The circle indicates the time we are discussing in this chapter
There are large numbers of swordsmiths in Bizen (備前) school during the Heian period but their sword style is generally similar to Yamashiro school, called Ko-Bisen (古備前). The real Bizen school style started in the Middle Kamakura period. Bizen province had many ideal conditions to produce swords. It produced good quality steel and a large amount of fuel around the area and also the transportation was convenient. Naturally, large numbers of swordsmiths gathered in this area and produced swords in quantities. Because of that, to connoisseur Bizen sword is difficult. In general, the Bizen sword has a higher quality standard than other schools.
Generally speaking, the next three characters are the most distinctive features of Bizen school.
- Nioi base temper line (Nie is sand-like small dots on a tempered line, Nioi is finer dots than Nie, so small, it looks as if a line) Technically speaking, those two are the same. See the illustration below.
- Jigane (sword steel) looks soft.
- Reflection appears on the surface.
Sugata (shape) — The length of the sword is about 33 inches ± a few inches. The width of the blade is slightly wide and it has a stout look. The curvature of the blade is Koshizori (腰反) means the highest curvature comes lower part. The body has an average thickness. Small kissaki.
Horimono(engraving) — Engravings are rare. The shape of the tip of Hi is all the way up to Ko-Shinogi and fill up the whole area.
Nakago — Long and thin with curvature. The end of the Nakago is rounded which has the shape of chestnut’s bottom. This is called Kurijiri. See the illustration of the sword above.
Hamon (tempered area pattern)— Nioi base. The tempered area is wide and the width is even, also the size of midare (irregular tempered line ) is uniform.
Boshi — The same tempered pattern continues to go up to the Boshi area. You can see Choji midare (clove-like pattern) or Yakizume.
Jitetu — Fine well forged, and soft look steel. The surface of the steel has small wood grain pattern mixed with the large grain pattern. Chikei (condensation of Nie) and cloud-like reflection appears.
Bizen School Sword Smiths during Middle Kamakura Period
Fukuoka Ichimonji (福岡一文字) group ———-Norimune (則宗) Sukemune (助宗 ) Yoshioka Ichimonji (吉岡一文字) group ———-Sukeyoshi (助吉) Sukemitsu (助光) Sho-chu Ichimonji (正中一文字) group ——— Yoshiuji (吉氏) Yoshimori (吉守) Osafune (長船) group ———-Mitsutada (光忠) Nagamitu (長光) Kagemitsu (景光) Hatakeda(畠田) group ————————————-Moriie (守家) Sanemori (真守) Ugai (鵜飼) group —————————————————— Unsho (雲生) Unji (雲次)
Ichimonji from Sano Museum Catalog (permission to use is granted)