National Treasures Live - Netflix

Sat 25 May 2019

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Dan Snow and Sian Williams explore Britain's fascinating past, live each week from some of their greatest historical sites.

National Treasures Live - Netflix

Type: Documentary

Languages: English

Status: Ended

Runtime: 30 minutes

Premier: 2011-08-10

National Treasures Live - List of National Treasures of Japan (crafts: swords) - Netflix

The term “National Treasure” has been used in Japan to denote cultural properties since 1897, although the definition and the criteria have changed since the introduction of the term. The swords and sword mountings in the list adhere to the current definition, and have been designated national treasures according to the Law for the Protection of Cultural Properties that came into effect on June 9, 1951. The items are selected by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology based on their “especially high historical or artistic value”. The list presents 110 swords and 12 sword mountings from ancient to feudal Japan, spanning from the late Kofun to the Muromachi period. The objects are housed in Buddhist temples, Shinto shrines, museums or held privately. The Tokyo National Museum houses the largest number of these national treasures, with 20 of the 122. During the Yayoi period from about 300 BC to 300 AD, iron tools and weapons such as knives, axes, swords or spears, were introduced to Japan from China via the Korean peninsula. Shortly after this event, Chinese, Korean, and eventually Japanese swordsmiths produced ironwork locally. Swords were forged to imitate Chinese blades: generally straight chokutō with faulty tempering. Worn slung from the waist, they were likely used as stabbing and slashing weapons. Although functionally it would generally be more accurate to define them as hacking rather than slashing weapons. Swordmaking centers developed in Yamato, San'in and Mutsu where various types of blades such as tsurugi, tōsu and tachi were produced. Flat double-edged (hira-zukuri) blades originated in the Kofun period, and around the mid-Kofun period swords evolved from thrusting to cutting weapons. Ancient swords were also religious objects according to the 8th century chronicles Nihon Shoki and Kojiki. In fact, one of the Imperial Regalia of Japan is a sword, and swords have been discovered in ancient tumuli or handed down as treasures of Shinto shrines or Buddhist temples. Few ancient blades (jokotō) exist because the iron has been corroded by humidity. The transition from straight jokotō or chokutō to deliberately curved, and much more refined Japanese swords (nihontō), occurred gradually over a long period of time, although few extant swords from the transition period exist. Dating to the 8th century, Shōsōin swords and the Kogarasu Maru show a deliberately produced curve. Yasutsuna from Hōki Province forged curved swords that are considered to be of excellent quality. Stylistic change since then is minimal, and his works are considered the beginning of the old sword (kotō) period, which existed until 1596, and produced the best-known Japanese swordsmiths. According to sources Yasutsuna may have lived in the Daidō era (806–809), around 900; or more likely, was a contemporary of Sanjō Munechika and active in the Eien era (987, 988). The change in blade shape increased with the introduction of horses (after 941) into the battlefield, from which sweeping cutting strokes with curved swords were more effective than stabbing lunges required of foot soldiers. Imparting a deliberate curve is a technological challenge requiring the reversal of natural bending that occurred when the sword edge is hammered. The development of a ridge (shinogi) along the blade was essential for construction. Various military conflicts during the Heian period helped to perfect the techniques of swordsmanship, and led to the establishment of swordsmiths around the country. They settled in locations close to administrative centers, where the demand for swords was high, and in areas with easy access to ore, charcoal and water. Originally smiths did not belong to any school or tradition. Around the mid to late-Heian period distinct styles of workmanship developed in certain regional centers. The best known of these schools or traditions are the gokaden (five traditions) with each producing a distinct style of workmanship and associated with the five provinces: Yamashiro, Yamato, Bizen, Sagami/Sōshū and Mino. These five schools produced about 80% of all kotō period swords. Each school consisted of several branches. In the late Heian period Emperor Go-Toba, a sword lover, summoned swordsmiths from the Awataguchi school of Yamashiro, the Ichimonji school of Bizen and the Aoe school of Bitchū Province to forge swords at his palace. These smiths, known as goban kaji (honorable rotation smiths) are considered to have been the finest swordsmiths of their time. Go-Toba selected from the Awataguchi, Hisakuni and Ichimonji Nobufusa to collaborate on his own tempering. Early Kamakura period tachi had an elaborately finished tang and an elegant dignified overall shape (sugata). Tantō daggers from the same period showed a slight outward curvature. Around the mid-Kamakura period, the warrior class reached its peak of prosperity. Consequently, sword production was thriving in many parts of Japan. Following the Mongol invasions of 1274 and 1281, smiths aimed at producing stronger swords that would pierce the heavy armour of the invaders. To achieve this, tachi became wider, thicker with an overall grand appearance (sugata) and a straight temper line. With the Mongol threat dissipated at the end of the Kamakura period, this trend was partially reversed, as blades grew longer with a more dignified shape than those from the mid-Kamakura period. However the so-called “unchangeable smiths”, including Rai Kunitoshi, Rai Kunimitsu, Osafune Nagamitsu and Osafune Kagemitsu, continued to produce swords of the elegant style of the late Heian/early Kamakura period. These swords were particularly popular with Kyoto's aristocracy. The production of tantō daggers increased considerably towards the late Kamakura period. Master tantō makers include Awataguchi Yoshimitsu, Rai Kunitoshi, Shintōgo Kunimitsu, Osafune Kagemitsu, Etchū Norishige and Samonji. The naginata appeared as a new weapon in the late Kamakura period. The confrontation between the Northern and Southern Court resulted in a 60-year-long power struggle between warrior lords known as the Nanboku-chō period and caused a tremendous demand for swords. The stylistic trends of the Kamakura period continued, and tachi were characterized by magnificent shape, growing in overall length and the length of the point (kissaki). They were generally wide and disproportionately thin. Similarly tantō grew in size to 30–43 cm (12–17 in) and became known as ko-wakizashi or sunnobi tantō (extended knives). But also tantō shorter than those of the Kamakura period were being forged. Enormous tachi called seoi-tachi (shouldering swords), nodachi (field swords) and ōdachi with blades 120–150 cm (47–59 in) long were forged. The high demand for swords during feudal civil wars after 1467 (Sengoku period) resulted in mass production and low quality swords as swordsmiths no longer refined their own steel. There are no national treasure swords after this period.

National Treasures Live - Sword mountings - Netflix

For protection and preservation, a polished Japanese sword needs a scabbard. A fully mounted scabbard (koshirae) may consist of a lacquered body, a taped hilt, a sword guard (tsuba) and decorative metal fittings. Though the original purpose was to protect a sword from damage, from early times on Japanese sword mountings became a status symbol and were used to add dignity. Starting in the Heian period, a sharp distinction was made between swords designed for use in battle and those for ceremonial use. Tachi long swords were worn edge down suspended by two cords or chains from the waist belt. The cords were attached to two eyelets on the scabbard. Decorative sword mountings of the kazari-tachi type carried on the tradition of ancient straight Chinese style tachi and were used by nobles at court ceremonies until the Muromachi period. They contained a very narrow crude unsharpened blade. Two mountain-shaped metal fittings were provided to attach the straps; the scabbard between was covered by a (tube) fitting. The hilt was covered with ray skin and the scabbard typically decorated in maki-e or mother of pearl. Another type of mounting that became fashionable around the mid-Heian period is the kenukigata, or hair-tweezer style, named for the characteristically shaped hilt, which is pierced along the center. In this style, the hilt is fitted with an ornamental border and did not contain any wooden covering. Like kazari-tachi, swords with this mounting were used for ceremonial purposes but also in warfare, as an example held at Ise Grand Shrine shows. From the end of the Heian and into the Kamakura period, hyōgo-gusari were fashionable mountings for tachi. Along the edge of both the scabbard and the hilt they were decorated with a long ornamental border. They were originally designed for use in battle and worn by high-ranking generals together with armour; but in the Kamakura period they were made due to their gorgeous appearance exclusively for the dedication at temples and Shinto shrines. The corresponding blades from that time are unusable. During the Kamakura and Muromachi period, samurai wore a short sword known as koshigatana in addition to the long tachi. Koshigatana were stuck directly into the belt in the same way as later the katana and uchigatana. They had a mounting without a guard (tsuba). The corresponding style is known as aikuchi (“fitting mouth”) as the mouth of the scabbard meets the hilt directly without intervening guard.

National Treasures Live - References - Netflix


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