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

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 from 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.  Bizen sword has a higher standard.

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) — Length of the sword is about 33 inches ± a few inches. The width of the blade is slightly wide and it has stout look.  The curvature of the blade is Koshizori (腰反)  means the highest curvature comes lower part.  The body has 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.

9 Hi --- groove

Nakago — Long and thin with curvature. The end of the Nakago is rounded which has the shape of chestnut’s bottom.  This is called Kurijiri. Look at 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 — Same tempered pattern continue to go up to Boshi area.  You can see Choji midare (clove-like pattern) or Yakizume.

10 Boshi --- Bizen

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) Junkei Nagamitu (順慶長光) Kagemitsu (景光)Hatakeda hatakeda(畠田) group —————-Moriie (守家)  Sanemori  (真守)                Ugai (鵜飼) group —————————————-   Unsho (雲生) Unji (雲次)

6 |Heian Period Swords

6-Heian-Timeline.jpg

                         The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section

This is the time, the shape of the swords changed to curved shape.  Until this time, swords were straight.

The study of swords is the swords made from the Heian period on.  Elegant and graceful taste of Fujiwara culture reflects on the swords made during the Heian period.  Their preference of their lifestyle reflected vividly on the swords.  A group of the sword smiths in Kyoto area was called Yamashiro school.  Their style of the swords 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.  Lower part of the sword has A-line curve (flare out) that is called funbari (踏ん張り).  Deep curvature.

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 hamon.  Nie (沸) base.  Nie is a tiny granule like a particle on the border of the tempered line.  If you look closely, fine sand-like particles are visible. 6 Straigh tempered line(Suguha)

Jitetu (地鉄) ———- fine wood grained tone. Refer Jitetu, 4 |Names of Parts4

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), that means pheasant thigh shape.

6 Kijimomo-nakago

Hi and engrave ———- Hi (樋) means an engraved straight line.  Hi and engraved design is rare in 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 sword smiths

  • 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)