A WAKIZASHI IN THE SOSHU STYLE
A Ko-Wakizashi that shows a definite Soshu influence, the Jizu form Boshi makes me think it may be within the Mino tradition. It will be sent to Shinsa soon.
A MINO DEN SUE-SEKI TACHI
美濃伝 未関 太刀
This is the Koshirae for the Mino-to below and seems to be in a better quality Satsuma style seen during the time of the rebellion against the Meiji restoration during the Bakumatsu period in the second half of the 19th century. Very simple iron fittings but, robust and made for field conditions. The tsuka is wrapped in the Katate maki style (battle wrap) with a tan/khaki coloured ito. The menuki are the triple aoi-mon in shakudo with the center one gold washed.
This is a Sue-Seki Mino Den blade in remarkable preservation and polish. This blade was made in the second half of the 16th century.
Nagasa-70.4cm, Nakago-14.9cm, Toriizori-2.5cm, Motohaba-2.7cm, Sakihaba-1.9cm (sword has a gentle funbari). The hamon is gunome midare with choji midare and has togari, it also has ko-ashi, sunagashi, and kinsuji. An o- suriage blade, mumei but it is a quality Seki Mino-to from the Muromachi period.
Some pictures of the hamon in the boshi and monouchi areas of the blade. The Kinsuji is evident in the upper left picture. This sword has a beautiful hamon, complex and easy on the eye.
Originally named 'Mino no Sekisho', meaning 'The Checkpoint of Mino' the town of Seki, Mino province was a major sword producing center during the later Koto period as well as in the Shinto and Shinshinto periods, in fact during the 20th century was still a major producer of swords, especially before and during WW II. Seki is on the Sunomata River (墨俣川).This river, now named the Nagara River (長良川) is one of the famous "Three Clear Flowing Rivers of Japan' and one of the 'Three Rivers of Kiso' of the Nobi plain. The first sword smiths made their appearance in the area aprox. 810 years ago in the 13th century, attracted by the fast flowing water of its' two major rivers, the deeply forested hills for charcoal and of course its' iron sands. This was during the Kamakura Bakufu and the shugo of Mino during this period were the Ouchi clan(大内) later the Hojo clan (北条). During the Muromachi Bakufu the shugo of Mino were the Toki clan (土岐) until 1542 when it came under the control of Oda Nobunaga. I might note here that Seki was at a central crossroad between the east and west, being a waypoint on the Tosando highway which linked Omi, Mino, Hida, Shinano, Kozuke, Shimotsuke, Mutsu and Dewa.
During the 14th to 16th centuries Seki smiths were known for swords that neither bent nor broke. It is still renowned for its' quality cutlery and there are many sword smiths that continue the tradition today. During the Muromachi period there were hundreds of kaji in Seki belonging to many schools within the Mino tradition. This period was also a period of warfare (the Onin War) and it necessitated the production of many swords, which were favoured by the samurai for their reliability. The Onin War (1467-1477) was a civil war that was fought mainly in the Kyoto environs and it provided a stimulus of sword production in Seki. It can be said that the Onin War marked the beginning of the Sengokujidai. It was during this period that the Sengoku Daimyo took the service of the Seki smiths and this dispersed the Mino tradition to other han and kuni throughout Japan. As time went by (late Koto- Sue-Seki) there was a tendency to forge swords quickly to supply the needs of the armies and the general quality declined. That is not to say there were not still swords of high quality produced and kaji of reknown.
It was also at this time that the Uchigatana (65-67 cm) was developed as well as the Wakizashi (48-60 cm) for the Keishohei (lightly armoured foot soldiers). Note here, that the major influence on swords forged in the early days in Mino that became the Mino-den was the Yamato-den and more specifically the Tegai Ha, Kanenaga I, (Taira Suburo) (extant-1222-1288). It was the kaji of this Yamato-den tradition that migrated to Mino and experimented with the techniques of the Soshu-den and Yamashiro-den in combination with the Tegai-ha of the Yamato-den to create a whole new style. The better swords at this time (end of the Muromachi) may be said to combine aesthetics (form) with a reliable cutting ability, durability and confident construction (function) than at any other time.
A KANEYOSHI TANTO
This is a tanto made by the Mino smith Kaneyoshi(兼良). He was active around the Bunmei (1469-1487) period. This tanto just passed the NBTHK shinsa in Japan in March of 2008. This blade shows a profound amount of sunagashi.
Mino kaji are notoriously difficult to unravel sometimes. This tanto is signed 兼良. A more commonly found mei within Mino kaji is 兼吉 and quite a few smiths used it. When we look at the Nanaryu of the Sekikaji, the Senjuinryu is also known as the Nararyu, Narashi being 奈良市 or Nara as 奈良. Perhaps this smith is using the 良 kanji to show his affiliation with the Nararyu. The progenitor of these Sekikaji was originally a Tegairyu smith named Kaneshige 金重 of Echizen who moved to Seki and was a contemporary of Kaneuji. Later the descendants split and the Nanaryu was born. It was when Kanenaga 兼永 the son of Kaneshige's son Kaneyuki 包行 moved to Seki that the 金 'kin' kanji was dropped in favour of the Seki more common 兼 occurred.
A KANEMORI KOGATANA
Before the arrival of Kaneuji and Kinju (Kaneshige) in Mino no Kuni there were smiths that had arrived earlier from Nara, Yamato and Yamashiro. Of particular note was the Senjuin Ha of Mino started by Yukiyoshi and the Ko-Senjuin Ha of Akasaka of the early 13th century (1200) founded by Sensui (Shigehiro), (a Goban Kaji?). The Jumyo Ha was established in Mino also coming from Yamato in successive groups starting in the early 13th century. Thus was a strong Yamato Senjuin tradition already in place and there are records of small family groups from Yamashiro and elsewhere as well. In the early 14th century Kanenaga’s (Taira Saburo) students brought the Yamato Tegai Ha to Mino. This was the school to which Kaneuji and Kinju belonged and the other thing in common was that they both studied under Masamune in Sagami, hence the Soshu influence. It is these two kaji that were the driving force in the development of a distinctive Mino Den.
SCHOOLS OF THE MINO-DEN
EARLY MIDDLE LATER
Akasaka Senjuin Ha, Mino Akasaka Senjuin Ha, Mino Akasaka Senjuin Ha, Mino
Jumyo Ha, Mino Hachiya Ha, Mino Akasaka Seki Ha, Mino
Kanekage Ha, Mino Jumyo Ha, Mino Daido Ha, Mino
Shizu Kaneuji Ha, Mino Kanesada Ha, Mino Echigo Seki Ha, Echigo
Shizu Kinju Ha, Mino Kanetoshi Ha, Mino Echizen Seki Ha, Echizen
Naoe Ha, Mino Kanetsune Ha, Mino Ganmaku Ha, Mino
Nara Taro Ha, Mino Kaneyuki Ha, Mino Hachiya Ha, Mino
Kawado Ha, Mino Jumyo Ha, Mino
Kinju Ha, Mino Kanefusa Ha, Mino
Koyama Ha, Mino Kanemoto Ha, Mino
Kurama Seki Ha, Yamashiro Kanenaga Seki Ha, Mino
Mitsuyoshi Ha, Mino Kanesada Ha, Mino
Naoe Ha, Mino Kanetsune Ha, Mino
Nara Taro Ha, Mino Kaneyuki Ha, Mino
Sakakura Ha, Mino Kawado Ha, Mino
Sanami Ha, Mino Kinju Ha, Mino
Shiga Mino Ha, Owari Koyama Seki Ha, Mino
Tokuin Ha, Mino Kurama Seki Ha, Yamashiro
Zenjo Ha, Mino Mitsunaga Ha, Mino
Muroya Ha, Mino
Naoe Shizu Ha, Mino
Nara Taro Ha, Mino
Sakakura Seki Ha, Mino
Sanami Ha, Mino
Sendai Mino Ha, Mutsu
Shiga Seki Ha, Owari
Tokuin Ha, Mino
Yoshimasa Ha, Mino
Zenjo Ha, Mino
Sue-Seki Ha, Mino
Aizu Kanesada Ha, Iwashiro Kanefusa Ha, Mino Muroya Ha, Mino
Akasaka Ha, Mino Kanekaga Seki Ha, Mimasaka Naoe Ha, Mino
Aki Teruhiro Ha, Aki Kanemoto Ha, Mino Nara Taro Ha, Mino
Daido Ha, Mino Kanenobu Ha, Mino Nobutaka Ha, Owari
Daido Mino Ha, Tango Kanesada Ha, Mino Sakakura Ha, Mino
Echigo Seki Ha, Echigo Kanetsune Ha, Mino Sanami Ha, Mino
Echizen Seki Ha, Echizen Kawado Ha, Mino Sendai Mino Ha, Mutsu
Ganmaku Ha, Mino Kinju Ha, Harima Suruga Seki Ha, Suruga
Inaba Kanesaki Ha, Inaba Masafusa Seki Ha, Satsuma Takamichi Ha, Owari
Jumyo Ha, Mino Miami Seki Ha, Mino Tokuin Ha, Mino
Jumyo Owari Ha, Owari Mishina Ha, Yamashiro Ujifusa Ha, Owari
Kaga Seki Ha, Kaga Mitsuhiro Ha, Owari Yoshikado Kei, Hitachi
Kai Seki Ha, Kai Morimichi Ha, Owari Zenjo Ha, Mino
As can be seen the Mino-den was a very successful tradition, it having been the last of the Gokaden to develop. There were many groups that had connections with kaji in other provinces. There were also literally hundreds of kaji that were loosely affiliated with Mino-den. This list is a compilation of the most well known schools.