By Fred Weissberg

Revised 12/2011

Bizen Kanemitsu was the son of Bizen Kagemitsu who was the son of Bizen Nagamitsu and the great-grandson of the founder of the Bizen Osafune School, Mitsutada. Because of the long working period of this smith, there are two schools of thought about whether there was one or two generations of smiths who used the name Kanemitsu. Those who subscribe to the two-generation theory refer to the first generation as O-Kanemitsu and the second generation as Enbun Kanemitsu. A blade dated 1331 is he oldest dated example of the work of Kanemitsu. His works from this period until the Koei era (1342-1344) resembled those of his father, Kagemitsu, whose sugata shows features typical of the late Kamakura period with hamon that are uniformly kataochi gunome consisting of nioi with a mixing in of square-shaped gunome, and there are such activities as minute ashi and yo.

Beginning around the Koei era (1342-1344), the workmanship of Kanemitsu changed markedly. After this period, tachi with prolonged kissaki, tanto, and wakizashi with markedly stretched width and length came into existence. The notare hamon that was first introduced about this time came to gain popularity by the Bunwa and Enbun days (1352-1360). The works produced in and after the Kano (1350-1351) days began to show elements of Soshu influence mixed with the native Bizen style. Since the mid 1980's the thinking of many sword experts, including Tanobe sensei has reverted back to believing in a single generation of Kanemitsu. After all if there were two generations of smiths by this name, they worked in a very close time frame with no clear chronological line established to distinguish two generations. For this reason, it is not beyond the realm of possibility that there was only one generation and he changed his sword making characteristics to comply with the changing times as the Nanbokucho Era came into being.

Tomomitsu, Yoshimitsu, Yoshikage, Hidemitsu, Motomitsu, Masamitsu, Toshimitsu, and Shigemitsu belonged to the school headed by Kanemitsu. The work of each member of this school had some distinctive features, but the basic characteristics of the Kanemitsu school of workmanship are outlined below.

Sugata: Early period works: Typical Kamakura tachi shape with marked koshi-zori and funbari. His sugata was close to that of his father, Kagemitsu. His tanto lacked sori and averaged around 24 cm in length.

Later period works: The ubu swords of this period came to have the longest nagasa in Japanese sword history with swords of up to 90 cm being not uncommon. Most of the remaining examples are o-suriage (shortened) and mu-mei (unsigned). The mihaba is wide, with almost no difference in width at the bottom and the top. Sori will be shallow. The kissaki is large, with a fukura, which is not rounded. Hira-niku is scarce. The shinogi is high and the shinogi-ji is narrow. In tanto, the nagasa ranges from 30 cm to 35 cm, the mihaba is relatively wide, hira-niku is scarce and the kasane is thin.

Jitetsu:The jigane is well forged and soft. Most often we find a kitae of itame mixed with mokume forming many chikei. Utsuri appears as midare-utsuri or bo-utsuri or a combination of both is found with the chikei.

Hamon: Early period works: The hamon is narrow, but when kataochi-gunome is present, the pattern is larger than Kagemitsu's. Generally, he either produced a sugu style hamon with a mixing in of gunome or a kataochi style gunome hamon, so that the hamon he tempered were entirely those inherited from his father, Kagemitsu.

Later period works: In work produced in his later period we find a notare mixed with gunome and sprinkled with nie grains as being his most common. Kataochi gunome can still be present, but there is a definite trend towards more profuse nie showing the Soshu influences of his later years.

Boshi: His distinctive boshi, called"Kanemitsu boshi", is midare-komi with a short turn-back that is tapered with nioi at the top, resembling a candle flame.

Horimono: In addition to hi, such horimono as ken-maki-ryu (dragon winding around a sword), bonji, tsume-tsuki-ken (a sword hilt with claws), dokko-tsuki-ken (a sword with a handle), and the names of the gods and deities are skillfully engraved.

Nakago: Kanemitsu's tanto nakago will be typical Bizen with straight sides and a rounded kiri. Occasionally a furisode style nakago will be found. Most of his long swords have been shortened with the original nakago being lost, but on those ubu examples that exist the nakago will be long with a slight curvature and a ha-agari-kurijiri. The yasurimei will be katte-sagari.

Mei: The most common are:





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