10 | Middle Kamakura Period — Bizen School(鎌倉中期備前伝)

9 Middle Kamakura period TimelineThe circle indicates the time we are discussing in this chapter 

There are large numbers of swordsmiths in Bizen (備前) school during the Heian period but their sword style is generally similar to Yamashiro school, called Ko-Bisen (古備前). The real Bizen school style started in the Middle Kamakura period.  Bizen province had many ideal conditions to produce swords.  It produced good quality steel and a large amount of fuel around the area and also the transportation was convenient.  Naturally, large numbers of swordsmiths gathered in this area and produced swords in quantities.  Because of that, to connoisseur Bizen sword is difficult.  In general, the Bizen sword has a higher quality standard than other schools.

Generally speaking, the next three characters are the most distinctive features of Bizen school.

  • Nioi base temper line (Nie is sand-like small dots on a tempered line, Nioi is finer dots than Nie, so small, it looks as if a line)  Technically speaking, those two are the same.  See the illustration below.
  • Jigane (sword steel) looks soft.
  • Reflection appears on the surface.

10 Nie & Nioi

Sugata (shape) — The length of the sword is about 33 inches ± a few inches. The width of the blade is slightly wide and it has a stout look.  The curvature of the blade is Koshizori (腰反)  means the highest curvature comes 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 the Nakago is rounded which has the shape of chestnut’s bottom.  This is called KurijiriSee 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 tempered line ) is uniform.

Boshi — The same tempered pattern continues to go up to the Boshi area.  You can see Choji midare (clove-like pattern) or Yakizume.

10 Boshi --- Bizen

Jitetu — Fine well forged, and soft look steel.  The surface of the steel has small wood grain pattern mixed with the large grain pattern.  Chikei (condensation of Nie) and cloud-like reflection appears.

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)

10, Ichimonji Photo

Ichimonji from Sano Museum Catalog (permission to use is granted)

6 |Heian Period Swords

 

6 Heian Time line

                        The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

The Heian period is the time, the shape of the swords changed to the curved shape.  Until this time, swords were straight.

The study of swords begins from the Heian period.  The elegant and graceful taste of Fujiwara culture reflects on the swords that were made during the Heian period.  The preference of their lifestyle reflected vividly on the swords.  One of the active groups of swordsmiths in the Kyoto area was called Yamashiro school or Yamashiro DenDen means school.  Their style had a graceful shape.  During the Heian period, Yamashiro Den (school) represents the Heian period sword style.

 

6a Heian period sword style

 

General Heian period sword style

Shape———-Lengths of the swords are approximately 30 inches ± a couple of inches.  Elegant and graceful shape.  The width of the blade is narrow.  Small Kissaki(小切先), Kyo-zori (京反り) and deep curvature.  Kyo-zori means the highest curvature comes around the halfway of the blade.  The lower part of the sword has an A-line curve (flare out) that is called funbari (踏ん張り).  It flares out like the shape of the lower part of the Eiffel tower.

 

 

6b A line bottom

Hamon(刃文)———-Hamon means tempered line.  The Heian period tempered area is narrow,  and usually, suguha (直刃), means straight hamonNie (沸) base.  Nie is a tiny granule like a particle on the border of the tempered line.  Refer below.  If you look closely, fine sand-like particles are visible. 6 Straigh tempered line(Suguha)

10 Nie & Nioi

Jitetsu (地鉄) ——–fine wood-grained tone.  The location of Jitetsu is in 4 |Names of Parts

Nakago (中心)———- Nakago is a hilt area.  Sword makers inscribe his names here.  The shape of the Nakago during the Heian period is often Kijimomo shape(雉腿), which means pheasant thigh shape.

6 Kijimomo-nakago

Hi and engrave ———- Hi (樋) means an engraved straight line.  Hi and engraved design is rare in the Heian period.  It became more common later time.

Kissaki (切先)———– Ko-kissaki (small kissaki). Boshi (Hamon around kissaki) is usually with komaru (小丸) means small round with a little return.6c Boshi Hamon

Names of the Heian period swordsmiths

  • Yamashiro school——–  Sanjo Munechika(三条宗近) Sanjo Yoshiie(三条吉家)                                                Gojo Kanenaga(五条兼長) Gojo Kuninaga (五条国永)
  • Yamato school ——–Senju-in (千手院)
  • Bizen school ———– Bizen Tomonari(備前友成) Bizen Masatsune(備前正恒)                                                 Bizen Kanehira (備前包平)
  • Hoki (伯耆) ———–Yasutsuna (安綱) Sanemori (真守)
  • Buzen (豊前) ——— Cho-en (長円) Sinsoku (神息)
  • Satsuma (薩摩) ——-Naminohira (波平)