Japan’s Perfect Sword: The Legend of the Honjo Masamune - Historic Mysteries (2023)

Time and again in mythology a hero is associated with his armor and weaponry, with the weapons themselves often as famous as the hero. Whether it is Arthur with his sword Excalibur, the shield of Achilles or the weapons given to Perseus to slay the gorgon Medusa, they are seen as a defining characteristic and play a key role in the story.

But sometimes it is the weapon itself that is the focus, far and above its custodians or those who wielded it. Sometimes the weapon is so finely crafted, flawless and perfect, that it transcends the stories. So it was with the Honjo Masamune.

More fascinating still is that this is not some tale of a magical weapon from a far-off, mythical time and place. The Honjo Masamune was a real sword, lost not in antiquity but in the comparatively recent past. It is among the greatest lost treasures of the world.

This is its story.

Gorō Nyūdō Masamune

A sword of such quality could only come from an exceptional craftsman, and so it was with the Honjo Masamune. Gorō Nyūdō Masamune was a renowned medieval Japanese swordsmith, probably the greatest in the history of Japan. He created a number of daggers and swords during a 40 year career between 1288 and 1328.

Masamune was based in Sagami Province during the final years of the Kamakura shogunate, a period that saw the rise of a warrior caste known as the samurai. In an era where steel production was still an imperfect art, he was able to produce exceptionally clean and flawless materials in his forge, crafting swords known for their superior quality and the beauty of their form.

Even in modern Japan, an award called as Masamune Prize is presented to the swordsmiths with exceptional work at the Japanese Sword Making Competition. It speaks a lot about the reputation of Gorō Nyūdō Masamune as one of the finest swordsmiths in Japan, resonating down the centuries.

(Video) The Legendary Honjō Masamune

And of all the swords produced by this great master 700 years ago, the Honjo Masamune is likely to be the greatest. This samurai sword was considered to be almost perfect in design, and was a symbol of national pride for the Japanese.

Just like the other swords made by Masamune, the blade pattern of Honjo Masamune was created through careful and repeated hardening of the metal. It had a single edge and a curved blade. Records as to the measurements of the sword differ from source to source, but it is believed that the sword’s length was 25.6 inches (65 cm), with a curvature of just 0.6 inches (1.5 cm).

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Masamune was never a proud man and left most of his works unsigned, but some believe he may have made an exception for this sword. However this signature may still be lost due to changes made to the blade during its long life.

Passed on from one generation to another for nearly seven hundred years, it is considered a national treasure of Japan. Today, the worth of the Honjo Masamune sword is some millions of dollars, and despite its loss many experts believe that the sword may be still out there.

The Sword of Legends

There are several legends associated with the Honjo Masamune sword. One of the popular legends involves a competition between Masamune and his great rival, Sengo Muramasa.

Masmune was known for making swift, balanced blades with exceptional poise and agility. On the other hand, the work of Muramasa was quite aggressive and designed the bludgeon the opponent into submission.

(Video) Exploring An Ancient Japanese Shrine In Search Of The Honjo Masamune Sword | Expedition Unknown

The swordsmiths competed with each other in order to determine who was able to make the best sword. Masamune selected Honjo Masamune for the competition with his rival. Both the Honjo and the sword made by Muramasa were suspended over steam to test the quality of the swords.

The blade made by Muramasa was seen to be able to cut everything that comes in touch with it. Whether it was the fish or the leaves, the blade cut everything. On the other hand, the sword made by Masamune was able to only cut through leaves, and seemed to bounce off fish.

Muramasa gloatingly concluded that his sword was indeed better than that of Masamune. However, a passing monk was watching them. He declared that the sword made by Masamune was superior because it did not cut anything for no good reason, as was the case in harming the fish.

The sword of Muramasa that cut everything, by way of contrast, was seen as symbolic of evil and blood-thirsty nature. This led to another legend in which people believed that the swords of Muramasa, once unsheathed, had to taste blood before they could be sheathed once more.

The Sword in History

While such tales are maybe apocryphal, the sword certainly had many famous owners in its long history. It was passed down the line of ruling Shoguns during the famous Japanese Edo period, where it become symbolic of rulership.

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Perhaps its most famous owner may also be the man who gave the sword its name, the great samurai general Honjo Shigenaga. In 1561 during a battle at Kawanakajima, located near the present day city of Nagano, a warrior attacked Shigenaga with the sword.

(Video) The Mystery of the Missing Samurai Sword Honjo Masamune

Bested in combat, the sword sliced Shigenaga on his head and cleaved his helmet into two halves. Recovering, Shigenaga retaliated and killed the warrior who attacked him, taking the sword for himself.

Later, Shigenaga desperately needed money and had to sell the sword. The sword went into the hands of the Tokugawa family, the rulers of Japan for more than 250 years. From there the sword was passed from one generation to another, treasured for centuries. It gradually was seen as a symbol of Tokugawa Shogunate, and was preserved until the Second World War, being declared a Japanese National Treasure in 1939.

The Loss of Honjo Masamune

The Honjo Masamune sword remained in possession of the Tokugawa family until the end of the Second World War. After Japan surrendered, all the sword collections of the royal families were handed over to the Allied forces.

Tokugawa Iemasa willingly gave all the sword collection of the family, including Honjo Masamune. The collection was surrendered to a US sergeant named Coldy Bimore of the 7th US Cavalry Regiment.

However, later it was discovered that the man had used a fake name as there was no one named Coldy Bimore in that regiment. The Honjo Masamune, along with the other swords of the collection had been stolen. And it has been missing ever since.

Who was Coldy Bimore? The strange name offers no help, and the man could have come from almost anywhere. It is considered most likely that the sword, if not destroyed, was taken back to America and rests in private hands to this day.

Top Image: Will the greatest sword ever made be found one day? Source: Marc Andreu / Adobe Stock.

(Video) Masamune The Master

By Bipin Dimri


Ferrone, K. 2018.The Honjo Masamune Sword. Available at:https://losttreasuresofhistory.wordpress.com/2018/06/16/the-honjo-masamune-sword/

yamatosaxon. 2014.The Honjo Masamune: A Lost Japanese Treasure. Available at:https://thedailybeagle.net/2014/03/23/the-honjo-masamune-a-lost-japanese-treasure/

DeLong, W. 2018.Masamune, The 13th-Century Japanese Swordsmith Who Was The Stuff Of Legends.Available at:https://allthatsinteresting.com/masamune-sword

Japanlost treasuresamuraiShogunstolenSword

Japan’s Perfect Sword: The Legend of the Honjo Masamune - Historic Mysteries (3)

(Video) Honjo Masamune, part II

Bipin Dimri

Bipin Dimri is a writer from India with an educational background in Management Studies. He has written for 8 years in a variety of fields including history, health and politics.


Has the Honjo Masamune sword been found? ›

One of these was the fabled Honjo Masamune. The Tokugawa family, deciding to set a good example by abiding by the American decree, relinquished their famous sword to the U.S. military. It has never been seen since.

Where is Masamune sword now? ›

The story of the lost Masamune sword weaves a rich tapestry through Japanese culture. It was used by samurai warriors in battle and was passed down through generations of Shogunate. However, today its whereabouts are unknown, leading to one of the greatest mysteries in Japanese history.

Are there any Masamune swords left? ›

There are some Masamune relics still in existence. Japanese museums, particularly the Kyoto National Museum, own some pieces. Private citizens in Japan own others. There is one sword in the Museum der Stadt Steyr in Austria. Wikimedia Commons A Masamune sword on display in Austria.

What is the Honjo Masamune worth? ›

Soon afterwards, general Shigenaga was ordered to Fushimi castle, but short of money he sold the now priceless sword for 13 large gold coins. At today's gold prices, around 3,000 dollars. It was now that the Honjo Masamune was transformed from a valued weapon to a priceless symbol of absolute power.

Who wielded Honjo Masamune? ›

The Tokugawa chief won the battle and took the Honjo Masamune as his prize. Eventually, the leader of Tokugawa clan became Shogun and ruled most of Japan bringing peace after nearly 200 years of war. The Tokugawa clan, and related families, possessed the Honjo Masamune.

Why did Masamune remove his eye? ›

Masamune is known for a few things that made him stand out from other daimyō of the time. In particular, his famous crescent-moon-bearing helmet won him a fearsome reputation. As a child, smallpox robbed him of sight in his right eye, though it is unclear exactly how he lost the organ entirely.

What is the most famous sword in the world? ›

The legendary sword, Excalibur, is one of the most famous swords to ever be made. The sword was made for King Arthur, but there are countless other leaders who had amazing swords created for them as well.

What is the greatest sword of all time? ›

1. Excalibur: The Most Famous Legendary Sword. Arthur Pendragon, ruler of the Britons, was said to have drawn this legendary sword from a stone and anvil when no one else could — at least in most tellings of the legend.

How much is a Muramasa sword worth? ›

Muramasa katanas are perhaps the finest swords ever produced. You're looking at upwards of $1,000,000. According to legend these swords were among the most feared blades ever produced and were said to be cursed, infecting those who wielded them with an insatiable bloodlust.

How much is an original Masamune sword worth? ›

Some other Masamune swords were kept in the Truman Library but a large part of the collection was stolen 1978 (swords costing more than $1 million USD in total!) and only one Masamune sword remains there today.

What is Japan's most famous lost sword? ›

The Honjō Masamune is the most important of the missing Japanese swords, and its current location remains unknown.

Who defeated Masamune? ›

Gingka defeats Masamune but Masamune challenges Gingka again and again, losing each time. Masumune trains hard and eventually manages to defeat Gingka, but Gingka learns a valuable lesson about how to work with Galaxy Pegasus.

How much does a real Japanese sword cost? ›

An authentic Katana that is handmade in Japan is called nihonto. Often, these would usually cost around $12,000 to $25,000 and higher. In general, swords are entirely on the expensive side, and when it comes to an authentic Samurai Katana, things get even more pricey.

How much does a real katana cost? ›

An authentic handmade katana in Japan is called a nihonto. Often these cost around 10,000 to $25,000 and sometime even more. Basically, Katanas are expensive, and when it comes to an authentic samurai Katana, things get even more expensive.

What is the rarest Japanese sword? ›

Samurai Tachi – $100,000,000

This samurai tachi is the most expensive Japanese sword ever to have been made, and once belonged to the great Fukushima Masanori – one of Japan's most renowned daimyo (a vassal of the shogun) that lived in the 16th century (1561 to 1624 AD).

Can a katana cut through bone? ›

A Katana can cut through bone if it's either very sharp or very heavy. If it's heavy, it doesn't so much cut as smash it's a way through bone; the force and mass involved overcome the ability of the bone to absorb impact and it breaks. A katana can cut off the arm (or head) of an opponent.

Who is the best Japanese sword maker today? ›

Yoshindo Yoshihara is considered the foremost present-day swordsmith in terms of both popularity and skill - a true genius. We interviewed Yoshihara, said to be the best swordsmith in Japan, who, even today, continues to protect the traditions and cultures of sword making.

What is the most expensive katana ever? ›

The most precious one was a Kamakura from the 13th century which he sold to an anonymous collector for the impressive sum of $418,000, making it the most expensive katana ever sold.

Does Masamune forgive Aki? ›

However, Masamune refuses her confession and so Yoshino becomes determined to reunite them. Due to her and Masamune's efforts, Aki finally becomes true to her affection towards Masamune and they make up in the end with a kiss. Neko is a frail girl who comes from a wealthy family.

Does Adagaki find out about Masamune? ›

In Chapter 39, Kanetsugu and Aki go to an Amusement Park where they are met with Masamune who tells her about who he really is, and that Kanetsugu is an impostor. Due to Masamune punching Kanetsugu, it reveals to her and Masamune that Kanetsugu is a female in disguise.

How many kids did date Masamune have? ›

Masamune had ten sons and four daughters. While he was lenient towards his daughters, he nagged at his sons, especially his eldest son Hidemune and his second son Tadamune, who eventually became the second feudal lord of the Sendai domain.

What is the most cursed sword? ›

What is the most cursed sword in the world? The Muramasa is a Japanese Katana sword known as cursed and demonic. It is a real historical sword surrounded by terrifying legends and stories.

What sword can cut through anything? ›

The Blast Sword (Slayers) is so sharp that not only can it cut absolutely anything, it can cannot be properly sheathed without using another sword as its scabbard.

Which sword is unbreakable? ›

The Master Sword is unique in that it's the only unbreakable weapon in the game.

Who owns Muramasa sword? ›

Muramasa is a sword owned by the pirate Yoshikage Kinji and is the twin blade of Murasame.

How much does it cost to awaken Muramasa? ›

Awakening. It can be awakened by doing a quest that requires you to kill 10 Sea Kings and then you can unlock each awakened move for 50 gems.

What is the oldest samurai sword in existence? ›

The oldest katana in existence today is called Hishizukuri uchigatana, which was forged in the Nanbokuchō period, and was dedicated to Kasuga Shrine later.

How old is the oldest Japanese sword? ›

. 500 years old

What is the most expensive Japanese sword ever sold? ›

The Kamakura katana on its own sold for over $400,000, making it the most expensive katana in the world.

What are the 5 great swords of Japan? ›

The Tenka Goken are five of the greatest Japanese swords. They are the Dōjigiri Yasutsuna, Mikazuki Munechika, Onimaru Kunitsuna, Ōdenta Mitsuyo, and Juzumaru Tsunetsugu. It was not until the Meiji period (1868–1912) that the phrase Tenka Goken appeared in books on swords.

Who is the Japanese sword God? ›

Takemikazuchi (建御雷/武甕槌) is a deity in Japanese mythology, considered a god of thunder and a sword god. He also competed in what is considered the first sumo wrestling match recorded in history.

Why are Japanese swords so strong? ›

Katana-makers use two types of tamahagane: high-carbon, which is very hard and allows for a razor-sharp edge, and low-carbon, which is very tough and allows for shock absorption.

Does Aki find out about Masamune? ›

In Chapter 39, after learning the truth from Yoshino, he quickly sprints to where Aki and Kanetsugu are. He finds them and confronts Kanetsugu and Aki. Finally, he tells Aki the truth about him being the Masamune she had befriended back then.

What did date masamune look like? ›

He is easily identified by his relatively simple black armor, with its distinctive helmet crest of a large, thin, crescent moon. He is often portrayed as wearing a sword guard as an eye patch. Date Masamune died aged 68 on June 27, 1636.

What does Masamune mean in Japanese? ›

correct, justice, righteous, 10**40.

Can a sword cut a bullet? ›

You may be able to find the same content in another format, or you may be able to find more information, at their web site. So basically, this proves that you can totally split a bullet with a sword. Sure, you'd need to hold the sword perfectly still and aim the bullet precisely at the middle, but it can be done.

Can you legally carry a sword in Japan? ›

Carrying a knife with a locking blade, or a folding blade longer than 5.5 cm (around two inches), is illegal in Japan. The same goes for swords, which are also illegal to carry in Japan without a special permit.

Can you legally own a sword in Japan? ›

The purchase and ownership of certain swords within Japan is legal if they are properly registered, though the import and export of such items is tightly controlled, particularly in the case of items that might be labeled as national or cultural artifacts.

Are swords allowed on planes? ›

As explained on the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) website, swords are prohibited from carry-on luggage but not "checked" luggage. Swords, including katanas, rapiers, fencing foils, etc. must be checked at the gate, and they must be packaged properly to protect inspectors from injury.

Can you carry a katana in Japan? ›

Double-edged Sword

But the famous Japanese swords have actually been banned in public since 1876, when the Meiji restoration abolished the warrior class. Even today, katanas are covered by the Swords and Firearms Possession Control Law, which forbids carrying them out in the open.

Can you own a katana in the US? ›

North America (USA and Canada)

Legally Katana are lumped in the same category as knives and governed by state rather than federal laws, though as with knives, a collector must be over 18 years old OR have their parents implicit permission to buy or own a Katana.

Has the Honjo Masamune been found? ›

One of these was the fabled Honjo Masamune. The Tokugawa family, deciding to set a good example by abiding by the American decree, relinquished their famous sword to the U.S. military. It has never been seen since.

What are the 3 Japanese swords? ›

There are five main streams of the samurai sword, namely Katana, Wakizashi, Tanto, Nodachi and Tachi swords. The most iconic and well known of all the Samurai swords; the katana is distinguished by its long blade and handle that is made to accommodate two hands and strike from a large distance.

What is the best fighting sword in the world? ›

Winner- The Miao Dao, China

The longer hilt meant that it could be swung with two hands, though it was light enough for a soldier to attack with one, making it one of the most versatile swords ever devised. And in addition to being used in the heat of battle, it was also used to execute captured enemy soldiers.

Where was the 900 year old sword found? ›

A scuba diver has found a 900-year-old Crusader sword with a three-foot blade off the coast of Israel. The amateur diver spotted the sword and other ancient artifacts on the seabed off northern Israel, according to a statement from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) published Monday.

Who found the 900 year old sword? ›

Shlomi Katzin attached a GoPro camera to his forehead, slipped on his diving fins and jumped into the waters off the Carmel coast of Israel, eager to go exploring. On the sandy floor of the Mediterranean Sea, he found a sword. Archaeologists would later determine that it was about 900 years old.

Where is Saladin's sword? ›

The sword is a permanent feature of a statue that memorialises Saladin that stands in front of the ancient city of Damascus in Syria.

What is the largest sword ever found? ›

Damascus steel sword 3 m long 17 cm and weighing 33 kg is recognized as the largest in the world and is included in the Russian Book of Records. When creating a unique sword, a new technology was tested. Existing forging methods do not allow making damask blades weighing more than 10 kg.

What is the most legendary sword ever? ›

1. Excalibur: The Most Famous Legendary Sword. Arthur Pendragon, ruler of the Britons, was said to have drawn this legendary sword from a stone and anvil when no one else could — at least in most tellings of the legend.

Why is the Muramasa cursed? ›

Supposedly, his madness was so great that he needed to transfer it into his work to stop himself from being overwhelmed. As a result, Muramasa swords have earned a reputation for being cursed. His katanas were meant to cause bloodlust and force their wielders to kill indiscriminately.

What is the most famous Muramasa sword? ›

The "Honjo Masamune", a symbol of the Tokugawa shogunate and passed down from shōgun to shōgun, is perhaps the best known Masamune sword.

Where is the oldest sword in the world? ›

In 1965, the sword was found in an ancient tomb in Hubei.
Sword of Goujian
CreatedSpring and Autumn period (771 to 476 BCE)
Discovered1965 in Jiangling County
Present locationHubei Provincial Museum, Hubei Province, China
2 more rows

How old is the oldest sword in the world? ›

A Doctoral Student Just Discovered a Tiny 5,000-Year-Old Sword—One of the Oldest Weapons in the World—in an Italian Monastery. The 5,000-year-old weapon, which hails from the Bronze Age, was mislabeled as a medieval artifact. Serafino Jamourlian and Vittoria Dall'Armellina with the ancient sword.

What was Saladin's weakness? ›

According to historical accounts, Saladin's end came after a two-week series of sweating attacks of “bilious fever” with headaches. Conference organizers say he was weak, restless and lost his appetite.

Where is the holy moonlight sword? ›

Location Found: Given to you by Ludwig's head or Simon once you have killed Ludwig The Accursed/Holy Blade near the Underground Corpse Pile lamp. Ludwig's head will spawn afterwards, and if you talk to him while wearing a piece of the Choir Set and answer yes, he'll give you the Holy Moonlight Sword.

Where is the holy sword? ›

The sword can be claimed for sure later if playing the US or European version of the game in a hidden room in the Colosseum. It is located in a room above the ceiling of the highest up hallway which forms part of one of the tallest tower on that side of the castle.


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