Learn about the swords of Goro Nyudo Masamune, the most revered among famous Japanese sword makers of the ancient.
Legends have shrouded Masamune, one of the most famous Japanese sword makers, and his swords that it is hard to extricate fact from fiction.
For example, when the Japanese shoguns were invaded by Mongols in 13th century, his sword was said to have cut ten thousand Mongol necks, mails, and helmets without suffering any dent.
blade of grass blown by the wind, but the leaf returns to its original shape as it travels away. Still other stories tell that when a samurai brandishes a sword made by this famous Japanese sword maker at nightfall, the weapon would glisten like a lone star in moonless night sky.
The greatest Japanese sword expert
Goro Nyudo Masamune, deserves his almost mythical stature among ancient Japanese smiths. Firstly, he made a lasting contribution to sword-making by introducing double quenching (quench is a process of cooling a hot sword blade rapidly so that its mechanical and tensile strength will be retained).
Secondly, he perfected steel-working. At a time when forging tools were crude and steel was far from pure, he produced stunning nihonto (Japanese swords) that proved to be stronger than the feared Mongolian armors. And lastly, he melded art and science into his swords by perfecting nie. Nie was a difficult skill to master, as it strives to produce crystal brilliance onto the blade in the process of forging. Clearly, how to make a sword was not a matter of utility for him, but an art-form as well.
This genius sword smith produced all his swords and daggers in Kamakura, Sagami province in from 1288-1328. He himself was a student of famous Japanese sword makers, including Shintogo Kunimitsu. His swords, both beautiful and lethal to behold, attracted attention from the ruling landlords and apprentices. His legendary reputation was established when his swords were listed in Kyoho Meibutsu Cho, a three-book compilation in 17th century cataloguing excellent swords collected by daimyos. From there on, his swords were coveted and jealously guarded.
They are remarkable in many respects. Their nie is a gray line running smoothly on the front of the blade. The undulating notare hamon is a perfect marriage of harder steel of the leading edge and softer pearlite steel of the cutting edge. The most striking of all it its kinsuji, lines that were likened to streaks of lightning – this has probably produced the legend of a shining sword at nightfall.
The Missing Sword
Japan has been proud of its array of samurai swords. It elevated artistically forged swords, including particularly one made by Masamune himself called the Honjo Masamune sword. This rare sword is considered as a national treasure of Japan. Unfortunately when the Americans conquered Japan at the height of World War II, they reportedly looted swords from defeated Japanese nobles. Since then some of the swords have been recovered, due to the generosity of some American private collectors, but until now, the famous Honjo Masamune sword has remained missing.
The other swords
There are other swords that can be viewed by the public. The Kotegiri is a tachi (tachi is slightly longer and more curved than katana) that was presented to Emperor Meiji in 1882, and probably is still in possession by the Imperial Family. Another sword was also given to President Harry Truman during WWII and this can be viewed in a museum bearing the president’s name.
The Hocho Masamune is one of several daggers that are now on display in Tokugawa Art Museum, Nagoya, Japan.
Japanese swords in Modern Times
Replicas of the swords of Goro Nyudo Masamune are routinely produced by Hanwei, a company established by Chen Chao-Pao, better known by his moniker Paul Chen. Paul Chen swords imitate the Japanese sword-making in order to produce swords akin to those in Edo period. They have been very popular for the past decades, owing to the rise of Japanese anime and prominence of samurai in films and video games.
Goro Nyudo Masamune and his swords are given yet another prestige by the promulgation of Japanese government on its regular competition for sword smiths. The Masamune prize is awarded to participants who have created a sword of unsurpassed quality in Japanese Sword Making competition.
In a video game the Final Fantasy sword owned by the villain Sephiroth is seen to be wielding a remarkably long Masamune sword replica.