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Masamune Swords | Famous Weapons of Japan


Two men stand next to a rushing stream, an
apprentice and a master. The apprentice is Muramasa Sengo, and his
master Goro Nyudo Masamune. Muramasa begins. He ties his newly-forged sword to a branch,
letting it hang vertically over the river, its blade edge cutting the current. They watch. A branch hits the blade and is cut cleanly
in half. A leaf hits the blade and is cut into two. Then a fish hits the blade, and it too is
cut. The blade slices through everything it touches:
branches, leaves, fish, even the very air. Pleased, Muramasa unties his sword. It is Masamune’s turn. The master fastens his sword the same way,
and again they watch. A branch hits the blade, and is cut. A leaf hits the blade, and is cut. Then a fish hits the blade, but is not cut. It bounces harmlessly off the blade and continues
on its way. Muramasa cheers. “I am the better swordsmith!” he says. “My blade can cut anything. Branches, leaves, fish, even the very air!” Okay, that’s not that impressive, my
finger can cut air, but everything else is fine. Smiling, Masamune retrieves his sword in silence. As it happens, a monk was passing by and watched
their competition. He comes over and declares Masamune the winner,
not Muramasa. The monk explains that although Muramasa’s
sword IS sharp, it kills indiscriminately. It is bloodthirsty. Masamune’s sword is better because it spares
anything undeserving of death, like the innocent fish. This is a famous story about the two swordsmiths. It’s only a story though, the two men lived
in different time periods, but it depicts very well their personalities and people’s
beliefs about their swords. Muramasa was mad, unpredictable, and violent. I have a video about him here. He was like the Joker. His swords were said to be cursed and bloodthirsty. Masamune was the opposite. Patient, calm, and wise. He was like Alfred, I guess. Masamune swords were revered for their sharpness
and quality. Many swordsmiths at the time created swords
with cheaper metal for use in combat, they were practical. Masamune swords were beautiful, he used high
quality steel and treated his creations like works of art. People thought his swords absorbed his benevolent
and honorable personality. It only cut what the owner wanted to cut,
and not anything undeserving or innocent. The most famous Masamune sword was the Honjo
Masamune. Sadly, the sword was lost after World War
II, its owner forced to give it up under extraordinary circumstances. The Honjo Masamune was likely named after
Honjo Shigenaga, a famous general of the Uesugi clan. The story goes… an enemy attacked Honjo
Shigenaga during battle. The enemy’s sword cut his helmet cleanly
in half, but left his head whole. It was like the sword spared him. So he killed the bastard and took the sword
for his own. Later on, Shigenaga wasn’t doing so well
financially and had to sell the sword to the Toyotomi clan. The sword eventually came into the hands of
Tokugawa Ieyasu and remained within the Tokugawa family, passed down through the generations. After World War II, when Japan was under US
occupation, swords were banned and confiscated. Many swords were destroyed or given to American
soldiers, including sacred heirlooms and swords more than a hundred years old. Imagine giving away a priceless artifact that
has been in your family for generations. It was a period of great shame and anger for
the Japanese. That must have been how Tokugawa Iemasa felt
when he gave up the Honjo Masamune. In December of 1945, Tokugawa Iemasa entered
a police station and handed over his family’s sword collection. Among them was the Honjo Masamune, a sword
that had graced the hands of so many legendary figures in Japanese history. The police gave the swords to someone named
Sergeant Coldy Bimore to dispose of. Unfortunately, they later found no record
of such a name. It is thought that someone wrote down a bad
phonetic spelling of the real name, and because of that idiot no one knows where the sword
is now. I’d hate to think that the sword was melted
down like it was nothing, as happened with many others, but it’s possible. Masamune swords became status symbols for
the warrior class. There’s a story that’s representative
of this, although we don’t know if it’s true. It is the story of Date Masamune and the fake
sword. The famous daimyo Date Masamune, no relation
to our swordsmith Masamune, was called the One-Eyed Dragon. He only had a left eye. With a nickname like that, you know he was
a badass, and badasses have to keep up their reputations. In the story, Date Masamune is talking to
someone who says to him, “Lord Date, being such a badass, you must own a Masamune, surely.” Lord Date replies, “Of course! Oh shoot, I left the tuna casserole in the
oven, I gotta get home! We’ll continue this conversation tomorrow! Byeee!” The truth is, he does have a Masamune katana,
but his wakizashi is NOT. He rushes home and tells his blacksmith to
get him a Masamune wakizashi from the family collection, stat! Unfortunately, they don’t have one, they
only have a Masamune katana, which was longer than a wakizashi. He says, “Well then shorten it and make
it into a wakizashi, and do it by tomorrow!” See how valuable these swords were? There are currently nine Masamune blades designated
as National Treasures of Japan. Hey guys, guess what I have that no one asked
for. Merch! Link in the description. You can buy shirts, mugs, posters, and a bunch
of other stuff. If you want! I only have a few designs up right now, but
will add more. You can also suggest a design if you like.

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