Sword fans to flock to Nara to see blade of Date Masamune

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History buffs and newfound fans of antiquity alike are descending on Yakushiji temple here for an exhibition of centuries-old Japanese swords including one reportedly brandished by feudal lord Date Masamune (1567-1636).

In addition to the current “Uwasano Katana Ten II” (Exhibition of whispered swords II) that runs through April 23, a special exhibition on April 2 and 3 will show six priceless blades including “Okurikarahiromitsu,” a government-designated important artwork.

“Okurikarahiromitsu” is said to have belonged to Date Masamune, who governed the Sendai domain in northern Japan during the Edo Period (1603-1867). Up to 7,000 visitors are expected to get to see the exclusive exhibition over the two days.

“Uwasano Katana Ten II,” now in its second year following its debut last spring, is dazzling visitors with a selection of the famed and beautifully crafted “Muramasa” swords.

The swords are named for the blade style’s original creator, a famous artisan who lived in the Muromachi Period (1338-1573). Examples of Muramasa from the style’s first, second and third generations are on display.

About 140 historical blades, almost double the number of last year, are being exhibited.

History novices can also enjoy interesting quizzes about Japanese swords and Yakushiji temple.

The blades are proving to be quite the crowd-puller. One previous exclusive exhibition held for one day only attracted 5,000 people including fans of the “Touken Ranbu Online” (Swirling swords online) game in which anthropomorphized characters based on the legends of famous swords fight against each other.

“It is a pleasure for us that people have become interested in Japanese culture with something such as games as a springboard,” said Kiyoshi Sawaguchi, 61, chairman of the Japanese Sword Research Foundation, which cooperates with the event.

“I want them to take a close look at the authentic items,” he added.

“The exhibition is acting as a gateway for many people to get to know Yakushiji temple,” said Taikaku Kato, 31, a priest at the temple.

“I hope it will help them appreciate temples in general and Buddhism more profoundly,” Kato added.

A combined ticket to enter both Yakushiji temple and “Uwasano Katana Ten II” costs 1,600 yen ($14.30) for adults, 1,200 yen for junior and senior high school students, and 300 yen for elementary school children.

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