Synonymous with quality, Japanese swords have been forged through generations of exacting tradition and craftsmanship. Famous according to skill of their swordsmiths, Japanese blades come in various designs including short tanto blades, straight tsurugi ones and the more recognisable curved tachi and katana blades. There are some 120 swords and sword mountings registered as National Treasures with close to half of them held in either private or public hands within Tokyo city. Here is a simple guide to where in Tokyo these National Treasure swords can be found.
Tokyo National Museum
The many tachi blades held by the Tokyo National Museum include the 10th-century Crescent Moon, one of the Five Swords Under Heaven. Another is a 14th-century blade once presented to Emperor Taisho. The aptly named 10th-century Monster Cutter deserves a mentions and so too the 12th-century Great Kanehira, named because of its prodigious size. The 13th-century Okada Slayer was used to kill. Katana blades at the museum include a famous Masamune blade from the 14th century featuring gold inlay as well as a 13th-century blade once held by the Kanze School of Noh theatre. A thick-bladed tanto was once owned by Tokugawa Ieyasu himself.
Location: 13-9 Ueno Park, Taito-ku, Tokyo, 〒110-8712 (nearest station: Ueno Station, JR Yamanote Line)
Society for the Preservation of Japanese Art Swords
Associated with the Japanese Sword Museum, the Society for the Preservation of Japanese Art Swords is home to many blades. National Treasures include a 13th tachi once owned by the founder of the Taima swordsmith school, a 14th-century blade once owned by Emperor Go-Mizuno and another 13th-century tachi, this one owned by the founder oft he Rai school.
Location: 1-12-9 Yokoami, Sumida-ku, Tokyo 〒130-0015 (nearest station: Ryogoku Station, Toei Oedo Line)
Seikado Bunko Art Museum
Created by the founder of the Tegai swordsmith school, the Seikado Bunko Art Museum holds a 13th-century tachi blade with a prophetic name that could be translated as Wrapping Eternity.
Location: 2-23-1 Okamoto, Setagaya-ku, Tokyo 〒157-0076 (nearest station: Futako-tamagawa Station, Tokyu Den-en-toshi Line
Agency for Cultural Affairs
The Agency for Cultural Affairs holds several tachi from the 12th and 13th centuries as well as a 14th-century katana blade with gold inlay and a tanto blade, the latter a favourite of the Tokugawa Shoguns.
Location: 3-2-2 Kasumigaseki, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 〒100-8959 (nearest station: Toranomon Station, Ginza Line)
Rarely open to the public, the Maeda Ikutokukai holds two katana blades, one from the 14th century and the other a 13th-century Masamune blade. The organisation also holds an 11th-century tachi identified as One of the Five Swords Under Heaven.
Location: 4-3-55 Komaba, Meguro-ku, Tokyo 〒153-0041 (nearest station: Komaba-todaimae Station, Inokashira Line)
Mitsui Memorial Museum
Two tanto blades can be found at the Mitsui Memorial Museum, one a 13th-century Masamune blade and the other, a 14th-century blade handed down to the Tokugawa clan.
Location: 2-1-1 Nihonbashi-muromachi, Chuo-ku, Tokyo 〒103-0022 (nearest station: Mitsukoshimae Station, Ginza Line)
Eisei Bunko Museum
The Eisei Bunko Museum holds two 14th-century tanto, one named the Kitchen Knife and the other made by Etchu Norishige and considered to be his best work. The museum also features a 13th-century katana with gold inlay.
Location: 1-1-1 Mejirodai, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 〒112-0015 (nearest station: Waseda Station, Toden-Arakawa Line)
A favourite shrine of the Tokugawa clan and currently one of the more popular shrines for families and their children, Hie Shrine also happens to be in possession of a 12th-century tachi blade crafted by Ichimonji Norimune.
Location: 2-10-5 Nagatacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 〒100-0014 (nearest station: Akasaka Station, Chiyoda Line)