Kikuchi Yari

by Jim Kurrasch

The kikuchi yari is a Nambokucho Period yari. It is shaped like a kanmuriotoshi tanto – Cormorant Head tanto, with a yari tang. They are rather rare in the U.S., but since they were utilitarian weapons they are probably still more common in Japan. Many of them have been converted into tanto.

This style of yari was made by the Enju School in Higo Province during the Yoshino Period. It was named after the Kikuchi Daimô’s of Higo in the late Kamakura and Nambokucho periods, where the Enju School started in the late Kamakura period. The Enju worked in the Yamashiro tradition since the founder Hiromura of Yamato had trained under Rai Kuniyuki and married his daughter.

These yari tend to be about 10½ inches long (27 Cm.) or maybe slightly longer. And they tend to be much thicker than the tanto of the period more in the style of the armor piercer tanto. If you see a thick unokubi tanto with a tang that is just too long it may have been converted. The other major clue is that ken and yari were made in masame no matter what tradition. But the kikuchi yari often also had mokume mixed with masame. Occasionaly their shape was shôbu-zukuri or hira-zukuri.

So you may see a old tanto that you figure must be a Yamato blade but it is not quite right. However this may be difficult to figure out since they tended to be hoso or chû suguha, nie deki, with hakikake. They may have either a short or long turn-back. And those characteristics are pretty much Yamato tradition.