Bizen Kanemitsu was the son of Bizen Kagemitsu who was the son of Bizen Nagamitsu and the grandson of the founder of the Bizen Osafune School, Mitsutada. He was also considered by many to be one of the best swordsmiths that has ever lived.
83.5cmIn 1319 at the age of 42 Kanemitsu was invited to study with Masamune, the most famous sword maker of his day. As one of the 10 Students of Masamune , he is considered to have started the So-den Bizen (Bizen blades following Masamune’s Soshu style). This in and of itself is a major style change as Bizen swords tended to be slender and graceful, almost feminine. The Soshu blades were wide, showy and masculine. It is a tribute to his mastery that Kanemitsu was not only able to bring these two conflicting styles together, but to meld them into such outstanding blades. His blades are considered to have extreme sharpness. No Japanese swordmaker is ever considered to have made sharper blades. His were the blades that Daimyo chose for battle. The cutting ability of these blades was legendary and many of them became famous and were given names to identify their special traits. Such as “Kabutowari” (helmet spliter), “Teppo Kiri” (gun cutter), and “Ishikiri” (stone cutter). Stories of the miraculous cutting ability of these blades abounds. One tale one recounts an incident in which a samurai was cut in battle with a Kanemitsu blade. The cut was so clean that the man was able to swim across a river in retreat with absolutely no pain, but when he tried to climb out of the water on the opposite bank his body fell to the ground in two pieces.In 1336, Ashikaga Takauji (who would later become Shogun), decided that he wanted a better sword. Because of their reputation for sharpness Ashikaga chose a blade made by Kanemitsu.To test its cutting ability Ashikaga ordered two suits of armor and placed one suit inside the other. It is said that Ashikaga Takauji was so pleased with the outcome that he took Kanemitsu to Kyushu with him.The early work (until 1341) of this smith is called O-Kanemitsu. Beginning in 1352 there developed a major style change that has led some experts to believe that there is a second generation of Kanemitsu which worked form 1352-56 who they refer to as Enbun Kanemitsu. It is however possible that the smith simply changed his style to conform to changing tastes. Kanemitsu Odachi – 1359
93.2cm, Tokyo National MuseumTachi by Enbun Kanemitsu