Japanese Historical Periods

The history of Japan can be divided into various ‘phases’ which are characterised by decisive events such as cultural/social revolution, the introduction of iron/bronze tools, or the reign of a new Shogun or Emperor. Japanese art tends to be classified using these time periods, while Japanese swords tend to also be classified into one of the five sword periods below.

JOMON – ca. 11,000 to 300 B.C.
YAYOI – 300 B.C. to 300 A.D.
KOFUN – 300 to 552
ASUKA – 552 to 645
NARA – 645 to 794
HEIAN – 794 to 1185
KAMAKURA – 1185 to 1333
NAMBOKUCHO – 1333 to 1392
MUROMACHI – 1392 to 1573 (also called Ashikaga Period)
MOMOYAMA – 1573 to 1600 (also called Azuchi-Momoyama Period)
EDO – 1600 to 1868 (also called Tokugawa Period)
MEIJI – 1868 to 1912
TAISHO – 1912 to 1926
SHOWA – 1926 to 1989
HEISEI – 1989 to now

Japanese Sword Periods

The development of swords can be broken up into the following five phases. Most Japanese collectors tend to prefer Koto blades, while in the west you see a lot more Shinto, Shinshinto and Gendaito. “Ko” means old, while “Shin” refers to new. “To” is another word for sword, so Shinshinto for example can be translated as the “new, new sword period”.

KOTO – Pre 1596
SHINTO – 1597 to 1780
SHINSHINTO – 1781 to 1876
GENDAITO – 1877 to 1945
SHINSAKUTO – 1945 to now

For more information about Nenki (dates) please refer to the JSSUS’s Nihonto Kanji Pages (http://www.jssus.org/nkp/.