64| Part 2 of –30 Shin Shin-To : Bakumatsu sword (新々刀)

Chapter 64 is a detailed chapter of 30|Bakumatsu Period, Shin Shin-to.  Please read chapter 30 before reading this chapter.

0-timeline - size 24 Bakumatsu

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

Swords made between the Tennmei era (天明 1781) and the end of Keio era (慶應) are called Shin Shin-to.  Please see the timeline above.  It was the time Japan was moving toward the Meiji Restoration.  It was the Bakumatsu time.  During the time, sword making was active again.  Below are the well-known swordsmiths in the main areas.

Musashi no Kuni  (武蔵の国: Tokyo today)

Suishinshi Masahide (水心子正秀) ———— When Suishinshi Masahide made Yamashiro Den style swords, the shape was similar to one of the Ko-to time swords; Funbari, elegant shape, Chu-suguha (medium straight), Komaru-boshi, fine wood grain.  When he forged the Bizen style, he made a Koshizori shape, just like a Ko-to by Bizen Osafune.  Nioi with Ko-choji, and Katai-ha (Refer to  30| Bakumatsu Period Sword 新々刀).  I put a note in my sword textbook that I saw Suishinshi in November 1970 and October 1971.

Taikei Naotane  (大慶直胤) ————-Although Taikei Naotane was within the Suishinshi group, he was among the top swordsmiths.  He had an amazing ability to forge all kinds of different styles of swords wonderfully.  When he made a Bizen Den style, it looked like Nagamitsu from the Ko-to time with Nioi.  Also, he did Sakasa-choji as Katayama Ichimonji had done.  Katai-ha appearsMy note on the textbook says that I saw Naotane in August 1971.

67 Naotane photo

Taikei Naotane (大慶直胤)   Photo is from “Token no Mikata (The way to look at swords)” written by Koichi Hiroi,  Published 1971

Minamoto no Kiyomaro (源清麿) —————— Kiyomaro desired to join the Meiji Restoration movement as a Samurai; still, his guardian realized Kiyomaro’s ability as a great swordsmith and helped him become one.  It is said that because Kiyomaro had a drinking problem, he was not so eager to forge swords.  At age 42, he committed SeppukuKiyomaro, who lived in Yotsuya  (a part of Shinjuku, Tokyo, today), was called Yotsuya Masamune because he was as good as Masamune.  His swords were wide width, shallow Sori, stretched Kissaki, and Fukurakareru Boshi has Komaru-boshi.  Fine wood grain Ji-gane.

67 Kiyomaro photo

Minamoto no Kiyomaro (源清麿)   Photo is from “Token no Mikata ( The way to look at swords)”, written by Koichi Hiroi, published 1971

Settsu no Kuni    摂津の国   (Osaka today )

Gassan Sadakazu  (月山貞一) ———- Gassan was good at Soshu Den style and Bizen Den style, but he could make any kinds of style.  He was as genius as Taikei Naotane.  When you see his Ko-to style swords, it is hard to distinguish his sword from a real Ko-to sword because of his superb ability.   One needs to be careful not to mistake a sword made by Gassan from a real Ko-to.  He also had an amazing ability in carving.  His hirazukuri-kowakizashi forged in Soshu Den style looks just like a Masamune or a Yukimitsu.  He forged the Yamashiro Den style with Takenoko-zori with Hoso-suguha or Chu-suguha in Nie.  He also forged the Yamato Den style with Masame-hada.

67 Gassan photo

Gassan Sadakazu (月山貞一)  Photo is from “Token no Mikata (How to look at swords)” written by Koichi Hiroi, Published in 1971

 

 

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.

0-timeline - size 24 Kamakura Period

                         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 techniques 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 in the Yamashiro Den style.  The true height of the Bizen Den was in the Middle Kamakura period.  The 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.  Three Tachis and one Tanto.  He was so proud of owning four Mitsutada 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 on Bizen  swords can be complex.  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 are 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 name of the swordsmith, the period the sword was made, the name(s) of Daimyo who owned it in the past, and the classification on a rectangular white paper.

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.

11| Ikubi Kissaki (猪首切先)

 
0-timeline - size 24 Middle Kamakura
The circle indicates the time we discuss in this chapter.

Through the experience of the war of Jokyu-no-Ran (Chapter 10), the sword’s trend changed to a wider, sturdier, and grander style. The swords made around this time are called Ikubi-kissakiIkubi means a wild boar’s neck.  Ikubi-kissaki style swords have a stout kissaki that looks like the boar’s neck.

The middle Kamakura period was the golden age of Japanese sword making.  Many top swordsmiths created great swords during this time.  Experts agree that there is no mediocre sword among Ikubi-kissaki swords

IkubiKissakiSword  12 Ikubi Kissaki sword style

SUGATA (shape) —— Originally 3 feet or longer, therefore it is often shortened in later time.  Wide width, thick Kasane (thick body) with Hamaguri-ha (蛤刃).  Hamaguri-ha means the sword’s cross-section is shaped like a clam (see below).  The difference in the width between the Yokote line area and Machi is minimal.  Shinogi (鎬) is high, and shinogi width is narrow.  The cross-section of an Ikubi-kissaki sword is shown below. 

12 蛤刃と鎬

KISSAKI  —— Ikubi-kissakiIkubi means the neck of a wild boar.  It is thick, short, and stout looking.  Kissaki is short and wide at the Yokote line.  The illustration below shows an exaggerated image of an Ikubi-kissaki.

12 Ikubi Kissak drawing

Hamon (刃文) —— Kawazuko-choji (tadpole-head shape pattern). O-choji (large clove- shape pattern), Ko-choji (small clove-shape pattern), a mix of O-choji and Ko-choji, or Suguha-chojiSuguha-choji has a straight line mixed with Choji pattern (clove-shape).  

12 Hamon Kawazuko-choji                     O-choji                          Ko-choji                  Suguha-choji     (tadpole head)                   (large clove)                (small clove)      (straight and clove)

Boshi(鋩子) ———Yakizume: the hamon ends almost at the tip of kissaki, no turn back. Sansaku Boshi: created by Nagamitsu (長光), Kagemitsu (景光), and Sanenaga (真長), the hamon narrows at the yokote line.  See the below for Yakizume and Sansaku Boshi.                                     

12 Yakizume
                                                                

   Yakizume       11 Sansaku Boshi(三作Sansaku-boshi

 

Ikubi Kissaki Sword Smiths

Fukuoka Ichimonji Group (福岡一文字) —————Fukuoka Ichimonji Norimune (則宗) Kamakura Ichimonji Group(鎌倉一文字) ———— Kamakura Ichimonji Sukezane (助真) Soshu Bizen Kunimune Group(相州備前国宗)——– Soshu Bizen Kunimune (国宗)Bizen Osafune Group(長船)——————Bizen Osafune Mitutada(長船光忠) Nagamitsu(長光)   Ugai Group————————————————————————- Ugai Unji (鵜飼雲次)

 

11 nagamitsu 1    11 Nagamitsu drawing  Osafune Nagamitsu(長船長光)    From Sano Museum Catalogue (permission granted)         

img028   img027

Osafune Mitsutada(長船光忠)                          Osafune Mitsutada(長船光忠)                        *Were family sword This photo was taken by my father and writings on the white paper were written by him.

9 | Middle Kamakura Period: Bizen Den (鎌倉中期備前伝)

 
 
0-timeline - size 24 Middle Kamakura
The circle indicates the time we discuss in this section 

There are many swordsmiths in the Bizen (備前) school during the early Kamakura period.  However, their sword style is usually somewhat similar to that of the Yamashiro school. Therefore, they are called Ko-bizen (古備前), which means old Bizen.

The true Bizen school style emerged in the Middle Kamakura period.  Bizen province had many advantages to produce great swords.  The area produced high-quality iron and a large amount of firewood for fuel.  Also, its location was conveniently situated from different places.  Naturally, many swordsmiths came to the place and produced swords in quantities.  Due to the competition among those swordsmiths, Bizen swords’ quality is generally higher than that of other schools.   Thus, it is not easy to appraise Bizen swords since they had many subtle variations among the many swordsmiths.

Generally speaking, the following three features are the most distinctive characteristics of Bizen school.

  • Nioi-base tempered line. Nioi-base tempered line is finer dots than Nie-base.  Dots are so small that they look almost like a line. Technically, the tempering processes of these two are the same.  See the illustration below. 
  • Ji-hada (surface of the body) looks soft.  
  •  Reflection (Utsuri) appears on the surface.

10 Nie & Nioi

Sugata (shape) —The length is about 33 inches ± a few inches. The blade is slightly wide and looks stout. The curvature of the blade is Koshizori (腰反), which means the deepest curvature comes at a lower part.  The body has an average thickness.  Small Kissaki.

10 Middle Kamakura ---備前刀姿

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.

8 Hi

Nakago ——– Long and thin with curvature. The end of Nakago is rounded and looks like a shape of the bottom of a chestnut (kuri).  This shape 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 wavy tempered pattern) is uniform.

Boshi — The same tempered pattern continues to go up to the Boshi area, and it often  shows Choj- midare (clove-shape waves pattern) or Yakizume.

10 Boshi --- Bizen

Ji-hada — Fine and well forged.  Steel looks soft.  The small wood grain pattern and the large wood grain pattern are mixed together on the steel surface.  Chikei (condensation of Nie) and Utsuri (cloud-like reflection) appear.

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)

              9 Middle Kamakura Bizen Fukuoka ichimonji 

Fukuoka Ichimonji (一文字) from “Nippon-to Art Swords of Japan”                                     The Walter A. Compton Collection