Norimune was a name of a sword craftsman of Bizen Province, the origin of the Fukuoka Ichimonji style and a generic name for all the Japanese swords produced by Norimune. Norimune's style is classified as Fukuoka Ichimonji, but some people classifies it into Koichimonji, a subclass of Fukuoka Ichimonji. Norimune was one of the swordsmiths in attendance for the retired Emperor GOTOBA in the Kamakura period. Some people called him Norimune KIKUMONJI but it was a fictional story and incorrect.
The Style of Fukuoka Ichimonji Norimune
The Hamon pattern (the distinct swerving line down the center of the blade) was near-straight but slightly irregular and had a taste of old Bizen. Similar to those swords of the Heian period, they were narrow and very elegant.
They had an inscription of '則宗' (Norimune) in two characters created with a small chisel (Norimune never created swords with a Kikukamon [crest of Chrysanthemum]). The nakago (tang of blade) was in Kiji-momo shape (literally means 'pheasant thigh').
There are few genuine Norimune swords remaining, including swords designated as national treasures and important cultural property.
The Origin of the Kikuichimonji Norimune
The retired Emperor Gotoba invited noted sward craftsmen from various provinces, had them forge swords, and casually tempered the swords with them. Because Norimune was working as a swordsmith in attendance, he was allowed to inscribe a 16-petal chrysanthemum, the crest that the retired Emperor Gotoba chose as the crest for his Imperial Throne. The Ichimonji (the character for number one) group inscribed their names with '一' (One) and Norimune's swords had a chrysanthemum inscribed, so they were called Kikuichimonji.
Yet, it was a commonly-used name and there were no swords with the brand of Kikuichimonji. Within existing Norimune's swords, none with a chrysanthemum inscribed has been confirmed. Probably, people in later generations thought that, because Norimune was the head swordsmith in attendance, he must have been the person who inscribed the chrysanthemum symbols; that is why Norimune's swords have been called Kikuichimonji. Besides Norimune, there were several other swordsmiths who inscribed the number '一' and a chrysanthemum but the brand of their swords are not Kikuichimonji and are not generally called as Kikuichimonji either. Kikuichimonji swords are a fiction created with Norimune's swords as the model.
Soji OKITA and Norimune
Although it is said that the leader of Ichibangumi of the Shinsengumi, Soji OKITA used Norimune-made swords, Norimune's swords were treated as a national treasure at the end of the Edo period, so it was impossible for Okita to obtain one. This was a fictional set-up that a historical novelist Ryotaro SHIBA created in his book 'Shinsengumi Keppuroku' (Record of Shinsengumi Bloodshed), which led to the image of Soji OKITA's favorite sword as Kikuichimonji. Okita could have had a sword with inscription of number one and chrysanthemum made by a swordsmith other than Norimune as mentioned above, but there are no records of Shinsengumi stating that Okita had a Kikuichimonji, and instead there is a record that he had a Kiyomitsu KASHU's sword. Of course, Okita would have had several swords because he was involved in so many swordfights. Therefore, the possibility of him using swords with a number one and chrysanthemum inscribed is not zero.
The Kikuichimonji Company Limited
After making swords was banned in the Meiji period, the Kikuichimonji Company Limited started to make kitchen, craft, flower arrangement and horticulture knives and tools, instead of making swords.
Their trade name is 'Kikuichimonji,' they have a horse's mouthpiece as their registered trademark, and their head office is currently in Kawara-machi, Sanjo-dori Street, Nakagyo Ward, Kyoto City. They have a branch shop in Tokyo and they are making a wide range of tools from nail cutters to Japanese swords in both shops. There is another 'Kikuichimonji Norimune', established in the Meiji period, head and branch shops in Futami, Ise but they have a different trademark.