Heianjo School established its roots in the Yamashiro Sanjo tradition of Kyoto in late Kamakura period, but it is also thought to have originally descended from the Mokusa School in Northern Honshu. Some place the first Nagamitsu (known as Hasebe or Saburo Nagamitsu) as the founder around Genno era (1319 AD), others place Mitsunaga as the founder around 1321 AD. The most notable of Heianjo smiths was Nagayoshi whom is theorized to be the teacher of Sengo Muramasa, but a tie to the Sengo line is documented in a collaborative work with Masazane (son of Muramasa), and the great similarities in the horimono style between Nagayoshi and Muramasa cannot be easily overlooked.
As for Nagamitsu, there are several recorded by the name as mentioned before, but it is difficult to establish clarity in the generations due to a lack of extant signed earlier generations, and loss of, or incomplete records on Heianjo Members prior to around mid-Muromachi. It must be remembered that the swords produced during the Muromachi period, were born into and then subjected to about 200 years of warfare. They were newly produced in this time of violence and strife, while swords from earlier periods by great makers were more likely to be held and protected from battles in favor of those produced contemporary to this warring states age. The attrition rate of early Muromachi swords would have been high and as production ramped up to accommodate increasingly intense warfare, greater numbers of the later generations were likely to be produced, and thus, more of them survive by virtue of larger bodies of work.
This sword is documented by Fujishiro Matsuo as dating from the opening of the Oei era (circa 1394 AD) making it a rare example of earlier signed Heianjo works. The name Nagamitsu was shared by a few different generations, including the first whom worked around 1319, but this is a later generation and probably the second to share the name. Hawley's rates the Nagamitsu working in Oei (NAG 302) at 80 points, which is quite favorable, while the earlier Genno era rated an impressive 120 points. So the regard for their works is high.
Nagasa: 75.1 cm (29 5/8 inches)
Motohaba: 2.9 cm
Kasane: 6 mm (high shinogi)
Sakihaba: 1.65 cm
Sakikasane: 4 mm
Sori: 1.8 cm
This sword has an elegant silhouette with an impressive length of over 29 inches. The kissaki is smallish be comparison to the body of the blade due to some diminishment of it's original form, but still presents a nice form.
The polish is in very good condition and illustrates all the character and features created in this work. In the ji there are mix of itame patters of fine to medium size with areas of nagare. There is midare utsuri draping down from the shinogi in places and areas of blackish spots that resemble jifu. The shinogiji is masame hada running throught the length of the blade with slight coarseness. There are two very small umegane in the tachiomote just above the habaki area.
The jigane translates to a thin band of masame at the habuchi following and weaving sunagashi into the lobes of the kogunome midare hamon. Fine nie are arranged in the habuchi. The kogunome tend to be close to uniformly sized lobes with many pointed at the top with extended tani stretched in between.
The boshi illustrates that this sword has received some repair of its kissaki. The midare hamon extends past the yokote slightly before turning back in tight komaru. While the temperline is close to the ha, it it demonstrates durability of construction having survived the trauma of damage, and has been skillfully and attentively repaired to conserve the blade's integrity and history.
The sword is signed nijimei “Nagamitsu” in Tachimei, lending support for having been a product of earlier Muromachi manufacture as Oei period is a time of transition from Tachi to Katana and many smiths in this time made both styles. There is a remnant of a character on the tachiura which looks like “kuni”, and could have been some form of ato-mei or personal inscription that has been obscured with time and alteration. As a signed piece the nakago, while short, is still classified as suriage (shortened), rather than “o-suriage” (greatly shortened). A very nice warm brown honoki shirasaya in excellent condition holds the blade.
On December 17th, 1995, Fujishiro Matsuo, the former head of the Fujishiro Polishing Studio, and National Living Treasure polisher, issued a the certificate documenting the authenticity of maker and era of this sword. Fujishiro Matsuo's reputation as both a polisher and a judge of swords, was highly respected before his death in 2000, and his certificates are also held in high regard.
The koshirae accompanies this sword is quite nice, in excellent condition, and of unusual design. It is configured in handachi which is a hybridization of both older tachi style (worn edge down suspended from the waist on two cords) and katana style (worn edge up, saya held thrust into the obi). As mentioned before, this blade is technically a tachi, but created in a time when methods of warfare were evolving, and the wear and use of the sword changing to accommodate changes. This koshirae demonstrates a convertible design intended for wear as either tachi or katana. In this case, the single ashi on the saya easily divides into two pieces with a gentle slip apart, et voila; two ashi for wear as a tachi. All the fittings on both tsuka and saya are en suite in shakudo with leather pattern texture on the groundwork, and gold highlight on the rims. The saya is finished in with a very nice fine ishime (stone pattern) texture in rich dark brown. There is some slight cracking on the ha and mune sides of the lacquer which is common with age as the wood foundation expands and contracts over time. The areas have been gently addressed with light lacquer to seal them and prevent chipping and losses. There are a couple of small dings, but blemishes are very minimal, not conspicuous on display, and do little to deter from the beauty of the koshirae. The tsuka is a tight and skillfully wrapped tsumamimaki in silk and holds a pair of shakudo menuki with Aoi mon in gold details. The samegawa is very good quality and condition, with attractive node size, color, and pattern. The tsuba again falls into suite as a tachi style with three piece construction of yamagane with two oseppa in shakudo attached. It is held in place by two pairs of seppa; one pair in shakudo, and the other in gilded silver. A wood tsunagi holds the koshirae in place for conservation and display.
This a very nice package for any level of collector, with a rare example of early work from the Heianjo School, and an interesting and unique koshirae. Together they make a handsome display. A brocade bag for the koshirae, and a bag for the blade in shirasaya also are included. A sword rack can be supplied at additional cost.