Chapter Seven

THE TANAKAMINOMOTO FAMILY

FEBRUARY 1498
KAMAKURA – JAPAN
THE SWORD SMITH – THE ART OF SWORD MAKING
 
  • Early spring
  • The need for swords during the time of The Warring States
  • Yasukuni – a member of the Soshu School of sword makers
  • Making of a special sword for Lord Tanakaminomoto
  • A record is made of the sword

Ryu Kyu KobujutsuThe Yasukuni house was situated on the outskirts of the town.  In the small building, across the yard from the Yasukuni house was the forge of Yasukuni, one of the well-known sword smiths who worked in Kamakura. Yasukuni was one of the more eminent sword makers of his day.

The 13th of February was a very important day for Yasukuni. It was the day that he was going to start making a very special sword.

THE FIRST DAY

Yasukuni took the tongs and lifted the first piece of iron out of the forge and placed it on the anvil.  In a fairly short time it was hammered into a flat piece of metal and then placed to the side on a steel plate.

THE SECOND DAY

The forging process began again and after heating the block of steel to the right temperature, it was placed on the anvil.  The folded block of metal was heated again and hammered until the two pieces were fused together.

These ten folds resulted in 2 048 layers of medium carbon steel for the inner core of the sword.

THE THIRD DAY

Yasukuni had previously selected pieces of iron ore with higher carbon content than the pieces used for the core steel because the outer surface steel had to be extra hard.

THE FOURTH DAY

The folding process for the sidepieces started. The steel block was heated and hammered into an elongated block.  The chisel cut the block about halfway down its length.  It was folded over, heated and hammered again into the elongated block.

THE FIFTH DAY

The next day a similar process was used, with a smaller amount of iron ore, to forge the steel for the back of the sword.  Finally, the cutting edge steel was forged.

THE SIXTH DAY

The folding of the cutting edge steel began.  Yasukuni folded this steel fifteen times, creating 65 536 layers of high carbon steel.  Finally, it was time to fuse the five pieces of steel together to create the actual blade.

THE SEVENTH DAY ON….

Now there was more hard work to be done and Yasukuni would have to do most of this work himself.

THE ELEVENTH DAY ON………

It was the eleventh day of the sword now.

THE FOURTEENTH DAY

Yasukuni spent some time meditating in front of the shrine.  Yasukuni held the blade firmly in his left hand and slowly and carefully began to scrape a pattern of dried mud off the blade, using a set of special tools for this work.

TEMPERING THE BLADE

He picked up the tongs, grasped the end of the blade, lifted it out of the forge and carefully held it out over the water of the trough. The water immediately spluttered and hissed as it absorbed the heat of the steel blade.

THE POLISHER

The sword polisher spent another two weeks working on the blade.

TESTING THE BLADE

Jakuka asked for the bodies of two executed prisoners to be placed on top of each other. The sword made a clean cut, right through the two bodies and Jakuka knew that it was a very special sword.

A RECORD IS MADE

Yasukuni received a very special visitor.  He would record the information that had been stamped on the tang by Yasukuni, also the sword tester’s results, the sword details and the owner’s name of the new sword.

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