A JUYO KATANA YOSHIOKA ICHIMONJI KATANA
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 "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 "ichi" followed by their names. Some representative smiths were Sukemitsu, Sukeshige, Sukeyoshi, and Sukeshige.
This beautiful katana is a very nice representative example of the Yoshioka school of sword making. A full description of this blade can be found in the Juyo Token zufu write-up that translates as follows:
Designated Juyo Token at the 12th Shinsa of July 30th, the 39th year of Showa (1964)
Katana, Unsigned: Yoshioka Ichimonji
Measurements: Length: 2 Shaku, 2 Sun 3 Bu; Sori: 6 Bu, 3 Rin; Width at the Base: 9 Bu, 4 Rin; Width at the Point: 7 Bu; Kissaki Length: 1 Sun, 4 Bu; Nakago Length: 6 Sun, slightly less than 1 Bu; Nakago Sori: 5 Rin.
Characteristics: The construction is shinogi-zukuri with an iori-mune. The blade is o-suriage, and the curvature is somewhat high. The chu-kissaki is somewhat long. The kitae is itame that has a slightly prominent feeling and is covered in ji-nie. The jigane contains prominent midare-utsuri. The hamon is ko-choji mixed with gunome. There is a great deal of ko-ashi and yo activity, and there are streaks of sunagashi. The habuchi is covered in ko-nie. The boshi is midare-komi with a slightly pointed tip and brushing. There is a pair of suji-hi carved on the omote that taper off onto the nakago, and a pair of suji-hi and a suken carved on the ura that taper off onto the nakago. The nakago is o-suriage with a kiri tip. The yasurime are katte-sagari, and there are two mekugi-ana. The blade is unsigned.
Explanation: This is an o-suriage mumei katana that has a hamon of choji that is somewhat small patterned with a mixing in of gunome. There are streaks of sunagashi . As such, we can say that it is a work of the Yoshioka Ichimonji School. Based on the literature, there are smiths listed as early as the beginning of the Kamakura period; however, extant works seen with dates are from the late Kamakura period into the Nanbokucho period. Although this sword has a somewhat small patterned style of workmanship, it is perhaps a sword that is of the same school as those dating to the Nanbokucho period.
This blade is accompanied by a beautiful set of Edo period koshirae as seen in the photographs above. The quality of the mountings is certainly in keeping with the high quality of the blade. Together they make a wonderful package of blade and fittings.
Questions or feedback? Email me!