By Fred Weissberg 1/2013

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 early part of the Nanbokucho period, the center of production moved to Yoshioka.

The name of the school is derived from the fact that many of the swords extant today are signed only with the Kanji character â"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".

The founder of this school was Sukeyoshi who is said to be the grandson of Sukemune of the Fukuoka Ichimonji School. The smiths of this school lived in Yoshioka. in Bizen province and were active from the latter part of the Kamakura period through the Nanbokucho period. Most of them inscribe their works with the character â"ichi", followed by their names. Some representative smiths were Sukemitsu, Sukeshige, Sukeyoshi, and Sukeshige.

From the middle of the Kamakura Era, the Osafune school came into prominence and competed with the Ichimonji school to be the dominant school of sword making in Bizen province. The Osafune school quickly ascended to prominence to the point that people often mistakenly believe that the Ichimonji school was no longer active after the Kamakura Era. The late Dr. Junji Honma of the NBTHK postulated that while the Ichimonji school was the educational foundation for the Osafune school, toward the end of the Kamakura Era the Ichimonji school gradually lost their individual characteristics and finally merged into the Osafune school.

No one, however, disputes that the Ichimonji school branched out around the end of the Kamakura Era when Fukuoka Ichimonji smiths such as Sukeyoshi moved to Yoshioka in Bizen Province. Because of this move they thrived much longer than did the Fukuoka Ichimonji smiths and the Yoshioka school continued to flourish well into the Nanbokucho Era.

The swords of the Yoshioka Ichimonji School show workmanship that is magnificent and flamboyant. They followed the fashion of the period in terms of their shape and sugata.

Sugata: The tachi sugata is grand but not excessive, it remains elegant. The width at top and bottom does not vary greatly. Kodachi, nagamaki, and tanto are occasionally seen.

Jitetsu: Mokume-hada mixed with o-hada and chikei will be seen. There will be utsuri in the form of choji-utsuri, or jifu-utsuri.

Hamon: The nioi line is tighter than that of the Fukuoka Ichimonji School. Ko-choji midare is mixed with koshi-no-hiraita midare. This is a pattern which is similar to notare with the valleys being gentler than the peaks It is often mixed, in the upper area, with choji or gunome. Suguha-choji midare is also seen. Koshiba is sometimes tempered at the bottom.

Boshi: The kissaki will tend to be somewhat stubby or ikubi in shape. The boshi will be midare-komi and it will have a relatively long kaeri.

Horimono: Original horimono will not be found with the exception of bo-hi, soe-hi, or futatsu-hi. The top of the hi descends slightly from the ko-shinogi. The bottom of the hi becomes maru-dome, or kaki-nagashi.



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