iToken Bijutsu No.563j

 

Nihon Koto Shi

(History of Koto)

 

By Dr. Honma Junji

 

 (17)

 

(P.9)

 

13. Outline of Bizen Swords

 

The Kamakura Period was the golden age in the history of the Japanese sword. Bizen Province was the centre of sword production and superior to other provinces in quality and quantity in this period. As mentioned before, Yamashiro, Yamato and Sagami Provinces are also the production centres of the Japanese sword and produced many master smiths and created the local characteristics of each province in their workmanship. I understand that twenty to thirty top-class smiths existed in Bizen Province. According to a swordsmith directory, eToken Meiji Jitenf , written by Kawaguchi Wataru, 650 smiths are recorded in Bizen Province, 180 smiths in Yamashiro Province, 150 smiths in Yamato Province and 40 smiths in Sagami Province. The Bizen smiths listed in the directory lived in various places like Fukuoka, Yoshioka, Iwado, Osafune, Ukai, Wake, Nitta, Yoshii and Haji of Bizen Province and they show somewhat their own local characteristics in their workmanship. Gorgeous choji-midare in thick nioi-deki and utsuri are distinct characteristics of Bizen swords. These characteristics were accomplished in the middle of the Kamakura Period. Utsuri is occasionally seen on the ji of Ko-Bizen swords but it came to be seen commonly from the middle of the Kamakura Period. Bizen smiths started tempering hamon based on gunome-midare instead of choji-midare at the end of the Kamakura Period. Choji was also tempered by Yamashiro smiths but their pattern is slightly different from that of Bizen smiths. In fact, choji and utsuri are already seen in Yamashiro swords before the Kamakura Period.

 

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 Bizen Province.

 

14. Ichimonji School

 

Ichimonji and Osafune smiths are the mainstream of Bizen Province. The former thrived before the middle of the Kamakura Period and the latter from the late Kamakura to the Muromachi Period. Some of Ichimonji smiths lived in Fukuoka and they are called eFukuoka-Ichimonjif and another in Yoshioka are called eYoshioka-Ichimonjif. In general, Ichimonji smiths who had been active between the early and middle of the Kamakura Periods are called Fukuoka-Ichimonji whilst the others, who were active from the end of the Kamakura Period, are called Yoshioka-Ichimonji, though, Ichimonji smiths who add the name of Yoshioka to their mei exist from the Kagen Era (1303-1306). On the other hand, there is only one Ichimonji smith called Naganori who adds the name of Fukuoka to his works with dates of the Einin (1293-1299) and Kagen Eras. Though, eNoa Bonf says that swordsmiths had lived in Yoshioka from the Ninpei (1151-) to Kakei Era (-1389) then the directory enters most of Ichimonji smiths in the Yoshioka-Ichimonji school. eKokon Mei Zukushif takes a different theory, that is to say, it enters most of Ichimonji smiths in the Fukuoka-Ichimonji school. I take the later theory that has been commonly accepted today but the lineage of Ichimonji smiths has yet to be studied. By the way, there is another school called eShochu-Ichimonjif that includes Yoshiuji and Yoshiie who lived in Iwato-no-sho. I think they should be called eIwato-Ichimonjif in order to avoid confusion between them and the Yoshioka-Ichimonji smiths, since both of them were active in the same age.

 

(Reference oshigata)

Various styles of eIchif by Ichimonji smiths

 

(P.10)

 

Inquiring into the origin of the name of eIchimonjif, many smiths of this group used just eOnef or eIchif (in Chinese character or a horizontal line) as a smith name. There are smiths who use their smith names in addition to eIchif also smiths who use their smithfs name without eIchif. It is uncertain if eIchif 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 eIchif by Ichimonji smiths from the middle of the Kamakura Period is eOnef or eIchif in Chinese characters. Looking into their workmanships, it becomes clear that a group of smiths who use just eIchif without smith name demonstrated a different workmanship from others. I already mentioned that eNoa Bonf 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 Hidekagef and a date of the Bunmei Era (1469-1487). Interestingly the character of eIchif 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 Zukushif say that the founder of the Fukuoka-Ichimonji school is Sadanori who was active around the Ninfan 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 Juf 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 Zukushif says, gSukemune demonstrates two different workmanships. He makes tachi-sugata with wide mi-haba when he uses just eIchif as a smith name, meanwhile he makes slender tachi-sugata when he uses his smith name eSukemunef without eIchif.h Though, I have seen no tachi with just eIchif 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-honfi 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 oshigata)

gYOSHIMOCHIh

gYOSHIHIRAh

         gYOSHIFUSAh

         gYOSHIMOTOh

                gMUNETADAh

                gSADAZANEh

                       gNOBUFUSA SAKUh

                       gMUNEYOSHI SAKUh

                               gNARIMUNEh

                               gICHI   SUKESHIGEh

                                       gNORIMUNEh

                                       gSUKEMUNEh

                                       gYASUNORIh

 

(P.11)

(Reference photos and oshigata)

Kokuho : Tachi Mei gNORIMUNEh

(Owned by the Hie Shrine)

  gSHOAN 3 N3EN 12 GATSU ? ? HIh

 gBIZEN (NO) KUNI FUKUOKA JU ? ? ? NAGANORIh

             gSUKEMUNEh (Middle of the Kamakura Period)

             gICHI  SUKESHIGEh (End of the Kamakura Period)

(P.12)

(Reference photos)

Tachi Mei gSUKEMUNEh

(Owned by the Tokyo National Museum)