by Fred Weissberg



The second generation (Nidai) of the Yasumitsu line was known as Sakyonosuke Yasumitsu. His father, the first generation, was known as Uemonnojo Yasumitsu. The earliest works for the second generation seem to be about Oei 28 (1421) and he continued working into the Eikyo - Bunan period (1429-1448). His works closely resembled those of the first generation and it can be said that he worked in Oei Bizen style. The line between the first and second generations is somewhat unclear, but according to the Kumano Manuscripts in Oei 29 the second generation presented a tachi to the Kumano Temple. This was one of the first references to the second generation.


Oei-Bizen is a general term for the Osafune smiths who inscribed dates from the Oei era (1394-1428) on their nakago. The school's predecessors are said to date back to the Nambokucho period. The style of these predecessors had changed greatly by the end of the period and it may be said that their style was superseded and changed greatly by the Oei-Bizen smiths.


The following are some of the major characteristics of the Oei-Bizen school:

SUGATA: There are tachi, katana, and wakizashi of both shinogi-zukuri and hira-zukuri, but tanto of less than 30 cm in length are rare. There are no extant examples of nagamaki. The exaggerated and ostentatious sugata which was in fashion in the preceding period disappeared. These smiths seem to have set out to copy the tachi sugata of the Kamakura period, but theirs is differentiated by a shallow saki-zori. Generally the nagasa is about 70 cm in tachi, and 50 cm in wakizashi. The production of katana and wakizashi was begun in this period. Katana are similar to tachi, but their saki-zori is deeper and the nagasa is shorter than seen in tachi. Wakizashi generally have a narrow mihaba, small kissaki, and saki-zori. The nagasa of hira-zukuri ko-wakizashi became longer than in the preceding period, buy the mihaba grew narrower and the sori is very shallow, sometimes even mu-zori.


JIHADA: The Jigane is soft and the jihada is mokume-hada mixed with o-hada. Clear bo-utsuri appears. Even when the hamon is midareba, the utsuri tends to be bo-utsuri, but midare utsuri is sometimes seen.


HAMON: The hamon is nioi based. The thick nioi line is soft and hajimi are seen inside the hamon at times. The shape tends to be koshi-no-hirata midare mixed with choji-midare. Also suguha mixed with ko-midare is also seen.


HORIMONO: Bo-hi with soe-hi or tsure-hi are quite common. The top of the hi is located just above the yokote. The bottom of the hi is finished around the machi. Horimono are often seen on wakizashi, with the same design appearing on both sides of the blade. Ken-maki-ryu or the names of the gods and deities are engraved on the omote and ken with dokko, tsume, or bonji on the ura, while bo-hi with soe-hi or tsure-hi whose bottoms are maru-dome are usually engraved above the horimono.


NAKAGO: Shorter and less tapered nakago with kurijiri. Cho-mei (long signature) including the date is common. It is natural the katana-mei became common instead of tachi-mei, as production of katana increased.



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