The Ichimonji School (一文字) 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 (古一文字) 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 (福岡). From the end of the Kamakura period and through the early part of the Nanbokucho period, the center of production moved to Yoshioka (吉岡). Around the Shochu era (1324-1326) another branch of the Ichimonji school sprang up in Iwato (岩戸) in Bizen. This branch is called the Iwato Ichimonji (岩戸一文字). Since it was most active around the Shochu (正中) era, it is also called the Shochu Ichimonji school (正中一文字). Around 1225, Norifusa (則房) is said to have founded Katayama Ichimonji school (片山一文字) when he moved to Katayama (片山) from Fukuoka (福岡).
The name of the school is derived from the fact that many of the swords extant today are signed only with the kanjicharacter “Ichi” (一). 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” (一). Norimune (則宗) has long been highly reputed to be the symbolic founder of the Fukuoka Ichimonji School (福岡一文字). His early swords were of the Ko-Ichimonji (古一文字) style that had a modest sori, a nioi based hamon of sugubamixed with ko-midare and ko-choji lined with plenty of nie and embellished with varied nie structures in the ji of hotsure, sunagashi, and kinsuji.
Around the middle of the Kamakura period the shape and workmanship style changed to become more flamboyant with a more robust sugata and large and closely packed choji formations known as juka-choji, o-choji midare, o-busa choji, etc. These are the swords that we commonly identify withbwhen we speak of the Fukuoka Ichimonji School (福岡一文字).
The notable smiths who followed Norimune (則宗) such as Yoshifusa (吉房), Sukezane (助真), Norifusa (則房), Yoshiiye (吉家), Sukefusa (助房), Nobufusa (信房), Yoshihira (吉平), Yoshimune (吉宗), and others developed what we today refer to as the Fukuoka Ichimonji (福岡一文字) style. These smiths produced the nioi dominant hamon consisting of o-busa, juka, kawazuka, and kukuro variations of choji-midare tempered in diversified widths and heights. The vivid midare-utsuri in the ji further increases the gorgeous and magnificent quality of their works.
|Sugata:||The tachi sugata is grand but not excessive, it remains elegant. They are typically shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune with koshi-zori. There will be some funbari ending in a medium sized kissaki in the ikubi style
|Narrow ko-choji is rare. Typically the hamon will be a robust choji-midare which will be in the form of a combination of juka, kawazuko, gunome, and other variations. The width of the hamon will vary. The predominately nioi structured nioi-guchi is lined with fine ko-nie and contains a great many ashi and yo. Sunagashi, kinsuji, and other forms of nie-based hataraki will be seen.
The kitae is mainly tight itame-hada mixed with mokume-hada. Occasionally a slight amount of o-hada or loose-grained area will be present. There will be pronounced utsuri in the form of choji-utsuri, midare-utsuri, jifu-utsuri or botan-utsuri.
|Bôshi:||The bôshi will tend to be somewhat stubby or ikubi in shape. It is midare-komi and in proportion to the hamon and will be either yakitsume or have a short kaeri.
|Horimono:||Original horimono will not be found with the exception of bo-hi or futatsu-hi. The top of the hi will be sharp and well shaped. The bottom of the hi becomes maru-dome, kaku-dome, or kaki-nagashi.|
Kantei Points: A sugata that is grand but not excessive with strong koshi-zori itame hada with a mixing in of mokume hada and utsuri will lead one to the Bizen school of the Kamakura period. The bôshi will be ikubi and this will strengthen the opinion that we are talking about the Kamakura period. Strong and wild juka chôji-midare with a mixing in of kawazuko and gunome should take us to the Fukuoka Ichimonji school.
The blade presented here by Nihonto.com is a superb example of the Fukuoka Ichimonji school of the middle Kamakura period. It is boldly signed with the Yoshihira two character signature Yoshihira (吉平). Yoshihira is survived by many fine examples of his work. He produced one Kokuhô blade (National Treasure), two Jûyô Bunkazai blades (Important Cultural Object), four Jûyô Bijitsuhin blades (Important Art Object), two Tokubetsu Jûyô Tôken blades (Especially Important swords), including this one, and seven Jûyô Tôken blades (Important swords).
Today’s kantei blade was awarded Jûyô Tôken status at the 21st Jûyô shinsa on March 1, 1973. Further, it was awarded Tokubetsu Jûyô Tôken status at the 21st Tokubetsu Jûyô shinsa held on April 23, 2010.
The translation of the Jûyô Tôken setsumei is as follows:
Jūyō-Tōken at the 21st Jūyō shinsa held on March 1, 1973
Tachi, mei: Yoshihira (吉平)
Nagasa 72.3 cm, sori 2.0 cm, motohaba 3.05 cm, sakihaba 1.8 cm, kissaki-nagasa 3.0 cm, nakago-nagasa 21.3 cm, nakago-sori 0.2 cm.
Keijō: shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, relatively wide mihaba, koshizori with funbari, chū-kissaki.
Kitae: standing-out itame that is mixed with ō-hada and that features utsuri.
Hamon: ō-chōji in ko-nie-deki with a wide nioiguchi and mixed with chōji and gunome, which tend to slant in places, with many ashi and yō along the entire length of the blade and with sunagashi and kinsuji as well.
Bōshi: midare-komi with a rather pointed kaeri.
Nakago: suriage, kirijiri, katte-sagari yasurime, two mekugi-ana, the haki-omote side bears alongside the original mekugi-ana a thickly chiseled niji-mei.
Yoshihira (吉平) was a Fukuoka-Ichimonji (福岡⼀⽂字) School smith from the mid-Kamakura period. It is said that he was the son of Yoshiie (吉家) and he focused on a flamboyant chōji, almost to the extent of the flamboyant styles of Yoshifusa (吉房) and Sukezane (助真). This tachi is suriage, but retains its niji-mei, and we have here a masterwork that reflects with its partially slanting elements in the hamon the typical workmanship of this smith.
As noted above, it was awarded Tokubetsu Jûyô Tôken status at the 21st Tokubetsu Jûyô shinsa held on April 23, 2010.
The translation of the Tokubetsu Jûyô Tôken setsumei is as follows:
Tokubetsu-Jūyō Tōken at the 21st Tokubetsu-Jūyō shinsa held on April 23, 2010.
Tachi, mei: Yoshihira (吉平)
Nagasa 72.3 cm, sori 2.0 cm, motohaba 3.0 cm, sakihaba 1.75 cm, kissaki-nagasa 2.95 cm, nakago nagasa 21.2 cm, nakago-sori 0.15 cm.
Keijō: shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, relatively wide mihaba, noticeable taper, prominent koshizori, rather compact chū-kissaki.
Kitae: partially standing-out itame that is mixed with ō-hada and that features ji-nie and a midare utsuri.
Hamon: nioi-based chōji with ko-nie that is mixed with gunome and ko-gunome, that widens and that shows more ups and downs along the monouchi of the haki-omote side, that tends to slant on both sides from the center of the blade downwards, and that features ashi, yō, and on the haki-omote side also kinsuji and sunagashi at the base.
Bōshi: midare-komi with nie-kuzure and hakikake.
Nakago: suriage, kirijiri, katte-sagari yasurime, two mekugi-ana, the haki-omote side bears alongside the second, i.e., the original mekugi-ana a thickly chiseled niji-mei.
Fukuoka-Ichimonji Yoshihira from Bizen province
Yoshihira (吉平)was a representative smith of the Fukuoka-Ichimonji (福岡⼀⽂字) School from the mid-Kamakura period, i.e., when the school experienced its peak. Many period sources list Yoshihira as the son of Yoshiie (吉家) and grandson of Muneyoshi (宗吉). He produced blades with smaller dimensioned hamon that does not show many ups and downs, and blades with a large and lively midareba that almost reaches the flamboyance of Yoshifusa (吉房). Apart from that, we often see nie along the ha of Yoshihira.
This tachi features a prominent midare-utsuri and is hardened in a chōji-midare that is mixed with gunome and ko-gunome. The ha widens and shows more ups and downs along the monouchi of the haki-omote side, appearing so in a flamboyant manner in this area. The ha is nioi-based, but does feature plenty of fine ko-nie. Thus, we recognize in the interpretation of the jiba the characteristic features of Yoshihira. It is noteworthy that the ha tends to slant on both sides from the mid-blade section downwards. This is not seen on any other existing works of Yoshihira, which makes this blade an important reference for understanding the workmanship of this smith. Despite being suriage, the blade retains a prominent koshizori, displaying so with the wide mihaba a powerful tachi-sugata. Both ji and ha are perfectly healthy (kenzen) and truly reflect the outstanding skill of Yoshihira.
This is truly a magnificent sword in quality, condition, and even in historical importance. It is accompanied by a very high quality koshirae from the Edo period. The fuchi, kashira, menuki and tsuba all bear the Tokugawa mon showing that this koshirae belonged to a Samurai with ties to that important family. It has a two piece solid gold habaki with a Kiri mon. The shirasaya bears a sayagaki by Dr. Honma Junji (1904-1991). Dr. Honma was one of the founders of the NBTHK and he was the foremost authority on Japanese swords in the 20th century.
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