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Kiku-ichimonji


Kiku-ichimonji (sometimes Kiku-ichimoji) is a collective name given to 13 Japanese swords each made by a different swordsmith for Emperor Go-Toba in the year 1208. "Kiku" means chrysanthemum and refers to the Imperial seal. Ichimonji refers to the Fukuoka Ichimonji school of swordsmithing, from which over half of the swordsmiths hailed.

Go-Toba was the younger brother of Emperor Antoku who drowned at the battle of Dan-no-Ura, where the Kusanagi-no-Tsurugi and Yasakani no Magatama were allegedly lost at sea. At age 12, he was forced to yield power to Minamoto Yoritomo, bestowing upon him the title of Shogun.

Although politically the emperor was a mere figurehead, he still retained divine lineage and commanded great spiritual authority. Therefore he was able to summon the finest swordsmiths in the land to instruct him in the secrets of swordsmithing and help him create a perfect Japanese sword. At the time swordsmithing was done in great secrecy and different schools never shared their knowledge between one another. However, at the emperor's command these swordsmiths all worked together and learned from each other, creating a sword every month for 13 months.

Go-toba's goal was to mass produce these superior swords and take power back from the Shogun. His rebellion was unsuccessful and he was exiled, but the act of bringing all the disparate schools of swordsmithing under a single roof caused a renaissance of sword design that would lead to a great improvement in the quality of Japanese weapons.

History, Japan, Sword, Weapon


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