Swords of Japan Exhibit

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The Swords of Japan is a travelling exhibit meant to encourage study and interest in Japan's rich history and cultural heritage as exemplified by the object Japan is internationally known for: The Katana, or Japanese sword. Hosted at the Museum of National History in the Narumi Ward, the exhibit is completely open to the public for a nominal fee. Attendants will find a number of blades on display in glass cases, each with an appending plaque describing some of the weapon's history and it's current owner. All the swords are from the 122 government-recognized kohoku (National Treasures) of Japan. Some are as follows:

Great Bear Sword (七星剣 Shichiseiken) or Seven Stars Sword

  • The sword contains a gold inlay of clouds and seven stars forming the Great Bear constellation. According to a document at Shitennō-ji, this sword was owned by Prince Shōtoku. Considered to be directly imported from the Asian continent. It was created prior to the development of the technique that created the well-known curved blades of katana and is thus a chokuto, or straight-edged blade.
  • Date - Asuka Period, Seventh Century
  • Smith - Unknown
  • Loaned by Shitennō-ji, Osaka

Tachi - Kuniyuki (国行)

  • As in the tradition of many Japanese Swords, this blade is named for its smith rather than having a name in its own right, tachi merely being the style in which it was fashioned. Created by the founder of the Taima branch and handed down in the Abe clan, it has a curvature of approximately 1.5 cm (0.59 in).
  • Date - Kamakura Period, around Shōō era (1288–1293)
  • Smith - Taima Kuniyuki (当麻国行)
  • Loaned by The Society for Preservation of Japanese Art Swords, Tokyo

Mikazuki Munechika (三日月宗近)

  • One of the Five Swords under Heaven (天下五剣). The name, "Crescent Moon" refers to the shape of the tempering pattern. Owned by Kōdai-in, wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi who bequeathed it to Tokugawa Hidetada, then handed down in the Tokugawa clan. Curvature: 2.7 cm (1.1 in).
  • Date - Heian Period, 10-11th century.
  • Smith - Sanjō Munechika (三条宗近)
  • Loaned by the Tokyo National Museum


  • Owned by the Saionji clan, passed down from head to head to this day. Unlike the many of the other swords it has maintained it's keen edge over time, and appears perfectly function despite its age. It has been used in several wars throughout Japan's history, and there is a legend that a curse upon the blade bore a terrible winter on the land in all the years it shed blood.
  • Date - Heian Period, 10-11th century.
  • Smith - Unknown. Again, family legends state supernatural origins.
  • Loaned by the Saionji family.

Heshi-kiri (へし切)

  • Anglicized as 'Forceful Cutter'. Said to fell trees in a single blow. Owned by the Kuroda family, with an inscription in gold inlay by Honami Kotoku (本阿光徳?): Hasebe Kunishige Honami (長谷部国重本阿)
  • Date - Nanboku-chō period, 14th century
  • Smith - Hasebe Kunishige (長谷部国重)
  • Loaned by the Fukuouka City Museum

Tsurugi - Yoshimitsu

  • The blade was part of the dowry of the adopted daughter (Seitaiin) of Tokugawa Iemitsu on her wedding with Maeda Mitsutaka; one year after Seitaiin's death, her son, Maeda Tsunanori offered the blade to the Shirayamahime Shrine praying for her happiness in the next life.
  • Date - Kamakura Period
  • Smith - Tōshirō Yoshimitsu (藤四郎吉光)
  • Loaned by Shirayamahime Shrine, normally kept at the Ishikawa Prefecture Art Museum

Nakatsukasa Masamune (中務正宗)

  • Formerly held by Honda Tadakatsu whose official rank was Nakatsukasa Daisuke, later handed down in the Tokugawa Clan. A gold inlay inscription reads: Masamune Honami Kaō (正宗本阿花押)
  • Date - Kamakura period, 14th century, before Gentoku era (1329)
  • Smith - Masamune
  • Loaned by the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Tokyo
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