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Article By: David E. J. Pepin, 2005

"YOSHIKAGE", IS ONE OF THE MOST HIGHLY RESPECTED MAKERS OF THE "LATE KAMAKURA" ~ "NAMBOKUCHO" PERIOD'S. HIS FIRST WORKS APPEARED IN ABOUT "KEM-MU" 1334 AD. HE BEGAN HIS STUDIES WITH "CHIKAKAGE", AND IS BELIEVED TO BE HIS SON. HE IS ALSO SAID ( THE ANCIENT RECORDS ARE NOT CLEAR ) TO BE THE SON OF "KAGEMITSU" ( WHO IS THE FATHER OF "KANEMITSU" ), ONE OF THE "TOP FIVE" MAKERS OF HIS ERA. "CHIKAKAGE" "KA-REKI 1326" PERIOD, ONE OF THE FOREMOST LATE KAMAKURA MAKERS, AND STUDENT OF THE EXCEPTIONALLY FAMOUS "NAGAMITSU". THE LAST COMMONLY BELIEVED THEORY, IS THAT HE IS THE SON OF "CHIKAFUSA" 2 nd. GEN., WHO WAS OF THE LATER "FUKUOKA ICHIMONJI" MON. THIS WOULD MAKE "CHIKAKAGE" HIS OLDER BROTHER.
"YOSHIKAGE'S" BLADES BEAR A STRONG RESEMBLANCE TO THOSE OF "KANEMITSU", AND "CHOGI" BOTH STUDENTS OF "MASAMUNE". OUR BLADE, BEARS THE "SAYA-GAKI" ( ATTRIBUTION ON THE SCABBARD ), TO "BIZEN KANEMITSU" FIRST GENERATION ( KO-DEN ). THIS WAS DONE IN "1964" BY, "DR. KANZAN SATO", ONE OF THE FOREMOST EXPERTS WHO EVER LIVED. HE WAS ALSO ONE OF THE "FOUNDERS" ( WITH DR. HOMMA ), OF THE "NBTHK". I HAD THE HONOR OF KNOWING HIM. THE DECISION OF THE SHINZA TEAM COULD CHANGE TO BE IN CONCURRENCE WITH THE "SAYA-GAKI", IF THE BLADE WERE RE-SUBMITTED. SHOULD THIS COME TO PASS, THE BLADES VALUE WOULD APPROXIMATELY DOUBLE. IT IS NEARLY IDENTICAL TO THE "KANEMITSU'S" THAT I HAVE SEEN. IN "DR. HOMMA'S" BOOK ( THE MOST AUTHORITATIVE LIST OF SWORD MAKERS EVER WRITTEN ), THERE ARE ONLY TWO JUYO KATANA'S, AND ONE JUYO TACHI RECORDED, YOSHIKAGE'S WORKS ARE SCARCE. IN ANY EVENT IT IS ONE OF THE "MOST EXUBERANT, AND IMPRESSIVE" JUYO BLADES WE HAVE EVER OFFERED.



"BIZEN PROVINCE" THE PINNACLE OF SWORD PRODUCTION.

"BIZEN", IS THE ONLY PROVINCE THAT HAS EXPERIENCED CONTINUOUS SWORD PRODUCTION FROM THE "HEIAN PERIOD", TO THE "SHIN-SHINTO" PERIOD. THUS EXPERIENCED SWORD SMITHS OF HIGH LEVELS, WERE ABUNDANT. IT IS QUITE APPARENT THAT EVERY EFFORT WAS MADE BY HISTORIANS TO ACCURATELY RECORD THE STATISTICS, AND GENEALOGY'S OF THE BIZEN KAJI (SWORD MAKERS). DUE TO THE UNBELIEVABLY LARGE NUMBER OF MAKER'S, AND BRANCHES IN THIS CONCENTRATED AREA, THE TASK PROVED TO BE EXTREMELY DIFFICULT, AND RESULTED IN CONFUSION IN MANY CASES. IT IS QUITE DIFFICULT TO FIND TWO REFERENCES THAT CONCUR WITH EACH OTHER. 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. THE WATER SUPPLY FROM THE "ASAHI GAWA", AND "YOSHII GAWA" RIVERS WAS VERY PURE. THE SOIL PRODUCES FINE WOOD, FROM WHICH SOME OF THE "HIGHEST GRADE CHARCOAL" EVER SEEN IS PRODUCED, EVEN TO THIS DAY! THE OTHER SIGNIFICANT FACTOR, IS THE SUPPLY ROUTE, THE "SANYODO HIGHWAY" PASSES DIRECTLY THROUGH BIZEN. IN SUMMARY, THE CONDITIONS IN BIZEN WERE ABSOLUTELY IDEAL, FOR "SWORD MAKING". IT IS ESTIMATED THAT MORE THAN "33 %" OF THE FINEST KOTO BLADES THAT REMAIN TODAY, ARE FROM BIZEN PROVINCE! "BIZEN", IS CREDITED WITH THE HIGHEST SWORD PRODUCTION STATISTICS, IN THE HISTORY OF JAPAN.


THE "SODEN ( SHOSHU DEN ) BIZEN" MON
FOUNDED IN: "YOSHINO-CHO" ERA 1336 ~ 1392
"BIZEN KANEMITSU",  HEAD OF GROUP.

WHEN "KANEMITSU WAS INVITED TO STUDY WITH, AND BECAME A STUDENT OF "MASAMUNE", IN "GEN-O" 1319, AT THE AGE OF "42" YEARS. "MASAMUNE" WAS THE MOST FAMOUS MAKER OF HIS DAY.  IT IS HIGHLY UNLIKELY THAT "KANEMITSU" WAS AWARE OF THE SIGNIFICANT POSITIVE IMPACT THAT THIS WOULD HAVE ON THE ART OF SWORD MAKING. THESE STUDIES RESULTED IN HIS BECOMING THE "HEAD OF THE "SODEN BIZEN" GROUP. THE OTHER LEADERS WERE; "CHOGI" - NAGAYOSHI (ALSO A STUDENT OF "MASAMUNE"), AND "KANENAGA" - NENCHO. THE SCHOOL FLOURISHED DURING THE "YOSHINO-CHO" ERA.
 

"MASAMUNE" WAS CONSIDERED BY THE "ENTIRE NATION", TO BE UNQUESTIONABLY THE FINEST SWORD MAKER IN JAPAN, AND ONE OF THE GREATEST MAKERS WHO EVER LIVED. FOR A "LIVING ARTIST" TO ACHIEVE THIS STATUS, NATIONWIDE, IS PERHAPS THE GREATEST HONOR THAT COULD HAVE BEEN BESTOWED UPON HIM. THE PRESENTATION OF ONE OF HIS BLADES, WAS CONSIDERED TO BE THE MOST SIGNIFICANT GIFT THAT COULD BE PRESENTED, BY "EMPERORS", AND "SHOGUN'S".

"BIZEN KANEMITSU", WAS UNDOUBTEDLY AMONGST THE FOREMOST MAKERS OF HIS DAY, AND THAT EVER LIVED. IT IS RECORDED THAT HE WAS BORN IN "KO-AN" 1278 AD., AND DIED IN "EN-BUN" 1356 AD., AT THE AGE OF "83"! HE WAS THE SON, AND STUDENT OF ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL BIZEN MAKERS, "KAGEMITSU" (SOME OF THE OLD RECORDS INDICATE THAT "KAGEMITSU" WAS ALSO THE FATHER OF "YOSHIKAGE"). HIS POPULARITY NEARLY EQUALED THAT OF "MASAMUNE", ESPECIALLY IN HIS NATIVE BIZEN PROVINCE. HIS WORKS WERE WELL KNOWN FOR THERE EXCEPTIONAL BEAUTY, AND FUNCTIONALLY. THEY WERE ALSO THE SUBJECT OF MUCH FOLKLORE. THERE ARE BLADES BY "KANEMITSU" THAT ARE NAMED; "KABUTOWARI" ( THE HELMET CUTTER ), "ISHIKIRI" (THE STONE CUTTER), AND "TEPPO KIRI" ( THE GUN CUTTER ). ONE STORY SIGHTS AN INCIDENT ( PROBABLY FICTIONAL ) WHEN DURING THE COURSE OF A BATTLE A SAMURAI WAS CUT WITH A KANEMITSU BLADE. THE CUT WAS SO CLEAN, AND PAINLESS THAT THE MAN SWAM ACROSS A RIVER IN RETREAT. WHEN HE ATTEMPTED TO CLIMB FROM THE WATER, HIS BODY FELL TO THE SHORE IN TWO HALF'S! THIS IS ONLY ONE OF MANY SUCH STORIES, THAT ATTEST TO THE SHARPNESS, AND CUTTING ABILITY OF THE BLADES OF "KANEMITSU".


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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