1919?) this blade was purchased for
10 Hiki in a antique store. The value at that time was about 14¢ US.
Even with the inflation since then, that comes up to very little,
The 'Honjo Masamune' which was the Katana passed
between generations of the Tokugawa, as a symbol of the Shogun, was
taken as a Trophy of War (not by a Tokugawa). In the late 16th.
century it had split the helmet of Shigenaga, one of the generals of
Uesugi Kenshin, prior to Shigenaga killing it's owner Umanosuke.
Shigenaga had a deep wound on his head, but he survived. To make
matters worse for the Honjo Masamune, when Umanosuke attacked
Shigenaga he was already carrying several 'trophy heads' so that
blade probably had already made many severe cuts that day.Shigenaga
examined it and it had some chips but was still sound.
Kenshin did not wind up with the blade, Shigenaga did. I
assume that Kenshin was smart enough to not push around his major
supporters too much. Unfortunately for Shigenaga in Bunroku (1592 -
1595) Uesugi was required to care for the Fushimi Castle. He sent
Shigenaga to do this. Shigenaga did not have the money, so he had to
sell the Honjo Masamune. The price was 13 Mai = 13 O-Ban = 13 large
gold coins. Hidetsugu (Hideyoshi's younger brother) was the buyer.
When one considers that in the Kyoho Meibutsu Cho the Wakasa
Masamune was valued by the Honnami at 1,000 Mai. And the Shikibu
Masamune was valued at 700 Mai. But in Shotoku (1711 - 1716) the
Shikibu Masamune sold for 2,375 Ryo (Mai?). And the price for a good
sword went for about 10 Mai. Then when one remembers that Hideyoshi
was the one who started the Masamune craze, the plan plot becomes
clearer. Own a Masamune and the Shogunate was going to see that you
would end up with money problems, and wish a quick sale of it.
Anyway this Masamune went from Shigenaga, to Hidetsugu, to
Shimazu Hyogo Yoshihiro, who gave it to Ieyasu. It was given to
Ietsuna when Yorinobu retired (1667). After Ietsuna, the forth
Tokugawa Shogun, it was passed to the each following Shogun as part
of the Ceremony.
The 'Kotegiri Masamune' is a katana that
gained it's name when it cut the steel mail off the arm of a
opposing Samurai at the Battle of Toji in Kyôto. It was used by
Asakura Ujikage for this cut. Asakura Yoshikage was defeated by Oda
Nobunaga. Nobunaga took this sword and had it shortened. It passed
through sevral other hands and in 1615 came to the Maeda clan, who
passed it down through generations until 1882. In 1882 Emperor Meiji
visited the Maeda and was given this sword. Emperor Meiji was a very
well known sword collector, so was this another example of the
person in charge claiming all of the 'good toys'?
Courtesy by Jim Kurrasch