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      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 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 'kin' kanji was dropped in favour of the Seki more common 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.