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National Treasures Live - List of National Treasures of Japan (crafts: swords) - Netflix
The term “National Treasure” has been used in Japan to denote cultural properties since 1897, although the definition and the criteria have changed since the introduction of the term. The swords and sword mountings in the list adhere to the current definition, and have been designated national treasures according to the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties that came into effect on June 9, 1951. The items are selected by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology based on their “especially high historical or artistic value”. The list presents 110 swords and 12 sword mountings from ancient to feudal Japan, spanning from the late Kofun to the Muromachi period. The objects are housed in Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, museums or held privately. The Tokyo National Museum houses the largest number of these national treasures, with 20 of the 122. During the Yayoi period from about 300 BC to 300 AD, iron tools and weapons such as knives, axes, swords or spears, were introduced to Japan from China via the Korean peninsula. Shortly after this event, Chinese, Korean, and eventually Japanese swordsmiths produced ironwork locally. Swords were forged to imitate Chinese blades: generally straight chokutō with faulty tempering. Worn slung from the waist, they were likely used as stabbing and slashing weapons. Although functionally it would generally be more accurate to define them as hacking rather than slashing weapons. Swordmaking centers developed in Yamato, San'in and Mutsu where various types of blades such as tsurugi, tōsu and tachi were produced. Flat double-edged (hira-zukuri) blades originated in the Kofun period, and around the mid-Kofun period swords evolved from thrusting to cutting weapons. Ancient swords were also religious objects according to the 8th century chronicles Nihon Shoki and Kojiki. In fact, one of the Imperial Regalia of Japan is a sword, and swords have been discovered in ancient tumuli or handed down as treasures of Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples. Few ancient blades (jokotō) exist because the iron has been corroded by humidity. The transition from straight jokotō or chokutō to deliberately curved, and much more refined Japanese swords (nihontō), occurred gradually over a long period of time, although few extant swords from the transition period exist. Dating to the 8th century, Shōsōin swords and the Kogarasu Maru show a deliberately produced curve. Yasutsuna from Hōki Province forged curved swords that are considered to be of excellent quality. Stylistic change since then is minimal, and his works are considered the beginning of the old sword (kotō) period, which existed until 1596, and produced the best-known Japanese swordsmiths. According to sources Yasutsuna may have lived in the Daidō era (806–809), around 900; or more likely, was a contemporary of Sanjō Munechika and active in the Eien era (987, 988). The change in blade shape increased with the introduction of horses (after 941) into the battlefield, from which sweeping cutting strokes with curved swords were more effective than stabbing lunges required of foot soldiers. Imparting a deliberate curve is a technological challenge requiring the reversal of natural bending that occurred when the sword edge is hammered. The development of a ridge (shinogi) along the blade was essential for construction. Various military conflicts during the Heian period helped to perfect the techniques of swordsmanship, and led to the establishment of swordsmiths around the country. They settled in locations close to administrative centers, where the demand for swords was high, and in areas with easy access to ore, charcoal and water. Originally smiths did not belong to any school or tradition. Around the mid to late-Heian period distinct styles of workmanship developed in certain regional centers. The best known of these schools or traditions are the gokaden (five traditions) with each producing a distinct style of workmanship and associated with the five provinces: Yamashiro, Yamato, Bizen, Sagami/Sōshū and Mino. These five schools produced about 80% of all kotō period swords. Each school consisted of several branches. In the late Heian period Emperor Go-Toba, a sword lover, summoned swordsmiths from the Awataguchi school of Yamashiro, the Ichimonji school of Bizen and the Aoe school of Bitchū Province to forge swords at his palace. These smiths, known as goban kaji (honorable rotation smiths) are considered to have been the finest swordsmiths of their time. Go-Toba selected from the Awataguchi, Hisakuni and Ichimonji Nobufusa to collaborate on his own tempering. Early Kamakura period tachi had an elaborately finished tang and an elegant dignified overall shape (sugata). Tantō daggers from the same period showed a slight outward curvature. Around the mid-Kamakura period, the warrior class reached its peak of prosperity. Consequently, sword production was thriving in many parts of Japan. Following the Mongol invasions of 1274 and 1281, smiths aimed at producing stronger swords that would pierce the heavy armour of the invaders. To achieve this, tachi became wider, thicker with an overall grand appearance (sugata) and a straight temper line. With the Mongol threat dissipated at the end of the Kamakura period, this trend was partially reversed, as blades grew longer with a more dignified shape than those from the mid-Kamakura period. However the so-called “unchangeable smiths”, including Rai Kunitoshi, Rai Kunimitsu, Osafune Nagamitsu and Osafune Kagemitsu, continued to produce swords of the elegant style of the late Heian/early Kamakura period. These swords were particularly popular with Kyoto's aristocracy. The production of tantō daggers increased considerably towards the late Kamakura period. Master tantō makers include Awataguchi Yoshimitsu, Rai Kunitoshi, Shintōgo Kunimitsu, Osafune Kagemitsu, Etchū Norishige and Samonji. The naginata appeared as a new weapon in the late Kamakura period. The confrontation between the Northern and Southern Court resulted in a 60-year-long power struggle between warrior lords known as the Nanboku-chō period and caused a tremendous demand for swords. The stylistic trends of the Kamakura period continued, and tachi were characterized by magnificent shape, growing in overall length and the length of the point (kissaki). They were generally wide and disproportionately thin. Similarly tantō grew in size to 30–43 cm (12–17 in) and became known as ko-wakizashi or sunnobi tantō (extended knives). But also tantō shorter than those of the Kamakura period were being forged. Enormous tachi called seoi-tachi (shouldering swords), nodachi (field swords) and ōdachi with blades 120–150 cm (47–59 in) long were forged. The high demand for swords during feudal civil wars after 1467 (Sengoku period) resulted in mass production and low quality swords as swordsmiths no longer refined their own steel. There are no national treasure swords after this period.
National Treasures Live - Saikaidō (Chikuzen, Chikugo, Bungo Province) - Netflix
Through rich cultural exchange with China and Korea facilitated by the proximity to the continent, iron manufacture had been practiced on Kyūshū (Saikaidō) since earliest times. Swordsmiths were active from the Heian period onwards. Initially the Yamato school's influence is evident all over the island. However, distance from other swordmaking centers such as Yamato or Yamashiro caused the workmanship to remain static as smiths maintained old traditions and shunned innovations. Kyūshū blades, therefore, demonstrate a classic workmanship. The old Kyūshū smiths are represented by Bungo Yukihira from Bungo Province, the Miike school active in Chikugo Province and the Naminohira school of Satsuma Province. Two old blades, one by Miike Mitsuyo and the other by Bungo Yukihira, and five later blades from the 14th century, have been designated as national treasures from Kyūshū. They originate from three provinces: Chikugo, Chikuzen, and Bungo. Generally Kyūshū blades are characterized by a sugata that looks old having a wide shinogi. The jihada is mokume-hada that tends to masame-hada or becomes ayasugi-hada. The jigana is soft and there are ji-nie and chikei present. The hamon is small midare made up of nie and based on suguha. The edge of the hamon starts just above the hamachi. The work of Saemon Saburo Yasuyoshi (or Sa, Samonji, Ō-Sa) is much more sophisticated than that of other Kyūshū smiths. As a student of Masamune he was influenced by the Sōshū tradition which is evident in his blades. Sa was active from the end of the Kamakura period to the early Nanboku-chō period and was the founder of the Samonji school in Chikuzen Province to which also Yukihiro belonged. He produced mainly tantō and a few extant tachi. The Samonji school had a great influence during the Nanboku-chō period. Stylistically Ō-Sa's sugata is typical for the end of the Kamakura period with a thick kasane, slightly large kissaki and tantō that are unusually short, about 24 cm (9.4 in).
National Treasures Live - References - Netflix