THE FUKUOKA ICHIMONJI SCHOOL
By Fred Weissberg 10/04
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. From the beginning of the Kamakura period and through the middle of the Kamakura period, 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 production of the Ichimonji School disseminated toYoshioka, 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 "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".
Norimune has long been reputed to be the symbolic founder of the Fukuoka Ichimonji School. His early swords were of the Ko-Ichimonji style with a modest sori, a nioi based hamon of suguba mixed with ko-midare and ko-choji lined with plenty of nie and embellished with varied nie structures in the ji of hotsure, sunagashi, and kinsuji.
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 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 kukuro 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.
Sugata:The tachi sugata is grand but not excessive, it remains elegant. They are typically shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune with koshi-zori. There will be some funbari ending in a medium sized kissaki in the ikubi style.
Jitetsu: The kitae is mainly tight itame-hada mixed with mokume-hada. Occasionally a slight amount of o-hada or loose grained area will be present. There will be pronounced utsuri in the form of choji-utsuri, midare-utsuri, jifu-utsuri or botan-utsuri.
Hamon: Narrow ko-choji is rare. Typically the hamon will be a robust choji-midare which will be in the form of a combination of juka, kawazuko, gunome, and other variations. The width of the hamon will vary. The predominately nioi structured nioi-guchi is lined with fine ko-nie and contains a great many ashi and yo. Sunagashi, kinsuji, and other forms of nie based hataraki will be seen.
Boshi: The boshi will tend to be somewhat stubby or ikubi in shape. It is midare-komi in proportion to the hamon and either yakisume or it will have a short kaeri.
Horimono: Original horimono will not be found with the exception of bo-hi or futatsu-hi. The top of the hi will be sharp and well shaped. The bottom of the hi becomes maru-dome, kaku-dome, or kaki-nagashi.
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