42|Part 2 of — 9 Middle Kamakura Period : Bizen Den (鎌倉中期備前伝)

This chapter is a detailed part of Chapter 9.  Please read 9 | Middle Kamakura Period (Bizen Den) 鎌倉中期備前伝  before reading this chapter.

13 Red Middle Kamakura Timeline
                         The red circle indicates the time we discuss in this section

The middle Kamakura period was the height of the Bizen Den.  In different regions other than Bizen, swords styles often reflected people’s preferences and politics in particular areas.  But the Bizen sword had its own style and was not affected much by those elements throughout the time.  The clients of Bizen swords came from all over the country.  Therefore, the Bizen swordsmiths created the swords liked by everybody. 

The general style of Bizen Den

  • In general, their style is likable by everybody.
  • The shape, the width of the blade, the thickness of the body, and the tempered line are a standard size or usual design, seldom out of the ordinary.
  • Nioi base
  • Soft feeling Ji-gane (steel)
  • Utsuri (cloud-like shadow) apperars.
  • The 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 were the main swordsmiths among the Fukuoka Ichomonji group (福岡一文字 ).   From this group, six swordsmiths including  Norimune and Sukemune, received the honor as the “Gobankaji” from Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽上皇 ).   I saw Fukuoka Ichimonji Muneyoshi (福岡一文字宗吉) at Mori Sensei’s class on June 25, 1972.  My note pointed out a lot of Utsuri (shadow) on the blade.

 Sugata (shape) ————– Graceful and classy shape.  Generally, well- proportioned shape.  The difference between the top width and bottom width is not much.  Sometimes stout-looking Kissaki like Ikubi-kissak (refer 11| Ikubi Kissaki (猪首切先)  appears.

Hi and Engraving ———-The tip of Hi may follow the Ko-shinogi line.  See below.  The end of Hi goes under Machi ending with square, or Kakinagashi  (refer to 41| Part 2 of —– 8 Middle Kamakura Period (Yamashiro Den) 鎌倉中期山城伝 )

44 hisaki agaru

Hamon  ———- Wide Ichimonji-choji tempered line.  It means the same width tempered line from the bottom to the top.  The same Hamon front and back.  O-choji-midare  (large clove-like pattern), Juka-choji (overwrapped-looking Choji).  Nie base.  Inazuma and/or Kinsuji appear.

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

Jihada ———– Fine and a soft look.  Itame (Woodgrain pattern).   Lots of Utsuri (cloud-like shadow or reflection)

10«part 2» ichimonji photo

44 Ichimonjio hamon

Ichimonji  Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館) Permission granted  Above sword is O-suriage.  The end of Hi is lower than Mekugi-ana inside Nakago.

 

           

41| Part 2 of — 8 Middle Kamakura Period: Yamashiro Den 鎌倉中期山城伝

This chapter is a detailed part of Chapter 8| Middle Kamakura Period –Yamashiro Den(鎌倉中期山城伝).   Please read Chapter 8 before reading this chapter.

13 Red Middle Kamakura Timeline

      The red circle indicates the time we discuss in this section

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

When we refer to a certain group, we say, “xxx haxxx ippa   “, or  “xxx ichimon “.  We use those three words interchangeably.  They all basically mean a “group”.  For example, we say Ayano-koji Ippa, means Ayano-koji group.

Ayano-Koji Ippa (綾小路 )

  • Sugata (shape) —————- In general, gentle or graceful Kyo-zori shape.  The difference between the width of the yokote line and 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 (lightning like line) and Kin-zuji (golden streak) may show.  Double Ko-choji (two Ko-choji side by side) may appears.                                     
  • Boshi (tempered line at tip area) ——————Ko-maru (small round), Yakizume (refer to the illustration below), and Kaen (flame like pattern)                                           
  • Ji-hada ————– Small wood grain with a little Masame (straight grain)  Ji-nie shows.   
  • Nakago (hilt) ————————– Long, slightly fat feeling
  • Ayano-Koji  swordsmiths——Ayano-koji Sadatoshi (綾小路定利), Sadanori (定則)

Awataguchi Ichimon (粟田口)

Many swordsmiths from Awataguchi Ichimon (group) received the honor of the Goban Kaji (meaning top swordsmith) from Gotoba Joko (Emperor Gotoba 後鳥羽上皇 ).  Their general  characteristic is as follows.

  • Sugata (Shape) ——————————————– 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 becomes narrow tempered line at the top.  Nie base (this is called Nie-hon’i).  Straight tempered line mixed with Ko-choji (small clove) or wide straight line mixed with choji.  Awataguchi-nie appears.  Awataguchi-nie means fine, deep and sharp shiny Nie around tempered line area.   Fine Inazuma (lightning-like line) and Kinsuji (golden streak) appears.
  • Boshi (tempered line at the tip area) ————- Ko-maru (small round)  or O-maru (large round).   The return is sharrow.  Yakizume, Nie Kuzure, and Kaen (flame)9-«part-2»-大小丸焼詰丸角止-掻流-1-e1547925390685.jpg

Yakizume      O-maru     Ko-maru         Yakikuzure

  • Ji-hada ————- Fine Ko-mokume(wood swirls) with Ji-nie. Nie on Ji-hada. Yubashiri, Chikei appears.                                                                                                     
  • Nakago ——————————– Often two letter inscription
  • Names of Awataguchi swordsmiths —– Awataguchi Kunitomo (粟田口国友 ),  Hisakuni (久国), Kuniyasu (国安),  Kuniyasu (国安), Kunikiyo (国清)

 Rai Ha ()

A general characteristic of Rai group is as follows.  However, each swordsmith has own characteristics.

  • Sugata (shape) ———— Graceful with dignity.  Thick body.  Rai made Ikubi Kissaki.   
  • Hi and Engravings ———————— Wide and shallow Hi.                                                       
  • Hamon —————— Nie base.  Suguha (straight).  Wide suguha with Ko-midare (small irregular) and Choji (clove).  Sometimes large Choji at the lower part and narrow Suguha at the top.  Inazuma and Kin-suji appears around Yokote area.
  • Boshi ————————————  Komaru, Yakizume (refer to the illustration above)
  • Ji-hada ———– Finely forged Itame (small wood grain) sometimes mixed with Masame (parallel grain).  Fine Nie.  Rai group sporadically shows Yowai Tetsu (weak surface) which may be a core iron.
  • Swordsmiths of Rai Ha —— Rai Kuniyuki (来国行), Ryokai (了戒 ) ,Kunitoshi (国俊)

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

img017

    Rai Kuniyuki (来国行)Once my family sword, photo taken by my father with his  writing.    
9 «part 2» Rai Kuniyuki photo.jpg       Rai Kuniyuki hamon
Rai Kuniyuki (来国行)Sano Museum Catalogue (佐野美術館)  (permission granted)

40|Part 2 of — 7 Overview of Kamakura Period Sword (鎌倉太刀概要)

This is the second part of Chapter 7| Overview of the Kamakura Period Swords (1192-1333).  Please read chapter 7 before reading this section.

7 Kamakura timeline

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

The Kamakura period was the golden age of sword making.  Approximately half of the well-known swords at present were made during the Kamakura period.  It is probably because the war between the Genji and the Heishi demanded many swords, and the swordsmiths improved their swords through the war experience.  Also, Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽) invited many skilled swordsmiths to his palace and treated them highly, and encouraged them to create excellent swords by giving them high ranks.  During the Kamakura period, the technics of sword making improved significantly.

Middle Kamakura Period —- Yamashiro Den (山城伝)

The Middle Kamakura period was the height of the Yamashiro Den.  Among Yamashiro Den, there were 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, six swordsmiths received the honor as the “Goban-kaji ” from the Emperor Gotoba (後鳥羽上皇).  Awataguchi is the name of an 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 was not much but it said O-suriage, Funbari, narrowbody, and Ji-nie.

Rai group started from Rai Kuniyuki (来国行 ).  Rai Kuniyuki and Ayanokoji Sadatoshi are said to have had a close friendship.  Rai Kuniyuki created many well-known swords.  His famous Fudo Kuniyuki (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 were all historically famous powerful daimyos.  It is said that Toyotomi Hideyoshi held this sword for the memorial service of Oda Nobunaga.  Rai Kuniyuki’s son was Niji Kunitoshi.  He also created well-known swords.

Middle Kamakura Period —– Bizen Den (備前伝)

The Bizen Den during the Heian period was called Ko-bizen.  They are similar to the one to the Yamashiro Den style.  The true and the height of the Bizen Den was in the Middle Kamakura period.  Bizen area (today’s Okayama prefecture) had many ideal aspects for sword making: the good climate, the good production of iron, the abundant wood for fuel, and the convenient location. Naturally, many swordsmiths moved there, and it became a major place to produce swords.

The Bizen region produced many swords whose quality level was higher than other sword groups and more famous swordsmiths.  Fukuoka Ichimonji Norimune (則宗) and his son Sukemune (助宗 ) 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’s.  Three Tachis and one Tanto.  He was so proud of owning four Mitsutada’s that he asked his tailor to monogram Mitsutada on the pocket inside of his suit jacket.

From Hatakeda group (畠田), Hatakeda Moriie (畠田守家), and from Ugai (鵜飼) group, Unsho (雲生 ) and Unji (雲次) appeared.  The famous Kunimune (国宗) also appeared around this time.   Because there were many swordsmiths in the Bizen Den, a large number of Bizen swords exist today.  Each swordsmith showed his own characteristics on their swords.  Therefore kantei can be complexed.  This is the time Ikubi Kissaki appeared.

The classification of the sword ranking from the top

  1. Kokuho (国宝: National Treasure)
  2. Jyuyo Bunkazai (重要文化財: Important Cultural Property)
  3. Jyuyo Bijutu Hin (重要美術品: Important Artwork)
  4. Juyo Token (重要刀剣: Important Sword) more to follow

Below is my father’s four Bizen Osafune Mitsutada.  He took those pictures many years ago at home.  You can see he was not much of a photographer.  He wrote the writings on rectangular white paper.  He wrote the name of the swordsmith, the period the sword was made, the name(s) of Daimyo, who owned it in the past, and the classification.

img027               img028                Osafune Mitsutada (Juyo Bukazai)                 Osafune Mitsutada (Juyo Bunakzai)

img029            img030 Osafune Mitsutada (Juyo Token)                 Osafune Mitsutada(Juyo Bunkazai)

Late Kamakura Period —– Soshu Den (相州伝 )

Yamashiro Den started to decline in the latter part of the Kamakura Period.  At this time, many swordsmiths moved to the 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. Kunitsunas son is Tosaburo Yukimitsu, and then his son is the famous Masamune (正宗)Outside of Kamakura area, 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.

39|Part 2 of — 6 Kamakura Period History 1192 – 1333 (鎌倉時代歴史 )

This chapter is a continued part of Chapter 6| Kamakura Period History (1192 – 1333).  Please read chapter 6 before reading this section.  Some of the information here may overlaps with Chapter 6 since this is the continued part.

7 Kamakura timeline

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

Taira-no-Kiyomori (平清盛)

Chapter 6| Kamakura Period History  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.  Yet, because of the political situation and circumstances, they became enemies by the time they grew up to be adulthood.  After their several power struggles, the Genji side lost, and Taira-no-Kiyomori became very powerful.  He favored his men and gave high positions to them, and had his daughter married to the emperor.   As a result, Kiyomori’s power went even beyond the emperor.  This was the time people would say, “if you are not a part of the Heishi family, you are not a human being.”   A situation like this created too many opponents against him.  Eventually, the suppressed Genji and other samurai groups gathered and raised an army, fought against the Heishi, and defeated them.

While Taira-no-Kiyomori was in power, he actively started trading with China, contributing to Japan’s economic prosperity.  The picture below is the Itsukushima Jinja Shrine (厳島神社) built by Taira no Kiyomori.  It is registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

shutterstock_252533968-600x375

From Wikipedia.  The photo is in the public domain. Author: Rdsmith4      File Itsukushima Floating Shrine.jpg 8 /05/04

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 bloodline 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 and eventually met Hojo Masako (北条政子) there.  She was a daughter of Hojo Tokimasa (北条時政) who was a local government official.  While Tokimasa was on a business trip to Kyoto, Yoritomo and Masako had a baby. Tokimasa was afraid that if the Heishi found out about his daughter and Yoritomo, the Hojo family would get into trouble.  So, he planned to have Masako marry somebody else.  But she eloped with Yoritomo the night before the wedding.  This story was written in the famous Japanese history book called “Azuma Kagami: 吾妻鏡” and in a few other books.  However, some say the story may not be exactly how it happened.

In the 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 formed an army to attack the Heishi.  Minamoto no Yoritomo was the head of those opposing groups, and his army grew bigger and stronger with the help of Masako‘s father, Hojo Tokimasa.  By this time, Hojo Tokimasa had realized he would have had a better chance if he had sided with his son-in-law.  The Genji‘s army pushed the Heishi all the way to the southern part of Japan.  The Heishi was defeated in a place called Dan no Ura (壇ノ浦) near Kyushu (九州) in 1185.

Yoritomo set up Kamakura Bakufu (Kamakura government) in Kamakura.  After Yoritomo‘s death, his wife Masako proved herself as a very able leader, and she saved Kamakura Bakufu when it was attacked by Chotei, the central government. 

Here is one famous story about her.  When Yoritomo used to go around to see other women in the town of Kamakura, Masako sent her men to follow her husband and had them set fire to the house of the woman whom her husband was after.  In her mind, the Hojo was the one who made Yoritomo the head of the Kamakura Bakufu.  Without aid from the Hojo family, Yoritomo had no chance to be what he became.

1024px-Kaguraden-Hachimangu_Kamakura

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

Tsurugaoka Hachimangu is one of the major shrines in Kamakura.  It is a walking distance of Kamakura train station.  In the photo above, there is a big shrine at the top of the long steps.  Every year on Dec 31, a large number of people come to the shrine to listen to the Joya-no-Kane (除夜の鐘: the night watch bells on New Year’s Eve)

Minamoto-no-Yoshitsune (源義経)

Minamoto-no-Yoritomo (源頼朝) had several half brothers.  Taira-no-Kiyomori (平清盛) saved those young boys’ lives on the condition that they would become a monk when they grew up.  For Kiyomori, they were childhood friend’s sons, after all.  One of them was Ushiwak- 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 was his father.  Later Yoshitsune was raised in Kurama Yama Temple. 

He spent his life there until he became mid-teens.  After that, he went to live with the Oshu Fujiwara (奥州藤原) family.   They were in the northern part of Japan, quite some distance away from Kyoto.  Oshu Fujiwara was a very wealthy clan.  They had a luxurious culture there.  Because of the distance from Chotei (central government), they behaved as if they were living in an independent county.   They created great wealth by mining gold and trading it with some countries outside of Japan. 

Yoshitsune lived there rather happily for a while, but when he heard his half-brother Yoritomo raised an army to attack the Heishi, he decided to join them.  Yoshitsune was quite skillful in the battles.  He won many famous battles, which were very critical for Genji to win the war.  

Yoritomo had a big political plan on how to proceed to take over the Heshie’s power.  But Yoshitusune did not understand that.  He was a good warrior but not a politician.  That made Yoritomo irritated and angry at him.  On top of that, Yoshitsune became very popular in Kyoto.  That made Yoritomo anxious, and he decided to get rid of Yoshitsune. 

Yoshitsune fled to O-shu Fujiwara’s.  In the beginning, O-shu Fujiwara protected Yoshitsune but could not hold against Yoritomo’s army.  Yoritomo destroyed O-shu Fujiwara entirely at the end.  Today, a grand architecture built by O-shu Fujiwara was restored.  You can visit “Konjiki-do: 金色堂” inside the “Chuson-ji Temple: 中尊寺”.

Chinese knew about the wealth of O-Shu Fujiwara.  Later, Marco Polo heard about the wealthy small country further into the East.  He mentioned this wealthy small island in his book, “The travels of Marco Polo.”  In this book, he wrote, “All the houses are made of gold”, this described 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.  The name “Zipangu” evolved into Japan.  However, we, the Japanese, don’t call our country Japan.  We call it “Nihon” or “Nippon,” and both are correct.