One old account says that Hôki Yasutsuna (伯耆安綱), the founder of the Ko-Hôki school lived in the Daido era (806-810). This period is still part of the Jôkotô period, the ancient-straight sword period that pre-dates nihontô. However, those Yasutsuna swords that survived until today satisfy all of the conditions of the fully developed Japanese sword (nihontô). For this reason, it is probable that Yasutsuna worked sometime shortly after the Daido era. His work appears to pre-date that of the Ko-Bizen school, and it is reasonable to presume that he was a contemporary of Sanjo Munechika. (Eien era 987-989).
Yasutsuna’s greatest surviving work, the Dojigiri Yasutsuna, has a blade length of 80 cm, a curvature of 2.7 cm, torii-zori, distinct funbari, and ko-kissaki. The jihada is mokume-hada with abundant ji-nie and chikei, and nie utsuri is present. The hamon is ko-midare consisting of thick nioi and abundant ko-nie. Many vivid ashi, yo, and kinsuji appear inside the hamon. It is said that Sôshû Masamune tried to imitate Yasutsuna’s workmanship, which, indeed, shows magnificent activity.
Ohara Sanemori (大原真守), the maker of today’s kantei blade is said to have been the son of Yasutsuna (安綱). Other famous smiths who belong to the Ko-Hoki and Hoki schools are Yasuie (安家), Aritsuna (有綱), and Kunimune (国宗). Examples of the work of all of them are extant today. Common points in their workmanship are a coarse mokume-hada, a jigane that looks dark, and the presence of both ji-nie and chikei. The hamon is ko-midare, consisting of a nie structure with kinsuji and sunagashi.
Ohara Sanemori made his swords in the classic Ko-Hôki style of the Heian period to early Kamakura period. The mihaba is narrow, and width at the moto and saki are different, there is a high koshi-zori and a small kissaki. At that time, all schools in Japan made suguha style ko-midare hamon swords, and there are some local styles also. We can consider several swords of Sanemori to be of this local style wherein his hamon while it is suguha based, it is a more robust midare, gunome with very active characteristics. Generally his jitetsu will be o-itame mixed with mokume, there will be thick ji-nie, chikei, and the steel’s color will be a little dark. There will be jifu and jifu utsuri.
Today’s kantei blade exhibits many if not all of the major traits of Ohara Sanemori. His primary features are very close to those of his father, Hôki Yasutsuna with the exception that he tempers his hamon in a smaller pattern than that of his father. He also often has horimono like a pair of gome-hashi, bonji, su-ken, koshi-bi, etc. When you see a Ko-Hôki school blade with horimono, you should think of Sanemori.
The blade presented here was awarded Jûyô status at the 27th Jûyô shinsa on September 8, 1980. The translation of the Jûyô setsume is as follows:
Jūyō-tōken at the 27th jūyō shinsa held on September 8, 1980Katana, mei: “Hōki Ōhara Sanemori” to hari-mei ga aru (伯耆⼤原真守と貼銘がある) – Bears signature “Hōki Ōhara Sanemori” added as a hari-mei
nagasa 66.8 cm, sori 2.0 cm, motohaba 2.65 cm, sakihaba 1.75 cm, kissaki-nagasa 2.6 cm, nakago-
nagasa 19.3 cm, nakago-sori 0.1 cm
Keijō: shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, slender mihaba, ko-kissaki, relatively shallow sori
Kitae: ō-itame that is mixed with itame and that features plenty of ji-nie, some chikei in places, and a midare-utsuri
Hamon: nie-laden suguha-chō to ko-midare-chō that is mixed with some gunome, ashi, yō, yubashiri, tobiyaki, many sunagashi within the ha, some shimaba, and kinsuji
Bōshi: a little bit midare and with a somewhat pointed ko-maru-kaeri and featuring hakikake Horimono: on both sidesa bōhi that ends on the haki-omote side in kakudome and that runs on the ura side as kaki-nahashi into the tang
Nakago: ō-suriage, kirijiri, the original yasurime are indiscernible, the new yasurime are katte-sagari, two mekugi-ana, the haki-omote side bears along its bottom half and towards the back the thick and largely chiseled naga-mei “Hōki Ōhara Sanemori” that was added as a hari-mei
This blade is a work of Sanemori (真守), who was a resident of Ōhara in Hōki province, which bears along the bottom half of the haki-omote side of the tang the hari-mei “Hōki Ōhara Sanemori.” At first glance, the blade resembles a Ko-Bizen work, but in comparison to Ko-Bizen, the hada stands more out, there are more prominent chikei, kinsuji, and sunagashi, and the steel is more blackish, which are all characteristic features of the Ko-Hōki group. The blade is of a slender shape and ends in a ko-kissaki, which is often seen with Sanemori and whichdistinguishes him from his father Yasutsuna (安綱).
A similarly thick and largely chiseled six-character signature of the type “Hōki Ōhara Sanemori” can be seen onthe tachi by Sanemori that is preserved in the Tōshōgū (東照宮) Shrine in Wakayama Prefecture.
As you will note in the Jûyô papers above, this sword has what is called a hari-mei. When a blade has been greatly shortened (ô-suriage), the metal part of the tang containing the mei is cut out in a rectangular shape and attached to the reshaped tang. This is not the same as a gaku-mei where the metal is thinned and then set into the tang where the original mei would have been. With a hari-mei the actual piece of the original tang containing the signature is attached with small rivets to the newly formed nakago-jiri. This is a much more effective way of preserving the original mei as gakumei can, on occasion, fall out over time.
Ohara Sanemori has a total of five tachi that have been designated as Juyo Bunkazai (Import Cultural Properties) and two tachi that have been designated as Jûyô Bijitsuhin (Important Art Objects). In addition he has three swords that have been designated as Tokubetsu Jûyô Tôken (Especially important swords) and fourteen swords that have been designated as Jûyô Tôken (Important swords). Very impressive indeed.
This sword is accompanied by a beautiful Efu Dachi Koshirae. This was the type of koshirae used by Samurai guarding the Imperial Court. It has a profuse amount of family mon of the Inoue Clan. In fact, there are a total of 153 examples of the Inoue family mon on this beautiful koshirae. I have never seen a koshirae with more. The last daimyô of the Inoue Clan was Inoue Masanao (井上正直), born November 26, 1837 and died March 9, 1904. Judging from the quality and the age of this koshirae, plus the fact that there is no secondary family mon, I would venture to say that there is a very high probability that this koshirae belonged to this daimyô.
Inoue Masanao was the fourth son of the daimyô of the Tatebashi Domain, Inoue Masaharu. He was born before his father was transferred to Hamamatsu in Tôtômi Ken. Upon the death of his father in 1847, he inherited the leadership of the clan and the position of daimyô. In 1851, he was awarded Lower 5th Court Rank and the courtesy title of Kawachi-no-kami. During the Bakamatsu period, he entered the administration of the Tokugawa shogunate, first as Sôshaban (Master of Ceremonies) in 1858, as Jisha-bugyo in 1861, then as Rôjû (Senior Councilor) in 1862 under Shogun Tokugawa Ienari. His court rank was correspondingly increased to Lower 4th Court Rank.
In 1863-1864 he participated in the discussions within Edo Castle on the ending of Japan’s national isolation policy and the signing of the unequal treaties with the western powers. Dismissed as Rôjû on July 12, 1864, he was reappointed again on November 26, 1865. In 1866, he participated in the Second Chôshû expedition by the command of the shogunal deputy in Kyoto, Tokugawa Yoshinobu.
Despite the fact that the Inoue Clan was historically one of the fudai daimyo (daimyo historically loyal to the Tokugawa family) and the fact that he was a former Rôjû, in 1867 on June 17th, he resigned and sided with the Imperial forces in the Boshin War of the Meiji Restoration.
After May of 1868 when the Tokugawa government was forced to resign the rule of the country. In September of that same year, the Inoue clan was reassigned to a new 60,000 koku domain in Kazusa Province called Tsurumai Domain. The domain was abolished in 1871 with the abolition of the han system. After the establishment of the Kazoku peerage system, he became a Viscount (shishaku).