iToken Bijutsu No.575j

 

Nihon Koto Shi

(History of Koto)

 

By Dr. Honma Junji

 

 (26)

 

(P.24)

23. Aoe School (Aoe-mono)

 

It is well known that Bitchu Province had thrived in iron manufacture since old times. It is to be an important reason that many swordsmiths had engaged in sword forging in this province then the province produced many master smiths from the Kamakura and the Nambokucho Period. The main production sites of the province are eKoi no Shof and eManju no Shof and smiths engaged in sword forging there are called eAoef. This province is one of four major production sties following Bizen, Yamashiro and Yamato Provinces during the Kamakura Period. Many swordsmith directories including eKanchi In Bonf list Sadatsugu, Tsunetsugu and Tsuguie of the Aoe school as eGotoba In Kajif. They are the sons of Aoe Moritsugu and several generations of these smiths exist then there are considerable numbers of their extant works.

 

The workmanship of Bizen smiths conspicuously varies depending on times but Aoe smiths maintain their basic workmanship through koto times. Generally speaking, their tachi-sugata has a resemblance to that of Bizen smiths. They make a slender tachi-sugata with ko-kissaki in the early and the mid Kamakura Period then become to make very long tachi with wide mi-haba and extended kissaki from the late Kamakura to the Nambokucho Period. They temper sugu-ha and midare-ba in slanted pattern. It is rare to see gorgeous midare-ba like that of Bizen smiths in the Kamakura Period and they favour sugu-ha mixed with saka-ashi. Entering the Nambokucho Period, most Bizen smiths become to temper gunome-midare but Aoe smiths temper gorgeous saka-choji-midare. The hamon of early Aoe smiths consists of ko-nie and that of late Aoe smiths of tight nioi-deki, especially sugu-ha is tempered in very tight nioi-deki. They forge a peculiar mokume-hada and it is called eChirimen-hada (Crepe texture)f as well as dense ko-itame-hada. Early Aoe smiths forge chirimen-hada and later ones dense ko-itame-hada in general. In addition, a kind of jifu called esumi-hada (dark and plain grain)f is often seen in their jihada.

 

(Reference oshigata)

gTSUGUTADAh  gMORITOSHIh  gSUKETSUGUh

        

      gKANETSUGUh   gTAMETSUGh   gYASUTSUGUh  gTOSHITSUGUh

       

                 gSADATSUGh  gSADATSUGUh  gTSUGUIEh  gTSUNETSUGUh

                                                               (eJuzu-maruf)

 

(P.25)

Aoe smiths are classified into two categories of Ko-Aoe and Chu-Aoe but no category of Sue-Aoe. Though, the definition of the two categories is not certain since there is no extant work with production date before the Genkyo Ear of the end of the Kamakura Period. Each smith of the school does not show distinct characteristics in their workmanship then I would say that smiths who were active from the end of the Heian to the beginning of the Kamakura Period are collectively Ko-Aoe and ones in the Nambokucho Period are Sue-Aoe. I donft think that it is appropriate to use the term of Chu-Aoe for the latter smiths. Incidentally they employ o-sujikai-yasuri on their nakago then usually sign their mei in two characters and thick chiselling on the sashi-omote (katana-mei). There are some exceptions in the style of their mei; Ko-Aoe Sadatsugu signs mei in the small or normal size of characters, Tametsugu sings in small characters and Tsunetsugu sings mei on the haki-omote (tachi-mei).

 

We have confirmed of the extant works of the following Ko-Aoe smiths; Moritsugu, Sadatsugu, Tsunetsugu, Ietsugu, Kanetsugu, Tametsugu, Yasutsugu, Toshitsugu, Suketsugu, Tsugutada, and Moritsugu. Also there are several generations of Moritsugu, Sadatsugu and Tsunetsugu through up to the Nambokucho Period. Moritoshi is listed in sword directories as smiths of the Kenmu Era but he is to be counted amongst Ko-Aoe smiths.

 

(Reference photos)

Kokuho : Tachi Mei gSADATSUGUh

 

(P.26)

gTSUNETSUGh  gTSUNETSUGUh  gBITCHU (NO) KUNI AOE JU UEMON (NO) JO

TAIRA (NO) YOSHITSUGU SAKUh

 

gMORITSUGUh

 

         gBITCHU (NO) KUNI JUNIN SAEMON YOSHITSUGU SAKUh

                                        gKENMU 2 NEN TSUKI HIh

 

                 Juyo Bunka Zai : Tachi Mei gTSUNETSUGUh

                 (Owned by the Tsuchiura City Museum)

 

(P.27)

(Reference photo)

Tokubetsu Juyo Token : Tachi Mei gTOSHITSUGUh

 

(P.28)

(Reference photo)

Kokuho : Tachi Mei gMORITOSHIh