Bizen Kagemitsu (備前景光) was the son of Bizen Nagamitsu (備前長光)who was, in turn, the son of the founder of the Bizen Osafune School, Mitsutada (備前光忠). The works by these first three generations of smiths solidified the foundation of the Osafune School into one of the greatest sword making schools of all time.
Bizen Kagemitsu(備前景光) is called Sahyôhenjô (左兵衛尉) in most accounts and his dated works show that he was born in the latter part of the 13th century. We have works from him dating from the Kagen Era (1303) through the Kenmu Era (1335). While his father and teacher, Nagamitsu (長光), did not leave many tantô, Kagemitsu (景光)left us a good number of fine tantô that have survived through the years. He also made extraordinary tachi and katana.
There exists one tachi and one tantô that have been designated to be National Treasures (Kokuhô), and twelve tachi and one tantô that have been classified as Important Cultural Properties (Jûyô Bunkazai). Finally there are ten tachi, two katana, and eight tantô that are designated to be Important Art Objects (Jûyô Bijitsuhin). This is a very impressive list indeed.
Kagemitsu (景光) was an important link in the succession of great smiths from the Osafune School. We know he was the son of Nagamitsu (長光), but we also know he was the older brother and teacher of Kagemasa (景政). We know that there was a close relationship between these two smiths because of the fact that the works of Kagemasa (景政) closely resemble those of Kagemitsu (景光) especially in the slight bit of ashi that appears in the suguha of both smiths.
Another important contemporary of Kagemitsu (景光) was Chikakage (近景). We know of the relationship between these two smiths for a number of reasons. First, both were contemporary in time and both were students of Nagamitsu (長光). Also during the latter period of Kagemitsu’s (景光) life, we find swords with an unusual signature, i.e. signed with the chisel cuts done in a reverse manner (saka-tagane). It is known that Chikakage (近景) cut this type of signature in works he substitute-signed for Kagemitsu (景光). Such a situation would only occur where there was a close working relationship.
Kagemitsu (景光) also passed along his legacy to his son, Kanemitsu (兼光), who became known as O Kanemitsu (大兼光). Kanemitsu (兼光) worked well into the Nanbokucho Era and he went on to lead the Osafune School. He influenced such well known smiths as Tomomitsu (倫光), Yoshimitsu (義光), Hidemitsu (秀光), Motomitsu (基光), Masamitsu (政光), and Shigemitsu (重光).
Nihonto.com is very pleased to offer for sale a stunning example of the work of Kagemitsu in the form of this tachi and koshirae. This tachi was awarded the designation of Jûyô Tôken (Important sword) in April of 1989. The translation of the Jûyô Tôken zufu (papers) are as follows:
Designated Jūyō-tōken at the 35th Jūyō shinsa from April 14, 1989
Tachi, signature: Bishū Osafune-jū Kagemitsu (備州⻑船住景光) – “Kagemitsu, resident of Osafune in Bizen province”
Nagasa 70.2 cm, sori 1.6 cm, moto-haba 2.4 cm, saki-haba 1.5 cm, kissaki-nagasa 2.3 cm, nakago-nagasa 16.3 cm, nakago-sori 0.2 cm
Keijō: shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, slender blade, ko-kissaki
Kitae: dense ko-itame that is partially mixed with ō-hada and that features a midare-utsuri
Hamon: gunome in ko-nie-deki with a rather tight nioiguchi that is mixed with ko-gunome, angular elements, chōji, ashi, and yō
Bōshi: sugu with a ko-maru-kaeri
Nakago: suriage, kirijiri, (new) yasurime are kiri, three mekugi-ana, the haki-omote side bears at the tip of the tang and towards the nakago-mune a nanaji-mei (long signature).
Kagemitsu (景光) was the son of Nagamitsu (⻑光) and the third generation Osafune. Kagemitsu did not harden the flamboyant hamon that was in fashion in the late Kamakura period when his father Nagamitsu was active, but rather a suguha-chō that is mixed with gunome, or a kataochi-gunome that is said to have been invented by him. That is, his hamon is calmer than that of Nagamitsu and his nioiguchi is also tighter. In terms of kitae, that of Kagemitsu can be superior or inferior to that of Nagamitsu.
Although this tachi is suriage, it is with its gunome hamon mixed with chōji, its tight nioiguchi, and its kitae in a very dense ko-itame of a perfectly healthy (kenzen) jiba and very representative for the characteristic features of Kagemitsu.
This fine tachi was further elevated to be a Tokubetsu Jûyô Tôken (especially important sword) in 2002. According to Tanobe Sensei formerly with the NBTHK, swords that reach the Tokubetsu Jûyô Tôken level may be considered to be equivalent in importance and quality to the designation of Jûyô Bunkasai (Important Cultural Properties), a governmental designation that is no longer awarded.
The translation of the Tokubetsu Juyo Token certification is translated as follows:
Designated Tokubetsu-Juyo Token at the 17th Shinsa of April 24, 2002.
Signature: Bishu Osafune ju Kagemitsu
Accompanied by an old saya.
Measurements: Length: 70.2 cent.; Curvature: 1.6 cent.; Width at the base: 2.4 cent.; Width at the point: 1.5 cent.; Kissaki length: 2.3 cent.; Nakago length: 16.3 cent.; Nakago curvature: 0.2 cent.
Construction: This is a shinogi-zukuri tachi with an iori-mune. The blade is narrow, and there is not a very conspicuous difference between the width at the base and the point. The blade is thin, and while the blade has been cut down, the curvature is still somewhat high. There is a ko-kissaki. The kitae is ko-itame hada that is very tight, and there is a mixing in of slightly flowing hada on the hakiomote. There is a slight covering in ji-nie, and the jigane contains minute chikei activity. The midare-utsuri is conspicuous, and the jigane is vivid. The hamon is sugu in style with a mixing in of such features as gunome, ko-gunome, squared tempering (kakubaru-ha) and ko-choji. Here and there are areas of slanted tempering. There is a great deal of ko-ashi activity with a mixing in of yo. The nioiguchi has a tight feeling and is covered in ko-nie. There are minute streaks of sunagashi, and the nioiguchi is bright and vivid. The boshi is sugu with a ko-maru and a slightly brushed tip. The nakago is suriage, and the end is kiri. The yasuri (original) are kattesagari and (new) kiri. There are three mekugi-ana, and a long signature near the mune at the end of the nakago on the hakiomote.
Maker: Kagemitsu of Osafune in Bizen province.
Period: Late Kamakura period.
Provenance: Chikuzen Kuroda family.
Description: Kagemitsu is the son of Nagamitsu, and is the third generation among Osafune smiths. He is highly regarded for perfecting the kataochi-gunome hamon. As for his period of activity, it extended for a period of over thirty years from Kagen (1303-1306) during the late Kamakura period to Kemmu (1334-1336) at the beginning of the Nambokuchô period. His style of workmanship includes a suguha hamon with a mixing in of gunome that is slanted, and a hamon that is essentially kataochi-gunome. Although generally he has a style of workmanship that is rather more sedate than that of Nagamitsu, his kitae is very well worked and tight, and there are occasions when one comes across a blade that is superior to his father’s. Moreover, in comparison to the few tantô by Nagamitsu, there is a characteristically large number of extant tantô by Kagemitsu.
Regarding this tachi, it has a kitae with a very tight ko-itame hada that is slightly covered in ji-nie. The jigane contains minute chikei activity, and the midare-utsuri is prominent. The hamon is sugu in style with a mixing in of such types of hamon as gunome, ko-gunome, kakubaru-ha and ko-chôji. The nioiguchi has a tight feeling and is covered in ko-nie. There is the appearance of slanted tempering here and there. One can notice kataochi-gunome, which shows the typical style of workmanship for this smith. There is also the appearance of ko-ashi and yô. The bright and vivid features of both the ji and ha are supreme, and which clearly show the salient features of this smith. This is a masterpiece with a feeling of grace and dignity, and, moreover, it is pleasing that both the ji and the ha are healthy. Finally, it is clear that this is a sword that was handed down in the Kuroda family of Chikuzen based on the specially written history on the accompanying old saya.
This beautiful tachi comes with a very interesting set of old koshirae. It is a tachi koshirae with almost all of the metal parts of kodogu covered in very old leather. The exceptions are the tsuba and the menuki and kabuto-gane on the tsuka (handle). The tsuba is iron. The menuki are iron and are in the form of four inch long tetsubô (metal war clubs). The ito (wrapping) on the tsuka is leather. This is the type of koshirae that was worn by a Samurai in battle.
Finally, this blade also comes with a second old shirasaya with the markings of the famous Kuroda Daimyo family of Chikuzen to whom this tachi once belonged.
If you are looking for the best of the best, here is your opportunity. Swords of this stature do not come onto the open market often. They are held tightly in the top collections and museums.