Bizen Tomomitsu (備前倫光) was a smith from Bizen Province who worked in the Nanbokuchô Era (1333-1391). He was the son and top student of Bizen Kanemitsu (備前兼光). Bizen Tomomitsu (備前倫光) produced much of his work around the Enbun (延文) (1356-1361) and Jôji (貞治) (1362-1367) eras. He usually signed his works with his naga-mei (long signature) that read, Bishû Osafune Tomomitsu (備州長船倫光). Because the kanji character for “Tomo” (倫) can also be read as “Rin”, he was given the nickname of Rin Tomomitsu or just Rin Tomo.
Bizen Tomomitsu (備前倫光) can trace his lineage through Bizen Kanemitsu (備前兼光) to Masamune (正宗) so his works exhibit what are called Sôden Bizen characteristics. This means that the Sôshû tradition can also be seen in his works. Examples of this influence are the itame-hada containing fine chikei. On the majority of his blades there will be utsuri that will generally be somewhat subdued. This is a characteristic that he acquired from his father and teacher O-Kanemitsu. The utsuri on the blades of O-Kanemitsu was similarly subdued.
Bizen Tomomitsu (備前倫光) made many famous blades. Perhaps his most famous blade is an o-tachi that is owned by the Futarasan Shrine. It is a Kokuhô (National Treasure) blade. This is a monumental blade with a cutting edge of over four feet. He also made one tachi and one tantô that are Jûyô Bunkazai and two katana that are Jûyô Bijitsuhin together with many blades that have been awarded Tokubetsu Jûyô Tôken and Jûyô Tôken status.
The following are some of the characteristics of the blades of Bizen Tomomitsu (備前倫光):
SUGATA: Typical of the Nanbokuchô Era (1333-1391) which represents the culmination of the tendency towards greater size and greater length. Some of his swords were over 4 shaku so many are o-suriage today. Generally, they have a wide mihaba, shallow koshi-sori, little hira-niku, high shinogi, and narrow shinogi-ji. Also, a large kissaki is typical. Often there will be saki-zori also. There will be very little difference in width of the blade between the ha-machi (base) and kissaki(tip). In other words, no funbari to speak of. His tachi will be shinogi-zukuri and iori-mune.
His tantô will be hira-zukuri, iori-mune and will have a markedly wide mihaba (width) and extended length (sun-nobi), combined with a shallow sori which is typical of the Enbun (1356-1360 and Jôji (1362-1367) eras.
JITETSU: His jitetsu will be the same as his teacher, Kanemitsu(兼光). The hada is a fine itame mixed with mokume. On occasion there will be areas of straight hada forming a hadadachi gokoro texture. This nagare hada will be lined with a fine ji-nie forming thick chikei. On the majority of his blades there will be utsuri that will generally be somewhat subdued. This is a characteristic that he acquired from his father and teacher, O-Kanemitsu. On the tantô and wakizashi of Tomomitsu, bô-utsuri will often be found. This utsuri will generally be bolder and more forceful than the more subdued type of midare utsurifound on his tachi and katana.
HAMON: His hamon is nioi-deki and the yakiba tends to be wide. The nioi-guchi is lined with ko-nie and is tight. Everything about it is the same as Kanemitsu (兼光) except the pattern becomes slightly larger and the nioi line is a little thinner. His hamon tends to be ko-notare mixed with ko-gunomeand o-midare whose pattern is inclined, on occasion, to become slanted. This pattern is called kataochi-gunome and it is a strong characteristic of Tomomitsu’s father and teacher O-Kanemitsu. While it is found in varying degrees in the works of Tomomitsu, his more usual style of hamon would be classified as ko-notare mixed with a squarish variation as well as ko-gunome containing ashi and yô. The nioi-guchi is fairly tight and is lined with ko-nie forming sunagashi.
BÔSHI: Bôshi also tend to be like Kanemitsu(兼光), midare-komi becoming somewhat pointed followed by a slight kaeri. There will be jizo-boshi in some cases.
HORIMONO: Various types of horimono are quite common. His swords will have bo-hi, bonji, suken, sankozuka-no-ken, and kurikara. This smith favored a unique kurikara or ken-maki-ryu (dragon around a sword) which is called karakusa-bori because it looks like and arabesque pattern. The tip of his hi(grooves) will be lowered considerably, that is at about the level of the yokote line or below.
NAKAGO: The nakago is made short with the tip made broad. The file marks are kiri or katte-sagari. As stated most of his long swords have been shortened so the original nakago-jiri has been lost.
MEI: His signature was, BISHÛ OSAFUNE TOMOMITSU (備州長船倫光) or BISHÛ OSAFUNE JÛ TOMOMITSU (備州長船住倫光). He also signed Bizen (no) Kuni Osafune Tomomitsu (備前國長船倫光). Many of his works are dated also.
The blade presented here is a tachi by Rin Tomomitsu. This blade came from the estate of one of the top collectors in Osaka, Japan. I was fortunate enough to see and enjoy this blade in 1982 when I visited this collector at this home in Osaka. It is only through chance that I was able to once again hold and enjoy it after it recently came into my possession. It was awarded Jûyô Tôken status in 1971 at the 20th Jûyô shinsa. The translation of the Jûyo zufu is as follows:
Jūyō Tōken at the 20th jūyō shinsa held on June 1, 1971
Tachi, mei: Bi[shū] Osa[fune] [Tomo]mitsu (備「州」⻑「船」「倫」光)*
Ōsaka, Shimizu Shishū (清⽔紫⾈)
Nagasa 70.2 cm, sori 1.8 cm, motohaba 2.95 cm, saki-haba 2.1 cm, kissaki-nagasa 3.8 cm, nakago-nagasa 22.0 cm, nakago-sori 0.3 cm
Keijō: shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, despite the suriage a relatively deep sori, elongated chū-kissaki.
Kitae: densely forged itame that is mixed with mokume and that features ji-nie and some utsuri.
Hamon: gunome in ko-nie-deki with a rather tight nioiguchi and mixed with ko-notare, angular hako elements, togariba, and ko-ashi.
Bōshi: notare with a ko-maru-kaeri.
Horimono: on both sides a bōhi with soebi and below a bonji.
Nakago: suriage, shallow kurijiri, sujikai-yasurime, three mekugi-ana, there is a naga-mei at the tip of the tang and towards the nakago-mune.
This blade is slightly suriage and its long naga-mei-type signature can be identified as reading
“Bishū Osafune Tomomitsu.” Both sides of the blade bear horimono. Tomomitsu (倫光) was a student of Bizen Kanemitsu (兼光). Due to the time in which Tomomitsu was active, most of his tachi are large dimensioned, including ōdachi that were preserved to this day, although most of his works in existence have been shortened to katana.
The jiba of this tachi and its ko-notare mixed with gunome reflect the characteristic workmanship of the Kanemitsu School. The fact that the blade retains its signature despite being shortened makes this blade very valuable.
* The characters in brackets are difficult to discern, but can be identified as stated.