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Yawarakai-Te (also known as Yawaraka-Te)

Yawarakai-Te or "Tender Hands" is the sword that Masamune created in his fictional encounter with Muramasa. The legend has many variations but in it Muramasa challenges Masamune to see who could make a finer sword. The two swordsmiths complete their work and meet again by a small creek to test their blades by suspending them over the water.

Muramasa's sword Juuchi Yosamu ("10,000 Cold Nights") was so sharp that it cut everything that it came in contact with including fish, lotus leaves floating down the creek, and even the air which passed by the sword. Masamune's sword Yawarakai-Te did not cut anything. The fish swam by it unharmed, the leaves passed around it and the wind whistled gently as is passed by the sword.

Muramasa was quite pleased with himself, believing he had won the contest. However, a monk passing by explained the significance of the event to him. He explained that while Muramasa had made a fine sword, it cut indiscriminately and could not tell friend from foe. Masamune's blade is that of a serene warrior and does not cut that which is undeserving.

The reason for this stigma on Muramasa's blades is that they were banned by the Tokugawa Shogunate in the early 17th century. Tokugawa Ieyasu owned a Muramasa, but had lost many friends to Muramasa's blades, and he acidentally cut himself with his own sword at one point. After samurai were forbidden to wear Muramasa's blades, many simply removed his signature, while others changed the signature from Muramasa to Masamune. At the same time, an increase in demand sprung up among opponents of the Tokugawa Shogunate, and many Muramasa forgeries arose. This helped to create the stigma that Muramasa's swords are bloodthirsty or contain an evil spirit, and there is a legend that once a Muramasa is unsheathed it must draw blood before it can be placed back in the scabbard just like Tyrfing from Norse mythology.

Fantasy, Japan, Sword, Weapon


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Recent Reader Comments:

Comment From: Daniel --

I have a question isn't muramasa's blade originally named: juuchi yosamu the 10000 cold nights? and isn't masamune's sword Yawaraka Te supposed to be named Yawarakai Te? If anyone could answer these questions that would be great

Comment From: sector24 --

Daniel, thanks for the comment! There are multiple versions of the story with varying translations, but I am going to update the article to reflect the currently accepted sword names. Thank you for pointing this out!

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