Muramasa, as far as we know, was born before 1501, but when exactly we have no idea. Yes, this is a man who was widely known, or rather is still widely known in Japan. Because?? Well, let's talk a little about him and we'll see.
For starters, he is commonly known as Sengo Muramasa [千子村正]. The reason for the Sengo [千子] associated in Muramasa's name is covered in myth. A common belief states that Muramasa was born in a place called Sengo, but in reality there is no such place near Kuwana.
Another popular legend says that the mother of Muramasa loved the Bodhisattva Senju Kannon and so he was called Sengo, a shortened form of Senju no ko [の子] son of Senju.
He was a famous blacksmith who founded the Muramasa school. Before continuing, it is necessary to know that blacksmithing is an "art". And just like painters, blacksmiths can also join and be based in "schools" of that style.
In paintings, for example, there is Realism, Cubism, Impressionism... In the blacksmith shop in Japan, they founded schools when they managed to develop a unique style of forging.
Yes, Muramasa had a unique way of creating his works and founded his own school. But many schools of this style already existed in Japan for a long time. So, the Muramasa school was just another one...
Anyway, he lived during the Muromachi period (14th to 16th centuries) in Kuwana, Ise Province, Japan. (now Kuwana, Mie).
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Much like his unique reputation, Muramasa is known for some pretty unusual traits in his work. These attributes are often called by terms prefixed with "Muramasa".
Muramasa-ba – The first particular feature of yours is the frequent use of a wave-shaped hamon. Muramasa's hamon is categorized as gunome-midare, meaning it forms random wave-like shapes.
Muramasa-nakago – The other easily identifiable feature you will see on Muramasa's blades is the nakago's fish belly shape (tanagobara).
Although Muramasa's school is extremely famous in popular culture, none of its swords are designated a National Treasure or Important Cultural Property.
Myōno Muramasa is the only sword officially designated an Important Work. The front contains a sign of Muramasa and a mantra sign myōhō renge kyō [妙法蓮華経].
Muramasa's students also made excellent weapons. For example, Fujiwara Masazane, a disciple of Muramasa, forged Tonbokiri, one of the Three Great Spears of Japan.
Masazane also forged a sword called Inoshishi-giri whose name came from a legend that Sakai Tadatsugu killed a boar with this sword while accompanying Ieyasu on the hunt.
Muramasa and his bad reputation
Because of their keen perfection, Muramasa swords were especially favored by the samurai of Mikawa (led by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate and his ancestors). Thus, it is almost certain that when a misfortune befalls the clan, related to the Muramasa swords..
For example: Matsudaira Kiyoyasu, a grandfather of Ieyasu, was mistakenly killed by his own vassal Abe Masatoyo with a Muramasa sword. Ieyasu's father Matsudaira Hirotada was also stabbed with a Muramasa sword by Iwamatsu Hachiya, who lost his mind from drinking too much.
When Ieyasu's first son, Matsudaira Nobuyasu was forced to commit suicide (seppuku), his decapitator (kaishakunin) Amagata Michitsuna used a Muramasa sword. (The Seppuku ceremony is not only the suicide, it has someone who beheads after seppuku.)
Despite these unfortunate incidents, Tokugawa Ieyasu and his generation seemed to greatly appreciate Muramasa's weapons. Ieyasu himself owned two swords forged by Muramasa and left them to his family. As of 2013, the Owari-Tokugawa family still holds one of the two as an inheritance.
And so begins the legend of the cursed sword...
Anyway, with all that has happened, it is inevitable that Muramasa swords will begin to be discriminated against. And so it was, later generations in the shogunate gradually came to think of the Muramasa as sinister items.
Arai Hakuseki, a bureaucrat-scholar officer of the shogunate, commented that "Muramasa is associated with not a few sinister events." Even Tokugawa Jikki ja, the official published history book of the shogunate, tells Kashiwazaki Monogatari [崎物語] 1787.
This tale is about a legend that Ieyasu considered Muramasa swords as cursed items and banished them from his family. Which is clearly false history. After all, Leyasu himself left two Muramasas swords as an heirloom. Of which, one is still a heritage of the Owari-Tokugawa family.
In the Bakumatsu period (1853-1868), the Muramasa were somehow considered to be a curse bearer against the shogunate, and so shishi (anti-Tokugawa activists) wished to acquire Muramasa's blades.
Although the school of Muramasa does not have an exalted or prestigious status to be used by the imperial family in ordinary times, a Muramasa was wielded by Prince Arisugawa Taruhito, the commander-in-chief of the Imperial Army against the Tokugawa Shogunate during the Boshin War (1868-1869).
The artigo is still half finished, but we recommend opening it to read the following later:
MURAMASA LEGEND IN JAPANESE CULTURE
In popular culture, Muramasa's swords have often been described as swords cursed with demonic powers. Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook said that Muramasa:
“He was a very skilled blacksmith, but a violent and unbalanced mind, which he was supposed to pass on to his swords. It was popularly believed that they were hungry for blood and that they impelled their warrior to commit murder or suicide.”
It was also said that once taken out, a Muramasa blade has to draw blood before it can be returned to its scabbard. It goes so far as to force its bearer to injure himself or commit suicide if he doesn't "drink" blood.
DO YOU BELIEVE IN THE LEGEND OF MURAMASA?
A fact we all know is that arts such as dance, drama, music and storytelling are highly influential. They manage to pass ideas and ideals to their consumer. In a world with little diversity of works to compete for certain ideals, people are easily swayed.
The very idea of thinking that the Muramasa are cursed is such a widespread and ingrained myth that it is already part of Japanese culture. But that doesn't mean the swords are actually cursed.
In my opinion, legends are a great way to develop a culture. But using myths to try to discriminate against something is bordering on silly. After all, myths always start with rumors about a certain subject. And in this case, it was rumors to discriminate and incite fear about the Muramasa.
But as I am kind of a fan of myths like that, I can't say that the current situation is bad. As they say, some evils come for the good. And honestly, the myth of the cursed swords Muramasa is one of the best I've ever seen about swords. Of course, it only falls behind legends like Excalibur and Durandal...