One of the greatest swordsmiths in Japan is Masamune Okazaki. Masamune is almost legendary in Japan. Most of his work was done during the 13th and 14th century. Most Japanese and historians may agree that Masamune has lived in the Sagami province. His most famous works are the tachi swords and tanto daggers. His works are recognized as the best creations that an award called Masamune prize is given as recognition to top swordsmiths for creating exceptional swords.

Masamune had learned the art of swordsmithing from Shintogo Kunimitu. He often produced blades with a straight temper line. His swords can be distinguished by clear grey lines called chikei and lines that resemble when lightning strike called kinsuji.

Masamune is known to be the most famous Japanese sword maker of all times. The swords of Masamune have a solid reputation for superior quality and beauty. He is considered to be responsible to bring perfection to the art of “nie” where martensitic crystals are embedded in pearlite matrix believed to resemble stars in the night sky.

Masamune swords

Just like in music there are such classics as Bach and Beethoven, Japanese sword-making exist some names that are associated with exquisite perfection and art. Masamune is definitely one of them. His swords are famous for quality and originality and are considered as an example of that fine art of sword-making. What is most amazing is that at 13th century there weren’t any sophisticated forging tools and steel used for sword-making was as a rule impure. Nevertheless, many sword-makers today can’t compete with Masamune swords when it comes to elegance, nie (martensitic crystals in pearlite) and what’s most important - quality.

Legends of Masamune

It is difficult to distinguish fact from fiction on legends of Masamune. The sword of Masamune was said to cut ten thousand Mongol necks, mails, and helmets without suffering any dent during the Mongol invasion of Japanese shoguns in the 13th century.

Legend also has it that his sword can easily cut a blade of grass blown by the wind but the leaf restores its original shape as it travels away. While other stories tell that when a samurai warrior sways a sword created by this well known Japanese sword maker at nightfall, the Masamune sword shines like a lone star in moonless night sky.

Famous Masamune blades

Perhaps the most popular swords created by Masamune are the Honjo Masamune. It became the symbol of the Tokugawa shogunate and is highly regarded as one of the finest Japanese swords to be ever created. It was declared as a national treasure in 1939.

The name of the sword was coined after General Honjo Shigenage who won the sword in a battle. He took possession of the sword from Umanisuke and actually split Shigenaga’s helm with the blade. In the turn of events, Shinenaga survived and took the swords as prize after killing Umanosuke. He managed to keep the sword but had to sell it due to being low on money. Toyotomi Hidetsugu the nephew of Toyotomi Hideyoshi bought the sword and passed the blade on to his uncle who would later pass it down to future shoguns including Tokugawa Ieyasu, Tokugawa Yorinobu, and Tokugawa Ietsuna. Ietsuna was the last of the Tokogawa shoguns. The blade then remained in his family. The sword was soon passed down through the line until World War II. It was when Tokugawa Iemasa surrendered the sword to a police station along with fourteen others. These swords were then passed on to members of the 7th cavalry in 1946. After these events, the swords were missing as the location of the Honjo Masamune remains unknown today.

The sword smith signed one of the few Masamune including the Fudo Masamune. In 1601, it was purchased by Toyotomi Hidetsugu in 1601 and passed down through the Owari Tokugawa. Its designs as a tanto sword shows grooves on one side and a dragon engraved on the part of the blade. It also features an engraving of the Buddha deity Fudo Myo-o, the source of the sword’s name.

Hocho Masmaune refers to the three different tanto blades. The three swords are quite unusual for having wide bodies. In fact, they closely resemble kitchen knives more than daggers. One of these blades is currently displayed at the Tokugawa Art Museum.

There are several but a few Masamune blades found outside of Japan. After World War II, the government of Japan offered a Masamune to President Harry Truman as a show of solidarity and peace between the two countries. This sword is currently on display at the Truman Presidential Library.

Technorati Tags: , , , ,

8 Responses to “Masamune: the greatest Japanese sword smith”
  1. samurai swords Says:

    I have been reading blogs and articles regarding Masamune. It is really the Greatest Japanese sword smith. The blades are sharp and really good.

  2. kking 1234 Says:

    i am collectin antiques
    i want to know all abt samurai swords

    the original and the best ever samurai sword made

  3. Grizzlyironbear Says:

    You might want to collect more general intelligence first before stating that you want to collect a National Treasure. Sayin g you want to get a Masamune blade is the same as stating that you want to kill a white buffalo for the pelt. The Masamune blade is the BEST in Japan’s eyes. You would know that if you actually READ the history of the blade first before you posted some crap about being a “collector”. True collectors KNOW about the real worth of an item. THE HISTORY of it.

  4. shumei Says:

    I collect Masamunes too. What would I have to pay for a genuine signed Masamune blade vs a non signed one? I would prefer one with a real carved name.

  5. Juha Lagerberg Says:

    What is a japanese sword smith called or do they have a common name like “kajiya”?

  6. adam Says:

    masamune rarely singed his work the few swords and dagers he did sign are japanese national tresures or previously owned by presidents so to get one you have to ofend all of japan or break into the hary s truman museum both of witch seem like ether death or jail sentences

  7. Ben Says:

    So, where can I order one of these?

  8. Sandor Says:

    Some things are not for sale at any price. Those people who said they would like a Masamune blade, you are not alone. Many people would love to have one, but there are also people who would give their lives to protect these historical treasures.

    Your best bet to actually get a Masamune blade would be to do detective work and locate a missing blade, such as the Honjo Masamune, which went to the United States at the end of World War 2, but disappeared and has not been seen since.

    It is most likely hanging over someone’s mantle, or standing in the corner of an attic, forgotten; a relic taken home by a soldier who has now undoubtedly passed away. Very few soldiers from WWII are still around. The family who has it, probably has no idea what they have.

    On the other hand there are many famous blades, a few of which ARE for sale from time to time. There are, I believe, only 5 swordsmiths in Japan who are recognised as producing quality swords in the traditional manner. If you were to purchase one of their swords, you must expect to spend a great deal to do so. Remember you are paying for a special steel, found only one place in the world, which is only available one time a year, and up to a year’s wages for all the people who contributed to the making of a quality sword. The master swordsmith and all his apprentices; the master polisher who puts an imperial shine on the blade and brings out its beauty, and others.

    How much would you give? one hundred thousand? two?

    So for a famous blade such as a Masamune, IF it were for sale, how many millions would you be ready to spend? 10 million? 50 million? 100?

    Good luck in finding a blade which suits you. I, myself, have a blade which was made for me this year, and I am very pleased with it. It is a beautiful piece of craftsmanship and has a special place in my home.

    I am honored to own a real quality Samurai katana.

Leave a Comment