Mune or Mine, Which One Is Right?

How familiar are you with the anatomy of the katana? A popular single-edge sword, the katana is one type of the different bladed weapons used in Japan’s history, collectively known as nihonto1. Gracefully made, each part of a katana is essential and is required to be understood thoroughly if studying one of the traditional kenjutsu and iaido schools from Japan. While the naming convention for each part tends to be universal, at times certain schools will use a different name. One part in particular caught my attention recently, which is the back of the blade. Growing up, I learnt this as “mune2“. However, I’ve come accross different sources, primarily in Japanese, that call this “mine3” instead. What is the difference between the two terms, and what are their origin?

A pic of a katana and its parts illustrated. Mune is circled. From the book “The Art of Japanese Swordsmanship: Manual of Eishin-ryu Iaido” by Nicklaus Suino.

MUNE
The word mune is used to describe the ridge on the roof of a building. Usually roofs on more older buildings such as shrines and long wooden homes have this. They stretch across the top of these roofs, acting like a joint for the sloping parts that make up the roof. The thickness and defined shape of the back of a nihonto was probably likened to this.

A picture of a roof of Hiroshima Castle. The mune is the highest part of the roof, featuring a fish sculpture. From Wikipedia.

MINE
The use of the word mine is generally associated with an object reaching to a great height. Usually referencing tall mountains, it also has been used when referring to eboshi4 (traditional headwear). For nihonto of relatively long length, when held upright, is similar in comparison to a mountain.

High points on tall mountains, such as Mt. Fuji, are often described with the word mine. Picture from Wikipedia.

WHO USES WHICH

Referencing different traditional kenjutsu/iaido schools, it’s interesting to see which ones use one or the other. Here’s a few names of the schools that use the term mune:

  • Eishin ryu (includes Mugai Jikiden Eishin ryu, Musou Jikiden Eishin ryu, etc.)
  • Musoshinden ryu
  • Yagyu Shinkage ryu

Now, a few names of schools that use the term mine:

  • Jigen ryu
  • Shinto Munen ryu
  • Niten Ichi ryu

CONCLUSION

In ending, both mune and mine are interchangable when referring to the back of a single-edge nihonto, albeit style-specific in some cases. Just remember that either one is ok to use.


1) 日本刀. The term is actually for bladed weapons with a handle, and not soley reserved to actual swords, such as the katana. Here’s a few of the various weapons that fall under this category:

  • Tsurugi (剣)
  • Chokuto (直刀)
  • Tachi (太刀)
  • Wakizashi (脇差)
  • Nagamaki (長巻)
  • Yoroidooshi (鎧通し)
  • Uchigatana (打刀)

2) 棟

3) 峰

4) A light, black headwear made out of good quality washi (Japanese-originated paper). It’s use began during the Heian period (late 700’s to late 1100’s) up until the Middle Ages, around Sengoku period (1500’s to early 1600’s).