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Thread: Nagamaki

  1. #1

    Nagamaki

    A forumite asked me off-line for information and pictures of Nagamaki; I thought there might be interest by others as well regarding this topic, so here we go:

    The two major Japanese pole arms are the Yari (a double-edged spear with a more or less straight blade), and the Naginata (spears with curved, single-edged blades). Naginata are thought to have been used since the Heian period. Their size and shape reflects that of Tachi of each period, and generally in the Muromachi period they were rather short with a broad Monouchi area and very deep Sakizori curvature, rather like weapons of the Nambokuch˘ period.

    In times of war the Naginata was used in battle, and it was the favorite weapon of the S˘hei, the warrior-monks. In the Edo period the Naginata became the preferred weapon of women, and for instance the female guards of the ďoku, the "harem" of the Sh˘gun, were armed with Naginata.

    Nagamaki is a term that, strictly speaking, only applies to a special style of mounting a Naginata. It was in vogue from the middle of the Muromachi period until the Momoyama period. "Nagamaki" means "long wrap", and refers to the fact that the shaft is wrapped like a sword hilt. Another term used is "Nagadachi" (long Tachi), and some argue that it's actually only a variant of the Nodachi, with longer hilt and shorter blade in comparison.

    Although Nagamaki is basically only a style of mounting, there are certain characteristics that make a Naginata a Nagamaki even without the wrapping.
    The shaft is rather short, about four feet long, and often there's a Tsuba. The blade is usually longer than a Naginata, has less curvature, and is basically a Sh˘bu-zukuri Katana. Although the blade is constructed like a broad, heavy Katana, the Mune is sometimes thinned along the back to reduce weight, thus giving the blade a more pronounced diamond cross-section.

    In the peaceful Edo period many Naginata and Nagamaki were modified to be worn as swords, the so-called Naginata-naoshi and Nagamaki-naoshi respectively. While most Naginata were made into Wakizashi, Nagamaki were often long enough to being converted into a Katana. However, with many Sasuga (shortened tip section - the Hamon runs straight out at the Mune without a Kaeri) blades it's hard to tell whether it originally was a Naginata or Nagamaki.
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  2. #2
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    Excellent post, Guido.

    A few questions:

    Are the two variants (mounting styles) of nagamaki in the picture differentiated from each other by some term? The left one is obviously a "long wrap", interestingly the handle is also tapered to follow the curvature. Whereas the right one is completely straight.

    Are there many surviving nagamaki (pre-Edo) in full mounts?
    Aage

  3. #3
    Both were called "Nagamaki" in the description of the books.

    Actually I had a hard time finding even these two examples, there seem not many Nagamaki in original mounts left. But pre-Edo mounts are even rare with swords (i.e. the Koshirae, not the fittings).

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    Re: Nagamaki

    Guido,

    Thank you very much, I have been looking for this info for a long time and now here you helped me. Thanks again.

    Regards

    Manoucher

  5. #5
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    Thanks for the the picture and discussion, Guido...very interesting.

    How were nagamaki carried? Through the obi like a katana, or some other arrangement?
    David T Anderson
    Calgary, Alberta

    One man's enlightenment is another man's bafflement...

  6. #6
    Originally posted by David T Anderson
    How were nagamaki carried? Through the obi like a katana, or some other arrangement?
    I don't have any reliable information about that, but my guess would be over the shoulder like other polearms.
    I found a few contemporary Japanese paintings of battle scenes, but the only one where a sheathed Nagamaki is carried is the one I attached to this post (at least it looks like a Nagamaki to me - if it's a Naginata I really don't want to know where he put that long shaft ):
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    Thanks

    Guido, this is a very interesting subject and I have not been able to come up with anymore than you have for Aage. And to Aage I will look for "Japanese Pole Arms" by Knutson and see if I can come up with a copy for You. Anybody got a Nagamaki, Please post the pics here. Thanks Joe
    Long Life

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    Are the still made in Japan???

    Thats real interesting information, havnt heard much about the Nagamaki. one question are Nagamaki still made commonly / uncommonly by the sword schools in Japan???

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    I took a look in the only reference book I've got -- Stephen R. Turnbull's The Book of the Samurai. The Warrior Class of Japan, and found two pictures of nagamaki. Here's the first -- the caption says
    This rare photograph from the 1870s shows samurai of old Japan armed with long bow (center) and polearms.
    The leftmost person holds a naginata, as evidenced by the wide, swelling tip. The person on the right is most probably holding a nagamaki -- notice that the blade is longer (although annoyingly the whole blade isn't visible in the photo).
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    Last edited by A. Bakken; 12-16-2002 at 04:09 AM.
    Aage

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    Here's the second picture from Turnbull's book. The whole blade is visible. Although we cannot see the whole shaft, one notices that it is longer than the blade, perhaps around 4 feet as noted by Guido above. Although in the pictures Guido posted, both weapons has a shaft of appr. equal lenght as the blade (around 2 feet, I'd guess).

    A warrior armed with a nagamaki. Note the thigh guards, and the wooden shield, typically used to protect the harquebus corps and archers.
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    Last edited by A. Bakken; 12-16-2002 at 04:14 AM.
    Aage

  11. #11
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    Originally posted by A. Bakken
    Here's the second picture from Turnbull's book. The whole blade is visible. Although we cannot see the whole shaft, one notices that it is longer than the blade, perhaps around 4 feet as noted by Guido above. Although in the pictures Guido posted, both weapons has a shaft of appr. equal lenght as the blade (around 2 feet, I'd guess).

    Really really beautiful pics. Thanks for sharing.

    Regards

    Manoucher

  12. #12
    Excellent post Guido !

    Thanks , Mac
    'Gott Bewahr Die Oprechte Schotten'
    Mac's Picture Trail

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    Since there seem to be some interest in the topic, I might as well post some other pictures that I've found on various places on the web/SFI.

    The first one is from Sword Forum Magazine Online. Not easy to make out the shape of the blade, but an interesting detail from the shaft.
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    Aage

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    Another picture found here on SFI. Imagine wrapping all that ito!
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    Aage

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    hey does anyone know if there made anymore in the traditional style and method???

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    And now for a very fine example of a nagamaki naoshi. Found it on some webpage with this info:

    Out of the woodwork, this rare and very desirable naoshi nagamaki katana was in military mounts!

    Grey and featureless, when submitted for polish and shirasaya this beauty jumped out!

    Flawless and beautiful in every respect, the N.B.T.H.K. shinsa said this was Kanefusa den, and on first pass it got Hozon papers.

    Mr. Tonoba did the exquisite sayagaki and specified that this was THE Kanefusa and dated it to 1551.

    A beautiful sword to behold, breathtaking in its beauty and deadly cutting ability (near 26 inches), as the configuration for the old spear was designed for effortless cutting , minimal drag and quick maneuvering.
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    Aage

  17. #17
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    Very very beautiful pics. Thanks for sharing these with us.

    Regards

    Manoucher

  18. #18
    Aage:
    Although the blade part is pretty blurry, the third Samurai in that photo seems to hold a Nagami-yari judging from the shaft and the long blade. I could be wrong, of course, but it would be more likely than a Nagamaki.

    Robert:
    I havn't yet seen a modern made Nagamaki. I'm not saying that they don't exist, but if they are still made they are extremely rare. Since the tang is usually almost as long as the blade they are a pain in the neck to forge and heat treat.

    ***

    I found yet another pic of a Nagamaki, this time even with description:
    signed Nant˘ Jű Kanab˘ Hyoe No J˘ Masatsugu
    Muromachi period
    blade length 95.8 cm
    overall length 189 cm
    lacquered vermillion over black with a helical wrapping under the lacquer
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  19. #19
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    Originally posted by Guido Schiller
    Aage:
    Although the blade part is pretty blurry, the third Samurai in that photo seems to hold a Nagami-yari judging from the shaft and the long blade. I could be wrong, of course, but it would be more likely than a Nagamaki.
    You know, the thought that it may be a yari struck me as well, as it appeared to narrow on both sides where it meets the shaft, in a shape somewhat like this: ) ( I didn't know there was a yari type with such a long blade, though. Thanks for the clarification, and for the new picture!

    As for modern-made nagamaki, Scott Slobodian comes to mind. The nagamaki below falls in the "long wrap" category, and again the hilt is of equal lenght to the blade (around 26").

    Finally, I'm surprised that this subject seems to be so little researched. Either the nagamaki is a really obscure weapon, or there has been little interest in them among collectors, martial artists and historians (or both). I tried to find out (via web-searching) whether any existing koryu uses them. So far, I've only found reference to Araki-ryu, which I'm currently trying to find more info on. A fascinating subject, for sure!
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    Aage

  20. #20

    FWIW

    Satcho.com has two books on Japanese polearms here. You might want to ask them if they can get you a copy of the Knutson book; they came up with some out-of-print books for me in the past when I enquired about them.

    The Kanra Kiraku Ryű, too, teaches Nagamaki (but don't ask me for details ).

  21. #21
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    Originally posted by Guido Schiller
    Aage:
    Although the blade part is pretty blurry, the third Samurai in that photo seems to hold a Nagami-yari judging from the shaft and the long blade. I could be wrong, of course, but it would be more likely than a Nagamaki.

    Robert:
    I havn't yet seen a modern made Nagamaki. I'm not saying that they don't exist, but if they are still made they are extremely rare. Since the tang is usually almost as long as the blade they are a pain in the neck to forge and heat treat.

    ***

    I found yet another pic of a Nagamaki, this time even with description:
    signed Nant˘ Jű Kanab˘ Hyoe No J˘ Masatsugu
    Muromachi period
    blade length 95.8 cm
    overall length 189 cm
    lacquered vermillion over black with a helical wrapping under the lacquer
    Guido,

    I think that is exactly what I have been looking for for ages! That would be my favorite weapon, I am sure!

    Regards

    Manoucher

  22. #22
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    Naked photos :)

    Hello all,

    Sorry for my late entrance into this thread but I have an image that I'd like to share before this thread disappears.

    This photo is from a book I have on Nodachi.

    On the left is a mumei Nagamaki (bare blade).
    Nagasa 95.8 cm Sori 4.7 cm.

    The right is an mumei Onaginata (I'm guessing the O pronunciation).
    Nagasa 102.2 cm Sori 5.6 cm.

    That is about the limit of my Japanese translation
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  23. #23
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    WOW

    thats a pretty good image (pretty good weapon too), a lot clearer than the others being shown.

    thanks Robert.B

  24. #24
    I just found another pic in one of the Ch˘shűya catalogs that fits right in this thread: a Nagamaki-naoshi Katana. The interesting part is that it's a Shinsakut˘ that was forged this way.

    When I look at the Naginata-hi I'd rather say "Naginata-naoshi", but who am I to argue with the experts ...
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  25. #25

    P.S.

    Robert, the above post should answer your earlier question, if those kind of blades are still forged. Price tag: Yen 700,000.-

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