iToken Bijutsu No.579j

 

Nihon Koto Shi

(History of Koto)

 

By Dr. Honma Junji

 

 (29)

 

(P.36)

28. Old Kyushu Smiths

 

Generally speaking, Kyushu smiths demonstrate a classic workmanship. Bungo Yukihira, the Miike school and the Naminohira schools represent old Kyushu smiths.

 

It is said that Bungo Yukihira was a student or teacher of So Sadahide and his workmanship has a close resemblance to that of Sadahide, that is to say, jigane is soft and oily and looks beautiful. It reminds one of the choku-to that are conserved in the Shoso-in Repository, Kogarasu-maru and a ken owned by Kongo Temple. He tempers sugu-ha and ko-midare with a hazy nioi-guchi and the hamon starts with yaki-otoshi. There is an extant tachi with a date of Genkyu 2 (1205) and its workmanship looks older than the production date. There is another extant tachi that has a cherry flower crest in the habaki area. This is to be one of the oldest examples on which we can see a cherry flower crest. He favoured carving kurikara on his blades also standing Fudomyo-o in an unusual style, bonji and crane eating pine nuts. I have not seen these kinds of horimono before Yukihira. We can see a certain number of his extant works today and each of them shows a little different workmanship. It may be another possibility that there are two generations of Yukihira. By the way, an interesting description is found in eKanchi In Bonf as follows; gMany fakes of Kishin Dayu (Yukihira) have been made since olden days.h Old swordsmith directories including eKanchi In Bonf say that swordsmiths called eYukihiraf had already existed before Kishin Dayu Yukihira appeared, but there is no way to confirm of their existence. There is another theory of Yukihira that he was sent to exile to Kozuke or Shimotsuke Province and engaged in sword forging there using a different smith name but no extant work in exile has been confirmed. Also the swordsmith directory lists the following smith names as his students; Masatsune, Yasunori, and Tametsune, Yasumitsu and Mitsutomo as related smiths. Though, none of their extant works have been confirmed yet. I have seen a tachi that has the mei of eMunehidef in two characters on the sashi-omote and its hamon starts with yaki-otoshi and the blade shows a workmanship of the Yukihira school. eHaya Midashif says that there is a tachi by Yukihide using his confidential smith name. Though, it is too early to conclude the confidential smith name is Munehide.

 

(Reference oshigata)

(Horimono of a crane eating pine nuts)

 

       gBUNGO (NO) KUNI YUKIHIRA SAKUh

 

                  gBUNGO (NO) KUNI YUKIHIRA SAKUh

 

(P.37)

Tokubetsu Juyo Token : Tachi Mei gBUNGO (NO) KUNI YUKIHIRA SAKUh

 

(P.38)

I have already described that a smith called Denta existed in Miike of Chikugo Province in the earlier period. This smith name had been inherited through the Kamakura and the Muromachi Periods and they had maintained a certain workmanship. There are a certain number of mumei katana attributed to Denta, which has wide mi-haba, small kissaki and wide bo-hi. Their jihada is dense ko-itame-hada and the jigane is beautiful whilst the hamon is a simple sugu-ha. Their production age could range from early to the late Kamakura Period. There is a zai-mei (with smith name) tanto of which the production age is attributed to the end of the Kamakura period and katana-bi with normal width is carved on it. It is speculated that this school did not carve wide hi anymore at the end of the Kamakura Period. It is a commonly accepted theory that work in higher quality is attributed to early generations when there are several generations, but there are some exceptions where the second generation is superior to the first generation in skill. Generally speaking, it is very hard work to define the production age of each work of the Miike and the Naminohira schools.

 

(Reference photos)

Tokubetsu Juyo Token : Tachi Mei gBUNGO (NO) KUNI YUKIHIRAh

 

(P.39)

The Naminohira school of Satsuma Province occurred before the Kamakura Period and thrived through up to the end of the Edo Period. The head of the family had succeeded to the smith name of Yukiyasu and maintained a certain workmanship. There are extant works of Yukiyasu with the production dates of the Showa and the Kareki Eras. Also a few extant works of Ieyasu (they look a little older than Yasuyuki mentioned above) have been confirmed. They have slender tachi-sugata with wide shinogi-ji and narrow mi-haba, their jihada are dense (high quality) or coarse (low quality) masame-hada and ayasugi-hada, and the hamon is hoso-sugu-ha with hazy and weak nioi-guchi. Yaki-otoshi is normally seen in the ha-machi area.

 

Their workmanship is similar to that of old Yamato swords on the whole also there are some points of connection with swords of the Shoso In Depository. There are a few extant works of Yamato swords with signatures made before the middle of the Kamakura Period. I suppose that Yamato swords made in the Heian Period have a close resemblance to that of old Naminohira swords. If Naminohira smiths made swords in kiri-ha-zukuri, it would be extremely difficult for us to differentiate them from the swords of the Shoso In Depository.

 

(Reference photos and oshigata)

Juyo Bijutsu Hin : Tachi Mei gSASSHU NAMINOHIRA KUSA YUKIYASUh

 

         gHISAKUNIh

           gKOAN 3 NEN 3 GATSU HIh

 

(P.40)

eKoto Mei Zukushi and other swordsmith directories say that a swordsmith called eHisakunif and a son of Awataguchi Hisakuni existed in Hiyuga or Osumi Province. There is an extant ken that has unusual sugata and a production date of the Koan Era. The ken has an old attribution to this Hisakuni and shows a workmanship that has a close resemblance to that of old Naminohira smiths.

 

I donft think that very early Kyushu smiths are directly connected with the smiths of the Shoso In Depository. I speculate that the ancient sword forging method by Shoso In smiths was maintained by old Kyushu smiths, but smiths who lived in other regions gradually developed their own sword forging methods.

 

(Reference photos)

Tokubetsu Juyo Token : Tachi Mei gNAMINOHIRA YUKIYASUh