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Earliest dates of extended kissaki

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Hope everyone is doing good!

 

Does anyone have any actual dates for when the extended kissaki that is typical of Nanbokucho tachi and nodachi first appeared? 

 

In other words, are there known and dated examples from the end of Kamakura, or is this feature strictly an invention of the Nanbokucho era?

 

Cheers!

 

 

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If I'm correct the extended kissaki was introduced to allow for kissaki reshaping after tip damage, to be more effective.

It would have been phased in with no clearly short transition as many damaged tip blades were only occasionally salvaged.

It was an evolution of blade shape born out of necessity.

 

 

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Hi John

 

This is a great question and I have asked it myself many years ago. Jussi is the best source for this but let me give it a crack. Many define the O-Kissaki as the shape that appeared in the Nanbokucho period however, there is evidence that some (very few) schools made extended kissaki before that time. The shapes of swords that came after the Mongol invasions attributed to the new shape of swords but even at the time of the early Kamakura some sword schools were experimenting with new styles. 

 

To define O-Kissaki I wish to note that I will omit the converted Naginata Naoshi blades, indeed some Naginata that were converted to larger Kissaki are wonderful and imposing in Sugata but they do not count. I will focus on swords with Kissaki that extend 4 cm and above with specific width over 2.5 cm in width. There will be Aoe blades that are longer in Kissaki but more slender (these are more extended Chu-Kissaki), I am open to the other members rebuttal on these measures. The Ideal O-Kissaki is over 3 cm in width and over 4 cm in length not exceeding 7.5 cm, in my opinion (Sadamune, Chogi, Motoshige, etc)

 

There is evidence of Ko-Hoki (later Heian Ko-Hoki) making blades with extended Kissaki, this is a nice reference since we know that Masamune and Norishige used Ko-Hoki as a reference to their own eventual styles of Sugata, although the most beautiful Masamune (all Mumei so I leave that for another discussion) do not have overly extended Kissaki, they are just right so to say. 

 

Continuing into early Kamakura and there are very few examples from Ichimonji and Yamato that show extended kissaki but these may also be reshaped blades, hard to tell. Moving into the Mid-Kamakura we get Miike swords(love Miike myself), robust and powerful with intimidating shape that show the features of extended kissaki (still before the Mongol invasions of 1274 and 1281). 

 

But then we move to the golden age of sword constructs where almost every school begins to show O-Kissaki construction. Out of anticipation of the returning Mongol invasions no doubt, but impressive Sugata with massive Kissaki. Ichimonji (later schools), Mihara, Sairen in Chikuzen, and finally leading into the Soshu schools that really perfected the O-Kissaki and lent their skill to Soden Bizen. 

 

In my opinion the most magnificent O-Kissaki stem from Sadamune (Soshu) and then, (Soden-Bizen) Chogi, Kanemitsu, etc during the Nanbokucho. Were they preparing for another Mongol invasion, had the Japanese learnt more about armour from their enemies and then incorporated the best aspects into their construction at the time so the swords needed to answer that development? I am sure the armour groups here can answer that. 

 

What does become clear is that the next time we see the beauty of O-Kissaki after the Nanbokucho is during the Shin-Shinto period and that should be of note as to the use of such blades where Kiyomaro made outstanding Sugata that broke the status quo.  

 

In addition to O-Kissaki I think take into account the Kasane and Motohaba / Sakihaba as that tells you a lot about the robustness of the sword, for example, if you see Chogi (or Miike for that matter) it is not only about the O-Kissaki but the blade itself is wide and thick. Aoe has extended Chu-Kissaki that some mistake for O-Kissaki but this school is clear in its intention, some (few) late Nanbokucho follow the trends of Soden-Bizen and earlier blades are Chu-Kissaki and then extended Chu-kissaki and earlier ones will be Ko-kissaki. 

 

Conclusion, if you wan the best Koto O-Kissaki look at Soden-Bizen blades.

 

 

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Nice post Kawa San.  I just picked up my first Soden Bizen, a Yoshikage; I really do like that shape, and when combined with the great hataraki and jitetsu, they are very popular collector swords.  There is also something about a big stout sword with a long kissaki that naturally exudes the power of the Japanese sword,   I have never held one that is ubu, it must be quite an experience to have in hand one that is 80-90cm+.    

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Yoshikage is one of the greats, love that smith too. I have no idea where you found it, Soden-Bizen are getting impossible to find now a days, well done Rob San!

 

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A friend of mine picked it up at an online auction in Japan without any papers and then submitted it to NTHK- NPO where Miyano San made the call.  He isn't a Bizen guy and gave me a good deal on it.  I'm having it cleaned up a little bit by Ted Tenold currently, as there is a little surface rust.  

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I do have few examples of dated ōdachi from Kamakura period but unfortunately I lack pictures of their kissaki, so I cannot comment on those.

 

I believe this ōdachi by Bizen smith Kunizane that is preserved in Itsukushima-jinja might be among the earliest remaining. Unfortunately I lack many measurements of the sword but long kissaki can be seen in the picture. The sword is designated Jūyō Bunkazai and it is 106,6 cm in blade length with 5,9 cm curvature. Koshirae is 181,5 cm. The sword is most likely from late Kamakura period.

IMG_20200810_160835.jpg

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As Ray (Kawa san :) ) suggested above, these developed in pursuit of strong kissaki that could withstand the thick Mongolian armour, so mainly post the 1270s. 
 

I would not ignore the various naginata / nagamaki that Ray mentioned but acknowledge that they are not purely what the discussion is about. there are various Katayama Ichimonji nagamaki / naginata  but also tachi with o-kissaki. 
 

I have read somewhere that the definition of o-kissaki is that the length of the kissaki is > 2xthe yokote line. So, we are safely in okissaki territory when at 2x. Extended chukissaki at 1.5x or thereabouts. When roughly 1-1.2x we are talking of ikubu kissaki and below 1 often ko-kissaki. 
 

Now, there are various early Kamakura blades with o-kissaki but these are rare. Jussi’s blade might have a big kissaki, simply because it is a gigantic blade, but that does not make it o-kissaki (which is about proportionality). 
 

Attached are examples: Yamato Kaneuji and Miike, dating to 1230-1250 roughly. 

6C066D82-6D69-4E0F-BC43-27DB2EB7BC08.png

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I have always perceived this as a gentle transition in form. I think I have read the same reference as Michael regarding ratio of length vs width at yokote but remembered it as being 2.5+ for O-kissaki. I have studied several blades that are described as having an extended chu-kissaki and which date from the late Kamakura period.

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Michael,

I was under the impression that Yamato Kaneuji was born later in the 13th century. Interesting... I must have been informed wrong.

 

Paulb,

It makes sense that trends like this would be a more gradual transition. 

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I think the biggest issue when trying to find dated examples so far back in history is the scarcity of items. I believe I have gone through most of the highly regarded remaining Japanese swords (of course I'll keep making new finds previously unknown to me and new items pop up too with new shinsa), and I just counted and I was able to find in total only 38 dated tachi that have pre-1300 dating. I might have accidentally skipped one or two when trying quickly to find them but that is miniscule database and you cannot make too general conclusions from that.

 

Signed and dated swords (that are confirmed by expert opinions) have the upside of eliminating uncertainity. While I do have extremely high amount of confidence in Japanese experts, mumei swords always leave some leeway.

 

I might have told sometime earlier that when visiting Tokyo National Museum in 2017 they had a very big and wide sword on display during exhibition (I visited twice during my stay but they had rotated the exhibition items during that and I couldn't check the info of it accurately, as I was overwhelmed seeing so many awesome items on my first time visiting there), of course I immidiately thought that is an obvious Nanbokuchō shape, and felt good about my guess. I was shocked that it was actually Heian period Ko-Bizen sword. Unfortunately I don't have any pics of the item, and I haven't yet been able to track it down. I just remember it so well as I was confident in my guess across the room but got totally humbled.

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28 minutes ago, Jussi Ekholm said:

I think the biggest issue when trying to find dated examples so far back in history is the scarcity of items.

 

...

 

I just remember it so well as I was confident in my guess across the room but got totally humbled.

Hi John, Jussi, everyone;

 

Not having the time to study each post and ponder on the implications, I did skim through this page and as I had the Teiryo Yoji on my lap yesterday, this question comes at the right time. Though not actual swords the examples, or information in the book was based on one of the scrolls from (can't recall the exact years); ±800 years, yet the earliest dates described in the book don't have any O kissaki. Anyway you probably know what the book is about.

 

Continuing; if there were much earlier examples one could imagine one of the earlier generation of Honami appraisers/polishers would've seen it and included one of those examples somewhere in the mountain of data. Then again as the book is comprised of 1/5 of the information known in the family at least around 1600, who knows what information is unknown to us now. Anyway just a thought. If i have the time I'll check it out specifically for when the larger kissaki comes in.

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Yes, John, you are of course right and I mislabelled the Kaneuji, which is a later blade. 
 

But the Miike example still stands. 
 

Another interesting one is this special order Fukuoka Ichimonji Yoshifusa (he worked roughly 1230-1260, or along these lines) - see below. 
I think this is your best bet of a “ signed and dated” example. Yoshifusa did not date his works but signed them.  Extremely valuable and pricy swords. We are lucky the mei was retained on this example. 
 

So, apart from this Yoshifusa and Katayama Ichimonji converted blades (presumably originally nagamaki or naginata), I have not been able to trace too many other early examples.I have been able to find some generic Ichimonji blades (not attributed to a school), probably 4-5, and some Yoshioka blades too - another 4-5, in the Juyo volumes.  As we move towards the end of 13 century, 1280-1290, there are a few Senjuin and Taema blades with o-kissaki. 
 

So, I think it is clear that while mid/late Kamakura examples do exist, they seem to be special orders, exceptions, rather than prevalent stereotypes. As we move into Nanbokucho, then the archetype shifts for the previously discussed reasons. 
 

 

B1A20C3B-64E2-466A-A99E-F7AAE7BCD9AE.jpeg

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After turning a couple of pages I suppose this is the earliest shown form of an extended kissaki (I'm on my phone and don't know how to rename images; filename ends with 152).

 

Most of the larger kissaki shown within the first 100 pages are attributed to Soshu tradition. This is the first O kissaki (filename ends with 381).

IMG_20200813_061000152.jpg

IMG_20200813_061640381.jpg

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I remember I had posted some centimeter measurements of early long/longish kissaki but these are unfortunately not dated swords:

 

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Hi Axel. Your post suggests the earliest o-kissaki swords are the Soshu ones. 
as posted above, Yoshifusa did it some 50-70 years earlier. 

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According to NBTHK, O kissaki is typical of the period starting Enbun ending in Joji ( 1356 - 1368)

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8 hours ago, Gakusee said:

Hi Axel. Your post suggests the earliest o-kissaki swords are the Soshu ones. 
as posted above, Yoshifusa did it some 50-70 years earlier. 

Who am i to argue the information in the Teiryo Yoji. Whether or not it's correct, incomplete or lacking information is really not up to me. I'm too much of a novice.

 

They're all simply suggestions of what the swords look or should look like. It's very possible a Smith made o kissaki before anything shown in the book.

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Axel 

it is very simple. Teiryo Yoji was written by Honami Koson at the beginning of 20 century. Since then more knowledge has come out. He was one man, very knowledgeable but he has seen a limited number of swords. The same applies to Fujishiro etc - while their books are great, they are one piece of reference only and we need to delve deeper into this. The field has expanded a lot in the last 50 years, with the publication of so many Juyo and Tokubetsu Juyo Zufu, and identification of a lot of swords that these guys had probably not seen. 

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On 8/14/2020 at 9:36 AM, Gakusee said:

Axel 

it is very simple. Teiryo Yoji was written by Honami Koson at the beginning of 20 century. Since then more knowledge has come out. He was one man, very knowledgeable but he has seen a limited number of swords. The same applies to Fujishiro etc - while their books are great, they are one piece of reference only and we need to delve deeper into this. The field has expanded a lot in the last 50 years, with the publication of so many Juyo and Tokubetsu Juyo Zufu, and identification of a lot of swords that these guys had probably not seen. 

Not starting an argument but I was simply adding the information pertaining to the O kissaki subject from that one book.

 

Take the following with a grain of salt as I'm not quoting from the book. If i recall correctly how it was stated in the book the Teiryo Yoji was based on 1 out of 4 (or 5) scrolls found. And those scrolls were pretty much the written (secret), record of the Honami family since the 1300's? I don't know, but even if it were just the last Honami I'm not the one to challenge that information.

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Axel

I do not wish to engage in arguments either. It is true that o-kissaki is associated with Nanbokucho (broadly after 1330) and Soshu den and Soden Bizen. 
 

However, what I am doing here is disproving that this is when o-kissaki emerged. John asked when the earliest examples emerged and I am proving below with examples from 1230-1280 across schools (Ichimonji, Mike, Sairen, Taema) that o-kissaki had already emerged in the mid thirteenth century. 

8D27D8FD-53C8-4C13-8DA8-EFB818CA0564.jpeg

1D3F2D15-80E3-4513-976C-F27610CA9C2E.jpeg

E5C1E504-C1BF-4037-A99E-6F40C5722985.jpeg

37AEE0AA-16CD-4FEC-8A61-1AEF1A5DB56D.jpeg

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On 8/10/2020 at 10:22 PM, Fuuten said:

Then again as the book is comprised of 1/5 of the information known in the family at least around 1600, who knows what information is unknown to us now.

I totally agree and already admitted that the book might be incomplete or lacking certain information. But that point was already established and once more it is surely not mé to declare this specific book to be any of the above.

 

I don't feel comfortable declaring that even though someone else might be. Therefor I only added the pages and some objective information, nothing subjective as I'm too much of novice..😶

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