Tenka Goken: The Five Finest Swords Amongst All Japanese Swords

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Hitotachi Blog

Tenka Goken: The Five Finest Swords Amongst All Japanese Swords

Published: Thursday, 11 May 2017

Have you ever heard of the famous set of swords known as the Tenka Goten (literally the “Five Swords Under Heaven”)? The name refers to a group of Japanese swords made by exceptionally skilled master swordsmiths, which rose to fame to the extent that they were talked about amongst people of Japan from around the Muromachi period. It is not known by whom or in what way the term was defined, but even having said this much you can see that the story of the Tenka Goten is one that is overflowing with history and romance. Here, we introduce the five great swords that are counted as members of the Tenka Goten.

[Dōjigiri “Monster Cutter” Yasutsuna]
The greatest masterpiece created by the swordsmith Ōhara Yasutsuna. It became a family treasure of the Tokugawa shoguns, and its ownership was later passed down to the Echizen Takada and Tsuyama Domains.

[Onimaru “Demon Cutter” Kunitsuna]
A tachi forged by the swordsmith Awataguchi Kunitsuna. Legend has it that when Hōjō Tokimasa was being plagued night after night by nightmares of oni (mythical ogres or demons), the sword transformed into an old man, who said that he would rid Tokimasa of the oni if he removed the rust from the blade. True to the old man’s words, as a result of polishing and cleaning the blade, Onimaru Kunitsuna (which was standing propped up in the room) fell down and cut the oni’s head clean off.

[Mikazuki “Crescent Moon” Munechika]
A famous sword made by Sanjō Munechika, who is held to have been the founder of the Sanjō school. One of its distinguishing features is that the edge of its hamon (temper-line pattern) appears to form a string of crescent moons.

[Juzu Maru]
This sword was produced by a master swordsmith, who was chosen as one of the Emperor Go-Toba’s elite group of Goban Kaji smiths.

This sword is held to be the oldest and finest work left behind by the swordsmith Mitsuyo, of Chikugo Province (present-day Fukuoka).
Each of the Tenka Goken has a rich history of stories and anecdotes associated with it. In this blog, we plan to introduce each and every one of these swords in detail.

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