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Mystery tour : Muramasa , a cursed blade – Part 2 –

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/20 Traditional Culture , , ,

Muramasa (2)

Blessed swords for hostile forces against Tokugawa

Sengoku Basara Book

- Yukimura Sanada (Red one above) from a video game "Sengoku Basara" -

If “Muramasa” blades really harm the Tokugawa, they are very fortunate weapons for enemies.
Nobushige Sanada (1567 – 1615), much more commonly known as Yukimura Sanada, who was against the Tokugawa, is said that he carried “Muramasa” sword(s) with him.
There is also a legend that he threw a “Masamune” sword at Ieyasu during “Summer Campaign of the Siege of Osaka” (“Osaka natsu no jin” in Japanese) in 1615.

Sengoku Basara Book

- Yukimura Sanada (Red one right) again from a video game "Sengoku Basara" -
He allegedly wore a red armour in "Summer Campaign of the Siege of Osaka".

Shousetsu (or Masauki) Yui (1605 – 1651) is believed to have planned to overthrow the Tokugawa regime with his fellows, and he assertedly had got “Muramasa” sword(s) with him too.
His scheme was exposed because of a betrayer and he ended up killing himself with seven of his people before they were arrested.
Some say that all of this incident was a conspiracy by the government to suppress “rounin” (samurai without his master), so Yui was falsely accused.

In a “Muramasa” article of Japanese Wikipedia, Shigeyoshi (or Shigetsugu) Takenaka (? – 1634), who was “bugyou” (governor) of Nagasaki and harshly snuffed out Christians, was ordered to do “seppuku” (killing himself by cutting his own belly) partly because he had got 24 forbidden “Muramasa” swords.
It says that this is written in the volume four of the history book “Tsuukou-ichiran” *.
I tried to find the description, but I gave up soon.
All I could find during a short-time research was the section saying that two people were sent to Nagasaki after his punishment was done.

In late Edo era, forces against the Tokugawa government were getting bigger and stronger.
“Muramasa” swords became very popular to warriors who wanted to subvert the government and many of those people carried swords sold as “Muramasa”.**

*– About “Tsuukou-ichiran” –
You can read the book here.
Written in Japanese.
To see the section I found, choose Frame Number 29.
It’s in the top-left.

**– About swords sold as “Muramasa” –
“To become popular” means “many people want to buy it”.
So, a lot of fake “Muramasa” were sold.


Other legends about “Muramasa”

Difference between “Masamune” and “Muramasa”

There is a well-known legend to show clearly the opposite characteristics of “Masamune” and “Muramasa”.
When a person stuck both swords into a river, leaves running down the stream near “Masamune” passed by the blade like detouring, but leaves near “Muramasa” were attracted to the blade like being spellbound and cut into two.


A “Mura”-masa legend

This is written in a book entitled “Honda Koutarou Den” (Biography of Koutarou Honda) after his death, so it’s a fairly new one although it’s unsourced.

Koutarou Honda, a Japanese physicist who invented KS steel, once created a machine to measure the sharpness of edged tools.
Students in his laboratory brought many swords and tested them on the machine.
Most of the swords gave almost fixed results, but “Muramasa” never did and students couldn’t quantify the sharpness of “Muramasa”.
When Honda heard about this from his students, he said “That is the very “mura”-masa (in Japanese, “mura” in this case means “irregular”)”.


A conflicting fact of the legend and possible explanation to the Tokugawa incidents

Was the Tokugawa family truly afraid of “Muramasa”?
Ieyasu supposedly ordered to abandon all the “Muramasa” weapons, but there is a critical fact against this story:
Ieyasu himself had got “Muramasa”.

According to the list of his estate, he left two “Muramasa” swords.
Only one of them is kept at the Tokugawa Art Museum. (Official Website)
It was exhibited at least once before. (Ieyasu’s “Muramasa” (Japanese page))

Even if all of these “Tokugawa and Muramasa” stories (see my previous post) are true, there may be no wonder.
As I wrote previously, the swordsmiths “Muramasa” had been working around Kuwana in the present “Mie” prefecture.
The Tokugawa family was based in Mikawa (the present “Aichi” prefecture) and it’s near to Kuwana.

Kuwana and Okazaki

Blue coloured area is the present "Aichi" prefecture.
Blue dot is Okazaki city, where Ieyasu Tokugawa was born.
Green dot is Kuwana, where "Muramasa" swordsmiths lived around.

Kuwana and Okazaki

-Kuwana and Okazaki-
More detailed map.

Therefore, “Muramasa” swords were rather easy to get for samurai in the Tokugawa’s home ground area.
Also, the “Muramasa” brand was popular because it was famous for its sharpness.
Note that the society was very unstable at that time, around the “Sengoku” (Warring States) period, so it is quite understandable that people wanted sharp weapons.
The more the “Muramasa” swords were commonly used, the more probable people got wounded with “Muramasa”.
Thus, all those incidents between the Tokugawa and “Muramasa” were not caused by a curse, it was just because many samurai had got “Muramasa”.

Family crest of the Tokugawa

- "Aoi-mon" (Crest of Hollyhock) -
The family crest of the Tokugawa.
Image from Hakko-Daiodo

All those legends may be just made-ups or can be logically explained, but I assume “Muramasa” will remain a cursed sword as it has been for years and years, because it’s already too famous and people love this kind of wonder anyway.

– Official promo film of the video game “Sengoku Basara” –
I’ve only got “Sengoku Basara 2″.


Related posts:
#Muramasa , a cursed blade (1)
#Katana : Japanese sword (1) (2)

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A Japanese living in Okayama. A proud "Otaku"! Loves animals, snacks, manga, games (PC, iPad, Nintendo DS, PSP), foreign TV dramas, traveling and football (soccer).

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