|period:||Koto (Late Kamakura)|
|designation:||NBTHK Juyo Token|
|nakago:||o-suriage, one mekugiana|
|mei:||Fujiwara Sadakiyo (gakumei, two additional mekugiana in panel)|
The Yamato tradition is generally broken down into five schools, Senjuin, Taima, Shikkake, Hosho and Tegai.
The Hosho school was located in Takaichi-gori of Yamato province. This school is unique in these in that their name is not coming from an association with a temple, but is a family name recorded on one of the swords by Hosho Sadamune 保昌貞宗 in the Kamakura period. Old books actually refer to Hosho Kunimitsu as the founder, but his blades are not found today.
The Nihonto Koza refers to the confusion around the founding of this ha, saying that Hosho Kunimitsu is the same person as Hosho Sadamitsu, and that in one account Kunimitsu is the father of Sadayoshi who is the father of Sadamune. In another, Sadayoshi and Sadamune are brothers, both sons of Kunimitsu. There are dates on existing works by these smiths, Sadayoshi having a date of 1317 and Sadamune having a date of 1318.
Making matters a bit worse, the Nihonto Koza refers to a sword with a signature of Sadatsugu 貞繼 that:
... shows the highest degree of technical skill, has one level more of an antique tone than the works of both Sadayoshi and Sadamune, and this impression is expecially strong in the mei style. However, the fact that this name is omitted from the usual meijin and meikan books is strange.
Lovers of Yamato swords learn to accept these kinds of open questions in the history of this tradition, as so few signed pieces exist and mysteries continue to abound.
One thing that is clear is that the traits of Yamato swords are something that everyone encounters very quickly in sword study. Not very much is written about Yamato, but we always hear the mantra of high shinogi, wide shinogiji, yakizume boshi, few signatures, hotsure in the nie hamon, and masame hada.
As one studies deeper into Yamato, it becomes evident that masame is not very frequent at all as a form of construction in these schools, but that it shows up as a flavoring in the itame and mokume that is the actual basis of construction of Yamato swords. Han Bing Siong made a point of counting how many Juyo Token he could find from the various Yamato schools that were produced in pure masame.
- Shikkake: 5 masame out of 82
- Senjuin: 3 masame of of 80
- Taima: 2 masame out of 159
- Tegai: 1 masame out of 48
This gives a very clear conclusion that the diagrams encountered in the references that pound home the association of pure masame with Yamato are not so accurate. What is true though is that the Hosho school specialized in masame, and it is the presence of masame in this school that is the source of these diagrams above.
Construction in masame is very difficult, as the welds form very long seams that take great skill to make perfect. As such, most blades in masame show ware along the welding lines. For the Hosho school these masa ware are not onsidered flaws, but are considered a kantei point and a hallmark of the school.
The top works of the Hosho school rapidly fade away with the Nambokucho period, though it is thought that some works of the Muromachi period are by descendants of this school.
There are only a handful of known smiths of this school, Sadayoshi, Sadamune, Sadaoki, Sadamitsu, Sadazane, Sadakiyo and Sadasue. Fujishiro gives the two possible founders a uniform rating of Jo-jo saku, and the students all Jo-saku for superior workmanship. My feeling is that with little material to judge, the grades here have a degree of estimation to them. Dr. Tokuno assigns Hosho Sadakiyo a high score of 900 man yen in his rating in the Toko Taikan, making him very valuable, on a par with Ryumon Nobuyoshi (Jo-jo saku) and other Jo-jo saku smiths.
Juyo Token Hosho Sadakiyo
Before getting into the details of this sword, I wish to make a statement about the scarcity of signed Yamato blades. In the NBTHK Juyo Index there are I believe about 10,000 Juyo Token. Of these, by one of my prior counts I figured that about 40% of all koto Juyo are Bizen. Roughly 10% of the koto Juyo belong to the Yamato tradition and this is about 770 swords. It can be seen right away that Yamato Juyo are fairly rare.
When we start looking at signatures, the numbers are very surprising. Please keep in mind that finding a signed Yamato blade among the Kamakura and Nambokucho periods is like finding the holy grail. Counting through the index, I find 108 signed pieces for all five of the major schools and minor schools of the Yamato tradition combined. To put this in perspective, there are 60 Juyo Token by the Kamakura period smith Kagemitsu of Bizen province that have signatures. So this one famous smith has half of the signed output in the index of the entire Yamato tradition over a 400 year period. This is rarity, and should easily establish the point about how difficult it is to study Yamato works and how important signed works are within the tradition.
Zooming in on Hosho, there are 14 signed works belonging to smiths of this school in the index, and only five Juyo Token confirmed by Hosho Sadakiyo all of which are signed. Because Hosho workmanship is considered so conservative and the smiths so rarely departed from the school's intended production design, it is rare to have a mumei blade attributed directly to a smith.
In the case of Hosho Sadakiyo, the five blades are:
- wakizashi (sunnobi tanto): 32.1 cm, mei 貞清
- tanto: 29.3 cm, mei 貞清
- tanto: 28.1 cm, mei 貞清
- tanto: 20.0 cm, mei 藤原貞清
- wakizashi (suriage tachi): 56.4 cm, gakumei 藤原貞清
I was able to find one additional blade, a Juyo Bijutsuhin tanto also signed with Fujiwara Sadakiyo or about 22cm. The writings of Han Bing Siong refer to a seventh signed Sadakiyo, but I am not aware of it. He does state that the seventh is of the same form of the above, a tanto or a ko-wakizashi (sunnobi tanto).
In consideration of all of the above, the point is clearly made that this is a very, very rare sword. The only blade made as a tachi bearing the signature of this smith, in a span of signed work that is only six or seven in a school that has only fourteen signed Juto, not out of lack of skill but out of rarity... in a tradition that has amounted to 108 signed works in the index, period. Furthermore, Han Bing Siong stated that it is the only signed Hosho that exists outside of Japan.
The condition of the signature is surprisingly good, in that the displaced metal from the chisel strokes is still easy to see and the cross hatched yasurime (higaki) is very pronounced. On swords of this era, the yasurime are usually obliterated by the wear and oxidation of the nakago. In particular, higaki yasurime are a lost art that seems simple but modern swordsmiths have not been able to duplicate. They became very famous with the Mino swordsmiths, and due to swords like this one we can trace back the origin of this kind of yasurime to Yamato.
In terms of the construction, it is blessedly healthy with only a couple small ware and none of the masa ware that are to be expected in Hosho work, making it an extremely fine example. Furthermore, beautiful and subtle chikei pass in and out of the hada along with sprays of black ji nie. Where the chikei pass into the hamon, kinsuji appear, and the hamon itself is a fantastically bright ko-nie that would be expected on very good Bizen work. The overall appearance is uruoi (moist), the feeling is one that you would expect from cold steel just beginning to attract condensation, and this is a highly regarded feature. The hamon shows ko-ashi and is understated and elegant on the whole.
The story does not end with this though, as there is some modern history behind the sword. It was one of the properties of Han Bing Siong before he passed away recently. He was a highly regarded sword scholar resident in The Netherlands who passionately pursued the study of swords and published many articles.
The first time he encountered this sword, it was "rubbed clean" so with no jihada or hamon visible, and auctioned in The Netherlands for next to nothing. It had arrived in The Netherlands by way of Indonesia where it had been captured in gunto mounts. He did not bid on it, and was not entirely sure what he was looking at... eight years later though he saw the blade show up as a new Juyo Token and realized with much chagrin that he had missed out on an extreme rarity. He made efforts to locate the owner, without success, in an attempt to buy it.
In 2001 the sword manifested itself for the third time in Han Bing Siong's life, as it appeared in the Rei publication as a kantei blade. Often times these kantei blades will show up for sale in the next month in such a publication. Han Bing Siong was a master of kantei, one of the best outside of Japan, and he knew immediately he was looking at his long lost missed opportunity. He contacted the dealer in Japan and arranged to have the sword purchased and delivered to The Netherlands. It became one of his most cherished possessions and remained in his collection until his passing away this year, which was a great loss to yesthe sword community.
This Hosho Sadakiyo was published in "Japanese Swords in Dutch Collections" as sword number 166. In Rei, it was described as saezae meihin which translates as a healthy masterpiece. Tanobe sensei in his sayagaki shown below uses his highest praise of chin chin, cho cho to state that it is extremely prized and valued.
To draw my comments to a close, I would like to state simply that this sword has it all. You can look at it from every approach, and it can be seen to define the term "rarity." It is beautifully made, a great example from the most unique school of the Yamato tradition. It has received Juyo papers and very high praise from Tanobe sensei. It comes from the collection of the highly regarded Han Bing Siong who has published his story and pursuit of the blade giving it a known and interesting modern history, and it also resides in one of the excellent reference books made available to us by this same man.
I think that this blade is simply a treasure and it will be a coup for the collection of anyone interested in the Yamato tradition.
Appointed in November 1979, Session 27
Wakizashi, Gakumei, Fujiwara Sadakiyo
Shinogi-zukuri, iori-mune, standard width, slight sori, chu-kissaki.
Suguba cho ni ko gunome tsurete majiri, habuchi uchi no ke hotsure kakari, nie tsuki, kinsuji iru
Masame hada, ji nie yoku tsuki, chikei iru
Ko maru hakikake kakaru
O-suriage, saki kuri jiri, yasurime higaki, 3 mekugiana, 2 filled, four character gakumei on sashi omote.
(Work in progress)
Tanobe Sensei Sayagaki
Tanobe sensei in the comments portion of this sayagaki refers to the sword's jigane and hamon as "archetypal." This is the easiest way to put it in an english sentence. The meaning is that this work is a template which sets patterns to judge other blades. It is more than a praiseful comment; it is a comment stating the importance of this blade in the overall study of the Hosho school and Sadakiyo in particular. Given that this is the only signed example of Sadakiyo that started as a shinogi zukuri tachi, it can be easily understood why he is saying this.
Some meaning is lost in the translation of "sugure" which we have to render into a word like superior, excellent or outstanding. This word also has alternate meanings of gentleness and nobility, so in choosing this word among the many with similar meanings of excellence, it flavors the comment with the meaning of "gentle excellence."
At the end of Juyo sayagaki, Tanobe sensei usually will indicate that the sword is an important item by means of the phrase "Chin Cho" meaning it is Prized and Treasured. On an item of particular importance, he may place extra emphasis on this by repeating the terms to give "Chin Chin, Cho Cho." An item so marked is considered by him especially important even among Juyo Token peers.
第廿六回重要刀剣指定品Dai Niju Roku Kai Juyo Token Shitei HinSession 26 Important Sword Designated Item
和州高市郡保昌貞清Washu Takaichi Gori Hosho Sadakiyo
但四字額銘也工時代元亨頃Tadashi yonji gakumei kou jidai Genkou koro,Although signed with a four character inset signature, the maker is from around Genkou (1321AD),
而貞宗子ト伝フshikashite Sadamune ko to den fu.and is the son and student of Sadamune.
本作地刃典型且出来殊外優焉Honsaku jiba tenkei katsu deki koto sugure age.The jihada and hamon of this work is archetypal, moreover the construction is of exceptionally good quality.
珍々重々Chin chin, cho cho.It is greatly prized and treasured.
I am including an article written by Han Bing Siong on the Yamato Hosho tradition. It is very informative, and this sword was presented at the time to a kantei audience and it along with his opinions on the sword are presented within.
The Yamato Hosho Tradition from Kamakura till the PresentReunion after Thirty Years
HAN BING SIONG
Traditionally sword students distinguish five different major styles in Japanese swords according to the provinces. Some like Nagayama Kokan sensei, say there are six styles the Shinto being the sixth. Peculiarly, many Japanese sources in specifying the Goka Den first refer to the Yamashiro den, then to the Yamato den. Bizen den, Soshu den and Mino den in this sequence.
Those sources, however, are unanymous as regards the Kogarasu Maru by Amakuni, presently in the Imperial collection, being the oldest curved Japanese sword. They are also unanymous on the point that Amakuni was a swordsmith of Yamato province. So why mentioning Yamashiro first rather than Yamato ? Moreover, as the book Shosoin no Token (p.xiii) points out the Yamashiro den must have its origin in Yamato, because swords of sanjo Munechika and Awataguchi Kuniyoshi, both prominent early swordsmiths of Yamashiro province, have niju ba. Nijuba is a typical Yamato feature which in turn was inherited from the swordsmiths of the Nara period who made the still uncurved jokoto which are preserved in the Shosoin, the Imperial Repository of ancient relics in Nara.
In view of this I personally prefer to mention the Yamato den as the first of the Gokaden instead of the Yamashiro den. This was done, too, by Bon Dale, the first sensei I have had, who complied the catalogue of the Oxford swordexhibition in 1968. Sato Kanzan sensei and the Nihonto Koza (Vol.5 p.88 differently from Vol.1 p. loo) did the same. It is also in accordance with the catalogue of the exhibition of Yamato swords in the Japanese Swordmuseum held in September 2000 in Tokyo. The swords of Yamato Yamato swords distinguish themselves from the swords made in the other styles in that their shinogi ji is relatively broad It is a characteristic, which for discerning it, often requires a sharp eye and a keen sense of proportions. In this respect the Yamato swords can also be traced back to the Shosoin jokoto of the Nara period. Another speciality of Yamato swords is, that, if compared with the swords made in Yamashiro and Bizen, the greater part of them are unsigned. This is also the case as regards the jokoto of the Nara era.
To understand the reason why the majority of the Yamato swords are unsigned, we should pay attention to the history of Japan as summarized by Stephan Turnbull. We usually, and quite understandably, accociate the Japanese Sword with the samurai. But beside the samurai in old Japan there was another category of warriors: the sohei and the gakuso, the latter being kin of the nobility. These were the warrior monks or warrior priests. At that time the temples Horiuji, Todaiji and Kofukuji, established in Yamato province in the 7th Century, had achieved enormous wealth and excercised great political influence. This influence was even so great that in order to evade it the Emperor decided to move the capital from Nara to Kyoto. In the absence of police, the great wealth the temples had achieved, required protection against raids by local chieftains. Besides, the temples also had to face a threat from the government due to the kishin. The peasants had to pay heavy taxes to the government, and in order to evade these the peasants nominally transferred their land to the temples, which were exempt from taxes. By the end of the 10th century, however, kishin had become so widespread, that almost no land was left over to levy taxes on, so the government planned to confiscate those lands, which the temples resisted. For these reasons the temples armed their monks and priests and trained them in the arts of war.
During the early 12th century the sohei constituted the most formidable standing army in the Kinai provinces. Unlike the samurai the monks were not averse to show their military strength in the capital. The earliest record of the warrior monks was in 981 when monks of Kofukuji marched through the streets of the capital. In the famous war between the Taira and the Minamoto, the latter allied with warrior monks of Miidera, a temple near Kyoto, and when withdrawing southwards joined another monk army from Nara. The greatest tragic in this war was the burning down of the great Todaiji in Nara in 1181, including the great bronze Buddha, by Taira Shigehira, son of Kyomori, when his cavalry failed to break through the defences of the sohei. One thousand monks were then killed.
Gochin no Tajima's fight against the Taira at the bridge crossing the Ujikawa illustrates that these warrior monks were fighters as fierce as the samurai. During this fight Tajima ducked to avoid the higher arrows and lept over those that flew low, cutting through those that flew straight. This earned him the name of Tajima the Arrow Cutter. Another monk, Tsutsui Jomyo, first killed 12 and wounded 11 Taira by his arrows, then killed 6 with his naginata, and after this had broken he used his sword killing 9. After the fight he saw that his own armour was hit by 63 arrows.
The well known Benkei, often depicted on swordfittings, was also a sohei. Benkei fought against Minamoto Yoshitsune on a bridge, but later became his loyal follower. The 'final solution' only came in 1571 when Oda Nobunaga massacred 20.000 sohei of Enryakuji on Mount Hiei in the northwest of Kyoto. The point is, that for arming their sohei and gakuso the temples had their own swordsmiths. As Kanzan sensei put it, these swordsmiths belonged to the temples, which I presume, means that they worked anonymously without being allowed to sign their swords. Or, as the swords were exclusively for the own use of temples, there was not any need for signing them. When they once in a while did sign their swords, they just put the name of the temple on the sword. There are quite a number of swords bearing the signature Senjuin. There are also some signed Taima.
A similar situation was in Dewa province where the Gassan swordsmiths were part of the temples, too. Consequently, old Gassan swords are unsigned. According to Ogawa Morihiro san the Gassan swordsmiths started to sign their swords simply with Gassan, when the swords were made available by the temples to outsiders, like a member of the Southern Imperial Court and his allies fighting the Northern Court.
Perhaps this was also the case in Yamato. And as a further development, probably gradually the temples allowed their swordsmiths to make their swords available to others individually. So in the late Kamakura period we see a number of signed swords by Tegai Kanenaga appearing, and to a lesser extent also signed swords by Shikake Norinaga. Signed swords of the Senjuin, Taima, and Hosho, however, remain to be extremely scarce. A collector should consider himself extremely lucky if he happens to have a signed Senjuin, Taima or Hosho sword in his collection. During the Muromachi period this situation changed in that we see an increase of signed swords of the later generations of the Tegai, called Sue Tegai.
As most swordsmiths in Yamato province during the previous period worked anonymously, consequently but a few of them were known at the time. Probably this is why among the swordsmiths who were summoned to teach Gotoba Tenno the art of sword forging, there was only one from Yamato: Shigehiro of the Senjuin school. As so few Yamato swordsmiths were recorded, the number mentioned in the rank system of Fujishiro Yoshio sensei and Shibata Mitsuo sensei is therefore also small if compared with the other schools. Kuniyuki of the Taima is classified as saijo saku (top) class and the forementioned Shigehiro of Senjuin is of jojo saku (very superior) class like Senjuin Yukinobu and Ryumon Nobuyoshi. Tegai Kanenaga and Kaneuji, wellknown as Yamato Shizu, who came from the Tegai, Hosho Sadayoshi, Taima Cho Aritoshi, Tomotsuna, Tomonaga and Tomokiyo are also jo jo saku, while Shikake Norinaga is of jo saku (superior) class. Presumably there is another Yamato sword smith of saijo saku class beside Taima Kuniyuki: Hosho Sadatsugu who was unrecorded until Homma sensei discovered a sword of his in the collection of the Kishu Tokugawa family. In Homma sensei's opinion that sword is superior even to the best sword of Hosho Sadayoshi. The other swordsmiths of the Hosho, Sadakiyo, Sadaoki, Sadamitsu and Sadazane are jo saku.
I mentioned 5 schools in Yamato province: Senjuin, Taima, Tegai, Hosho and Shikake. As the Senjuin already started in the Heian period, it is quite right to mention them first. The Nihonto Zenshu (Vol.3) and the Nihonto Koza (Vol.5 differently from Vol.2 p.110), however discuss the Hosho before the other schools. This raises the question, in what respect the Hosho could have been so special to discuss them first ? The answer to this question will answer as well the question: why this special kanshokai on the Yamato Hosho tradition ?
A minor point in which the Hosho distinguish themselves from the other four schools, is that their name is not a place name. Taima is the name of a place and the temple there, Senjuin, Tegai and Shikake as well refer to certain locations. The name Senjuin is derived from the Senju valley near the Sen judo, a temple associated with the Todaiji in Nara. Tegai is associated with the place where the workshop of this school was situated: in front of the Tengai gate of the Todaiji. Shikake is the name of three different places, one being an area in the precincts of Nara with a temple associated with Todaiji. The place where the Hosho smiths worked, however, was Takechi, Hosho most probably being a family name. It is included in the signature on a tanto by Hosho Sadamune (Juyo Bijutsuhin, Nihonto Koza Vol.2), whose name was Hosho Goro. Presumably it is his one and only sword, because in doing kantei according to Tanobe Michihiro sensei it is wise never to mention Hosho Sadamune.
Hosho Goro is also the name of two other Hosho swordsmiths: Kunimitsu, traditionally considered to be the founder of the school, of whom no swords have been found up till now, and Sadayoshi, either Kunimitsu's or Sadamune' s son. The Japanese sources do not mention any temple to which the Hosho belonged. I know it is speculative, but could it perhaps be that the Hosho were the very few swordsmiths in Yamato working independently from the temples ? Then their swords presumably were made for samurai and not for war monks. The most important distinguishing feature, however, is the ji mon or kitae. The swords of Senjuin, Taima, Tegai and Shikake in general have itame hada or itame hada mixed with masame hada. In this they resemble the jokoto in the Shosoin and may be considered as a continuation of the style of those jokoto.
The Shosoin jokoto have itame hada mixed with masame, a few have itame hada, but the hoko and tosu (knifes not longer than 16 cm) aside, none have masame hada (Shosoin no Token p.xi). This means that, apart from ken and yari which probably are later developments of the hoko, for the very first time in the history of the Japanese Sword the Hosho made masame hada on swords longer than 16 cm. the general rule for their school. Masame hada so became the speciality of the Hosho school by which their swords can be recognized. Although exclusively a Hosho characteristic, most interestingly the textbooks in describing the Goka Den do mention the masame as typical workmanship of the Yamato Den as a whole.
Of course now and then smiths of the other Yamato schools made masame, too, but this they did very rarely. The Juyo Token nado Zufu series I have is not complete, of the 45 volumes I only have 40. But I checked 82 Shikake Mumei Juyo and found only 5 with masame. Leaving 3 ken and 1 yari aside for the reasons already mentioned, the number of Senjuin Mumei Juyo I found with masame is only 3 out of 80. The Taima have even less masame: only 2 out of the 159 Taima Mumei Juyo turned out to be made with masame. The number of the Tegai Mumei Juyo is small: 48 of which only one, yes only one, has masame. I also checked the Juyo Token signed by or attributed to Tegai Kanenaga, out of the 35 only one has masame hada. This sword belongs to Colonel Dean S. Hartley. Probably because the masame is not typical for Kanenaga, the sword is attributed to him with the indication 'den'. As Tanobe Michihiro sensei has recently explained to the US polisher Robert Benson, 'den' is mentioned if an unsigned blade either lacks a characteristic, or has an additonal feature not typical for the swordsmith. The same was done to the Mumei Juyo katana with masame attributed to Tegai Kanetoshi which is part of the collection of Mr. Andrew Quirt. Admittedly there is a signed Juyo Bunkazai Kanetoshi with masame hada, but this blade is a ken. A well known tachi signed Senjuin Yasushige, too, has masame hada. Ogasawara Nobuo sensei, Hiroi Yuichi sensei (Nihonto Taikan Vol.1) and Koizumi Tomitaro sensei (Nihonto Zenshu Vol.3 p.18) posit that this sword makes the impression of being a Hosho sword. As regards one of the 3 Senjuin Mumei Juyo with masame which I found, the Juyo Token nadu Zufu (Vol.30) says the same.
So it is clear that the Hosho swordsmiths were the first to make masame hada the trade mark of their school. It is therefore tempting to call masame hada: Hosho hada, like we call the ayasugi hada of the Gassan school Gassan hada. As this kanshokai deals with the Hosho style from Kamakura till the present, and as masame hada, so I personally assume, may be called Hosho hada, in this session there are swords with masame made by swordsmiths who are not at all associated with the Yamato Hosho school. But of course besides we have not omitted to include the few swords we happen to have which are truely representative of the Yamato Hosho tradition through the ages.
Another reason to organize this meeting is that the number of Hosho blades outside Japan is exceedingly small. In the US I only know of one Mumei Juyo Hosho katana, the one in Dr. Lewert's collection, which I was allowed to handle in 1979. Here in Europe as far as I know up till recently there was but one Mumei Juyo katana, the one in Mr. Indlekofer's collection. So the total number of Hosho Juyo swords outside Japan was only two! Only in the last Juyo shinsa another foreigner was awarded the Juyo designation for a third Mumei Hosho katana. It is true, in Great Britain there are or were 4 katana, three of them being attributed to Hosho Sadamune and the fourth being signed Yamato no kuni Takechi no junin Fujiwara no Sadamune. The first three were part respectively of the Sir Frank Bowden collection, the Graig, and later the Michael Dean collection, and the Bower collection. The signed Sadamune is or was in the Liverpool Museum. The authenticity of these i four swords, however, has still to be assessed by the Japanese experts. In view of Tanobe sensei's remarks on Hosho Sadamune the chance of the signed sword being authentic is extremely slim, while the other attributions will probably be inaccurate as well. Mr. Sinclaire has told me about a fifth Hosho blade in Great Britain, a tanto by Hosho Sadayoshi, but this tanto, too, still has to be authenticated in Japan. The extreme scarcity of authentic Hosho swords certainly justifies as well this kanshokai dedicated to Yamato Hosho swords. Hopefully it will prove to be both interesting and instructive.
As I will explain later, something else, however, has been the immediate impetus for holding this meeting.
On show at the tables were 9 swords, which were put at random and not in chronological order, with the tsuka not removed:
- Katana Mumei Kanemaki
- Katana Mei Ishido Korekazu Manji gannen
- Tanto Mumei Sue Hosho
- Tanto Mei Yoshindo
- Katana Mei Katsumura Norikatsu Bunkyu sannen
- Wakizashi Mei Yamashiro no kami Kunikane, nidai
- Wakizashi Gakumei Hosho Sadakiyo
- Ko Wakizashi Mei Kunikane Sendai Kanetsugu
- Katana Mei Gassan Sadakazu Keio ninen
So 5 out of the 9 swords were representantive of the Yamato Hosho tradition in the Kamakura, Muromachi, Shinto and Shinshinto periods.
Those present on the meeting were invited to fill up a form and indicate in which period each sword was made: Kamakura, Nambokucho, Muromachi, Shinto, Shinshinto or Gendaito.
Sword No. 7 in this display is the oldest, it is of the late Kamakura period, around 1324. It is a cut down tachi, but fortunately the owner realised the importance of the signature, and had it cut out and inserted into the 5 suriage nakago. The gakumei reads: Fujiwara Sadakiyo. As far as I could check the Japanese sources, there are 7 signed swords by this smith, but this blade is the one and only signed sword of this length. All others are tanto or ko wakizashi. Kinzan sensei (this is Tanobe Michihiro sensei) in his sayagaki declared it to be chin chin cho cho: very extremely rare. In fact it presently is the one and only signed Hosho outside Japan.
This kanshokai is to celebrate the sword's come back to the Netherlands after thirty years. It turned up in Amsterdam and was auctioned there on February 8 1972 for the ridiculous price of Dfl. 90 1 Yes, ninety guilders. Even more ridiculous was that I did not take the trouble to go to that auction. I had viewed the sword and remember that it was rubbed clean, as is so often done in Holland. The steel surface was completely healthy and intact without any cracks which up till then I often had seen on koto. I therefore suspected it to be shinto. After all, signatures can always be taken away from broken swords and put on younger blades, so I thought. Moreover, as you have seen, the signature is in such an excellent condition that it looks like brand new.
I have seldom seen such an intact and sharp signature from the Kamakura period. In retrospect this must have increased my suspicions. Worst of all, in the books I had at the time, I could only find one example of Fujiwara Sadakiyo's signature which was an enlarged photograph (Nihonto Zenshu Vol.9). The characters looked larger than those on this sword. Signed swords of this smith are so rare that Fujishiro Yoshio sensei did not include an oshigata in his book. I remember still vividly that when I woke up that morning of February 8 1972, I knew it was the day of the auction, but was torn between going to Amsterdam to get the sword and letting it go. At last I decided to let the sword go because of a staff meeting I had to attend at the ministry.
What I totally failed to discern was the sword's typical Yamato sugata with the broad shinogi ji, not to speak of its tachi shape. Besides I neither noticed the fine niju habaki covered with gold plate. Probably it then was covered with grease.
The shock came 8 years later when I browsed through the Juyo Token nado Zufu (vol.26) and saw the gakumei I had seen in Amsterdam. What a tremendous shock: I had missed an extremely rare Juyo Token which I could have acquired for only ninety guilders! Even worse, it is the first and up till now the only sword that during World War II was in my native country Indonesia, that has become Juyo Token 1 For many years thereafter I had immense remorse for my stupidity and indolence, even to the extent that I tried to find out its whereabouts in Japan. It was like searching a needle in a haystack. But then to my great surprise last August the sword turned up in a kantei on paper in Rei. I immediately recognized the sword and hurried to send my conclusion, inquiring whether it was perhaps for sale. I had not expected it, but it was indeed available! It seemed very incredible indeed. As the blade was used for the kantei, it had not yet been advertised, so I was the very first and the only one who knew about it. Although several years before I had decided to cease collecting and to reduce my collection gradually, the temptation was too great to resist.
But as it soon turned out I was jubilant too quickly. The swordshop had no intention whatsoever to sell swords to foreigners. In the meantime a Japanese customer arrived. It all looked like as if I was to miss this sword for a second time. But then help came from a totally unexpected side. Two members of our society, Mr Fujimoto and Mr Kleinnagelvoort were just about to leave for Japan to attend the NBTHK Token Taikai in Kobe. They offered me to visit the dealer, take up the sword and arrange its despatch to Holland. Mr. Fujimoto immediately called the dealer by telephone, and the dealer agreed: the sword was mine at last I It was immediately removed from the showroom. You can imagine what a thrill it was when I took it in my hands after thirty years, especially when I saw how beautiful and healthy the sword was ! This reunion after thirty years, you will agree, is miraculous indeed, and so I decided to celebrate it with this special kanshokai.
As regards the quality of the blade itself, Shinzan sensei in addition put on the saya: hon saku ji ha tenkei katsu deki koto no hoka yu the ji, the ha and the type are made in an exceedingly superior way. Let us try to find out what is so special, apart from it being the only signed o wakizashi of Sadakiyo.
When viewing this blade the first feature which immediately catches the eye is of course the strong flowing masame hada, slightly bending upwards near the kissaki. Differently from what is explained as regards an orikaeshi raei Tegai Kanenaga in Sweden, Hosho masame is not straight. It is flowing. And most conspicuous in the sword are the very long and thick chikei showing in the steel. Chikei are shining lines of me in the steel for which the great Masamune was famous.
As I found out not all Hosho blades have this feature. I checked the descriptions of 7 Sadakiyo signed blades and only two of them have chikei. The gakumei o wakizashi we have here is one of the two. Then I proceeded in checking 31 Hosho Mumei Juyo. of which only 7 have chikei. I then checked all signed blades of the other Hosho smiths and found chikei only on four of them the sword by Sadatsugu which Homma sensei considers to be the best of all Hosho, the Meibutsu Hosho by Sadayoshi, the Hosho Sadamune and one Juyo Token Sadaoki.
Secondly, the steel of this sword is extremely well forged. It seems to be very difficult to perfectly forge all layers of masame. Masame therefore often shows tate ware or cracks. In general these are considered to be kizu or flaws, although being no serious flaws because they are lengthwise cracks. Tate ware in Hosho masame, however, are not considered a flaw, they are accepted as a Hosho characteristic instead and called masa ware. Characteristic or not, the blade on show here does not have any. What it does have are just a few scratches, but they are not open cracks. The cracks of masa ware are usually accompanied by small holes. This sword shows a few holes which fortunately have not developed into cracks.
In the kantei for which this sword was used another feature is mentioned indicating high quality. The ji nie is thick, ji nie atsui. In the Juyo Token nado Zufu description the denotion atsui is omitted. In my very limited experience I have seen ji nie atsui like this only on a sword by the famous Tsuda Sukehiro of Osaka. The kantei's explanation mentions a second most important feature: the appearance of the steel is uruoi or moist. According to Yamanaka (October 1968) the blades of great masters like Masamune, Sa and Yoshimitsu are uruoi. One can only learn how uruoi looks like when it is pointed out on an actual example. This is the opportunity to see such an example.
Lastly, the yakiba is also very well and consistently made, although, apart from the long kinsuji and the ko gunome tsurete, it is very restrained, delicate and quiet. In this sword the hotsure is only seen in a few places and the uchinoke are extremely fine. Although beautifully healthy, the boshi to my mind is atypical because instead of being yakitsume, it is ko maru kaeru, although it does have the hakikake as expected.
The next oldest sword in this display was No.3, again a genuine Hosho blade. It is of the Muromachi period and hence called Sue Hosho. When we compiled the first Solingen catalogue in 1984 we still assumed that the Hosho school ceased to exist at the end of the Nambokucho period. As Tanobe sensei points out, it is true, only of the Tegai a great number of swordsmiths continued working in the Muromachi period, called Sue Tegai, frequently making masame hada. Of the Senjuin and Taima there were practically no swordsmiths in that period, and of the Hosho and Shikake there are not so many Muromachi swords either. So this tanto is also rather a rare item. Indicating the period is the rather sudden uchi sori. The workmanship of this Sue Hosho is of lesser quality than the Sadakiyo: no chikei and no uruoi. Moreover, it does have some masa ware. Noteworthy is that the flowing masame is bending downwards toward the ha machi and upwards following the boshi.
Next comes No.6, a wakizashi made around 1667-1672 by Yamato no kami Kunikane, a smith of jo jo saku in Sendai, Mutsu province. His father, Yamato Daijo Kunikane, of saijo saku rank, considered himself to be a descendant of Hosho Goro Sadamune. Hence this sword is Shinto Yamato Hosho. The flowing masame hada on this sword is much less conspicuous than that of Sadakiyo and the Sue Hosho. On ura side it even can easily be mistaken for tightly forged ko itame. Only when viewing it without direct light on the blade, the ko itame grains appear to be arranged in masame formations. Tanobe sensei has pointed out the difference in patterns between Sadayoshi, Sadakiyo and Sadaoki: the first made them very large, the second made them both large and small while the third usually made small ones. Probably Shinto Hosho smiths were inclined to follow Sadaoki. There is one Mumei Juyo Sadaoki with ko itame tsumi nagare te masa kakari, of which the masame is komakaku yoku tsumi, that is the major part being tightly forged ko itame with fine masame (Juyo Token nado Zufu Vol.35). It is often pointed out in kantei that differently from the real Hosho, Kunikane's swords seldom have chikei. On this sword, however, there are chikei, a few of which are long, although very tiny. On the other hand, as we have seen, the majority of the real Hosho neither have chikei.
This Shinto Hosho even has a few tiny scratchlike masa ware. Really different, however, is the quality of the yakiba. This sword's nioiguchi is fukaku akaruku saeru: wide, bright and clear. This raises the question, could this be the result of a difference in temperature when heating before yaki ire ? If so, is the ha saki of the Shinto Hosho, although visually more beautiful, not more brittle than the Kamakura Hosho and thus more apt to break ? Could the reason be that the old Hosho swords were primarily made to survive real battle rather than to be beautiful ? Otherwise the Hosho style is clearly implemented in this Shinto Hosho. The hamon shows nijuba, kuichigai ha, and sunagashi beside kinsuji; the boshi is yakitsume fu with hakekake as well.
No.l is another Shinto, although perhaps younger than No.6. The sword is Mumei and according to the Hozon kanteisho made by Kashu Kanemaki. Indeed in Kaga province the Kanewaka school due to the Yamato influence sometimes made swords with masame. In this case as well the masame is flowing.
Next come the shinshinto blades. Comparatively the oldest of the shinshinto is No.8, the hira tsukuri ko wakizashi. jointly made by Kunikane and Kanetsugu, both of Sendai. Yamashiro daijo Kunikane school had 14 generations who all were in the service of the Date daimyo of Sendai. The United Kingdom Sword Register's compiler attnbu tes this sword to the 10th generation. However, as there are swords by Kanetsugu in Sendai, dated Kaei (1848-1854), probably this Kunikane is the 13th generation of whom there are also swords dated Kaei period. This sword therefore is Shinshinto Yamato Hosho. Conspicuous in this blade are the sunagashi in the yakiba. The masame hada is nagare.
The next shinshinto is No.5, dated Bunkyu 3, 1863, and made by Katsumura Norikatsu, a smith of jo saku rank working in Mito in Hitachi province. Norikatsu started making swords with itame hada in the style of his teacher, Norimune, of whose name he took the character Nori. Later he adopted the Yamato Hosho style as a rule and is therefore considered as Shinshinto Yamato Hosho. He forged blades for Tokugawa Nariaki, the Mito daimyo who is known as a swordsmith under the name Mito Rekko. Probably the latter confined himself to yaki ire. This blade is impressive because of the enormous activities in the workmanship. The hamon comprising rows of ashi and yo, niju ba, kuichigai ha, sunagashi and kinsuji. The boshi, too, is full of hakikake ,on ura. and with kinsuji and some hakekake on omote. The kitae has an abundance of ji nie and chikei. The ji nie, although not as thick as those of Sadakiyo, are also ji nie atsui. Most exceptional is, that the ji nie in my opinion actually formes nie utsuri. Iida Kazuo sensei confirmed this in 1983. It has antai.
Nie utsuri is considered a characteristic of the Yamashiro den, but Yamato swordsmiths sometimes made it, too. I found nie utsuri on 2 blades by Sadakiyo, 1 blade by Sadaoki, and another by Sadamitsu. Of the Mumei Juyo I checked, there are 5 Senjuin, 4 Taima, 1 Tegai and 4 Shikake showing nie utsuri. The Mumei Tegai Kanetoshi of Mr. Quirt also has nie utsuri. 2 Hosho have the regular utsuri. This sword has been very long, around 83 cm, but due to it length it was regrettably shortened about 8 cm. Even so its shape is still impressive. An identification point is the long ashi which indicate that this sword is obviously shinshinto. Besides, the steel on close examination turns out to have many patches of muji hada. The masame itself is very fine. It is only thanks to the clusters of nie and yubashiri following the pattern that it is very clearly visible.
Katsumura Norikatsu beside being a pupil of Norimune and Hosokawa Masayoshi, was also instructed by Ishido Korekazu. We are so lucky to have No. 2 in the Netherlands, a sword by this Korekazu which is made in the Yamato Hosho style, so we have the opportunity to compare the work of the master with that of his pupil. Most Japanese sources say, that Korekazu made his blades with itame hada or ko itame in Soshu den and Bizen den. limura Kajo sensei is the only expert putting forward that Korekazu, although very rarely, also made masame hada. So in this context this sword is a very unique example as well. It shows all characteristics of Yamato Hosho except for the shinogi ji. A characteristic of Korekazu is his very narrow shinogi ji. The hamon has a lot of ashi, and shows kuichigai, hotsure, niju ba, sanju ba, uchi no ke, sunagashi and kinsuji. The kitae is masame with plenty ji nie. Like the blade of Norikatsu this sword has muji hada as well. There are also chikei and yubashiri.
Then we have sword No.9, bearing the inscription Gassan Sadakazu. As mentioned, the typical hada of the Gassan school is ayasugi hada. Gassan Sadakazu, however, also made blades with masame. This is quite understandable, because for producing ayasugi hada you have to make masame hada first. By filing out parts of the masame steel and then by hammering the surface flat, ayasugi comes forth from the masame. Filing off parts from the steel of course weakens it, so this is another example of visual beauty being achieved at the expense of the quality of the blade as a weapon.
Lastly we have No.4, a tanto made by no less a person than the present Mukansha swordsmith Yoshihara Yoshindo, who earned many high awards. Together with his brother he was one of the first to succeed in making utsuri again. This blade, however, has no utsuri. It has masame hada, which is straight rather than flowing and does not bend downward to the ha machi nor follows the boshi upwards. Hence it is not fully in accordance with the Yamato Hosho tradition. However, it does have masa ware, and the smith did his best to make the boshi yakitsume.