This is the second part of chapter 8. Overview of the Kamakura Period Sword. Please read chapter 8 before reading this section.
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 Kyoto. My 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, narrow–body, 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 伝)
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
- Kokuho (国宝: National treasure)
- Jyuyo Bunkazai (重要文化財: Important Cultural Object)
- Jyuyo Bijutu Hin (重要美術品: Important Art Object)
- Juyo Token (重要刀剣: Important Sword) The rest is omitted
Osafune Mitsutada Osafune Mitsutada
(長船光忠: Jyuyo Bunkazai) 長船光忠: Jyuyo Bunkazai)
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 Kamakura. Toroku Sakon Kunitsuna (藤六左近国綱) from Awataguchi group of Yamashiro Den moved to Kamakura. Those 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.