It is commonly believed that the Taema School (当麻系) belonged to the Taema-dera (当麻寺), a branch temple of the Kôfuku-ji affiliated Ichijô´in (一乗院), located in the village of Taema in the Kitakatsuragi District (北葛城) close to the foot of Nijôzan (二上山). The characters (当麻) can be pronounced as either “Taema” or “Taima” (we shall use Taema in this paper), and Kuniyuki (国行) is regarded as the founder of the school, who was active at the end of the Kamakura period, around Shôô (正応, 1288-1293). Other smiths from this school were, for example, Tomokiyo (友清), Tomoyuki (友行), Tomonaga (友長), Kunikiyo (国清), Arihôshi (有法師) etc., but already the “Genki-gannen tôken-mekiki-sho” mentions that there are only a few signed blades extant by Kuniyuki and other Taema smiths.
There are a few Taema (当麻) blades that exist which have a signature of just “Taema“ (当麻) without an individual smith’s name. All of them date to the Nanbokuchô or subsequent Muromachi period. Several blades which have earlier Hon´ami attributions to Taema Kuniyuki (当麻国行) or the Taema school in general have very strong nie and small patterned kinsuji. This style of workmanship comes rather close to the Sôshû tradition, and there are some pieces whose workmanship reminds one of Sôshû Yukimitsu (相州行光).
Two blades signed Kuniyuki (国行) have a suguha hamon with mixed-in ko-notare and midare and plentiful but fine nie. Their wet-looking hada, the kuichigaiba, the hotsure, and the rather quiet workmanship all come close that of Sôshû works. In any case, works with an attribution to Taema require a very exact and sensible judgement.
The following are the basic characteristics of the blades of the Taema school:
SUGATA: The tachi have a powerful shape with deep torîzori. The shinogi is high and the shinogi-ji is wide. There are works with stubby ikubi-kissaki, and all of these works have a highly elegant construction.
JITETSU: One can expect to find a well-forged ko-itame-hada mixed with itame-hada that is covered in ji-nie and contains chikei and yubashiri activity. In particular, from the monouchi area and above, an itame-hada is seen which tends to become masame-hada towards the mune saki of the tip. This is called “Taema-hada.” The jigane looks blackish and has abundant ji-nie. At a casual glance, one might mistake a Taema blade for a Sôshû piece.
HAMON: Taema school hamon are a narrower chu-suguha with an occasional mixing in of shallow notare. The habuchi contains hotsure and nie with some ara-nie. Although rare, there are also blades with a shallow gunome-midare. The nie can be rather course. Nijuba is frequently seen, as well as kuchigaiba, uchinoke, fine kinsuji, and inazuma often appear from the monouchi area to the yokote. The hamon is deeply colored resembling a light snowfall. The workmanship resembles that of Yukimitsu of the Sôshû school.
BÔSHI: The bôshi are mainly yakizume.
NAKAGO: Most of the existing long swords are o-suriage with the original nakago lost or altered. The nakago-jiri of existing tantô of the Taema, like those of the Shikkake school, are iriyamagata. Yasurime are kiri or a gently katte-sagari.
MEI: As stated almost all surviving katana are ô-suriage, mumei. There are a few signed examples that are signed simply Taema. There exist a few signed examples signed with the ni-ji mei, Kuniyuki, as well as Yamato no Kuni Taema Tomo[kiyo] (大和国当麻友[清]) and Yamato no Kuni Tomonaga (大和国友長).
We are pleased to offer for sale this excellent example of a Jûyô Tôken tachi from the Taema school. The following is a translation of the Jûyô Tôken zufu:
Designated Jûyô Tôken at the 18th Shinsa on the 24th 25th & 26th of April, the 44th year of Shôwa (1969)
Unsigned, Den-Taema [伝当麻]
Dimensions: Length: 69.4 centimeters; Curvature: 1.8 centimeters; Width at the Base: 3.0 centimeters; Width at the Point: 1.9; Kissaki Length: 3.1 centimeters; Nakago Length: 20.2; Nakago Curvature: slight.
Features: The construction is shinogi-zukuri with an iori-mune. The blade is ô-suriage, and the curvature is somewhat high. There is funbari, and a chû-kissaki. The kitae is tight itame-hada that has masame near the ha. The jigane is covered in ji-nie. The hamon is chû-suguha with a mixing in of hotsure and kuichigai-ba. There is a mixing in of ko-gunome near the monouchi. There is ko-ashi activity, and the entire hamon is well covered in nie. The bôshi is sugu with a slightly brushed tip, a ko-maru and kaeri. There are bôhi carvings on both sides of the blade that taper off onto the nakago. The nakago is ô-suriage with a straight cut-off tip. The yasurime are kiri, and there are four mekugi-ana. The blade is unsigned.
Explanation: This is an ô-suriage katana that is designated as a work of the Yamato Taema School.
The Taima School was dependent on Taema-dera, and they were active from around the middle of the Kamakura period into the Nanbokuchô period.
The founder of this school was Kuniyuki [国行]; however, the number of signed works does not surpass a few (the jûyô listing of 1989 gives six signed blades, four by Kuniyuki and one each by Tomokiyo [友清] and Tomonaga [友長]). The fact that their blades are almost all unsigned is a common feature of the other Yamato Schools. These smiths were dependent on each of the various Yamato temples for the manufacture of swords.
As for this sword, although the workmanship is rather quiet, this type of work is occasionally seen among Taema School blades.
This blade also comes with a very attractive Edo era tachi koshirae as pictured below. This koshirae has NBTHK Hozon papers stating the following: “According to the result of the shinsa committee of our society, we judged this work as authentic and designate it as hozon-tôsôgu” (worthy of preservation).