BIZEN OSAFUNE NAGAMITSU
By Fred Weissberg
Edited for study by Elliott Long
Bizen Nagamitsu was the son of Bizen Mitsutada who was the founder of the Bizen Osafune School. The current thinking is that there were two generations of smiths who used the name Nagamitsu. The first generation was productive in about the Bunei and Koan eras (1264-1287). The Nidai who is thought to be the smith who signed Sakon Shogen Nagamitsu is represented by works from the Einin and Shoan eras (1293-1301).
The works by the shodai closely represent the craftsmanship developed by Mitsutada. They contain Choji-midare which, however, differs in that it also contains dominant gunome and more pointed variations of choji than his father's works. The theory that there were two generations of smiths using the Nagamitsu name stems in part from the fact that there was a distinct change in the style of workmanship around the Shoo era (1288). That is, prior to the Shoo era most of the blades exhibited irregular patterns resembling Mitsutada's, but after Shoo, he made his blades quieter in appearance having a somewhat more subdued irregular pattern occasionally even a straight pattern (suguha).
As with many areas of the history of the Japanese sword, the research continues and opinions will be amended or changed in the future. Irrespective of whether there were two generations or not, blades produced by the Nagamitsu smith(s) are of exceptional quality having six swords designated as National Treasures and no less than 28 blades designated as Important Cultural Properties.
Sugata: The sugata exhibits the features characteristic of the Kamakura period and is similar to the Ichimonji school of the same time. Generally blades are shinogi-zukuri, iroi mune with koshi-zori. There is a marked tapering as one approaches the point (funbari). Occasionally among Nagamitsu's works an unusual sugata may be seen which resembles the works of the early Kamakura period. Others may have a shallow sori and a mihaba (width) which does not vary greatly from the bottom to the point.
Jitetsu: The kitae is ko-itame mixed with small mokume, making a fine and beautiful grain. The ji-nie is also fine and the midare-utsuri or choji-utsuri will show up in a pronounced manner.
Hamon: The hamon will be Nioi based, as is the case with Bizen works. Nagamitsu's boshi is distinctive in that while it resembles that of his father, it is a mixture of various kinds of choji mixed with occasional gunome. In Nagamitsu's hamon, however, the gunome are much more profuse and will have rounded heads and, in effect, resemble choji. Mitsutada never made hamon with any portion being suguba in nature, while Nagamitsu was known to make straight hamon on a rare occasion.
Boshi: The boshi of Nagamitsu is an important kantei point. In most cases (there are always exceptions), he was known for what is called the "san-saku boshi". This boshi is so called because it was made by three swordsmiths (san-saku), Nagamitsu, Kagemitsu, and Sanenaga. The characteristics of this type of boshi is that it is fairly straight when crossing the yokote and then it slightly undulates in the mid point ending in a maru shape with kaeri.
Horimono: Bo-hi are commonly seen with the tops of the hi being pointed in nature. Futatsu-hi are also seen. Bonji can be found on his works on occasion.
Nakago: Not many ubu blades exist, but in general the nakago will be made a little short with the tip in Kurijiri or Kijimomo. The yasurime will be kuri or sujikai. The mei will generally be given in two characters.