Nihonto (Introduction)

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Nihonto (Introduction)

Messaggioda Aldebaran » 18/04/2010, 8:31

The Japanese sword has been described as "the living soul of the samurai, and the pride of the warriors and the subject of poets." The Bushi (warrior) considered his sword as the most valuable asset after the honor and revered in an almost superstitious, for more than five centuries, whole schools of makers have devoted their best energies exclusively to build and decorate sword.
A look to the countless references to the sword in Japanese legends, as well as the detailed label which is to retain those who use or who carries one, shows that this weapon has greatly influenced the life of the samurai 'ancient Japan.
Apart from his extraordinary effectiveness as a combat weapon, probably unsurpassed in the world, the katana was considered as the true and authentic emblem of virtue, value and power of the warrior, who had the power to strengthen his resolve and protect him from any temptation that might sully his name or that of his ancestors.
Should also be noted as the five elements (water, earth, fire, wood and metal) take part in the complex process of forging (which is not simply a series of operations carried out mechanically, but a real ritual in which the swordsmith enter into symbiosis with the blade that is creating), with the blade that combines the purity of the metal with the energy of fire used to forge.

THE MYTH


In the Kojiki, the fundamental sacred text of Shinto, it tells how Susanoo Haya, son of Izanagi and Izanami (the creators of Japan) was exiled in the region of Izumo. Here the god came to know that every year a huge dragon with eight heads in the region as a tribute and demanded a virgin. Haya Susanoo offered to defeat the dragon, making him drunk with eight barrels of sake, managed to kill him. Then began to cut into pieces with his sword, but reached the tail blade broke. Intrigued opened the queue and discovered that it was kept inside the great sword Tsumugari (the sharp).
Immediately reported the incident to Amaterasu (the sun goddess), who decided to donate the sword, with the mirror and Magatama, his nephew Ninigi, charging him to reign over Japan and to pass these treasures to their successors.
The tenth emperor Suigin, then he put the sword in the Temple of Ise.
Prince Yamato Takeru, the son of the fourteenth emperor, came to take the sword from the temple and brought with them in their campaign against the Ainu. One day the prince's enemies caught in a prairie and set fire to vegetation; Yamato Takeru then mows the grass (other versions say that the sword magically acted alone) and quickly created an opening. From that day the sword was called Kusanagi no Tsurugi; still today one of the three treasures that are delivered to every Japanese emperor at the time of his inauguration.
He thought that the legendary sword comes from Izumo region, rich in iron ore and therefore an ideal area for the makers of knives.

THE SWORD THROUGH THE CENTURIES


Iron working, forging and casting that was known in northern China since the sixth century BC C. Japan in 362 A.D. invaded Korea, and remained there for two hundred years, was able to acquire knowledge from neighboring China of weapons of iron and especially of the sword, and one straight cut. Until then, the weapons were always produced in stone and bronze, during the Jomon Yayoi cultures.
After a massive importation of Chinese sword found in prehistoric burials, Japan in the late fourth century begins its own production of iron swords, developing and refining techniques and highly original forms.
These early swords, called jokoto were straight and the blade (tachi) was long by 90 cm per meter, according to the measures which are given in the Kojiki and Nihonshoki. Already at this time there were various types of swords, as the Tsurugi (very sharp with the wire on both sides of the blade, often depicted Buddhist iconography), the Tsurugi no tachi (with the wire from one side in part of the blade near the handle to the tip and double) or Warabi no tachi (a kind of short dagger in which the blade, thick and wide, and the hilt are made from one piece of metal worked).
With the advent of the Heian period (794 - 1185) the blade begins to take some distinctive features that make the Japanese sword-like as we understand it today (while improving their effectiveness as a weapon and beauty as a work of art) as a average length of 80 cm, some reduction in thickness compared to before and above the curve near the handle (koshizori), which shows that in battle had now become more important to the stroke rather than stored. We must remember that in this period many wars broke out throughout Japan, and a government edict of 984 (through which prohibited to civilians, except to those who were holding a special permit to wear swords) shows us how in that time possession of a weapon had become widespread habit among the population.
In the first Kamakura period (1185-1333), during which the military class became the backbone of the country, we are witnessing the development of such a kind of short dagger he carried in his belt, and the birth of kodachi (small tachi) on the origin of which is discussed again. It is thought to be generally used accompanying normal tachi (perhaps as a primitive daisho), or a type of sword that was specifically designed for very young warriors. In any case, apart from the small size (the blade measured less than 60 cm) It looks like a classic tachi.
In 1274 and in 1281 Japan was invaded by the Mongols, and escaped both times thanks to the providential suicide bombers (the "divine wind" that wiped out the Mongol fleet.) Fearing third assault (but never occurs), in military maneuvers across the country intensified and increased production of swords. One result of this increase in production was the creation of a new type of sword, ikubi kissaki no tachi, slightly larger and thicker than previous versions.
The production of both increased significantly, probably because of the advanced combat techniques were suffering in this period with so much in fact proved very useful in close combat (it was around 25 cm long), which not long tachi proved equally manageable.
Towards the end of the Kamakura period began to manifest a tendency to lengthen the blade, which exploded in the period costume Nambokucho (1333-1391), during which the length of the swords was about a meter and this trend also hit the naginata (l ' halberd).
The reason of these exaggerations to be found probably in the fact that in this period there were two opposing imperial courts obviously competed with each other, and then tried to flaunt their power through the deployment of military equipment and weapons by the imposing appearance.
The Muromachi period (1392 - 1573) sees the union of the two rival courts, and therefore ceases to exist the need to flaunt weapons out of hand, then returns to normal size, but new innovations appear soon on the scene.
Birth of a new type of sword, uchigatana, which has two main characteristics: the curvature is near the tip (sakizori) and not close to 'handle (koshizori) as in the previous swords. L 'uchigatana also was carried by the wire upwards. This is because it was spreading the technique of fighting that included extraction and attack with a single movement (a technique that later will be called iaijutsu), which was possible only if the blade edge at the time of extraction, was facing 'high, and the curvature sakizori made easier with the procedure.
The uchigatana were forged with various measures. Those longer than 60 cm were called katana (a term that over time will indicate all the swords in general), while shorter ones were called wakizashi or ko-dachi.
In any case, the swords of this period were made good enough, because the blades were still the most popular tachi. Uchigatana quality start to be produced only in the Momoyama period.
In the late Muromachi period spread a new kind of time, only 15 cm long, which was carried hidden in his clothes.
The most important innovation in the field of swords, which occurred between the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century (so much so that the swords produced from the Momoyama period onward will be called Shinto, new swords) was the almost total abandonment of tachi and the habit of wearing a pair of uchigatana (katana and wakizashi) together, this pair was named daisho (big-small) and is increasingly popular, although at first the blades of these were nothing but daisho tachi shortened for the purpose.
As for kodachi, the introduction of the wakizashi has a definite explanation. However, the habit may seek an explanation for the samurai, the katana to leave outside a building and come armed only with wakizashi, which then finds its raison d'être in being used as a weapon for fighting the covered (although the most famous user of daisho was Miyamoto Musashi, the great samurai who first formalized the contemporary use in combat katana and wakizashi)
With the introduction and spread of daisho the time fell into disuse. Was used, however, by the name of harakirigatana, to perform ritual suicide (hara-kiri, in fact).
In 1876, eight years after the Meiji Restoration, was promulgated an edict that forbade samurai to carry the sword in this way, consequently, the master swordsmith found themselves without work. However years later (after the wars against China and Russia) the production of swords occasions, mainly army officers, these blades are called gendarmes (modern swords). However, after the Meiji edict many dealers had left the art, but Sadakazu Gassan, a swordsmith in Osaka, never ceased to forge swords, and in 1906 was appointed Armorer Journal of the Imperial Court.
Japan's defeat in World War II and the subsequent occupation of Western forces, was another blow to the art of forging swords, as Westerners banning the production of weapons of any kind (including martial arts handed bare were banned).
But in 1953 a new law was passed that allowed the forging of swords, and in 1954, under the patronage of neofondata Society for the preservation of the art of Japanese sword "is held the first postwar exhibition of swords, and since then have followed many such events.


The tamahagane

Here and there 'a description of the type of steel: viewtopic.php?f=17&t=73

THE FORGING
Here and there 'a description of how to forge a Nihonto: viewtopic.php? F = 19 & t = 74
CLEANING: Here and there 'description of the sharpening of a Nihonto: viewtopic.php?f=12&t=75

THE CONSTRUCTION (Koshirae)

The Japanese sword blade is at the far more important and that's what makes it unique compared to all other weapons in the world. However, for a people who, like the Japanese, has a strong artistic sensibility and has always been a 'very carefully in making even the simplest everyday objects, was impossible not to succeed in creating true masterpieces in a secondary element considered as the mount of swords, originally founded simply to preserve the blade wear and easy transport.
The blades, depending on the type and purpose have special frames that can be classified into the following basic types:


JINDANCHIZUKURI


This frame is intended for use both on the ground that the ceremony be held. Moves horizontally suspended to the belt, and the type used by the imperial court or Shogunale is always decorated with precious elements. The type of war is relatively simple and is also used with certain ceremonial robes.


BUKEZUKURI


This is the most popular frame since the fifteenth century, and? characterized by the lack of suspension elements, since the sword thrust through the door Obi (the belt of her dress) with the edge facing you.


SHIRASAYA


It 's the easiest frame (shirasaya literally means' white sheath'), with tsuka (hilt) and saya (sheath) obtained from a single piece of wood without tsuba nor other decorations. Function of shirasaya was to retain the blade perfectly protected from the elements when not in use, but many samurai used this type of mount in combat.


The main elements of the frames are (starting from the tip of the blade):



Habak
Although the artistic element least, Habak is mechanically necessary, so as to be present in every type of Japanese sword. This is a solid band of metal wedged between the end of the blade and the tsuba (but also comes a few inches tsuka), which serves many functions: it is stationary when the blade is placed in the sheath (preventing accidental extraction or rub over the blade) protects a delicate point of the blade from rust; send shock waves through the stroke until the tsuba tsuka, rather than weaken the mekugi (see below).
L 'Habak is generally made of copper polish (although often there was recorded a mon, the family crest), but occasionally they were also produced iron, ivory, and wood.


Tsuba

The tsuba, or guard, is the most important accessory of the sword. Made of iron or steel (albeit ceremonial swords could be lacquered leather, leather on wood, gold, ivory or bone), because of its size, and the resulting space that follows, provides a surface large enough Japanese artists on which to express their artistic ability. For their depictions they took inspiration from folk tales, historical events, religion, heraldry and works of the great Chinese and Japanese painters.
Before the sixteenth-century, most of tsuba were solid, thick and unsigned, and they were made and delivered to the customer by the same blacksmith who forged the sword. But inevitably, with the improvement of the decorative techniques (especially with the long period of peace inaugurated by Ieyasu Tokugawa), makers of tsuba became real experts.
The hilt was decorated on both sides, although the face with the decoration of lesser importance was that he looked at the knife, in fact this was the most exposed to damage from a sword. The tsuba that exhibit this type of "wounds" have no doubt that brings a touch of romance to speculate about their past and origin of the cuts, a legacy perhaps of epic duels between samurai.
The tsuba is generally identified as belonging to one of five main groups: aori, Mocha, OTAFUKU, AOI and SHITOGI (though the latter was mainly used for ceremonial swords. There were also very irregular shapes (faces, punches and other) , fruit of the artist and not falling into the above categories.
Often, abducted admiration of the ability of the creators of tsuba, no one notices that the center is an opening (nakago ana) through which the blade. The Nagako ana is not generally included in an oval decorated and named by Giuseppa, on which the artist usually affected his signature.
On both sides of Nagako ana generally there are two additional openings (kozuka bitsu bitsu and Koga), respectively for a boxcutter (kozuka) and a pin (Koga), who were going to put in two side slots of the slider. While kozuka bitsu has a semicircular shape, the kogai bitsu is shaped like a clover.

The tsuba, or guard, is the most important accessory of the sword. Made of iron or steel (albeit ceremonial swords could be lacquered leather, leather on wood, gold, ivory or bone), because of its size, and the resulting space that follows, provides a surface large enough Japanese artists on which to express their artistic ability. For their depictions they took inspiration from folk tales, historical events, religion, heraldry and works of the great Chinese and Japanese painters.
Before the sixteenth-century, most of tsuba were solid, thick and unsigned, and they were made and delivered to the customer by the same blacksmith who forged the sword. But inevitably, with the improvement of the decorative techniques (especially with the long period of peace inaugurated by Ieyasu Tokugawa), makers of tsuba became real experts.
The hilt was decorated on both sides, although the face with the decoration of lesser importance was that he looked at the knife, in fact this was the most exposed to damage from a sword. The tsuba that exhibit this type of "wounds" have no doubt that brings a touch of romance to speculate about their past and origin of the cuts, a legacy perhaps of epic duels between samurai.
The tsuba is generally identified as belonging to one of five main groups: aori, Mocha, OTAFUKU, AOI and SHITOGI (though the latter was mainly used for ceremonial swords. There were also very irregular shapes (faces, punches and other) , fruit of the artist and not falling into the above categories.
Often, abducted admiration of the ability of the creators of tsuba, no one notices that the center is an opening (nakago ana) through which the blade. The Nagako ana is not generally included in an oval decorated and named by Giuseppa, on which the artist usually affected his signature.
On both sides of Nagako ana generally there are two additional openings (kozuka bitsu bitsu and Koga), respectively for a boxcutter (kozuka) and a pin (Koga), who were going to put in two side slots of the slider. While kozuka bitsu has a semicircular shape, the kogai bitsu is shaped like a clover.


'S hilt was always of wood, preferably of magnolia, formed by two halves glued together with rice noodles. The wood was usually covered with a piece of skin (same) race (Rhinobatus armatus), on which was then wrapped the tsuki, a strip of silk or cotton (usually black, although they were also used brown, dark blue, green or white) ready and folded in such a way as to cover all the tsuka with the exception of small diamond-shaped spaces that were formed on both sides of the handle. The firm also maintained the tsuka menuki (see below), and was blocked by kashira turn the knob of the handle.


MENUKI

They were a pair of small metal ornaments that decorated were placed in an asymmetric position on both sides of the hilt, with the function to strengthen the grip of the sword and decorate it further. Were processed with a decoration combined with that of kozuka and kogai (see below).


MEKUGI

The bamboo rod is mekugi (or horn) that, through a special hole in the hilt (mekugi ana) and slipping into the blade, fixed and prevents bait from the tsuka.


Kozuka and Koga

The kozuka (or kogatana) is a boxcutter decorated in this frame of some swords, and is incorporated into a space housed in the sheath.
The kogai is a pin instead (also decorated) which is mounted in the same manner described above, and probably served to fix her hair under a helmet or comb.
Since these objects produced in pairs, the decorations are always together.


Saya


The sheath, as the hilt, consists of two parts glued together, also made of wood magnolia. It was almost always heavily lacquered, usually in black or with a very dark color, this style also kept the decorations simple. However, it was possible to find sheaths lacquered colors very bright, generally when the owners of the swords were kabukimono (eccentric samurai who loved distinguished from the others in clothing and behavior).
Details of the sheath were, in addition to the aforementioned areas to guard kozuka and Koga, the koiguchi (an oval ring reinforcement placed at the mouth of the sheath made of metal or black buffalo horn) and kurigata, a bump located on the sheath through which passed the Sage, a long strip of rope that had many uses (to fix the sheath at his belt, tying a prisoner, etc.?). When the sword was not used, the Sage was tied (by a procedure very precise) around kurigata and scabbard.






TYPES OF BLADES


This list is not meant to be exhaustive, but only to give an overview of the most common types of blades and serve as a reference (together with end tables) for certain terms used in the preceding pages.

From the Heian period until the first Muromachi, the swords were worn suspended from the belt horizontally with the cut side down. These blades were called Tachi and had a strong curvature. Their length was usually between 65 and 70 cm (but could be even greater).


NO-dachi


It was a long and heavy sword, typically used by warriors on horseback. Its length is 25% higher than that of a normal sword, and was shouldered on the back. This sword has become famous for being used by the famous samurai Sasaki Kojiro, who seems able to cut the swallows in flight using the no-dachi.

KATANA




This type of blade replaced the tachi in mid-Muromachi period and became the most popular Sword of the country. Around 70 cm long, the katana is carried tucked in the obi (belt) with the cut side up.


Chis-KATANA




As the name suggests, it was shorter than normal katana, the length between 55 and 59 cm.


Wakizashi




Swords length between 30.3 cm and 59 cm are called wakizashi and the katana is worn like. Until the end of Edo period katana and wakizashi were brought together and formed the daisho, symbol of belonging to the samurai caste.


BOTH




They are called so all daggers used by samurai and in general all the blades up to 30.3 cm.


Kaiken




Small knife about 13 cm, often finely decorated and used by women.


YORO-DOSHI


It 'a dagger and often very powerful, with a blade length between 25 and 30 cm which was used Used to penetrate armor plates. He carried in his belt stuck vertically on the back, but also on the right side with the wire upwards. Ravvicinatissima distance was used on the battlefields where they fought hand to hand with samurai armor worn.


Jitte



Although it is not really a knife, was brought as such. It was about 30 cm long and had square, hexagonal or round, was used to ward off the sword and break the blade. Had virtually the same use of "Left Hand" used in the West.
During the Edo period was the symbol of the police and government officials (metsuke) who used it as a badge.


CONCLUSION


And 'now clear that the sword in Japan has never been considered a simple weapon. The finest swords were personified and even deified, a custom still in use today. Many swords were proclaimed kami (supernatural beings, gods), an indication of the divine attributes and qualities supreme being prosecuted. The Japanese literature tells wonderful stories of swords, being kami, gave birth to other kami, swords coming and going alone or who ventured into the sea, magic swords that came from its sheath and fought for his master in the case of danger that the profanation punished with illness or death, or nursed their infirmities and grant the prayers.
It seemed interesting to conclude this work with an article by Dave Lowry, a few words that can perfectly give an idea of the many faces that characterize the Japanese sword.
"To try a sword forged by master gunsmith Muramasa, a samurai positioned the blade edge facing the current of a stream. A leaf swept downstream and touched the sword, through sheer force of the current was cut cleanly. This kind Test was considered the definitive test to determine the quality of a sword, until someone decided to undergo a blade forged by the master of Muramasa, Masamune great. Masamune's sword was then planted in the stream and the current carried it toward a 'other sheet. Then, miraculously, changed the course of the leaf. It floated around the deadly wire, resuming his race intact, as if the sword Masamune possess a beneficial power that went beyond the mere ability to bring destruction '.
Sword (ken), along with the jewel and the mirror is one of the three sacred treasures associated with the mythical creation of Japan. Even today in some cases, the forging of a sword occurs in a mystical ritual, the dealer takes his job wearing a white dress similar to the Shinto monks. Accompanied by his assistants, equipped with hammers a long handle, provides hymns while hammering on the anvil with a particular rhythm and steel bar shines light emitting lapilli. Beaten and heated, metal is manipulated and folded to form thousands of sheets. The entire ritual takes place in front of a Shinto altar, vestments and other rituals that adorn the molds, and provides stages of ritual and technical knowledge is known only to the forger. The final product is a weapon that inspires a kind of mystical wonder, like the blade of Masamune. Ken exists in a dimension that lies between the real and the fantastic.
The kanji ken has a simple root, two traits that represent the long blade of the sword and another component which means "a combination". A combination of what? Perhaps the focus of prayer and metal working, producing the sword. A combination of its thread, hard and sharp as a razor diamond back and his heavy, flexible, need to absorb the shock of impact. The "combination" in kanji may refer the incarnation of the sword as an object of beauty and utility deadly, capable of cutting a man in every respect. Or it could be a combination of reality and legend, which, as happens in the history of test Ken Masamune and Muramasa characterize the dual nature of the japan sword.
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Aldebaran
 
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