THE TADATSUNA SCHOOL
By Fred Weissberg 11/13
Asai Omi no Kami Tadatsuna moved from Himeji in Harima province to Osaka around 1648. He became one of the prominent smiths of what we call the Osaka Shinto tradition. He professed to be a descendant of Awataguchi Kunitsuna, but this has not been proven. He taught many disciples, the foremost of which was his son the nidai Tadatsuna who surpassed his father in skill. The first generation Tadatsuna is sometimes called Oya Tadatsuna as a way to differentiate him from the nidai who is called Ikkanshi Tadatsuna.
Shodai Tadatsuna had many students in his kei including Munetsuna, Tadamitsu, Masatsuna, Tadayuki, Nagatsuna, Kanetsuna, Hirotsuna, Yoshitsuna, and others. Of these, the two of the most well known are Nagatsuna and Tadayuki. Nagatsuna, was also known as tsunbo Nagatsuna, meaning deaf Nagatsuna. Tadayuki is known to have been the younger brother of the first generation Tadatsuna.
Without a doubt, however, the best student of the Shodai Tadatsuna was his son the nidai Tadatsuna who became known as Ikkanshi Tadatsuna. The personal name of the nidai was Mandayu. His oldest known work is a tanto that is dated as being made in the 12th year of Kanbun or 1672. A katana made in the 6th year of Shotoku or 1716 is considered to be his last work. Thus we have a very definitive working period for the second generation.
It is not clear when Mandayu Tadatsuna obtained the Omi-no-Kami title or when he began to add Ikkanshi to his mei. The title was probably given during the Enpo era (1673-1680) and Ikkanshi was added in the Genroku era (1688-1703). However, even after he began to use Ikkanshi in his mei, Omi-no Kami was still in use thus making it obvious that he did not draw a clear cut chronological border between the two names. Ikkanshi was merely another additional part of the same mei.
Below are the major characteristics of the Tadatsuna school and particularly those of Ikkanshi Tadatsuna:
Sugata: Ikkanshi Tadatsuna left a large number of katana and wakizashi and rarely a hira-zukuri tanto in sun-nobi size. Both his katana and wakizashi are average in size and done in shinogi-zukuri form. They are both usually wide and maintain almost the same width through the monouchi. The blade will have hira niku, a mihaba that is not tapered (as has been noted), relatively deep naka-zori, and a slightly large chu-kissaki.
Jitetsu: His jigane is done in ko-itame in the tightest grain formations sprinkled with ji-nie comprising the seeming nashiji of his best workmanship. There are also occasionally some works containing chikei like grain formations in considerable hadadachi-gokoro (showing the grain structure in a rather somewhat loose and coarse impression).
Hamon: The hamon displayed in his early works tended to present regular choji in the Shodai Tadatsuna's style consisting of deep nioi containing ko-nie and long ashi. The difference between the two generations of Tadatsuna lies in the greater depth of the nioi in the nidai's works. One very important kantei point of the nidai's work is the fact that he will have sunagashi appearing to cut the long ashi at the half-way point. Ikkanshi also produced midare somewhat like the toran yakiba in the style of Sukehiro. However, the seemingly toran patterns are actually a kind of notare-midare and this style of hamon by Ikkanshi will have regular and even choji-midare contained within the notare-midare pattern. He was also skilled at producing suguha, but his favorite and most skilled hamon pattern was choji. Also don't fail to look for the textbook Osaka yakidashi on his works.
Boshi: Ikkanshi Tadatsuna formed his boshi in a smooth ko-maru shape with some kaeri. He does not seem to have made any deformed or unusual shapes or any with an exceedingly long kaeri.
Horimono: Horimono is rarely seen in this school except in the works of Ikkanshi Tadatsuna. Ikkanshi was extremely skilled and prolific in his carvings. He studied and mastered horimono carving from Fujita Tsui whose name sometimes appears on Ikkanshi's work. He was skilled in a wide range of horimono from simple bonji and koshi-hi accompanied by soe-hi to his favorite dragon variations. He made dragons in the style of nobori-ryu, kudari-ryu, and he also made shin-no-kurikara, and ume-kurikara. One important fact to keep in mind is that he always inscribed either Horimono Dosaku or Hori-Dosaku on his blades with his horimono. Therefore if you examine a blade by Ikkanshi Tadatsuna with horimono and it does not say either Horimono Dosaku or Hori-Dosaku, the horimono was probably added later by someone else.
Nakago: The nakago is generally slender and relatively long. It will be ha agari kurijiri and sujikai yasuri.
Mei: Most of his early works say Awataguchi Omi-no-kami Tadatsuna but there are also some with Sesshu-no-ju. Since the Genroku era he mostly signed Awataguchi Ikkanshi Tadatsuna or just Ikkanshi Tadatsuna. Over the years he changed his writing style when he wrote certain characters allowing us to place some swords accordingly to certain periods of his career.
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