Hōjōji Kunimitsu (法城寺國光)

Number

SP-E-005

Smith Name

Kunimitsu

Active Period

Jōji (貞治, 1362-1368)

School

Hōjōji

Province

Tajima

Mei

mumei

Rating

Jūyō Bijutsuhin

Nagasa

66.96 cm

Kunimitsu (國光), 1st generation, Hōjōji (法成寺), Hayato no Shō (隼人正), disciple of Sadamune. He was born 1289 and died in the 1355 in the 65th year of his life, he was active around in Kareki era (嘉暦, 1326-1329), he started to signed as Kunimitsu (國光) around in Kenmu (建武, 1334-1338), he was founder of the Hōjōji School, came from Tajima province. There are only tantō extant among his works. San ́indō (山陰道), jōjō-saku, Ryōwazamono.

Jūyō Bijutsuhin Den Hōjōji Kunimitsu Katana: nagasa – 66.96 cm; sori – 1.67 cm; motohaba – 2.95 cm; sakihaba – 2.60 cm; motokasane – 0.40 cm; sakikasane – 0,30 cm; nakago nagasa – 17.70 cm; nakago sori – insignificant; kissaki nagasa – 11.30 cm.

Designated as Jūyō Bijutsuhin # 296 on the 6th of September 1939, .

Publications: Tōken-Bijutsu n. 463, series “Meitō-Kanshō”; Meihin Katanaezu Shusei by Tanobe Michihiro. 1999, p.169.

Previous owner: Cont Itō Miyoji (伊東巳代治).

                     JUYO BIJUTSUHIN (Important Art Object)

                From the Tōken-Bijutsu n. 463, series “Meitō-Kanshō”

(explanation by Tanobe Michihiro)

KATANA: mumei, attributed as Den Hōjōji Kunimitsu

Measurements: Nagasa – 66.96 cm; sori – 1.67 cm; motohaba – 2.95 cm; sakihaba – 2.60 cm; motokasane – 0.40 cm; sakikasane – 0,30 cm; nakago nagasa – 17.70 cm; nakago sori – insignificant; kissaki nagasa – 11.30 cm. 

This blade is now in a shinogi-zukuri but was once a naginata which was shortened to its current state, whereas also material was removed from the tip section and the mune. In this process, also a yokote was added. The blade has an iori-mune, a thin kasane, a high shinogi, a relative deep sori and an ō-kissaki. The kitae is an itame with relative finely forged areas and ō-hada areas which are also mixed with nagare. The hada is standing out, also where finer forging structures appear. There is ji-nie all over the blade and chikei as well as midare-utsuri is seen. The hamon is a chōji-midare mixed with ō-chōji, ko-chōji, kawazu-no-ko chōji and gunome. That means the yakiba is built-up from a vivid and quite flamboyant midareba.

In addition plentiful of ashi and as well as sunagashi and kinsuji appear. The tempering itself bases on nie-deki but shows also a lot of nioi. The nioiguchi is bright and clear. The bōshi is a midare-komi with yakizume. The nakago is ō-suriage, has a kurijiri tip, yasurime is shallow sujikai, and there are three mekugi-ana.

In early times, naginata-naoshi katana and wakizashi with a framboyant chōji-midare in nie-deki mixed with kinsuji and sunagashi whose hada stands out and shows nagare and much ji-nie, were traditionally attributed to the Hōjōji School. Hōjōji is a place in Tajima Province.

During the Nambokuchō period, the famous naginata master Hōjōji Kunimitsu worked there so the term “Hōjōji” was widely used for him or his works. The meikan records list two generations

Kunimitsu: the 1st generation was active around in Jōji era (1362-1368) and the 2nd generation - around in Ōei era (1394-1428). The 1st generation is listed together with Kyō-Nobukuni and Osafune Motoshige as one of the “Three Students of Sadamune” (Sadamune no santetsu). But beside of Nobukuni, we can find no common points in terms of workmanship of Motoshige or Kunimitsu with Sōshū Sadamune, and so we should dismiss the theory that Kunimitsu was his student. As mentioned, a naginata-naoshi in combination with a flamboyant chōji-midare is typical for the Hōjōji School, but this is also valid for example the Katayama-Ichimonji School. However, works of the latter are usually tempered in nioi-deki, the midare tends to slant, there appear fine ashi within the ha, and the jiba is clearer.

The Mei-zukushi Hiden-shō writes about this: 

 “broad midareba which appears as ō-midare mixed with chōji, many yubashiri, tempering in nie but there are a lot of nioi, altogether a flamboyant deki with hardened areas in the ji and the mune, works resemble Ichimonji but differs in terms of yubashiri”.

There are very few signed blades extant by Kinimitsu and all of the mentioned naginata are mumei. Zaimei are limited to tantō and hira-zukuri wakuzashi, whereas the most important specimen are a Jūyō Bunkazai wakizashi preserved in the Izushi-jinja, a tantō from Kurokawa Institute, and another Jūyō Tōken tantō from the former possessions of the Maeda family. All these blades are signed with the goji-mei “Tanshū-jū Kunimitsu”, whereas the tantō from the Kurokawa Institute was once a wakizashi which was shortened later so that the mei is an orikaeshi, reading “Tanshū-jū” on the one side and “Kunimitsu” on the other side.

The signature style is vivid and full of spirit. Well, some are of the opinion that all these works must be attributed to the 2nd generation, but it is hard to tell from the present state of affairs and future studies are necessary.

The blade from the Kurokawa Institute shows a chōji mixed with a quite lively midare. The one from the Izushi-jinja is on the contrary rather calm and shows a suguha in ko-nie-deki. And the Jūyō Tōken tantō shows a quite nie-loaden ko-notare mixed with gunome and conspicuous sunagashi. When we take a look at the extant naginata-naoshi, we see that they are rather flamboyant and wild, that means they raise doubts that they might go back to the hands of a different smith. But the zanguri-like standing-out appearance of the jihada is the same on both groups and the specimen of the Kurokawa Institute can act quasi as a kind of “missing link” between them. Anyway, we also see a noticeable difference in tachi and tantō interpretations at other schools too, like for example at Rai and Yoshioka-Ichimonji. That means we can assume for the time being that the unsigned and reshaped naginata-noashi and the extant zaimei works go back to the same smith.

The katana introduced here can be definitely counted to the group of naginata-naoshi which are attributed to the Hōjōji School because its workmanship is very typical. Apart of that, it demonstrates an excellent deki which is outstanding among all these works.

* * * * *

In Japan this sword is considered the best Hōjōji blade ever made, it is very famous and was exposed in many museums.

Museum display information n.107, 1st and 2nd of November, 2003

Museum display information n. 97, 8th and 9th of November, 2008.

The Meihin Katanaezu Shusei by Tanobe Michihiro. 1999. Special cloth binding with bone clipped slipcase and cardboard storage box, 14 ½ x 20 ½”, 209 pages in Japanese. What can I say; everything about this book is extraordinary. It is huge, spectacular, rare (printed in a limited edition of 600 and sold out before it was released), and beautiful. Mr. Tanobe held an important position with the NBTHK and The National Sword Museum in Tokyo. He did many of the full length oshigata that appeared as foldouts in “Token Bijutsu”. Tanobe-sensei did exquisite oshigata and many of them are collected in this volume. You get the oshigata and sharp black & white photos and more, all of the greatest swords ever made. Everybody wants this book. Explanation by Grey Doffin (https://www.japaneseswordbooksandtsuba.com/store/books/b668-meihin-katanaezu-shusei-tanobe).


Sayagaki inscribed by Itō Miyoji:

Hōjōji Kunimitsu. Suriage and mumei, in shōbu-zukuri and with a quite nie-loaden gunome-midare.

The fittings of the koshirae like the fuchi-gashira, tsuba, kozuka, kurigata, uragawara and origane are en-suite works of Ōmori Hidetomo (大森秀知). They are of shibuichi and show carvings in the form of fish. The menuki are of pure gold and in the shape of lobsters. The kojiri is a work of Kiyotsugu (清次) and the octopus and fish decoration is applied via silver was elimination. The hilt is covered with white same and wrapped in white jabara-ito. The saya is lacquered black and shows a burnished silver decoration in the form of slanting drizzle. The sageo is white. Blade length 2 shaku 2 sun and 1,5 bu.

* * * *

Ōmori Hidetomo (1743-1807) was the son and successor of Ōmori Terutomo (大森英知). His first name was Sadabei (定兵衛). Hidetomo signed as “Terutomo” first and also studied together with Ōmori Teruhide (大森英秀) under the Ōmori 1st generation Terumasa who adopted Teruhide as his formal successor. Teruhide was the 2nd generation of the Ōmori School and made them popular and famous with his outstanding works including his invention of the famous and well known undercut wave design in shibuichi. Hidetomo then studied and worked together with Teruhide. Hidetomo used the Ryūrinsai (龍鱗斎) and his family came originally from Sendai. Hidetomo died in the 4th year of the Bunka era (文化, 1807) at the age of 65.

In this katana koshirae, the tsuba, fuchi-gashira and kozuka are signed by Ōmori Hidetomo, the solid gold menuki in the form of lobsters might also be signed on the backside which we cannot see. The kojiri metal ornament at the end of the saya is signed by Kiyotsugu. This fabulous and extraordinary koshirae got the Jūyō (58) status in October 10th, 2012 and was exhibited in the N.B.T.H.K. museum. More then 90% of all Ōmori works with waves we see are low quality fakes even if they look very impressive. This koshirae mounting is without any doubt the masterpiece of Ōmori Hidetomo and all the Ōmori School.

Designated as Jūyō-kodōgu at the 58th jūyō-shinsa held on October 10th, 2012

Uchigatana mounting with spirally ribbed nashiji saya.

Tsuba, fuchi and kozuka mei: Ōmori Hidetomo and kaō. Kojiri with tanzaku-mei: Kiyotsugu tsukuru (name might also read as Seiji)

Measurements: overall length - 94.60 cm; overall sori - 4.20 cm; tsuka length - 21.40 cm; tsuka curve - 0.30 cm; saya length - 72.50 cm; saya curve - 2.00 cm.

Interpretation: Tsuka covered with white same and wrapped in a flat katana-kamihishi-maki using a white jabara-ito, the menuki show spiny lobsters (Ise-ebi), are solid gold, in katachibori and with shakudō-zōgan; the fuchi-kashira show waves and fish, are of shibuichi in sukidashi-fukabori, and with gold, silver and shakudō zōgan-iroe, the fuchi is signed “Ōmori Hidetomo and kaō ”; the tsuba shows waves and fish, is in tatemaru-gata, of shibuichi, in sukidashi-fukabori, and with gold, silver and shakudō zōgan-iroe, it has a nikubori-mimi, one hitsuana and is signed “Ōmori Hidetomo and kaō”; the kozuka shows waves and fish, is of shibuichi, in sukidashi-fukabori, and with gold, silver and shakudō zōgan-iroe, and is signed “Ōmori Hidetomo and kaō ”; kurigata, origane and uragawara show waves, are of shibuichi, in sukidashi-fukabori, with punctual kinro-zōgan-iroe, and are mumei; the kojiri shows a squid, is of rough silver, in takabori, with gold, silver, shakudō and suaka suemon-zōgan-iroe, and bears the shakudō tanzaku-mei “Kiyotsugu tsukuru” (the name might also read as “Seiji”); there are four silver and two shakudō seppa; the sageo is light brown and shows braided the characters “bu un-chōkyū” ,( may you military fortunes be long lasting”).

Period: late Edo.

Explanation: This uchigatana koshirae comes with a spirally ribbed silver nashiji saya and en suite fittings made and signed by Ōmori Hidetomo (the disciple of Teruhide) and by Kiyotsugu. The tsuka is covered with white same and wrapped in a flat katate-kami-hishimaki using a white jabara-ito. Tsuba, fuchi-gashira and kozuka were made and signed by Ōmori Hidetomo. They are of shibuichi and show waves and fish worked in sukidashi-fukabori and accentuated with gold, silver and shakudō zōgan-iroe. Kurigata, origane and uragawara show carvings of waves interpreted in the very same manner so they go back to the same hand. Ōmori Hidetomo used the gō  “Ryūrinsai” and bore the first name “Sadabei”. As mentioned, he was a disciple of Terihide. He signed first with “Terutomo” but later changed his name to “Hidetomo” and he was the most talented students of Teruhide. The Edo-kinkō-meifū for example lists him as “number one disciple of Teruhide”. The scholastic affiliation of Kiyotsugu/Seiji, the maker of the kojiri, is unknown but we can assume that he was closely related to the Ōmori School. A stylish and very tasteful uchigatana koshirae with finely worked fittings and a saya with a very careful and elaborate lacquer work.