"THE PINNACLE OF SWORD PRODUCTION"
© By: David E. J. Pepin, 2005
"OSAFUNE / KOZORI" SCHOOL
Bizen is the only province that has experienced continuous sword production from the Heian period to the Shin-shinto period. Experienced sword smiths of the highest levels were abundant. Throughout the history of sword making, Bizen province was dominate. Bizen province possessed all of the necessary elements and requirements for successful sword making. "Bizen tetsu" ( iron ) was exceptionally pure, and of the highest quality. High grade sand was also available, as it is close to the sea. The water supply from the Asahigawa and Yoshigawa rivers was very pure. The soil produced fine wood from which the highest grade charcoal ever seen was produced, even to this day! The other significant factor is the supply route, the Sanyodo highway passed directly through Bizen. In summary, the conditions in Bizen were absolutely ideal for sword making. Bizen is credited with the highest sword production statistics in the history of Japan.
At the onset of the decline of the Ashikaga shogunate in 1565 ad., and Yoshiteru's assassination the shogunate of Yoshiteru was filled by his two-year old son, Yoshiaki. Yoshiteru's brother was the abbot of a Buddhist monastery. He resigned this position and attempted to assume the shogunate. These efforts ultimately failed. The demand for swords began an accent to unimaginable levels. The national unrest and violent civil war did not cease until the successful takeover of the shogunate by Tokugawa Iyeyasu. The "OSAFUNE / KOZORI" group was the major supplier of blades for these events.
GENEALOGY: OSAFUNE / KOZORI, SCHOOL.
( a brief overview, there are "HUNDRED'S" of makers in this group )
* " KOZORI (SCHOOL) FOUNDER "
"MITSUTADA", RYAKUNIN - 1238. "SON OF CHIKATADA" LATE HEIAN PERIOD / EARLY KAMAKURA
* FIRST REFERENCE TO THE NAME "KOZORI" ( MEANING; SMALL CURVE ), IN THE REFERENCE BOOKS.
"KAGEHIDE" KO-AN; 1278
YOUNGER BROTHER OF "MITSUTADA"
MONGOL INVASION PERIOD = BUN-EI; 1264 ~ KO-AN; 1278
"SHIGEYOSHI" KA-GEN; 1303. "SON OF KAGEHIDE"
THE SCHOOL NAME "KOZORI", IS FIRST MENTIONED IN HIS RECORDS.
"MITSUHIRO" TEI-JI; 1362. KOZORI
"TSUNEYOSHI" O-AN; 1368. "SON OF MITSUHIRO"
"TOSHIMITSU" SHI-TOKU 1384. "SON OF TSUNEYOSHI"
HAD 5 SONS.
OVERVIEW OF "SUKESADA'S"
SUKESADA "HIKOBEIJO" EN-TOKU; 1488.
FATHER OF "YOSAEZAEMON"
SUKESADA "YOSAEZAEMON" MEI-O 1492. "SON OF HIKOBEIJO"
SAID TO HAVE USED FOUR DIFFERENT STYLES OF HIS NAME?
COULD ALSO BE 3 SUBSEQUENT GENERATIONS?
SUKESADA "JIROKURO", TEN-MON -1532. RATED UPPER CLASS
THERE ARE "55" SUKESADA'S LISTED IN THE "SHINTO PERIOD"!
( this is a brief overview, of some of the most important Sukesada's )
SUKESADA "TOSHIHIRO" TEN-SHO -1573 ~ KEI-CHO 1614, FIRST SUKESADA OF SHINTO PERIOD.
4 th. GENERATION FROM YOSAEZAEMON.
DIED AT 98 YEARS OLD.
SUKESADA "HICHIBEIJO" MAN-JI - 1658,
FATHER OF, "KOZUKE DAIJO".
SAID TO BE THE FOREMOST SUKESADA OF THE SHINTO PERIOD.
SUKESADA ( HANABI ), "YOKOYAMA KOZUKE DAIJO", KAN-BUN - 1661.
5 th. SON OF HICHIBEI.
SUKESADA, GEN-ROKU 1688 ( ALSO SIGNED YOSHIMITSU ), "KAWACHI NO KAMI"
SUKESADA, SHO-TOKU 1711, ( ALSO SIGNED SUKENOBU ). "YAMATO DAIJO".
FUJIWARA ( CLAN )
"15" ADDITIONAL "SUKESADA'S" IN THE "SHINTO" PERIOD.
( overview )
SUKESADA BUN-KA 1804, KNOWN AS "SUKEHIRA".
STUDENT OF SATSUMA "MOTOHIRA". FATHER OF SUKENAGA.
SUKESADA AN-SEI 1854, KNOWN AS "SUKENAGA".
HIS WORKS ARE VERY DISTINCTIVE, AND DESIRABLE.
HE SIGNS "56 th. GENERATION, FROM "TOMONARI"
IN THE 1980'S MANY FORGERIES OF HIS WORKS SUDDENLY
APPEARED. THE PERPETRATORS WERE APPREHENDED, IN JAPAN.
"SUKEKANE" BUN-KYU 1861, "58 th. GENERATION, FROM TOMONARI"
HE NEVER SIGNED SUKESADA. HE WAS FROM THE "YOKOYAMA" AREA.
HIS WORKS ARE EXCELLENT.
"BIZEN TO` KUBETSU"
( METHOD OF SWORD DISTINCTION )
It is somewhat difficult to comprehend a sword blade that carries with it, the makers testament of its quality. Due to the "HIGH DEMAND" for swords during the tumultuous late koto years each maker produced many various qualities of blades. The "BIZEN TO` KUBETSU" system is of great assistance to the shinza, or those judging the blades potential importance. The foundation of this system, is the "mei" (signature). The Bizen smiths of the late koto period, SUKESADA and Kiyomitsu mons (groups, or schools), developed just such a method. I feel certain that this method was originally developed as an expression and declaration to the effort and fastidiousness put into the individual sword. Due to the vast number of blades produced during the period, knowledge of this system and the circumstances surrounding it's creation ( be it inadvertent or not? ) is of paramount importance!
Let us consider a large order for swords, " by a "CHIEF DAIMYO". Please see levels below. The hypothetical order consist of 3500 katanas, for the "RANK & FILE" samurai, these would have been made "Very Strongly", and of excellent sharpness, these would be of level # 1. For the Higher rank samurai, and field commanders, 300 level # 2's, would have been chosen. Thirty katana's for the upper grade Commanders, and Generals, would have been of Level's 3, and 4. The 3 blades for the "Chief Daimyo's", would have been Level # 5 ( Masterpieces ) !
#1. "Tairyo saku", or randomly mass produced blades are normally "mu-mei" (unsigned).
# 2. "
Chusaku", or middle class. "Nichi mei", two kanji signature, i.e.; "Sukesada", or four kanji signature, i.e. "Bizen Sukesada" or "Bishu Sukesada".
# 3. "Jo saku", upper, or above average class. Six kanji signature, i.e. "Bishu Osafune Sukesada" or "Bizen Osafune SUKESADA"
# 4. "Jo-jo saku", upper - upper, blades of exceptional quality (could be "juyo" candidates). These will be signed in the same manner as # 3, in addition the entire formal name, i.e.: "Jirokuro", "Yosazaemonjo", "Hichibejo". Titles and dates (nengos) are frequently included.
# 5: "Sai-jo saku", uppermost best ( Masterpieces ), blades inscribed with the name of the person who ordered it, presentation blades, named blades (swords bestowed with their own name) by the maker or owner. These are normally dated (nengo).
Note: the kanji (character): "kuni" ( resident of ), "ju" (living at / from), and "saku" (made this) may be added at any time. "Nengo" (date) may be added at any time. However, this normally is found on higher grade swords.
"OUR BLADE" PLEASE SEE THE PHOTOS, FOR DETAILS.
OUR BLADE APPEARS TO BE MADE IN THE STYLE OF "YOSAEZAEMON" C - 1500 AD. THE LARGE, EXCEPTIONALLY WELL DONE HAMON, DOMINATES ANY DISPLAY CASE.
THE KOSHIRAE ( FITTINGS ) IS OF THE QUALITY THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN OWNED BY A SAMURAI OF COMMANDER STATUS, OR OTHER DISTINGUISHED LEADER. "SAME" SAYA'S ARE VERY SELDOM SEEN, THEY ARE VERY EXPENSIVE, AND LABOR INTENSIVE TO PRODUCE. THEY ARE NORMALLY SEEN ON DAIMYO CLASS SWORDS.
THE PIECE IS "NBTHK" HOZON CERTIFIED. THE BLADE IS IN FRESH POLISH IN A SHIRA SAYA, AND THE KOSHIRAE IS MOUNTED WITH A TSUNAGI ( WOODEN BLADE ). THE CONDITION IS PRISTINE. THIS IS AN EXCEPTIONAL PIECE, AT A AFFORDABLE PRICE.
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