Some comments on the interesting and consistent inscription on the hachiwara parrying tool, often called a helmet breaker.

Dear Jack,

I just finished a lengthy task of committing a Hachiwara to digital form - a digital oshigata, if you will!

Left: Goro Nyudo Masamune kore tsukuru
Priest Goro Masamune made this

Top: Kusunoki tamon hyoei Masanari
Made for Kusunoki Masanari

Right: Nihon kaji sodo (shin)
Made by the Japanese Swordsmith

Bottom: Genko gan nen sho gatsu kichijitsu
A lucky day in the first month of the first year of Genko, (1331)

ALL Hachiwaras seem to have the very same inscription. What is the name of the style of swordplay in which the Hachiwara was used? What school/swordsmen used it? I have written to several experts for a translation of the four inscriptions and other comments.


Dear George,
Kizu San had told B. that although the jittei is sometimes called a "Helmet Breaker", that was not itís purpose. During the Mongolian Invasions of 1274 and 1281, the style of fighting change dramatically for the samurai. They were use to fighting one-on-one. The Mongols attacked, and fought in packs. So the samurai now had to fight multiple opponents at the same time.

Masamune and his group thought about this situation and came up with the Jittei. The swords were worn on the left hand side so they could be drawn with the right hand to fight with. The jittei was put into the obi (sash) on the right hand side. So when faced with several swords at one time, the Samurai could draw the jittei with his left hand and parry some of the blades with it. Because Masamune was a priest the jittei was often inscribed with the Buddhist prayer.


Dear George,
As to the Hachiwara, Arai Hakuseki in his 17th Century treatise calls it HACHIWARI and states the following: Hachiwari, an implement usually attributed to Goro Niudo Masamune, and said to have been made for Kusunoki Masashige, but the tradition is at fault. Seki says that it was originally a HAHIKI carried during the Asikaga Period by runners at State processions, and used as a truncheon (to make the people keep in line) and is was also used as a Jittei (Tokyo dialect) or Juttei (old speech).

Personally, I have never seen one so early that it could be attributed to Masamune (certainly never a signed one); most come from the Momoyama and Edo Period where they were carried by the Law enforcement officers who were not of Bushi rank and could not wear swords;
I have fenced and trained with swords all of my life and would NOT attempt to face a qualified swordsman with this implement! I also have seen several Kabuto-giri cutting tests (Tameshigiri) and can guarantee you that NOBODY could break a helmet with one of those things (should you be lucky enough to get that close)!

My personal feeling is that it was some sort of Rank/Police badge/symbol along the lines of a Baton as worn by a Field Marshal. There is always a long red Tassel on the thing which would interfere with fighting. Of course you could smack somebody untrained on the head with it, you can do the same with a Fan especially a Tessen. Head-smacking the peasants is still a favorite past time of Bureaucrats. Even if it is done differently now, in principal it is still the same.

By the way, Masamune was NOT a priest, the title Niudo was honorary and probably given to him after his death.


Dear George,
The carrying of tanto came into common practice during/because of the Mongol invasion, but primarily as a close fighting offensive weapon, not a parrying instrument.

While I was in Japan back in 63 or 64 I saw a blade virtually identical in shape and cross-section but about 18 or 20 inches long. The owner was a notable dealer and he told me that it was a ninja tool, sharp enough to use the point but primarily a crowbar. It was mounted as a wakisashi with the tsuba shaped and saya re-enforced so that you could use it as a step stool. It seems to me that there were a couple of other features looking innocent, but actually dual-purpose.

I have never personally seen a hachiwara that I believed to pre-date the Tokugawa era, but that is no reason to believe it impossible. Such things would not have been treasured and preserved like a sword.



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