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mywei

Interesting Ko-Bizen

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For those Bizen aficinados

Was just browsing Aoi - they've listed an interesting ex-Daimyo heirloom Ko-Bizen Tochika from the Heian period https://www.aoijapan.com/katanato-chika-18th-nbthk-tokubetsu-juyo-token/ I havent that much exposure to Ko-Bizen previously.

The sugata surprised me - for such an early smith, was expecting a kamasu boshi and a different sugata, but i guess it is suriage, and the kissaki could have been re-shaped at some point in time. 

 

of note - the other Ko-Bizen (Toshitsune) on Aoi that looks in better condition overall imo 

 

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1 hour ago, mywei said:

 

The sugata surprised me - for such an early smith, was expecting a kamasu boshi and a different sugata, but i guess it is suriage, and the kissaki could have been re-shaped at some point in time. 

 

 

 

In ko-bizen there are two kinds of sugata (the difference is mainly in the mihaba with a kissaki in proportion and the depth of the sori) and the kamazu-kissaki is not an absolute rule, Masatsune for example making a ko-kissaki and even sometimes a chu-kissaki

 

 

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There is a deep Kirikomi near the Kissaki to add to the appeal. I suppose if you had to have just one fine sword in your collection this would be appropriate. 

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It is remarkable sword.

 

However a small correction to Aoi Arts English description, NBTHK states in Tokubetsu Jūyō entry that it is Middle Kamakura Period. Unfortunately there is no clear and large picture of sayagaki but Aoi's English page state that Tanobe wrote it to Middle Heian, however their Japanese page has in description that Tanobe wrote Middle Kamakura Period in sayagaki.

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Ah you're right Jussi - should have read the text rather than take Aoi's word. Setsumei states - Bun'ei era ~1264

 

It will mean that the Toshitsune will be a slightly older but essentially contemporary blade  - dated Bunryaku ~1234 according to the Hon'ami Nisshu sayagaki, even though Aoi stated that it is a Heian period blade again... Certainly sugata appear of similar period

https://www.aoijapan.com/katana-mumei-kobizen-toshitsune-19th-nbthk-juyo-paper/

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Its really bizarre that the entire English text alludes to antiquity, almost stating its one of the oldest nihonto...

While in reality the style is developed to the point of going well into Ichimonji era. 

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The Japanese description for both swords also has them in error both as Heian ~1180s

 

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One needs to be very careful with Aoi and its listings. Usually there are some inadvertent mistakes but also there is the usual dealer spin to reality. 

 

Firstly, as Kirill is saying, Ko-Bizen spans from Heian / roughly 1100 to approximately 1240. Plus or minus a decade or two. So, you have occasionally Ko-Bizen which are well into Kamakura and have different dimensions (increasing sori in monouchi)  and hamon (more flamboyant) to the ‘usual’, old Ko-Bizen, which on the whole tended to be more uncontrived than here. So, this type of nioiguchi and hamon speak of later Ko-Bizen as a rule. 

 

Next, onto the smith.  Well, this smith is believed to be a descendant of Masatsune, who did have a more flamboyant hamon. Interestingly, the setsumei here references flamboyance similar to Hatakeda Moriie and Saburo Kunimune, who would have overlapped with Tochika, at least partially, in creative period. Fujishiro in his book starts by saying that he is usually associated with 1190 as starting period, then quotes several eras but concludes the smith most likely worked during the Ichimonji school period. There are not many swords left by him and some are in suguha but some are very flamboyant and exciting. He has blades which were kokuho pre-war and now JuBu, so clearly highly rated.

 

As to the blade, yes it is TokuJu and published by Fujishiro. The Honami Kojo origami is highly valuable and it has a historic provenance. The hamon is very nice,  it is zaimei , so these are the positive attributes. One will need to evaluate whether one is happy with the condition (it has some rather deep ware). But it surely is a special sword, valued very highly. It shows that the overall merits far outweigh the condition issues. 

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As I have problems reading kanji, I've been a "victim" of this a dozen times. In the mild form its me picking up a blade at a store, showing off my skill by naming the smith, the seller nods and congratulates me... and later I discover the sayagaki states a later generation, with somewhat lesser financial expectation.

Another mild case is choosing in the sales description the earliest possible date in Fujishiro, Meikan or whatever text even when it does not make any sense. This one is very common, but at least one can look at the blade and judge if that's of the period claimed.

 

But there many Japanese dealers, especially on auction sites, who will write the entire description pointing to the school's founder or the most prominent name, while the sayagaki Explicitly hints towards a lesser name. Some will even include papers  to another blade, by the famous smith - and then you recieve you purchase without this paper - it was just an "example" of what a paper would look like, no it does not come with the blade!

Dumpster diving in Japan is ripe with dangers.

 

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The NMB truly is a wonderful community. With equal intensity - and comparable expertise we can address the set screws on mid War gunto AND the quality of mid - or late - Heian era swords with very good saya-gaki --- and opening bids of $150,000! I truly to not aspire to own a sword made before 1100 AD, and I absolutely would not enter into judgement about such a piece - - unless I happened to have excavated it. And I have excavates lots of stuff newer than the blade being discussed here. As collectors I think we should act like "fans" rather that expert judges.

Peter

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On 7/19/2021 at 8:04 AM, Gakusee said:

Ko-Bizen spans from Heian / roughly 1100 to approximately 1240. Plus or minus a decade or two.

 

 

Hmm ... , 

 

平安時代 [前期] Early Heian (弘仁 Kōnin) period 794 ~ 897 , 平安時代 [後期]

 

Late Heian (藤原 Fujiwara) period 898 ~ 1185 .

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Understanding this...

 

Tokuju papers usually have a period listed right in the setsumei, unlike Juyo.

 

On this one it is very clearly set to middle Kamakura. Their mentioning of Heian is a transcription error or a copy and paste error or two different clerks writing it up. It happens a lot there so you need to be careful.

 

tochika.thumb.jpg.ab9436fac3bebfbc13cabc0dd0cdd9e0.jpg

 

With Ko-Bizen it is kind of a simple error to conflate them with Heian blades, because in the Heian period we classify most things as Ko-Bizen in Bizen. But it needs to be understood as kind of an umbrella under which we place the older Bizen works when we can't clearly define a group to assign them to.

So in the Kamakura period if you are an "unaligned" swordsmith that we can't place where you belong, you will fall into the Ko-Bizen classification.

In terms of Tochika there may be many generations or just one, there is not enough information to tell and different theories are out there. In these cases the NBTHK can and likes to write about specific pieces, in this case saying that this is a middle Kamakura Tochika while mentioning a theory that he was a son of Masatsune (there are several ways to interpret Masatsune as well in terms of generations and time period). Other times they have mentioned Tsuneto and they have also mentioned that there is a possibility that he is Hatakeda or early Hatakeda somehow. So you kind of can't go wrong by just saying that this one in particular is middle Kamakura and it is certainly authentic and high quality Tochika.

But it's really wrong to just pop open Fujishiro and see there is one entry for Tochika and he puts him at the end of Heian so saying that because this is Tochika then it's Heian period.

Even the strongest things we can say about dates when we get to middle Kamakura and earlier has to have a big fudge factor of decades to centuries because we literally move back from clearly documented history to poorly documented history to the time of legendary smiths. A lot of that gray area can be dealt with by saying Ko-Bizen or Ko-Kyo and then leaving it as a subject for further research. This it not purely a punt but just the knowledge that swords are still being discovered that can tell us more about what we want to know from the earliest times.

 

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The Nihonto meikan lists another Bizen Tochika who worked around Shoo (1288/1293). It's possible Fujishiro made a confusion. 

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17th century publications, from which considerable portion of this detailed genealogical information is derived, for some reason are quite inaccurate when it comes to 10th, 11th, 12th, and sometimes even 13th century.

Nobody knows why.

Its one of the great mysteries of this world.

I mean if it says the smith was active 1173-1196, you would expect him to wait for the first day of 1173, pick up his tools, and then as any decent person would - put them away in 1196, making sure his name not to be used as signature ever since.

But there is a crazy theory out there, which I personally don't believe in.

It might be they did not read Meikan.

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Aoi did another diabolical job on the description. This time, the transcription of the sayagaki in Japanese is ridiculous, and the English translation is no better. To summarize, Tanobe-sensei's sayagaki states that while most old sources name Tōchika as the son of Tsunetō (placing him at the tail end of the Heian period), this sword has the traits of a mid-Kamakura sword. 

 

 

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