Bizen Norimitsu (fss-925)

We have here a masterpiece that not only displays the typical features of Norimitsu, but of Osafune works from that time in general, which are referred to as Ōei-Bizen .  This is an early example, not a later generation of the Norimitsu line of smiths.  making it very special.

One of the most beautiful Bizen Norimitsu  that I have posted in many years. This blade is flawless and a pristine example of Osafune Norimitsu from the 15th Century. The First generation Norimitsu began in the Tei-ji era and continued through the late Muromachi period. During the Muramachi period, Morimitsu, Yasumitsu and Norimitsu were quite well known swordsmiths.  Norimitsu was a student of Nagamitsu and continued for several generations into late Muromachi period. This blade is very unusual with bohi and so-hi that are just visible.  The Jigane is marvelous with a beautiful Ji-hada of ko-mokume. Clear Utsuri can be seen. The hamon is a perfect nie laden sugu-ha with  a very nice boshi that is ko-maru. Small hataraki can be seen within this hamon caused by the wonderful jihada covered in ji-nie.  At the time this sword was made, Osafune Norimitsu’s focus was on function and straight forward quality.  No attempt was made to add flashy details to the work.  The feeling of this sword is that of the very best quality. It has a long signature and date which also makes this a very precious piece as we can pinpoint the generation of this line of smiths. This appears to be the fourth generation of Norimitsu.  There is a very beautiful high grade Koshirae that accompanies this blade. The ito is purple and the sageo is a white trimmed burgundy. The black lacquered saya is ribbed. The fuchi/kashira in a fine Nanako of misc. gourds to match the beautiful gourd kodzuka handle which is papered. The habaki is finished in gold foil. The sayagaki is by Tanobe, and he notes that this is a masterpeice and fine example of this smith and the Ōei-Bizen school. This Norimitsu is a Bizen collectors dream .

  • Mei: Bizen no Kuni Osafune Norimitsu
  • Date: Eikyo 9 November 1437
  • Nagasa: 15-7/8 inches
  • Sori: 5.0 mm
  • Width at the ha-machi: 27.9 mm
  • Thickness at the mune-machi: 7.5 mm
  • Construction: Hira zukuri
  • Mune: Iori
  • Nakago: Ubu
  • Kitae: ko-mokume
  • Hamon: Sugu-ha
  • Boshi: Maru
  • Condition: Good polish

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There were several Bizen Norimitsu. All were from Osafune, and their working periods ranged from about 1300, to 1600. There were also many kuwana uchi made to imitate the blades of Norimitsu. So when we are appraising a blade we must take many possibilities into account, prior to the completion of our judgment.

The first Bizen Norimitsu was a student of Nagamitsu, along with Kagemitsu. His work was skilled but fairly rare. He may have also signed Norimune. He worked around the Kagen period / 1303 to Genkô / 1321. The general style of his work was similar to that of Nagamitsu, but they will be lacking in comparison.

Hamon = gunome chôji similar to those of Nagamitsu.

His signatures were Norimitsu or Bizen Kuni Osafune jû Norimitsu. There is a dated example of “Kagen San-nen jûnigatsu Hi” = December 1306.

With the end of the Kamakura Jidae the quality of the nihontô started to lessen. This continued in the Nambokuchô Jidae, and even more so afterwards. But until the end of the Kotô period, Bizen Norimitsu blades were among the best made. This was at least partially due to their making many special order blades. All along Norimitsu were known for producing a very beautiful utsuri. Some call it a transparent utsuri, I feel it appears somewhat crystalline. There is a Jûyô Bunkasai Norimitsu dated Chôroku 1457 – 1460.

The second Bizen Norimitsu was called Gorozaemon. He was probably the best of the Bizen Norimitsu. There appears to be no direct relation to the first. He was a student of Sanenori, and worked in Ôei period. There is a dated blade stating he made it at age 72 during Bunmei 9 / 1478. It may be due to him that some feel Ôei Bizen went on long after Ôei. The third Norimitsu was named Saemon. He worked around Choroku / 1457. Hikobei worked around Bummei / 1469.

During Ôei the blades had a tendency to be functional, and reliable, with few fancy extras (when compared to earlier blades). From about 1430 to about 1470 there were a number of katana produced, that followed earlier styles. They maybe over 30 inches long. When one comes across one of these, it will be noted that they seem earlier, but are signed katana mei. One will try to attribute them to the first Norimitsu, but that is just not right. There will be additional problems if they are ô-suriage. But with further study, they can be figured out. It will help to spend some extra time studying a Norimitsu blade from around 1450, if possible.
These Norimitsu made similar blades, but the quality lessened somewhat with the generations.

The basic shape was short, and graceful. These have fumbari at the machi, and then narrow to the bôshi. These will also have a thick kasane, and a short kissaki. Some will be longer. Those will still have a thick kasane, but the kissaki will also be longer. And as mentioned, some will follow a earlier shape.

Horimono maybe bô-hi, bô-hi with soe-hi.

The hamon maybe notare with a variation in height. Those of the older style may have a suguha hamon, with many notches.
The bôshi will be midare-komi with a short kaeri.

The jitetsû is a fine mokume hada. There will be either a midare or bô-utsuri.

The nakago was made short and stubby, kuri-jiri with katte-sagari yasuri-mei. They have a long mei, and are frequently dated.

Kuwana uchi were blade made by smiths of Bizen who moved to the Ise, town of Kuwana during late Kotô. They signed Norimitsu, Sukemitsu, Sukesada, and Katsumitsu. These probably should be considered to be out right forgeries, even if they were legitimate heirs. Many of their characteristics were similar to those smith’s. But their ability was substantially less. The biggest clue is the blade are mostly muji, with some ô-hada. The lack of visible grain also does not allow activity, such as kinsuji, chikei, etc.

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備前國⻑船則光 刃⻑壹尺参寸三分 干時丙申仲鐘探山邉道識「花押」

六字銘及永享九年十一月日紀有之身幅ノ割ニ寸延ビテ浅ク反ツク平造ノ姿態ハ應永乃至永享年 間ニ特有ノ者而直刃ヲ焼キ棒映ヲ現スナド同工ノミナラズ應永備前ト称セラル此期ノ⻑船物ノ 見所ヲ明示スル優品也

Bizen no Kuni Osafune Norimitsu
Hachō isshaku san-sun san-bu
Toki ni hinoe-saru chūshū Tanzan Hendō shirusu + kaō

Rokuji-mei oyobi Eikyō kunen jūichigatus hi no ki kore ari. Mihaba no wari ni sunnobite asaku sori tsuku hira-zukuri no shitai wa Ōei naishi Eikyō nenkan ni tokuyū no mono. Shikamo suguha o yaki bō-utsuri o arawasu nado dōkō nominarazu Ōei-Bizen to shō-seraru kono ki no Osafune-mono no midokoro o meiji- suru yūhin nari.

Osafune Norimitsu from Bizen Province
Blade length ~ 40.3 cm
Written by Tanzan Hendō [Tanobe Michihiro] in February of the year of the monkey (2016) + monogram.

[This blade] bears a six-character signature and is dated with a day of the eleventh month of Eikyō nine (1437). The blade is in ratio to its with elongated and features a little bit of sori, which reflect in terms of shape the characteristics of the eras Ōei (1394–1428) and Eikyō (1429–1441). The blade is hardened in suguha and displays utsuri and so we have here a masterwork that not only displays the typical features of Norimitsu, but of Osafune works from that time in general, which are referred to as Ōei-Bizen.

This sword is on consignment.
Special Sale Price
On Hold

Asking price: $14,000.00

(shipping and insurance included)

Email us if your interested in this item and remember to include the order number for this item: fss-925.

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Wakizashi, signed:

Bishū Osafune Norimitsu ‒ Eikyō kunen jūichigatsu hi (備州⻑船則光・永享九年十一月日) ‒ “Osafune Norimitsu from Bizen province, on a day in the eleventh month of Eikyō nine (1437)”

nagasa ~ 40.3 cm


No 1010537

According to the result of the shinsa committee of our society, we judge this work as authentic and rank it as Tokubetsu-Hozon Tōken.

February 25, 2019
[Foundation] Nihon Bijutsu Tōken Hozon Kyōkai, NBTHK (日本美術刀劍保存協會)

Tōrokushō Register Information: Issued by Tōkyō Board of Education. No. 319806
Issued on November 13, 2018.

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Kantei-sho (鑑定書) ‒ Appraisal

Kozuka (小柄)
Ko-Kinkō saku (古金工作) ‒ Ko-Kinkō work

Shōshin (正真) ‒ Authentic

Heisei 9 nen 9 gatsu 7 nichi (平成九年九月七日) ‒ September 7, 1997

Nihon Tōken Hozon Kai (日本刀剣保存会) ‒ NTHK

No 4521
meibun (銘文) ‒ Signature: unsigned

tsukurikomi (造り込み) ‒ Shape: shitaji (下地) ‒ Foundation: reverse interpreted in sogetsugi with gold iroe accents shakudō with nanako ground

zugara (図柄) ‒ Motif: hori (彫り) ‒ connected gourds takabori relief, gold and silver iroe accents

sunpō (寸法) ‒ Measurements:

koshirae (拵え) ‒ Mounting:

bikō (備考) ‒ Remarks: Momoyama period, reverse redone later

shinsaʼin natsuʼin (審査員捺印) ‒ Seals of Judges: 3 seals

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