This Japanese Relic Disappeared After WWII and Has Never Been Found

A Japanese General turns over his sword. Longreads

In the late 13th century CE, there was a great swordsmith in Japan, Goro Nyudo Masamune. His swords were considered to be unmatched in quality and even benevolent in nature. The most famous of the swords that he created is known as the Honjo Masamune. Today, the Honjo Masamune has an almost mythic reputation, with each layer said to be so perfectly forged that it was mere atoms thick.

The sword gets its name from the general who wielded it for a period, Honjo Shigenaga. He lived during the 16th and 17th centuries and served as part of the Uesugi clan of northern Japan. During the 4th battle of Kawanakajima in 1561, Shigenaga fought an enemy general. After an intense battle that left Shigenaga’s helmet cleaved in two, Shigenaga came out victorious. He took for himself the prized sword that had severed his helmet and became the first general of note to own the sword.

Shigenaga kept the sword for years and it was a prized possession that had led him to be successful in battle. At the end of the 16th century, Shigenaga went bankrupt and had to sell the sword to the Toyotomi clan, who were the rulers of Japan at the time. When the Toyotomi clan fell, the sword was taken up by the new Shogun of Japan, Tokugawa leyasu. From that moment on, the Honjo Masamune became a family treasure of the Tokugawas, and a symbol of the Tokugawa Dynasty.

Portrait of Masamune. Ancient Origins

The Tokugawa family ruled Japan for 250 years and the prized sword was passed down from one Shogun to the next. The sword had such a reputation by this time that many believed it was the reason why the Tokugawa family was able to stay in power for so long. In 1868, the Tokugawa Shogunate fell, but the family managed to keep the sword in their possession. The sword was declared a Japanese National Treasure in 1939, but sadly it would disappear from Japan forever just a few years later.

Read on to find out what led to the sword’s disappearance and why Japan has no idea where their national treasure might be.


  • whaddacrock

    “Calvary”?!! Folks, auto-correct is NOT your friend!!!

    • Stephanie Schoppert

      Thanks for catching that it’s been fixed 🙂

    • rust246

      Calvary is the correct spelling..this old Cav trooper doesn’t use auto-correct. 🙂

      • Michael Manuel

        Cavalry is the correct spelling. Calvary is where Jesus was staked. Cavalry is the Military unit.

  • Charles Hong

    Fake history! Back in 13th Century BC, the Japanese were still in the Stone Age. Bronze Age didn’t reach them until a millennia later!

    • Stephanie Schoppert

      You are absolutely right now idea how I missed the BC when it should be CE.

    • cynic44

      The article clearly says “CE” (common era) not “BCE” (before common era)

    • Amy Petty

      It’s no more fake here than it is on Facebook where you made the same comment. The article CLEARLY states CE, and not BC at all.

      Even if you were correct in pointing out BC–and again, you are not–the error would only amount to a typo that needed correcting. It wouldn’t make the article “fake news.”

  • Michael

    The sword is property of the Tokugawa family and would go back to them. National treasure or no, it is considered their family heirloom.

    • Six Actual

      fuck em

      • Michael

        If one of them was hot and female I might. Grow up.

  • Ralph Darby

    No doubt an American flung it into a swamp.

    • Six Actual

      And just who cares, the japs got off far too easy, most should have been executed for war crimes

  • Six Actual

    And who cares? The japs were the most barbaric army the USA fought in years, and we’re still missing 38,000 Americans who are MIA. Now its ISIS who are the assholes

  • Terry F Myers

    Typo Goro 13th Century AD, not BC.

  • Terry F Myers

    In Japanese culture I think that these swords have a ‘life’ in their way and I hope that in fact the sword is recovered. It is a national treasure, similar to the stolen paintings at the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston. The Rembrandt of Christ on the Sea of Galilee was especially beautiful and I think that everyone who saw it before the theft now misses it and wishes it could be returned. Similarly, these swords are almost living pieces of art and are missed.