Muramasa, as far as we have records, he was born before 1501, but we have no idea when exactly. Yes, this is a man who was widely known, or rather is still widely known in Japan. Why?? Well, let's talk a little bit about it and we'll see.
To begin with, he is commonly known as Sengo Muramasa [千子村正]. The reason for the associated Sengo [千子] in the name of Muramasa, is covered in myths. 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 it was called Sengo, an abbreviated 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 like painters, blacksmiths can also join and build on “schools” of that style.
In paintings, for example, there is Realism, Cubism, Impressionism ... In Japan's blacksmithing, they founded schools when they managed to develop a unique style of forging.
And yes, Muramasa had a unique way of doing his works and he founded his school. But many such style schools in Japan have been around for a long time. So, the Muramasa school was just another…
Finally, he lived during the Muromachi period (14th to 16th centuries) in Kuwana, Ise province, Japan. (Present-day Kuwana, Mie).
Much like his unique reputation, Muramasa is known for some rather unusual features in his work. These attributes are often called by terms prefixed with "Muramasa".
Muramasa-ba - The first particular characteristic of yours is the frequent use of a wave-shaped hamon. Muramasa hamon is categorized as gunome-midare, that is, it forms random wave-like shapes.
Muramasa-nakago - The other easily identifiable characteristic that you will see on the blades of Muramasa is the shape of the fish belly (tanagobara) of the nakago.
Although the Muramasa school is extremely famous in popular culture, none of its swords is designated as a National Treasure or Important Cultural Property.
Myōno Muramasa is the only sword officially designated as an Important Work. The front part contains a Muramasa sign and a myōhō renge kyō [妙法蓮華経] mantra sign.
Muramasa students also made excellent weapons. For example, Fujiwara Masazane, a disciple of Muramasa, forged Tonbokiri, one of Japan's Three Great Spears.
Masazane also forged a sword called Inoshishi-giri whose name comes from a legend that Sakai Tadatsugu killed a boar with this sword while accompanying Ieyasu on the hunt.
Muramasa and its bad reputation
Because of their keen perfection, Muramasa swords were favored especially by Mikawa's samurai (led by Tokugawa Ieyasu, the founder of the Tokugawa shogunate and his ancestors). Thus, it is almost certain that when misfortune happens in the clan, related to the Muramasa swords ..
For example: Matsudaira Kiyoyasu, Ieyasu's grandfather, 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 head from drinking too much.
When Ieyasu's first child, Matsudaira Nobuyasu was forced to commit suicide (seppuku), his beheader (kaishakunin) Amagata Michitsuna used a Muramasa sword. (The Seppuku ceremony is not only suicidal, there is someone who beheads after seppuku.)
Despite these unfortunate incidents, Tokugawa Ieyasu and his generation seemed to appreciate Muramasa's weapons very much. Ieyasu himself had two swords forged by Muramasa and left them to his family. In 2013, the Owari-Tokugawa family still owns one of the two as an inheritance.
And so begins the legend of the cursed sword ...
Anyway, with all that 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 Muramasa as sinister items.
Arai Hakuseki, a shogunate bureaucrat-scholar, commented that "Muramasa is associated with not a few sinister events". Even Tokugawa Jikki ja, the official published shogunate history book, tells Kashiwazaki Monogatari [崎物語] 1787.
This tale is about a legend that Ieyasu considered Muramasa swords to be cursed items and banished them from his family. Which is clearly false history. After all, Leyasu himself left two Muramasas swords as an inheritance. Of which, one is still inherited from the Owari-Tokugawa family today.
In the Bakumatsu period (1853-1868), the Muramasa were considered in some way a curse bearer against the shogunate, and thus shishi (anti-Tokugawa activists) wanted to acquire the Muramasa blades.
Although the Muramasa school does not have an exalted or prestigious status for use 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 Boshin War (1868-1869).
Legend of MURAMASA in JAPANESE culture
In popular culture, Muramasa swords have often been described as cursed swords 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 removed, a Muramasa blade must draw blood before it can be returned to its sheath. And it goes so far as to force its wearer to injure himself or commit suicide if he does not "drink" blood.
Do you believe in the legend of MURAMASA?
One fact that we all know is that arts like dance, theater, music and short stories are highly influential. They manage to pass on ideas and ideals to their consumer. In a world with little diversity of works to compete on certain ideals, people are easily influenced.
The very idea of thinking that the Muramasa are cursed, is a myth so well spread and impregnated, that it is already part of Japanese culture. But that does not mean that swords are actually cursed.
In my opinion, legends are a great way to develop a culture. But to use myths to try to discriminate against something, that already borders on bullshit. After all, myths always start with rumors about a certain subject. And in that case, there were rumors to discriminate and incite fear about the Muramasa.
But as I am a fan of myths like that, I cannot say that the current situation is bad. As they say, there are evils that come for good. And honestly, the myth of the cursed swords Muramasa are one of the best I have seen about swords. Of course, it is only behind legends like Excalibur and Durandal ...