44|Part 2 of —– 10|Middle Kamakura Period Bizen-Den (鎌倉中期備前伝)

This chapter is the detailed section of Chapter 10.  Please read chapter 10  one more time before you read this chapter.

Middle Kamakura period was the height for the Bizen Den.  Often, in a different region other than Bizen, swordsmiths are affected by people’s preferences and politics in their region.  But Bizen was not affected by those elements as much throughout the time.  The clients of Bizen-Den were from all over the country.  Therefore, the swords that were created by Bizen area tends to be the kind liked by everybody.

The general style of Bizen Den

  • Their style tends to be likable by everybody in general.
  • Style, the Width of the blade, the Thickness of the body, and tempered line are not unusual. Seldom you see out of ordinary
  • Nioi base
  • Soft feeling Jigane
  • Utsuri (cloud-like shadow) shows.
  • Tempered line tends to have the same width, not too wide not too narrow.

 

Fukuoka Ichimonji group

Names of swordsmiths among Fukuoka Ichimonji group:  Fukuoka Ichimonji Norimune (福岡一文字則宗),  Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukemune ( 福岡一文字助宗  )Those two are the main Fukuoka Ichomnji group (福岡一文字 ).

Among Fukuoka Ichimonji group, six swordsmiths received the honor as “Gobankaji” from the Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽上皇 ), Including  Norimune and Sikemune.  I saw Fukuoka Ichimonji Yoshimune at  Mori Sensei’s class on June 25.  The year was not written.  Probably, from 1971 to 1973.  My note said I saw a lot of Utsuri (shadow) on the blade.

Sugata (shape or figure) ———- Graceful and classy shape.  Generally well proportioned.  The width difference between the top width and bottom width is not much.  Sometimes stout looking Kissaki like Ikubi Kissaki.

Hi and Engraving ———- The tip of Hi maybe a little bit higher.   Machi area finishes with a square end, or kakinagashi  (refer to chapter 9 «part 2» Middle Kamakura Period –Yamashiro-Den

Hamon  ———- So-called wide Ichimonnji-Choji tempered line.  From the bottom to the top, same width temper line.  Front and back is the same type of Hamon.  O-Choji –Midare (large clove shape), Jyuka-Choji Midare (looks like overwrapped).  Nie base.  Inazuma, Kinsuji appears.

Boshi ———- Hamon continues into Boshi area and end with Yakizume or turn slightly.  Sometimes O-maru.

Jihada or Jitetsu ———- Fine and soft look, with woodgrain,  lots of Utsuri (cloud-like shadow or reflection)

 

10«part 2» ichimonji photo
   Ichimonji  Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館Permission granted   This is O-Suriage.  Because you can see Hi inside the Nakago that means it was shortened

           

43| Part 2 of —– 9| Middle Kamakura Period Yamashiro Den (鎌倉中期山城伝)

This is the detailed section of Chapter 9.   Please read chapter 9 one more time before reading this chapter.

During Middle Kamakura Period, there are three main groups among Yamashiro Den.  They are Ayano-Koji (綾小路) group, Awataguchi (粟田口) group, and Rai (来) group.

Ayano-Koji group (綾小路 )

Names of Swordsmiths among Ayano-Koji:  Ayano-Koji Sadatoshi (綾小路定利) Sadanori (定則) .

When we refer to a certain group, we say, “xxx haxxx ippa   “, or  “xxx ichimon “.  We use those three words interchangeably.  For example, we say Ayano-Koji ichimon, indicate Ayano-Koji group.

Sugata (shape or figure) ———- In general, gentle or graceful Kyo-zori shape.  The difference between the width of the  Yokote line and the width of Machi is not much.  The sword is slender yet thick.  Small Kissaki                                   

Hi and Engraving ———- Bohi (one groove) or Futasuji-hi (double groove)        

Hamon ———- Nie base with Ko-choji (small clove shape) and Ko-midare (small irregular).   Small Inazuma and Kinzuji.   Double Ko-choji appears.                      

Boshi (tip area) ———- Ko-maru (small round), Yakizume (refer to the illustration below), and Kaen (flame like shape)  

Jitetsu ———- Small wood grain with a little Masame (straight grain)  Ji-nie       

Nakago (tang) ———- Long, slight fat feeling

Awataguchi group (粟田口)

Names of Swordsmiths among Awataguchi group:  Awataguchi Kunitomo (粟田口国友 ),  Hisakuni (久国),  Kuniyasu (国安),  Kuniyasu (国安), Kunikiyo (国清)

Many swordsmiths of Awataguchi group (or Awataguchi Ichimon) received the honor as the Goban Kaji from Gotoba Joko (Emperor Gotoba 後鳥羽上皇 ).  In general, their typical characteristic is as follows.

Sugata (Shape or figure) ———- Elegant shape  Torii-zori (or Kyo-zori)

Hi and Engraving ———- The tip of Hi are all the way up and fill in the Ko-shinogi The end of the Hi can be Maru-dome (the end is round),  Kakudome  (the end is square) or kakinagashi.

9 «part 2» 大小丸,焼詰,丸角止, 掻流     Maru-dome (rounded end)             Kaku-dome (square)                Kakinagashi

Hamon ———- The slightly wider tempered line at the bottom then the narrow tempered line at the top.  Nie base (this is called Nie honni).    Straight tempered line, straight-tempered line mixed with Ko-Choji (small clove)  or Ko-Choji.  Sometimes wide straight line mixed with Choji.  Awataguchi Nie appearance.  Awataguchi Nie means fine, deep and sharp shiny Nie around tempered line area.   Fine Inazuma (lightning) and Kinsuji (golden streak) appearance.

Boshi (tip area) ———- Ko-maru (small round)  or O-maru (large round) both return is sharrow.  Yakizume, Nie Kuzure, and Kaen (flame).Yubashiri

 

9-«part-2»-大小丸焼詰丸角止-掻流-1-e1547925390685.jpg

Yakizume       O-maru       Ko-maru     Yakikuzure

Jitetsu ———- Fine Ko-Mokume(wood swirls) with Ji-nie.  Yubashiri, Chikei appears.       

Nakago ———- Often two letter inscription

Rai group ()

Names of swordsmiths among Rai group:  Rai Kuniyuki (来国行),  Rai Kunitoshi (来国俊) or Niji Kunitoshi (二字国俊),  Ryokai (了戒 )

Rai Kunitoshi is said to be Rai Kuniyuki’s son.  Ryokai is said to be Rai Kunitoshi ‘s son

A general characteristic of Rai Kuniyuki and Kunitoshi is as follows.  However, each sword has its own different characteristic.

Sugata (shape or figure) ———- Gracefull with dignity.  Thick body.  Rai made Ikubi Kissaki.                                                                                                                 

Hi and Engravings ———- Wide and shallow Hi.                                             

Hamon ———- Nie base.  Suguha (straight), wide suguha, ko-midare (small irregular), and choji  (clove).  Sometimes large choji at the lower part and narrow suguha at the top.  Inazuma and Kinsuji appear around yokote area.

Boshi ———-  Komaru, Yakizume (refer to the illustration above)

Jitetsu ———- Finely forged Itame (small wood grain) sometimes mixed with masame (parallel grain).  Fine Nie.  Rai group sporadically shows Yowai Tetsu which means weak surface.  This may be the core iron.

img017
Rai Kuniyuki (来国行)Juyo Bijutsuhin   (重要美術品)Once family owned Photo taken by my father with his writing on the left

 

9 «part 2» Rai Kuniyuki photo.jpg

Rai Kuniyuki (来国行)Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館)  permission granted

 

 

42|Part 2 of —- 8|Overview of the Kamakura Period Sword 1192-1333)

This is the second part of chapter 8.  Overview of the Kamakura Period Sword.  Please read chapter 8 before reading this section.

7 Kamakura timeline

                                   The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section.

Kamakura period was the golden age of sword making.  Approximately, half of the well-known swords at present were made during the Kamakura period.  Probably because of the war between the Genji and the Heishi demanded large numbers of swords, and they had a live experience to improve the sword.  Also, Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽) invited many able swordsmiths to his palace and treated them highly and encouraged them to create a good sword by giving them high ranks.  During the Kamakura period, the technic of sword making improved greatly.

Middle Kamakura Period —- Yamashiro Den (山城伝)

The Middle Kamakura period was the height for the Yamashiro Den.  Among Yamashiro Den, there are three major groups (or families).  They are Ayanokoji group (綾小路 ) Awataguchi group (粟田口)、and Rai group (来).  Among the Awataguchi group, 6 swordsmiths received the honor as the “Goban-kaji “ from the Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽上皇 ).  Awataguchi is the name of the area in Kyoto.  Ayanokoji ( 綾小路 ) group lived in the Ayanokoji area in KyotoMy sword textbook had a note that I saw Ayanokoji Sadatoshi (綾小路定利 ) on March 22nd, 1972.  The note said O-suriage, Funbari, narrowbody, and ji-nie.  I should have written more in detail then, had I known I am writing the website in the future.  Rai group started from Rai Kuniyuki (来国行 ).  Rai Kuniyuki and Ayanokoji Sadatoshi are said to have a close friendship.  Rai Kuniyuki created many well-known swords.  His famous Fudo Kuniyu (不動国行) was owned by Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru (足利義輝 ) then changed hand to Matsunaga Danjo (松永弾正)  then to Oda Nobunaga ( 織田信長 ) to Akechi Mitsuhide (明智光秀 ), then to Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉).  They are all historically well-known powerful daimyos.  It is said that this sword was held by Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s arm for the memorial service of Oda Nobunaga.  Rai Kuniyuki’s son is Niji Kunitoshi.  He also created well-known swords.

Middle Kamakura Period —– Bizen Den (備前 )

During the Heian period, Bizen Den called Ko-Bizen existed.  They are similar to the one to Yamashiro-Den style.  The true Bizen Den and also the height for the Bizen-Den was the Middle Kamakura period.  Bizen area (Okayama prefecture now) has many ideal aspects of sword making.  The weather is good, produced good iron, abundant wood for fuel nearby, and the location is conveniently situated.  Naturally many swordsmiths moved there and became the main place to produce swords.

Bizen made a large number of swords, their quality level is higher than any other places, and more famous swordsmiths came out.  Fukuoka Ichimonji Norimune (則宗) and his son Sukemune (助宗 ) of Fukuoka Ichimonji group received the honor of the Goban-kaji from the Emperor Gotoba.  Among the Osafune group (長船), famous Mitsutada (光忠) and Nagamitsu (長光) appeared.  My father owned four Mitsutada.  Three Tachi and one Tanto.  He was so proud that he owned four Mitsutada, he ordered his tailor to monogram Mitsutada on the pocket of the inside of his suit jacket.  From Hatakeda group (畠田), Hatakeda Moriie (畠田守家), from Ugai (鵜飼) group, Unsho (雲生 ), Unji (雲次), and Kunimune (国宗) appeared.  Because of a large number of swordsmiths in Bizen Den, a large number of bizen swords exist.  Of those swordsmiths have his characteristics.  Therefore kantei can be complex.  This is the time Ikubi Kissaki started to appear.

Below is my father’s four Bizen Osafune Mitsutada.  My father took those pictures many years ago at home by himself.  You can see he is not much of a photographer.  The writing on the square white paper is written by him.  He wrote the name of the swordsmith, the period the sword was made, which Daimyo owned it in the past and classification.

The classification of the sword from the top

  1. Kokuho (国宝: National treasure)
  2. Jyuyo Bunkazai (重要文化財: Important Cultural Object)
  3. Jyuyo Bijutu Hin (重要美術品: Important Art Object)
  4. Juyo Token (重要刀剣: Important Sword)                                                                          The rest is omitted

img028 img027

Osafune Mitsutada                                                                                  Osafune Mitsutada
(長船光忠: Jyuyo Bunkazai)                                                                   長船光忠: Jyuyo Bunkazai)

img029 img030

Osafune Mitsutada                                                                                  Osafune Mitsutada
(長船光忠: Jyuyo Token)                                                                          (長船光忠: Jyuyo Bunkazai)

 

 

Late Kamakura Period —– Soshu Den (相州伝 )

Yamashiro Den started to decline at the later part of the Kamakura Period.  At this time, many swordsmiths moved to Kamakura area under the new power of Kamakura Bakufu (鎌倉幕府) by the Hojo clan.  The new group, Soshu Den (相州伝 ) started to emerge.  Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真) and Kunimune (国宗) from Bizen moved to KamakuraToroku Sakon Kunitsuna (藤六左近国綱) from Awataguchi group of Yamashiro Den moved to KamakuraThose three are the ones who originated the Soshu Den in Kamakura.  Kunitsuna’s son is Tosaburo Yukimitsu, then his son is the famous Masamune (正宗)Outside of Kamakura, Yamashiro Rai Kunitsugu (来国次), Go-no-Yoshihiro  (郷義弘) from Ettshu (越中) province, Samoji  (左文字) from Chikuzen province (筑前) were the active swordsmiths.

 

 

 

 

 

 

41|Part 2 of —7 Kamakura Period History (1192 – 1333)

This chapter is the continued part of Chapter 7. Kamakura Period History 1192 – 1333.  Please read chapter 7 before reading this section.  Some of the information here may overlaps with chapter 7 since this is the continued part.

 

7 Kamakura timeline

                           The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section

Taira-no-Kiyomori (平清盛)

Chapter 7 described there were two major samurai groups, the Genji (源氏) and the Heishi (平氏) at the end of the Heian period.  The head of the Genji was Minamoto-no-Yoshitomo (源義朝) and the head of the Heishi (or Heike) was Taira-no-Kiyomori(平清盛).  They were childhood friends.  As they grew up, they became enemies because of the political situation.  After their several power struggle, the Genji side lost, and Taira-no-Kiyomori became very powerful.  He gave his men high positions, and his daughter marries the emperor.  As a result, Kiyomori’s power went even beyond the emperor.  This is the time it was said that “if you are not a part of the Heishi family, you are not a human being”.   The situation like this created too many opponents.                    Eventually, suppressed Genji and other samurai groups gathered together and raised an army, fought against the Heishi, and defeated them.  While Taira-no-Kiyomori was in power, he started active trading with China which contributed to economic prosperity tremendously.  The picture below is the Itsukushima Jinja (厳島神社) built by Taira-no-Kiyomori.  It is registered at the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

shutterstock_252533968-600x375

From Wikipedia   Photo is a public Domain.  Author: Rdsmith4       File Itsukushima Floating Shrine.jpg 8 /05/04

*The Itsukushima Floating Shrine is a very beautiful place.  Below is the site for the tour information.      Miyajima Sightseeing  Official site Ad page: http://www.miyajima-wch.jp

Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune (源頼朝)

Minamoto-no-Yoritomo (源頼朝) was a son of Minamoto-no-Yoshitomo(源義朝).  After Yoshitomo was defeated by Taira-no-Kiyomori (平清盛 ),  the direct line of Genji, Minamoto-no-Yoritomo was sent to Izu Island.  He was in his early teens.  Yoritomo grew to be a young man in Izu island, eventually, he met Hojo Masako (北条政子) who was a daughter of Hojo Tokimasa (北条時政).  He was a local government official.  While Tokimasa was on a business trip to Kyoto, Yoritomo and Masako had a baby.  Tokimasa was afraid if the Heike finds out about his daughter and Yoritomo, the Hojo family may get into trouble.  So, he planned Masako to marry somebody else.  But she escaped a night before the wedding day eloped with Yoritomo.  This story was written in the famous Japanese history book called  “Azuma Kagami:吾妻鏡” and a few other books, and also TV shows depict the story this way.  However, some say this story may not be exactly how it happened.  Meantime In Kyoto, the Heishi became very powerful and tyrannical in the central government, called Chotei (朝廷), and suppressed the opponents.  All the angry dissatisfied groups raised an army to attack the Heishi.  Minamoto-no-Yoritomo was the head of those opponents and his army grew bigger and stronger with the help of Masako ’s father, Hojo Tokimasa.  By this time Hojo Tokimasa realized he has a better chance to side with the son-in-law.

The Genji power pushed the Heike all the way to the Southern part of Japan.  The Heike was defeated at the place called Dan-no-Ura (壇ノ浦 ) near Kyushu area (九州 ) at 1185.  Yoritomo set up the Kamakura Bakufu (Kamakura government) in Kamakura.  After Yoritomo’s death, his wife Masako proved herself as a very able politician and she saved Kamakura Bakufu when they were attacked by the central government.  Here is one famous story about her.  When Yoritomo went around for different women in the town of Kamakura, Masako sent her men to follow her husband and set the fire of the woman’s house her husband was after.  Masako is well-known as a jealous wife in Japanese history.  But in her mind, the Hojo is one who made Yoritomo the head of the Kamakura Bakufu.  Without the aid of the Hojo, Yoritomo could not be what he became.

1024px-Kaguraden-Hachimangu_Kamakura

Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu  in Kamakura  Author: Urashimataro      From Wikipedia  Photo is public domain

*Tsurugaoka Hachiman-gu is one of the major shrines in Kamakura.  It is a walking distance from the Kamakura train station.  On top of the long steps into the hill, there is a big shrine.  Every year on Dec 31, a large number of people come to here to listen to the Joya-no-Kane(除夜の鐘:the New Year’s  bell-ringing)

Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune (源義経)

Minamoto-no-Yoritomo (源頼朝) had several half brothers.  Taira-no-Kiyomori (平清盛) saved the lives of those young boys with the condition of they become a monk when they grew up.  One of them was Ushiwaka-Maru (牛若丸: later Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune源義経) who was raised by Taira-no-Kiyomori while he was an infant, believing Kiyomori is his father.  Later Yoshitsune was raised in Kurama-Yama temple.  He spent his life there until he became mid-teens.  After that, he made a flight to live with O-shu Fujiwara(奥州藤原).   They were in the northern part of Japan, quite some distance from Kyoto.  O-Shu Fujiwara was a very wealthy clan and they had a luxurious culture there. Because of the long-distance from Chotei (central government), they could behave almost like an independent county.   They created grand wealth by mining the gold nearby and the trade with the outside of Japan.  Yoshitsune was living there rather happily for a while, but when he heard his half-brother Yoritomo raised an army to attack the Heike, he decided to join this war.  Yoshitsune was quite skillful at the battle, he won many well-known battles which was a very critical battle for Genji to win the war.  For Yoritome’s mind, he had a big political plan on how to proceed to take over the Heike’s power.  Yet Yoshitusune really could not understand this.  That made Yoritomo angry at his brother.  On top of it, Yoshitsune became very popular among people in Kyoto.  That made Yoritomo fearful and he decided to get rid of Yoshitsune Yoshitsune fled to O-Shu Fujiwara.  In the beginning, O-Shu Fujiwara protected Yoshitsune but could not hold it.  Yoritomo destroyed O-Shu Fujiwara entirely at the end.

Chinese knew about the wealth of O-Shu Fujiwara.  Later, Marco Polo heard about the small wealthy country further into the East.  He mentioned this small wealthy island in his book, “The travels of Marco Polo”.  The famous quote “all the houses are made of gold”.  This is O-Shu Fujiwara.  Of course, all the houses were not made of gold.  Marco Polo introduced Japan as “Zipangu” in his book.  It means the golden country.  That evolved into Japan.  However, we Japanese don’t call Japan as Japan.  We call our country “Nihon” or “Nippon”, both are correct.