Nihon Koto Shi

(History of Koto)

By Dr. Honma Junji
Edited by Elliott Long




(Mino Swords)


Mino smiths of the Muromachi Period thrived following Bizen smiths. The centre of the sword production was Seki Hachiya, Akasaka, Nishigori and Shimizu were also inhabited by Mino smiths. It is speculated that the descendants of Shizu Kaneuji and Naoe-Shizu lived there also. When we talk about Seki-mi or Seki-mono, the term represents all of Mino smiths today. The correlation of Mino smiths is very complicated and it is almost impossible to pigeonhole the lineage of each smith. Therefore I will only talk about famous and skillful smiths of Mino Province here.


Before I start talking about Seki smiths, let me refer to a book concerning the history of the seven major Seki schools called eSeki Kaji Shichi Ryu Isetsuf. It states that Kinju was the founder of Seki smiths and then his son Kaneyuki, adopted Tegai Kanenaga who married his daughter. This Tegai Kanenaga changed the first character of his smith name to other eKanef used by most of Seki smiths. Kanemitsu was the son of Kanenaga and his descendants branched off and formed the seven major Seki schools, that is to say, Zenjo Kaneyoshi, San-ami Kanetaka, Tokuin Kanehisa, Ryoken Kanefune, and Muroya Kaneari.


The following smiths represent each school. The Zenjo school includes Kanemitsu (Oei Era), Kanefusa and Ujifusa, the San-ami school : Kanenori, Kanekuni, Izumi no Kami Kanesada (No Sada), Kanesada, Kanemoto (different from Magoroku Kanemoto), Kanetsune and Magoroku Kanemoto (Eisho Era), the Nara school : Kanetsune, the Muroya school : Daido. Amongst them, Zenjo Kaneyoshi, Izumi no Kami Kanesada (No Sada) and Magoroku Kanemoto are the representative and most skilful smiths.

There are extant works by Kaneyoshi with the production dates of the Oei, Bunmei and Eisho Eras. Swordsmith directories list a smith eMino Seki Zenjo Kaneyoshif who was active in the Koryaku Era. This smith is the first generation of Kaneyoshi. He tempers hoso-sugu-hamon, tanto and katana their workmanship has a resemblance to that of the Tegai school of Yamato Province. Izumi no Kami Kanesada was a son of 1st Kanesada and called eNo Sadaf, incidentally his nickname derives from the chiselling style of eSadaf and there are extant works of No Sada with the production dates of the Eisho and Daiei. It is said that 1st Kanesada signed his mei in the square style. It seems that 2nd Kanesada did not sign his mei in No Sada style in his early years (around the Meio Era) therefore it is very difficult to differentiate between the first and second generations The 3rd Kanesada was active in the Tenbun and Koji Eras and is called eHiki Sadaf because of the chiselling style of eSadaf. A theory says that the 3rd Kanesada used his smith name of Hirochika in his early years and there are two extant tanto in which he collaborated with the 2nd Kanesada. This is another Kanesada signing in No Sada style (eNoshu Seki Ju Kanesada). He is said to have been a student of the 2nd Kanesada and was active around the Tenbun Era as well as another smith by the name of  Toshitaka. There is a smith who signs eNoshu Shimizu Ju Izumi no Kami Kanesadaf who was active in the Genki and Tensho Eras. He was a student of the 3rd Kanesada and was retained later by Lord Ashina of the Aizu clan and became the founder of Aizu Kanesada line. Each Kanesada also signed in two character fashion on occasions. There were more Kanesada existing in this period, but it is very difficult to judge their generations from their mei. (Mei Zukushif says that 1st Kanesada was titled as Shinano no Kami also allowed to use the kiku-mon. I have seen a tachi by him with the mei of eNoshu Seki Ju Kanesada Sakuf with a kiku-mon. The hamon is sugu-ha mixed with small midare and the mei is done in the No Sada style. If this is a work of 1st Kanesada, the differentiation of 1st and 2nd Kanesada gets even more complicated. Anyway, No Sada or the 2nd Kanesada normally tempers gunome-midare, o-notare. Also he tempers sugu-ha on tanto that looks like Rai Kunitoshi. The 3rd Kanesada favoured tempering sugu-ha.


There seem to be more than three generations of Kanemoto in this period. Also their descendants and students used the smith name of Kanemoto. A theory says that the famous Magoroku Kanemoto (2nd> generation) was a student of the 1st Kanesada, but he adds his address of eAkasaka Juf to his mei and tempers so-called sanbon-sugi differing from Kanesada. Seki is quite a distance from Akasaka. There is an extant joint-work by Takatenjin Toraaki and 3rd Kanemoto, eMotof of 2nd Kanemoto is done in the square style but that of 3rd generation in the running style. Meanwhile, the second generation tempers irregular sanbon-sugi or togari-gunome and the third generation does regular sanbon-sugi. It is believed that 1st Kanemoto tempered gunome in a small pattern which consists of nie and signs his mei in small characters and eMotof in the semicursive style. There is a katana with the mei of eMagoroku Kanemotof in the running style. This is the work of the second generation. It is speculated that the commonly known name of eMagorokuf was also used after the second generation. There is another Kanemoto (eMotof is a different character) and he demonstrates a workmanship that has a close resemblance to that of 2nd Kanemoto. eSeki Kaji Shichiryu Ryaku Kif says that this Kanemoto was a student of Izumi no Kami Kanesada, meanwhile swordsmith directories say that 1st Kanemoto and this Kanemoto are the sons of Kanemune. A theory says Magoroku Kanemoto is the same smith as the other Kanemoto. There is an extant katana, owned by Yuasa Gosuke, of which the hamon is unusually o-midare mixed with gunome and notare. The 2nd Kanemoto occasionally tempers hoso-sugu-ha on tanto.


Amongst many Seki smiths, there is much-talk-of No Sada and Magoroku Kanemoto who left many masterpieces. They were followed by Kanenori, Kanekuni and Kanetsune in skill and their smith names were succeeded to for many generations. Swordsmith directories list Kanenori and Kanekuni around the Oan Era, but no extant work by them before the Muromachi Period, has been confirmed. Kanenori and Kanetsune skilfully temper sugu-ha in nie-deki and their nioi-guchi is not as tight as Kaneyoshifs. Kanekuni favoured tempering midare-ba based on notare accompanied by a subdued nioi-guchi. Kanefusa tempers unique gunome-choji with very round yaki-gashira, so-called eKenpo-midaref. There were four generations of Kanefusa. The first generation was active around the Kakitsu Era and lived in Akasaka and the 2nd Kanefusa moved to Seki where the later generations also lived. A smith called Wakasa no Kami Ujifusa lived in the Bunki Era and his second generation moved to Gifu then added eSaemon no Jo Fujiwara no Ujifusaf or eSakon E Gon Taisho Ujifusaf to his mei. Izumo no Kami Ujisada was a younger brother of 2nd Ujifusa and added eSakon no Shoshof or eGon Shoshof to his mei. He tempered sugu-ha with ashi and ko-notare and the jigane of his masterpiece is not inferior to Kanesadafs in quality. Kanemichi and Mutsu no Kami Daido, who were active at the end of the Muromachi Period or in the same age as Ujifusa, are fairly skilful smiths. Kanemichi moved to Kyoto then his three sons of Iga no Kami Kinmichi, Etchu no Kami Masatoshi and Tanba no Kami Yoshimichi, so-called ethe three Mishina brothersf held an established position at the beginning of shinto times.


Most of the swordsmiths mentioned above lived in Seki. A smith called Kanesada (the character of eSadaf is different from that of No Sada) who was related to Daruma Masamitsu of Yamashiro Province, lived in Hachiya located in the southeast of Seki. The first generation was active in the Oei era then there were three generations following. They demonstrate a workmanship similar to other Seki smiths. Masatoshi of the Sakakura Seki school lived in Sakakura located in the south of Hachiya. Inferring from the style of his mei, I believe that he has a certain relation with Muramasa or the Sengo school of Ise Province.


Akasaka was inhabited by smiths of the Akasaka-Senjuin school, of which founder was Kuninaga. There were three generations of Kuninaga from the Oei Era. Smiths who just sign eSenjuinf also exist. eMei Zukushif says that there was a school that included Nagahiro, Hironaga and Shimosaka after Kunimitsu who was a younger brother of Kuninaga. A theory says that they are the founders of the Echizen-Shimosaka school of shinto times. Swordsmith directories say that there are two generations of Yasumichi from the Meio Era then a smith called Yasutsugu appears in the school around the Tenbun Era. There are extant tanto of 2nd Kuninaga with sugu-ha mixed with notare and hitatsura in ko-nie-deki. There are few extant works of the Akasaka-Senjuin school. They tempered midare-ba in an irregular pattern in nie-deki. It is said that a smith called Jumyo and his later generations lived in Nishigori, located in the north of Akasaka since the Kamakura Period, but there is no extant work of Jumyo before the end of Muromachi Period. The smith name of Jumyo was succeeded through the Edo Period up to the Bakumatsu Period and we can often see their works in shinto and shinshinto times.


Shizu Saburo Kaneuji was the founder of Mino smiths and the descendants of his students called Naoe-Shizu were active in the Muromachi Period. Many smiths called Kaneuji, who had lived in Seki since the middle of the Muromachi Period, add the address of Seki to their mei. There are extant tachi and katana of Kaneuji and Kanetomo which are attributed to the works of the beginning of the Muromachi Period and they maintain the workmanship of their predecessors of the Nambokucho Period. Though, their later generations after the beginning of the Muromachi Period, came to temper gunome-choji, sanbon-sugi, gunome and midare-ba mixed with o-notare.