Broadcast on July 16, 2015
Available until March 31, 2029
A long, slender, gently-curving sword… Japan has a distinctive tradition of appreciating the blades of swords removed from their ornate scabbards, hilts and other decoration. This national treasure, Sword unsigned, Masamune (also known as the celebrated Kanze Masamune) was made in around the fourteenth century by Masamune, one of the great sword smiths of the Golden Age of Japanese sword making. Looking closely at the sword, we see amazing patterns of glittering particles and patterns on the surface of the steel that resemble the knots in wood. These patterns are generated in the process of tempering the steel to produce blades that are both strong and elastic. Masamune’s swords are especially highly regarded for the rich, throbbing patterns on the steel. Masamune the man and the sword making techniques of his day remain, however, shrouded in mystery. Ownership of a Masamune sword came to be considered de rigueur for members of the ruling class. As presents, these swords served as symbols of samurai honour and changed hands frequently.