iToken Bijutsu No.563j
Nihon Koto Shi
(History of Koto)
By Dr. Honma Junji
13. Outline of Bizen Swords
The Kamakura Period was the golden age in
the history of the Japanese sword.
Generally speaking, the chiselling style (mei) of koto smiths resembles that of sculptors of Buddhist
statues and they are normally done in the semi cursive or running style. They were
not very skilled but their mei looks elegant and
tasteful. Some Bizen smiths started employing the square style in signing and
the styles of mei by smiths who belong to the same lineage have a close
resemblance. It is highly possible that professional chisellers, who
substituted for the smiths in signing, existed in
Ichimonji and Osafune smiths are the mainstream
Various styles of eIchif by Ichimonji smiths
Inquiring into the origin of the name of eIchimonjif, many smiths of this group used just eOnef or eIchif (in Chinese character or a horizontal line) as a smith name. There are smiths who use their smith names in addition to eIchif also smiths who use their smithfs name without eIchif. It is uncertain if eIchif that looks like a diagonal line and is seen in the mei of early Ichimonji smiths (Ko-Ichimonji smiths) is a character or mark. Though, there is no doubt that eIchif by Ichimonji smiths from the middle of the Kamakura Period is eOnef or eIchif in Chinese characters. Looking into their workmanships, it becomes clear that a group of smiths who use just eIchif without smith name demonstrated a different workmanship from others. I already mentioned that eNoa Bonf says that Yoshioka-Ichimonji smiths were active in the Eitoku and Kakei Eras. There is an interesting katana with the inscription of eBizen no Kuni Osafune Taira no Hidekagef and a date of the Bunmei Era (1469-1487). Interestingly the character of eIchif is added to the mei of this katana. Ichimonji smiths after the middle of the Kamakura Period demonstrate a similar workmanship to that of Osafune smiths (Ko-Osafune school). It is speculated that Ichimonji smiths had been absorbed into Osafune smiths on entering the Muromachi Period.
Old swordsmith directories including eKokon Mei Zukushif say that the founder of the Fukuoka-Ichimonji school is Sadanori who was active around the Ninfan Era and had four sons of Norimune, Nobufusa, Muneyoshi and Munenaga then their descendants had thrived but it is impossible to confirm the lineage of the old swordsmith directories, referring to their extant works.
The followings are Ichimonji smiths of the early Kamakura Period whose extant works I have ever seen; Norimune, Yasunori, Sukemune, Narimune, Sukenari, Sukeshige (smiths in the lineage of Norimune), Nobufusa and Nobumasa (smiths in the lineage of Nobufusa), Muneyoshi and Munetada (smiths in the lineage of Muneyoshi), and Sadazane (smith in the lineage of Munenaga). The following are smiths of the middle of the Kamakura Period; Sukezane and Norikane (smiths in the lineage of Norimune), Yoshifusa and Yoshimoto (smiths in the lineage of Nobufusa), and Yoshihira and Yoshimochi (smiths in the lineage of Muneyoshi). Incidentally, all of them have no date on their nakago. I have also seen a work of Naganori who was active around the Einin Era of the late Kamakura Period. Smith who add eYoshioka Juf to their mei are as follows; Sukeyoshi (Probably a smith in the lineage of Fukuoka-Ichimonji Sukefusa), Sukemitsu, Sukeyoshi, and Sukehide (smiths in the lineage of Sukeyoshi) then the production dates of the Kagen, Genkyo, Kareki, Gentoku and Genko Eras are seen in their works. There is an extant work of Yoshiie of the Shochu-Ichimonji (or Iwato-no-sho-Ichimonji) that has a production date of the Gentoku. We can find smiths who use the same smith names mentioned above in the later years and they appear to be the descendants of the above Ichimonji smiths (Sukemune, Sukeshige, Yoshifusa, Sukeyoshi, etc.) but they are not equal to their first generations in quality and workmanship.
Early Ichimonji smiths like Norimune demonstrate a workmanship similar to that of Ko-Bizen smiths, that is to say, their tachi has narrow mi-haba, deep koshi-zori, funbari and elegant sugata with ko-kissaki, hamon is ko-midare or ko-midare mixed with ko-choji in ko-nie-deki and choji is more emphasised. There are extant works by Norimune of which the hamon is ko-choji-midare in ko-nie-deki and a refined pattern. Sukemune makes the same tachi-sugata as that of Norimune but is not equal to Norimune in the hataraki of the hamon. There are mumei swords attributed to O-Ichimonji, namely Sukemune and most of them have wide mi-haba and hamon in juka-choji Zukushif says, gSukemune demonstrates two different workmanships. He makes tachi-sugata with wide mi-haba when he uses just eIchif as a smith name, meanwhile he makes slender tachi-sugata when he uses his smith name eSukemunef without eIchif.h Though, I have seen no tachi with just eIchif on which workmanship makes me attribute it to Sukemune right away. Norimune (Father) and Sukemune (son) sign their mei in small characters. There is a tachi that had been inherited by the Kuroda family. It has a wide mi-haba and the hamon is juka-choji in nioi-honfi accompanied with ko-nie then the mei is signed in large characters. This tachi is the work of another Sukemune but O-Ichimonji (Ko-Ichimonji Sukemune). A tachi by Sukeshige that is owned by the Meiji Shrine has narrow mi-haba and the hamon is ko-midare in ko-nie-deki. This is certainly a work of early Ichimonji smith then a kiku-mon (chrysanthemum family crest) is carved in hairlines above the smith name. In addition, there is a ko-dachi that has normal mi-haba and the hamon is o-choji-midare in nioi-deki and the mei is signed in thick and large characters.
(Reference photos and oshigata)
Kokuho : Tachi Mei gNORIMUNEh
(Owned by the Hie Shrine)
gSHOAN 3 N3EN 12 GATSU ? ? HIh
gBIZEN (NO) KUNI
gSUKEMUNEh (Middle of the
gICHI SUKESHIGEh (End of the
Tachi Mei gSUKEMUNEh
(Owned by the