46|Part 2 of –11 Ikubi Kissaki (continued from Chapter 45)

This chapter is a detailed part of 11| Ikubi Kissaki (猪首切先) and continued from the previous 45|Part 2 of —- 11|Ikubi Kissaki(猪首切先.  Please read Chapter 11 and Chapter 45 before reading this section.

12 Red Middle Kamakura Timeline                    
                       The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section.

Bizen Saburo Kunimune (備前三郎国宗)

Another swordsmith that needs to be mentioned in this section is Bizen Saburo Kunimune (備前三郎国宗).  In the middle Kamakura period, the Hojo clan invited top swordsmiths to the Kamakura area.  Awataguchi Kunitsuna (粟田口国綱) from Yamashiro of Kyoto, Fukuoka Ichimonji Sukezane (福岡一文字助真) from Bizen area, Bizen Kunimune (備前国宗 ) from Bizen area moved to Kamakura with his circle of people.  Those three groups started the Soshu Den (相州伝).

Sugata (shape)  —– Ikubi Kissaki style.  Sometimes Chu-gissaki.    Thick body.  Narrow Shinogi width.  Koshi-zori

Horimono (Engravings)  —– Often narrow Bo-hi (single groove)

Hamon (Tempered line) —– O-choji Midare (large clove irregular) with Ashi.  Or Ko-Choji Midare (small clove irregular) with AshiNioi base with Ji-nie (Nie in the Hada area).  Some Hamon is squarish with less Kubire (less narrow at the bottom of the clove).  Hajimi (刃染み rough surface) may show.  Often the Kunimure swords are as follows; Lower part shows Choji, the upper part shows less work without Ashi. 

12 «Part 2» 国宗刃紋 佐野

Kunimune Squarish Kawazuko Choji (tadpole and clove-like)Hamon                                                                                  (Sano Museum Catalog, Permission granted)

Boshi  —– Small irregular.  Yakizume or short turn back.

Ji-hada —–Woodgrain.  Fine Ji-hada with some Ji-nie (Nie inside Ji-hada).  Midare Utsuri (irregular shadow) shows.  A few Hajimi (rough surface).

12 «Part 2» 国宗  

Above photo is Kunimune   (国宗 Sano Museum Catalog, permission granted)  Even though Kunimune is famous for Ikubi Kissaki,  and this is the chapter for Ikubi Kissaki, this one is Chu-Gissaki.

12 (second part 2) 照国神社

Above photo is a picture from the official site of Terukuni Shrine in Kyushu.  You can go the site by clicking,  http://terukunijinja.pkit.com/page222400.html

The above photo is the National treasure Kunimune of the Terukuni Jinja Shrine in Kagoshima prefecture.  This Kunimune sword was lost after WWII.  This is the sword Dr. Compton, the chairman of the Board of Miles Laboratory in Elkhart Indiana, found in an antique store in Atlanta.  I mentioned Dr. Compton in 33| Background.  When he saw this sword, he realized this is not just an ordinary sword.  He bought it and inquired to the Nihon Bijutu Token Hozon Kyokai (Sword museum) in Tokyo.  It turned out to be the famous missing National treasure of Kunimune from Terukuni Jinja ShrineHe returned the sword to Terukuni Jinja without compensation in 1963.  My father became a good friend with him around this time through Dr. Homma and Dr. Sato (both were leading sword experts).  Later, Dr. Compton asked Dr. Honma and my father to examine his swords which he kept in his house (he had about 400 swords) and swords of New York Met, Philadelphia Museum, and the Boston Museum.  Father wrote about this trip and swords he examined in those museums and published a book in 1965; the title is “Katana Angya (刀行脚)”.  For Dr. Compton and my father, around this time must be the best time of their life.  The business for both of them was doing good and could spend time on their interest and having fun.  It was the best time of me too.

One time while I was visiting Compton’s house, he showed me his swords in his basement for hours almost all day.  His house was huge and the basement he built as his study room was with fire prevention system and correct lighting for viewing swords.   It was functionally correct as a storage place for his many different art objects.  Then his wife, Phoebe said to him that he cannot keep a young girl (I was a college student) in the basement all day long.  He agreed and then he took me to his cornfield to pick some corns for dinner.  Basement to a cornfield, not much improvement?  So his wife Phoebe decided to take me shopping and lunch in Chicago.  Good idea,  but it is too far.   The distance between Elkhart and Chicago is about two hours by driving a car then, too far just for shopping and lunch.  To my surprise, we took their company’s helicopter and landed on the rooftop of the department store then do the shopping and lunch came back  the same way.

Miles Lab. and a well-known Japanese large pharmaceutical company had a business tie-up then.  Dr. Compton used to come to Japan quite often, officially for business purposes.  But whenever he came to Japan he used to spend days with sword people and I used to follow my father.  One of the female workers of this pharmaceutical company, her job description was to translate the sword book into English.  My parents’ house was filled with Miles products.  Miles Lab. had a big research institute in Elkhart Indiana.  I visited there several times.  One day I was sitting with Dr. Compton in his office, looking into the sword book with our head together.  That day, a movie actor John Forsythe was visiting the research lab.  He was the host of the TV program the Miles Lab was sponsoring.  All the female employees were making a big fuss over him.  Then he came into Compton’s room to greet him thinking the chairman must be sitting in his big chair at his desk looking like a chairman.  But he saw Compton looking into the sword book with his head against my head.  The appearance of Dr. Compton was just like any chairman of the board of a big company one can imagine, and I was a Japanese college student looking like a college student.   John Forsythe showed a strange expression on his face that he did not know what to think.


45|Part 2 of —- 11 Ikubi Kissaki(猪首切先)

This chapter is a detailed chapter of 11|Ikubi Kissaki (猪首切先)  Please read Chapter 12 before reading this section.

12 Red Middle Kamakura Timeline                         The circle above indicates the time we discuss in this section.

The Middle Kamakura period was the golden age of the sword making.  We cannot deny it was due to Gotoba-Joko (refer to 10| Jokyu-no-ran (承久の乱) 1221  and 44|Part 2 of –10 Jyokyu-no-Ran (承久の乱1221) honored the skilled swordsmiths highly.  After the Jokyu-no-ran, samurai started to prefer the grand look swords. Those are Ikubi Kissaki sword.  It is said that there is no mediocre sword among the Ikubi Kissaki sword.  In this chapter, we discuss the swordsmiths who are famous for Ikubi Kissaki.

Bizen Osafune Mitsutada (備前長船光忠)

Bizen Osafune Mitsutada is one of the most famous swordsmiths for Ikubi Kissaki.  His sword is the most thought after sword among sword collectors.  He was the founder of the Osafune group, followed by his son Nagamitsu (長光), then grand-son Kagemitsu (景光), and the rest continues.

Sugata (shape) Grand look with Ikubi Kissaki.  The body is rather thick with Hamaguri-ha (refer 11| Ikubi Kissaki (猪首切先).  Often suriage.

Hi (engraving)Often Bohi (wide groove).  The end of Bo-hi above machi often shows kakudome (square end).

Hamon (Tempered line) —- Yakihaba (Hamon width) is the mix of wide and narrow.   Nioi base.  Large choji, Kawazuko-choji (tadpole head shape, refer to the illustration second from the last), Inazuma, Kinsuji (refer to the drawing in 14| Late Kamakura Period Sword

Boshi  —- Yakizume.  Yakizume with a short turn back.

Ji-hada —– Fine, and soft look surface.  Chikei appears.

img028   img028                                      Osafune Mitsutada (Jyuyo Bunkazai)   Osafune Mitsutada (Jyuyo Bunkazai)

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

I displayed the above four photos several times on different pages of this website.  Those were Mitsutada swords, once my father’s sword.  Those photos were taken by him and the writing on the white paper is also by him.  He was very proud he collected four Mitsutada and he monogrammed the name Mitsutada inside his suit jacket. It is said that Oda Nobunaga (織田信長) with his wealth and political power, he collected 28 Mitsutada.  I realize those photos are not wonderful pictures.  To avoid causing any infringement of the copyright and intellectual property rights, I only use father’s photos (not so wonderful though), Sano Museum Catalog photos ( permission granted), and some public domain photos from Wikipedia.  Please bear with me that I don’t have good photos.

Bizen Osafune Nagamitsu (備前長船長光)

Nagamitsu is Mitsutada’s son.

Sugata  —– Shape is similar to the one of the early Kamakura period style.  That is with Funbari and narrow at the top.  This is called Nagamitsu Sugata.

 Hamon —– Wide tempered line.  Nioi base.  O-Choji Midare (large clove shape) mixed with Kawazuko Choji (see below).  Many Ashi appears.  Also, he does Suguha-Choji (straight with choji mixed).  Works of Inazuma and Kinsuji shows.

12 (part 2) Kawazuko Choji)

Kawazuko Choji on the above sword is very clear, and almost textbook like example.  But often, they are not as clear as this one.

Boshi —– Yakizume or turn back a little.
Ji-hada —– Fine wood grain. Well known for Utsuri (shadow). Choji Utsuri (Shadow of Choji) or Botan Utsuri ( resembles flower peony). Choji Utsuri shows in the above picture.

Below is the poster of the Museum of Tetsu in Sakaki in Nagano prefecture in the year of 2003. The photo of the poster is Nagamitsu’s sword and Koshirae (scabbard). It was a family sword then. Toyotomi Hideyoshi (豊臣秀吉) of the Sengoku period awarded this sword to Takenaka Hannbei (竹中半兵衛: Hideyoshi’s strategist).

12 «Part 2» 長光ポスター

44|Part 2 of –10 Jyokyu-no-Ran (承久の乱1221)

This chapter is the continued part of 10| Jokyu-no-ran (承久の乱) 1221.  Please read Chapter 10 before reading this section.

11 Red timeline Jyokyu-no-Ran

                           The red circle indicates the time we discuss in this chapter.

Chapter 10 described how Jokyu-no-Ran (承久の乱) had started.  In the end, Emperor Gotoba (or Gotoba- Joko) was exiled to Oki Island (隠岐の島).  He was a very talented man in many fields.  He was very good at waka (和歌) which is a Japanese short poem.   To compose waka, it requires several elements in it, such as scenery, season, one’s inner feeling with the refined sentiment, or the surrounding state with limited numbers of words.  It really requires a literary talent.  He was also good at equestrianism, Kemari (ball game for the upper class at that time), a great swimmer, good at Sumo, good at music, archery, swordsmanship, calligrapher, painting and became a great swordsmith.  His contribution toward the sword field created the Golden Age of sword making in the middle Kamakura period.  Surprisingly, Gotoba Joko was not only good at in many different fields, he really mastered in all those fields to the top level.  Especially his waka (poetry) is highly regarded.  He edited Shin Kokin Wakashu (新古今集).  This is a collection of waka; it contains 1980 wakas.

 Emperor Gotoba was enthroned at the age of four

Emperor Gotoba was enthroned at the age of four (some say three).  The problem was Emperor Antoku had already existed at the same time.  They were both about the same age.  Two emperors at the same time was a big problem.  How did it happen?

To become an emperor, the head of the emperor’s family has to appoint the next emperor.  While Emperor Go-Shirakawa (後白河天皇) was in a jail, Emperor Antoku was appointed by Taira no Kiyomori (平清盛).  Though Kiyomori was the head of the most powerful Samurai group, the Heishi but not the emperor family.  That is against the tradition.  This was not acceptable for Go Shirakawa Emperor (後白河天皇).  Go Shirakawa Emperor was furious toward Taira no Kiyomori and the emperor picked his own choice and enthroned Emperor Gotoba.  This is the reason two emperors coexisted.   One more thing, to be an emperor, the emperor must have Sanshu-no-Jingi (三種の神器: Three Sacred Treasures); that is three items the emperor must have to be a legitimate emperor.  They are the Mirror, the sacred sword, and the Magatama (jewelry)*.   But Sanshu-no-Jingi was taken by the Heike family together with Emperor Antoku when they fled from Genji.  The Heike clan was chased by the Genji all the way to Dan-no-Ura (壇ノ浦) and they were defeated there.   Dan-no-Ura is a sea between Kyushu (九州) and Honshu (本州).  When it became clear for the Heike family, that they were defeated, all the Heike people including the young Emperor Antoku jumped into the sea and drowned.   They took Sanshu-no-Jingi with them into the ocean.   Later, people searched for the Sanshu-no-Jingi frantically, however, they only recovered the jewelry, and the mirror, but not the sword.  Because of the tradition that the emperor must have Sanshu-no-Jingi otherwise not a legitimate emperor, Gotoba Joko was tormented for a long time for not having all three.  Today, jewelry is with the present Emperor family and the Mirror is with Ise-Jingu (伊勢神宮: Ise Shrine).  The sword is still missing somewhere in the ocean.  Some say that the lost sword down in the ocean was a copy and the one with at Atsuta-Jingu (熱田神宮) is the real one

* Sanshu-no-Jingi (三種の神器 )—–the sword is Kusanagi no Tsurugi (草薙の剣),   the Mirror is Yata-no-Kagami  (八咫の鏡),  the Magatama is Yasakani-no-Magatama (八尺瓊勾玉) by Token world:  www.touken-world.jp/tips/32747/

Politics by  Gotoba-Joko

 Gotoba-Joko wanted political power back from Kamakura Bakufu.  He was a very impulsive and passionate and unpredictable quick-tempered person.   He wanted to revive Chotei (朝廷) power.  The Chotei was the central government controlled by an emperor and aristocrats.  Gotoba-Joko decided to rely on the armed forces to achieve this.  He set up the Saimen-no-Bushi (西面の武士: armed forces directly under the Emperor Gotoba).  When he saw Minamoto no Sanetomo was killed, he realized Kamakura Bakufu must be in a turmoil.  Thinking this is a good chance, he sent out the emperor’s order to all daimyos to fight against Kamakura Bakufu.  He expected an easy victory, but Kamakura Bushi was united tightly and maneuvered well under the leader of Hojo Masako, the nun shogun.  She organized one tightly united armed forces.  Whereas the Gotoba-Joko side was not very organized.  They were not used to fight.  In the end, the Gotoba-Joko side lost.  When he realized he had lost, he claimed it was not him, but it was done by his men only.  He insisted it was nothing to do with the emperor, therefore it is wrong to punish him.  But of course, Hojo Masako and Kamakura Bakufu did not believe that and exiled Gotoba-Joko to Oki Island.  Gotoba-Joko ends his life there.  As smart as he was and accomplished so many different fields, he could not win the grandma nun-shogun Hojo Masako.

Sword making by Gotoba-Joko

Gotoba Joko had a superior ability to connoisseur sword and he became a superior swordsmith himself.   He invited many top-level swordsmiths from different sword groups to his court and gave them the title and treated them respectfully.  Also, he made them his instructor and assistants.  Gotoba-Joko brought in skilled swordsmiths from places like Bizen, Awataguch, and Bicchu every two months alternately.  Those who were invited to the palace were called Gobankaji (御番鍛冶), an honorary title.  On the sword he created, he inscribed the Chrithantamum with 16 petals.  This is still used by the present emperor as the emperor’s crest.  The sword with the Chrithantamus is called Kiku Gosaku (菊御作).  Today, on Oki island you can visit the Emperor Gotoba museum and there are a few sites that are believed to be the Emperor’s sword making site.  Some people say it is debatable if the sites are real.

Today, Oki Island is a beautiful resort island.  It can be reached by ferries from Shimane Prefecture, which takes about 2 hours by boat.  Also can be reached by airplane directly from Osaka.


45 part 2 of ---11Oki-no-Shima map

11 «part 2» Gotoba Joko photo
Gotoba Joko (owned by Minase Shrine) This picture is public domain