In the late Kamakura period, Japan's swordsmithing craft surpassed that of its neighbours. Japanese swordsmiths during this period created some of the world's finest quality swords, ranging from the small tanto to larger and more formidable swords like the katana and wakizashi. However, there were a few Japanese swordsmiths were particularly skilled at this craft, many of whom went on to found their own swordsmithing schools.
Gorō Nyūdō Masamune was one of Japan's most prolific swordsmiths. According to various reports, Masamune excelled in his ability to use martensitic crystals with pearlite matrix designs in his swords, thus creating beautifully crafted blades that resembled stars in the night sky. Masamune founded his own swordsmithing school, under which at least 10 students studied his teachings.
While most sword collectors and martial arts practitioners are familiar with Masamune, another famous Japanese swordsmith who's often overlooked is Emperor Gotoba. The 82nd emperor of Japan, Gotoba regularly practiced archery, equestrianism and martial arts. He also summoned some of the country's most talented and skilled swordsmiths to teach him the craft. With this knowledge, Gotoba founded a now-famous swordsmithing school.
Mori Nagayoshi lives during Japan's Sengoku period, during which he became an officer for the Oda clan and, eventually, a famous swordsmith. Historians believe that Nagayoshi borrowed ideas from other Japanese swordsmithing schools at the time, including the Bizen and Soshu schools. One of the reasons for Nagayoshi's success as a swordsmith is because he used higher temperatures to forge blades. The higher temperature resulted in a stronger, more durable blade than swords forged at lower temperatures.
Although details regarding his work (and life) are scarce, historians believe that Kaneuji I founded Japan's Mino school of swordsmithing in the country's Shizuyama region. He used unique forging methods that were previously unknown at the time. These techniques would later become known as the Shoshu style.
One of the most recent Japanese swordsmiths to have founded his own school is Miyairi Akihira. Reports indicate that Akihira began learning the craft of swordsmithing around the age of 10. It wasn't long before he was one of the country's most esteemed swordsmiths, eventually founding the Yukihira school based on Shizu Keneuki methods.
These are just a few of the most famous Japanese swordsmiths who founded their own schools. If it weren't for their contributions to the craft, perhaps a different region would be the world's swordmaking capital. As it stands, though, Japan remains the undisputed leader of swordsmithing.