|nagasa||katana 72.1cm, wakizashi 54.2cm|
|motohaba||katana 3.2cm, wakizashi 3.15cm|
|sakihaba||katana 2.5cm, wakizashi 2.6cm|
|kissaki||katana 5.4cm, wakizashi 5.0cm|
|mei||Oite Echigo no Kuni Ono Yoshimitsu kore-o-tsukuru|
|uramei||Heisei 29, a lucky day in spring (2017)|
I have spent my life trying to recreate Ichimonji tachi of the mid-Kamakura period: a wide mihaba with a splendid shape, a flamboyant nioi based juka-chôji midare with utsuri. With many different features to look at, many people are fascinated by these kinds of works. I have to ask myself, where do I begin to approach making such works? The challenge of approaching such a task is endless. Ono Yoshimitsu
Ono Yoshimitsu is a modern swordsmith elevated to Mukansa in 1987, which means he has submitted works to the NBTHK competition and won so many prizes that he is now considered too good to compete. There are usually somewhere between 10 and 20 swordsmiths ranked Mukansa at any one time in Japan. He won the Prince Takamatsu award a total of five times, this is the top prize in the competition... the last four of these were consecutive years where he dominated the competition and culminated in his elevation to Mukansa.
Yoshimitsu has aimed and worked very hard to make swords in Fukuoka Ichimonji style, which is his most typical form of work. He has worked in other Bizen styles, but these are the most archetypal of his artworks.
Yoshimitsu was born in 1948 and his civilian name is Yoshikawa Mitsuo. He took his training under the well known Mukansa smith Yoshindo Yoshihara starting in 1969 and from whom he takes the first character of his name. He maintains a humble approach to his sword making, admitting failure to match the koto masters whom he aims to replicate though his works are so clearly great masterpieces on their own. His standards for quality for his own blades are such that if the blade after yakiire does not meet them, it is destroyed and he begins again. In one case he remade a sword seven times to meet his standards for a commissioned work.
Paul Martin has a presentation on Youtube featuring his work:
Ono Yoshimitsu Katana
The katana of the daisho is made in middle Kamakura Fukuoka Ichimonji style. It is part of a daisho ordered by one of my clients direct from Ono Yoshimitsu. Due to other financial needs it has been put up for consignment.
Made at the height of his skill, the blade is wide throughout, with a large kissaki and Yoshimitsu's signature work is present throughout the hamon in dense juka choji. Tanobe sensei indicates that this hamon is composed of o-choji, juka-choji, kawazu no ko-choji and fukuro-choji so it is basically a library of Bizen Ichimonji techniques. Furthermore Tanobe sensei has pronounced these as masterwork in his sayagaki. The boshi are particularly artfully done, and much sunagashi and kinsuji sweep through the body of both swords and the hamon are densely packed with fine ko-nie making these swords a real beauty to behold.
Yoshimitsu's work is very popular both in Japan and outside Japan, and the reasons for this are pretty obvious on looking at a blade like this. His reputation for perfection is perfectly attested to by both blades.
Both blades are beautifully polished in sashikomi style which is ideal for displaying the activities of choji midare, but is very difficult with which to make formal style photos as are shown to the side here.
The katana and wakizashi bear the same date, and furthermore Tanobe sensei's sayagaki attests to the specifically matched nature of this daisho (i.e. that they were not assembled after the fact by a collector, but were purpose made by the smith as a pair).
Ono Yoshimitsu Wakizashi
The wakizashi of the set was made to match the katana and Yoshimitsu applied himself very diligently to this task. When producing midare type blades there is a natural desire of the blade to express its own character when producing the hamon. While paintings and sculptures are absolute expressions of an artist's intention, the creation of hamon in Japanese swords is more a process that is guided the way a rider would guide a horse.
Where a poor horseman will probably get thrown from his horse and disaster ensues, an expert horseman will be able to get almost exactly out of the horse what his intentions are. However, the direction and speed and movement of the horse is up to the horse to decide under the guidance of the rider. So from horse to horse you can expect slightly different results.
I go through this so as to make it clear that matching swords like this so perfectly is not a simple task for a swordsmith, and as such, a purpose made daisho has high standards and difficulty in order to harmonize the blades.
The wakizashi has a similar powerful sugata to the katana, with a wide mihaba and long kissaki, and together the blades make a formidable pair.
While katana, tanto and wakizashi can be found on the market with individual prices between 2.7 and 6 million yen, it is quite unusual to find a purpose made daisho like this available. My hope is that it can find a new home with someone who can appreciate the effort, artistry and beauty of these fantastic swords.
This daisho bears an extensive inscription (sayagaki) by Tanobe Michihiro sensei. He is the retired former head researcher of the Nippon Bijutsu Token Hozon Kyokai (NBTHK).
- 於越後國⼤野義光 ⼋字銘及平成⼆⼗九年春吉⽇紀有之同⼯ガ⼤⼩ノ⼩トシテ製作セシ者⽽⼤同様ニ絢爛タ ル丁⼦乱ヲ焼キ同⼯ノ真⾯⽬ガ存分ニ窺ヘリ ⻑壹尺七⼨九分余 戊戌泰⽉ 探⼭識「花押」Echigo no Kuni ni oite Ōno Yoshimitsu Hachiji-mei oyobi Heisei nijūkunen haru kichijitsu no ki kore ari, dōkō ga daishō no shō toshite seisaku seshi mono shikamo dai dōyō ni kenran-taru chōji-midare o yaki dōkō no majime ga zonbu ni ukagaeri. Nagasa 1 shaku 7 sun 9 bu yo Tsuchinoe-inu taigetsu Tanzan shirusu + kaōŌno Yoshimitsu, at Echigo province (This blade bears an) Eight character signature and a date of a lucky day in spring of 2017. It is the shō of a daishō pair and is hardened in the same luxurious and gorgeous chōji-midare as the dai and thus reflects in the same way the smiths' nature. Blade length 54.2 cm January of the year of the dog (2018) Written by Tanzan (Tanobe Michihiro) + kaō
- 於越後國⼤野義光 ⼋字銘及平成⼆⼗九年春吉⽇紀有之同⼯⽇⼑保無鍳査⼑匠⽽備前傳取分鎌倉中期福岡⼀ ⽂字ノ丁⼦乱ニ倣ヒ卓抜ナレ技倆ヲ⽰ス⼯トシテ名ヲ馳セリ本⼑ハ⼤丁⼦・重花・蛙⼦・袋等ガ⼊乱レ絢爛 豪華⽽同⼯ノ本領ヲ発揮シタル優品也 ⻑弐尺参⼨⼋分余 時在戊戌泰⽉ 探⼭識「花押Echigo no Kuni ni oite Ōno Yoshimitsu Hachiji-mei oyobi Heisei nijūkunen haru kichijitsu no ki kore ari, dōkō Nittōho mukansa tōshō shikamo Bizen-den toriwake Kamakura chūki Fukuoka-Ichimonji no chōji-midare ni narai takubatsu naru giryō o shimesu kō toshite na o haseri, hontō wa ō-chōji, jūka, kawazu no ko, fukuro nado ga irimidare kenrangōka shikamo dōkō no honryō o hakki shitaru yūhin nari Nagasa 2 shaku 3 sun 8 bu yo Jizai tsuchinoe-inu taigetsu Tanzan shiruru + kaōŌno Yoshimitsu, at Echigo province (This blade bears an) Eight character signature and a date of a lucky day in spring of 2017. This smith is ranked mukansa by the NBTHK and made himself a name by being highly skilled in reproducing the chōji-midare of the mid-Kamakura Fukuoka-Ichimonji School. This blade shows a luxurious an gorgeous mix of ōchōji, jūka-chōji, kawazu no ko-chōji, and fukuro-chōji. A masterwork, that reflects very well the speciality of the smith. Blade length 72.1 cm January of the year of the dog of this era (2018) Written by Tanzan (Tanobe Michihiro) + kaō
In the gallery below, the photoset begins with the katana at the katana nakago, and resumes at the wakizashi at the wakizashi nakago photo.