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ICHIMONJI YOSHIMOTO

by Fred Weissberg 11/09

This month's kantei blade is a fine tachi by Ichimonji smith, Yoshimoto. This is an ubu blade from the middle Kamakura Era made by a smith of the Fukuoka Ichimonji School. Yoshimoto is believed to have been the student and son of Yoshifusa of the Fukuoka Ichimonji School. His life was fairly short as he died when he was only 54 years old. Signed blades by him are exceedingly rare and only four are known of to date. Two are Juyo Token and the other two are designated as Juyo Bijitsuhin (Important Cultural Properties).

Yoshimoto worked around the Shogen Era or 1259. Since this was the middle of the Kamakura Era one would expect the blade to have the typical shape of this time, i.e. flamboyant with a robust sugata, ikubi kissaki, and large and closely packed choji formations known as juka-choji, o-choji midare, o-busa choji, etc.

In this blade, however, we see the more refined shape of the ko-Bizen era of a couple of hundred years prior. I think it is fairly obvious that this particular blade was a special order piece done in an older and more refined style at the request of the owner for whom it was made. We can surmise that perhaps he was a member of the Kuge (Imperial household) whose tastes were along those lines. The blade is described in detail on page two.

The Ichimonji School in Bizen Province was a large school that was founded in the beginning of the Kamakura period and lasted through the Nanbokucho period. From the beginning of the Kamakura period and up until the middle of the Kamakura period, works by this school are commonly referred to as Ko-Ichimonji works and the center of the production done by this school was located in the area called Fukuoka.

From the end of the Kamakura period and through the Nanbokucho period, the areas of production of the Ichimonji School disseminated to Yoshioka, Iwato and Katayama.

The name of the school is derived from the fact that many of the swords extant today are signed only with the Kanji character รข"Ichi". To this day there is uncertainty as to whether any of the smiths who signed with individual names are one and the same as any of these practically anonymous artisans who signed with only an "Ichi".

Around the middle of the Kamakura period the shape and workmanship style changed to become more flamboyant with a more robust sugata and large and closely packed choji formations known as juka-choji, o-choji midare, o-busa choji, etc. These are the swords that we commonly refer to as being of the Fukuoka Ichimonji School.

The notable smiths who followed the founder of the school, Norimune, such as Yoshifusa, Sukezane, Norifusa, Yoshiiye, Sukefusa, Nobufusa, Yoshimune, and others, developed what we today refer to as the Fukuoka Ichimonji style. These smiths produced the nioi dominant hamon consisting of o-busa, juka, kawazuka, and fukuro variations of choji-midare tempered in diversified widths and heights. The vivid midare-utsuri in the ji further increases the gorgeous and magnificent quality of their works.

The following is the translation of the Juyo Token Zufu that accompanies this tachi by Ichimonji Yoshimoto:

Designated Juyo Token at the 19th Shinsa on June 1, 1970.

Type of Blade: Tachi

Signature: Yoshimoto

Measurements: Length: 75.4 cent.; Curvature: 2.7 cent.; Width at the base: 2.75 cent.; Width at the point: 1.55 cent.; Kissaki length: 2.6 cent.; Nakago length: 20.0 cent.; Nakago curvature: 0.5 cent.

Construction: This is a shinogi-zukuri tachi with an iori-mune. It has a ko-kissaki and an ubu nakago. The koshi-zori is high, and there is funbari. The kitae is itame with a mixing in of flowing hada here and there. The entire hada pattern is somewhat prominent. The jigane contains faintly prominent midare-utsuri. The hamon is ko-choji with ko-midare and a mixing in of ko-gunome. The habuchi contains hotsure here and there, and there are streaks of sunagashi. The entire habuchi contains ko-ashi activity and is covered in ko-nie. The boshi is sugu with a yakizume style tip. The nakago is ubu and the end is kurijiri. The yasurime are kattesagari, and there is one mekugi-ana. On the hakiomote above the mekugi-ana and near the mune is a two-character signature engraved with a thick chisel.

Description: Yoshimoto is a sword-smith in the Bizen, Fukuoka Ichimonji School, and the second generation in this line is said to have moved his residence to Osafune. This tachi is by the first generation, and it is a tachi with an ubu nakago. Although the workmanship is a bit conservative, it is excellent.

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