The founder of the Shikkake (尻懸) School is traditionally said to have been Norihiro (則弘) who lived around the end of the Kamakura Era. However, since there are no authenticated extant examples by him, his son, Norinaga (則長) is most often given the title as founder of the Shikkake (尻懸) School. According to the Meikan, the first generation was active during the late Kamakura period, circa Shoô (正應) (1288-1293); however, it is believed that there are works dating to earlier periods than this, and there are later works dated Bunpô (文保) (1317-1319) and Ryakuô (曆應) (1338-1342).
Fortunately, Norinaga (則長) left us a good many examples of his work and some of them are dated, which aids us in placing him at the end of the Kamakura and the beginning of the Nanbokuchô period. One example, in fact, is signed in the year 1341 and states that he made this blade when he was sixty-nine years old. This would allow us to estimate his birth around 1272. While swords with Norinaga’s (則長) signature are not particularly rare, most other Yamato (大和)swords produced around this time are unsigned.
The name, Norinaga (則長), was handed down through several generations continuing into the beginning of the Muromachi Era. Other smiths of this school are Norihiro (則弘), Norizane (則真), Norinari (則成), Norisada (則貞), and Norinao (則直). Signed works by these smiths are exceedingly rare.
Below are the general traits of the Shikkake School:
SUGATA: Tachi are generally shinogi-zukuri with an iori-mune. The shinogi is high, and the shinogi-ji is wide. There will be torîzori with the curvature being relatively shallow. The thickness is average, and there is hira-niku. The kissaki have a long feeling. As for tantô, there are hira-zukuri and kanmuriotoshi-zukuri examples with iori-mune, but there will be some with shin-no-mune. The soriwill be mu-sori.
JITETSU: The jitetsu is flowing mokume mixed with masame. The mokume-hada appears along the shinogiand into the ji area with the masame-hada along the edge of the hamon. This is called Shikkake-hada. There is abundantly fine ji-nie.
HAMON: The hamon is a nie based suguha with hotsure and a mixing in of ko-midare and gunome that can be linked together in a line. There is ko-ashi, sunagashi, nijûba and a great deal of other activities within the hamon, such as uchinoke, brushing, small kinsuji, inazuma, and others are often found.
BÔSHI: Generally, ko-maru or yakizumi. There will be abundant nie and the tip will generally be hakikake.
NAKAGO: The nakago are comparatively long ending in ha-agari kurijiri and kengyo in most cases. Tantôwill also have iriyamagata that are conspicuously ha-agari. Yasurimei are sujikai, katte-sagari or kiri in most cases.
MEI: There are no ni-ji mei. All are naga-mei with some examples being: Yamato Norinaga (大和則長),Yamato no Kuni Norinaga (大和国則長), Yamato no Kuni Sakon Tochi Norinaga saku (大和国左近栃則長) Yamato no Kuni Shikkake jû Norinaga (大和国尻懸住則長). There is some debate as to exactly which generation signed which way, but it seems to be agreed that the first two signatures above were used by the first two generations.
We are pleased to present at this time a very fine example of the Yamato Shikkake school that was awarded the Jûyô Tôken designation back in 1966. I personally feel that in many cases swords that were elevated to this rank back then were held to a higher standard than some of the later ones judged.
The translation of the Jûyô documentation is as follows:
Designated as jûyô-tôken at the 14th jûyô-shinsa held on April 20th 1966
Katana, mumei: Den Shikkake (伝尻懸)
Measurements: nagasa 70.6 cm, sori 1.8 cm, motohaba 1.95 cm, kissaki-nagasa 2.85 cm, nakago-nagasa 18.0 cm, no nakago-sori
Shape: shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, rather deep sori, chû-kissaki
Kitae: dense itame-nagare with ji-nie and chikei
Hamon: quite ko-nie-laden suguha-chô mixed with ko-chôji, ko-gunome, and ashi, the nioiguchi is rather subdued
Bôshi: notare-komi with a ko-maru-kaeri but which tends to yakizume
Nakago: ô-suriage, kirijiri, kiri-yasurime, two mekugi-ana, mumei
Explanation: It is said that the Shikkake school was founded by Norihiro (則弘) but as there are no authentic signed works extant by him, his son Norinaga (則長) – of whom also signed works are known – is considered as actual founder of the school. According to tradition, the first generation Norinaga was active around Ôchô (応長, 1311-1312) and Gentoku (元徳, 1329-1331), the second generation around Ryakuô (暦応, 1338-1342), and the third generation around Ôei (応永, 1394-1428), but as dated works are rare, an exact differentiation of these generations is difficult. The Shikkake school is known among the Yamato-goha (the Five Yamato Schools) for working with a conspicuous amount of gunome and togariba. This blade, which has a healthy jiba, shows these features and can be attributed to the Shikkake school and dated to the end of the Kamakura period.