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What Are Kiku-ichimonji Swords?

October 04, 2018

What Are Kiku-ichimonji Swords?

When researching traditional Japanese swords, you may come across the term "Kiku-ichimonji." Kiku-ichimonji isn't a single sword like the katana or wakizashi, however. Rather, it refers to a collection of multiple Japanese swords that originated during the region's feudal period. While their recognition has been lost over the years, Kiku-ichimonji were instrumental in shaping Japan's bladesmithing practices.

Overview of Kiku-ichimonji

Also known as Kikuichi-monji, Kiku-ichimonji is a collective group of traditional Japanese swords that were manufactured by 13 esteemed bladesmiths. According to Wikipedia, each of the 13 bladesmiths who produced Kiku-ichimonji swords attended Emperor Go-Toba's kingdom for one month each year. While attending the emperor's kingdom, these bladesmiths produced some of the region's finest swords, which would collectively become known as Kiku-ichimonji.

Why Kiku-ichimonji Swords Were Produced

Of course, there are plenty of other traditional swords floating around Japan during the feudal period. So, why were Kiku-ichimonji swords created? It's believed that Emperor Go-Toba had a personal interest in swords and bladesmiths. After inspecting the quality of his armies' swords, the emperor summoned 13 of the region's most esteemed bladesmiths to share their secrets and help train other bladesmiths to produce high-quality swords.

How Kiku-ichimonji Influenced Japan's Bladesmithing

Kiku-ichimonji influenced Japan's bladesmithing craft in several ways. First, it brought together the unique skills and secrets of more than a dozen of the region's top bladesmiths. Creating swords from base metals and materials wasn't an easy process. However, different bladesmiths had pioneered their own techniques to create superior swords. By bringing the region's top bladesmiths together, their individual secrets were shared to help foster in a new era of bladesmithing.

Some of the bladesmiths who produced Kiku-ichimonji swords include the following:

  • Norimune
  • Sadatsugu
  • Nobufusa
  • Kuniyasu
  • Tsunetsugu
  • Hisakuni
  • Kunitomo
  • Muneyoshi
  • Tsugie
  • Sukemune
  • Yukikuni
  • Sukenari
  • Sukenobu

Not surprisingly, Kiku-ichimonji swords also proved to be highly effective on the battlefield. Most consisted of single-edged, curved swords like the katana that were used almost exclusively by samurai warriors. The katana was -- and still is -- among the world's finest swords. It's strong, durable and highly mobile, allowing samurai warriors to quickly draw and use it to strike an opponent.

To recap, Kiku-ichimonji swords were swords produced by 13 bladesmiths during Japan's feudal period. They were meticulously designed with an emphasis on quality, revealing the true character of traditional Japanese swords.

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