Mystery tour : Muramasa , a cursed blade – Part 1 –
Masamune and Muramasa
“Masamune” and “Muramasa” are probably the two well-known Japanese sword brands to common Japanese people.
You may have seen those names in Japanese manga, video games, novels, etc.
For example, “Masamune” is used by Sephiroth in a Playstation game, Final Fantasy 7.
Also, there is a game entitled as “Oboro-muramasa” (in USA, “Muramasa: The Demon Blade”).
In “Wizardry”, role-playing video game series, “Muramasa” appears as the (strongest) weapon for samurai.
Japanese swords are not only weapons but also artworks.
Great swords should be beautiful as well as practical.
I heard a “Muramasa” sword was very practical, and it was rather ordinary as an artifact unlike “Masamune”.
This means “Muramasa” is extraordinary sharp but not beautiful.
You can see it from the fact that most of extant “Masamune” swords are designated as national treasures or important cultural properties while “Muramasa” aren’t.
The “Masamune” brand is very famous for outstanding swords.
On the other hand, the “Muramasa” is very notorious as cursed swords.
I can’t remember the title, but I’ve read several stories like this;
- The “Muramasa” sword always has a thirst for blood.
- When somebody holds the hilt of the drawn-out blade of “Muramasa”, it takes over the person’s mind.
Then, the person starts to kill other people with “Muramasa”.
The only way to stop the person is to kill him / her.
- Anybody can become the “host” of the sword unintentionally like picking up the sword from the ground just after the previous host was killed, or unconsciously by being mesmerised by the sword to hold it.
Of course, all of these sound quite absurd, but it is true “Muramasa” has been commonly believed to have supernatural (evil) power.
General information about “Muramasa”
“Muramasa” swordsmiths had produced swords from age to age since the middle of the Muromachi era.
The first “Muramasa” was a swordsmith in Kuwana, Ise (area around the part of the present “Mie” prefecture).
The oldest extant “Muramasa” sword was produced in 1501.
One of its features is it has almost identical “hamon” (lit. blade pattern) on both sides of the blade.
It was rather unusual as a blade produced in those period.
Another (probably the most famous) feature is, as I said above, its sharpness.
A “practically” “sharp” sword means it can cut things easily, fatally.
It is said that when a “Muramasa” blade is drawn out from its scabbard, it always makes somebody bleed.
I heard that every time a person drew out the blade, he cut his finger however much careful he was, and maybe this is the reason why “Muramasa” is said to be “bloodthirsty”.
The origin of the legend
From the story I introduced at the beginning of the post, “Muramasa” seems to curse anybody, anywhere.
However, originally it was believed its evil power was pointed to one clan only – Tokugawa.
Ieyasu Tokugawa was the first shogun of Edo era.
His grandfather, Kiyoyasu Matsudaira (1511 – 1535), was killed by one of his retainers.
Then Hirotada Matsudaira (1526 – 1549), Ieyasu’s father, was also killed by his retainer.
In 1562, Ieyasu formed an alliance with Nobunaga Oda.
Nobunaga became much more powerful than Ieyasu, so Ieyasu was rather subordinate later on.
In 1579, Ieyasu’s wife Tsukiyama-dono (1542 – 1579) was killed and their first son Nobuyasu (1559 – 1579) committed a suicide (“seppuku”, lit. cutting belly)
* both under the orders by Ieyasu.
It is said that Ieyasu had to do it because he was ordered by Nobunaga to punish them for alleged espionage for one of their enemy forces, the Takeda family.
I’ve read in a website that this story is perhaps dressed-up for Ieyasu, because all the official records about the incident were written as “Tokugawa Official”.
Whoever gave those orders, it is the fact that Ieyasu’s wife was murdered and their son killed himself.
In the “Muramasa” legend, it is believed that the weapons used to take Tokugawa members’ lives were “Muramasa” swords.
Also, Ieyasu himself had cut his hand twice with “Muramasa” blades.
The first wound was by a short sword when he was a child, and the second was by a spearhead in 1600.
At the second time he hurt himself with a “Muramasa” blade, he was said to have told “Muramasa curses the Tokugawa family.”
*– “Seppuku” of Nobuyasu –
In many “seppuku” cases, there is a person called as “kaisyaku-nin” to do “kaisyaku”.
“Kaisyaku-nin” is waiting behind a person who do “seppuku”, with his katana.
Just after the “seppuku” person cuts his own belly in a certain manner, “kaisyaku-nin” will chop his head off so that the person won’t prolong his pain.
In the Nobuyasu’s case, the katana which “kaisyaku-nin” had was the “Muramasa” sword, not the short sword Nobuyasu used to cut himself.
*– The case of Hirotada (Ieyasu’s father) –
There was a website saying that he was stabbed in his thigh by his retainer with a “Muramasa” sword but it was not a life-threatening attack.
The other websites mentioning about Hirotada and “Muramasa”, it was clearly said he was killed with “Muramasa”.
Latest posts by kara (see all)
- Basic Japanese : “Sumimasen” – “Thank you” in Japanese - June 24, 2015
- Basic Japanese : “Arigatou” – “Thank you” in Japanese - May 29, 2015
- Basic Japanese : “Go-chisou sama” – Phrase after meal - May 27, 2015
As I wrote in my previous post, I love konbini (convenience store) in Japan. I often use it, especially after work. And, I usually drink canned coffee when taking breaks. This time, I’ll be introducing about coffee of konbini that every Japanese businessman cannot live without. About product labels If you take a […]
Okayama Castle they say is one of the must see places here in Okayama City, Japan. Well if you have been around cities here a number of them have their own castle. I believe there are about hundreds of them scattered all over Japan. But what then sets this castle apart from the rest of […]
The “Correct” counting method in Japan How do you write when you count numbers of items? I know tally marks which are used in many countries, but Japanese people don’t use them. Instead, a certain Kanji character is used. The character means “correct”. As you can see, this consists of five lines. On counting, it […]
Japanese people love outdoor activities. During weekends or holidays, they will surely find ways to enjoy hanging out with their family or with friends. They usually go out for a picnic, barbecue party, camping and other sort of fun things to enjoy. Japanese also gather to celebrate the important events held within the country. The […]
Japan is blessed to have four distinct seasons: spring, summer, autumn, and winter. The word setsubun (節分, seasonal division) referred to the days marking the change from one season to the next. So, originally there were four of them, but nowadays, only the day before the beginning of spring in the traditional Japanese calendar, called […]
Who is William Merrell Vories? William Merrell Vories was an american from Leavenworth, Kansas who at a young age of 24 left his country and moved to Japan to teach English at Hachiman Commercial High School and since his arrival at Omihachiman on February 2, 1905, he has called this place his new home. He quickly […]
In our previous posts about shogi, we learned its history and the pieces that make the game. In this post, we will learn more about the moves of each piece. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by harorudo (see all) Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text 2 – June 3, 2015 […]
Kendo has a very long and rich history of development in Japan. Some of the legendary sword masters of ancient Japan left writings to explain their philosophy and methods. Even though they are not really practitioners of the modern kendo, nevertheless, their philosophies and methods became a part of it. The following two tabs change […]
Kendo, or the “way of the sword,” is similar to forms of fencing seen in other lands. Two contestants wearing armor to protect the face, chest, and arms confront each other with bamboo swords called shinai. Today, it is widely practiced within Japan and many other nations across the world. The following two tabs change […]
As noted in our previous posts about sumo, it is a Japanese style of wrestling and Japan’s national sport. It originated in ancient times as a performance to entertain the Shinto deities. The following two tabs change content below.BioLatest Posts harorudo Latest posts by harorudo (see all) Kaomoji: Expressing Emotions Through Text 2 – June […]