by Jim Kurrasch
from the September 1995 Nanka Token Kai Newsletter
The topic for the LA’s Branch of the NTHK sword display of this years Nisei Week was Swords of Kyushu. It always amazes me when a fairly small group of sword collectors (less than 20) can come up with this kind of display, even after restricting the possibilities so severely. But they did. These are listed in the order that they were displayed in.
Fujiwara Takata School (mumei) – Katana about 1573 certified by a Japanese Art Committee
Fujiwara Kuniyuki – Wakizashi 1658 NBTHK Tokubetsu Kicho Token Certificate
Chikugo Yoshikuni II – Daisho
Dai – Mumei – certificate by the NBTHK.
Sho – signed ‘Chikushu Yanagawa ju Onizuka Yoshikuni’ certified as genuine by a Japanese Art Judgment Committee
Takada Yukimitsu – Wakizashi 1684 signed ‘Bungo Takada ju Fujiwara Yukimitsu’, issued a Kantei Sho certificate by the NTHK
Fujiwara Sadayuki – Wakizashi 1596 signed ‘Fujiwara Sadayuki’
Kikuchi Ju Harukuni – Katana 1532 signed ‘Kikuchi ju Harukuni’
Suishinshi Masatsugu – Katana signed ‘Suishinshi Masatsugu’ and dated ‘Kaei Ni-Nen Hachi Gattsu’ (made august, 1849), issued a Yu Shu Saku Kantei Sho Certificate by the NTHK.
Hizen Tadahiro II – Katana signed ‘Hizen (no) Kuni ju Omi (no) Daijo Fujiwara Tadahiro’
Hizen Tadahiro II – Katana signed ‘Hizen (no) Kuni Omi (no) Daijo Fujiwara Tadahiro’
Hizen Tadayoshi School – Katana mumei issued a Kantei Sho Certificate by the NTHK.
Hizen Tadayoshi VI – Katana signed ‘Hizen (no) Kuni Omi no Kami Tadayoshi’ and dated ‘Bunka Yonen Hachi-Gatsu’ (August, 1807)
Hizen Masahiro I – Daisho
Dai Signed ‘Hizen Kuni Kawachi Daijo Fujiwara Masahiro’, Issued A Kantei Sho Certificate By The NTHK.
Sho Signed ‘Hizen Kuni Kawachi Daijo Fujiwara Masahiro’, Issued A Kantei Sho Certificate By The NTHK.
Hizen Masahiro II – Daisho
Dai signed ‘Hishu Kawachi Kami Fujiwara Masahiro’, and certified as genuine by a Japanese Art Committee
Sho signed ‘Hishu Kawachi Kami Fujiwara Masahiro’
Inoue Kunisada II – Daisho
Dai = Juyô signed ‘Inoue Izumi no Kami Kunisada’, has a Kiku (engraved chrysanthemum) and is dated ‘Kanbun Hachi-nen Ni-Gattsu’ (February, 1668), received a personal certificate and sayagaki (writing on scabbard) by Dr. Suiken Fukunaga, received a verification certificate from the New Mexico Shinza of 1983, received a Tokubetsu Kicho certificate from the NBTHK in Tokyo, Juyô (excellent)
Sho – Mumei issued a Kantei Sho certificate by the NTHK of Tokyo
Okutaro Kunihira – Katana signed ‘Satsuma (no) Kuni ju Okutaro Kunihira’, and also is engraved with his age ‘Roku ju Sai’ (68) and date ‘Kampo Ni-Nen Hachi Gatsu Yoshi Hi (made on a fine day in august, 1742),
Nami-No-Hira Shigeyoshi – Katana signed ‘Sashu ju Shigeyoshi Saku’, issued a Tokubetsu Kicho Token Certificate by the NBTHK.
Tsuba – Kodogu
1804 – Tsuba Chiishiki School – Satsuma Carp in a stream Carved Iron
1740 – Tsuba Oda School – Satsuma Tiger And Dragon In Iron
1830 – Tsuba Teruyuki – Satsuma A Rock Garden In Iron
1868 – Tsuba Ichifushi – Satsuma Eggplant In Iron
1804 – Tsuba Jingo School – Higo Modeled Dragon In Iron
1800 – Tsuba Jingo School – Higo Diamond Pattern In Iron
1868 – Tsuba Jingo – Higo Dragons And Vajra In Iron
1800 – Tsuba Kumagai – Edo/Higo Matsu To Tsuki (Moon) In Iron
1865 – Kozuka Yogoro Yoshimasa A Festival Scene In Kinko
1781 – Kozuka Toshin Chindo Komei And Kwanyu On Iron
1940 – Menuki Contemporary Mumei Demons With Clubs In Kinko
1780 – Menuki Tetsugendo Naoshige Portuguese Sailors In Kinko
1804 – Menuki Goto School Kabuto (War Helmets) In Kinko
1800 – Menuki Goto School Tatsu (Dragons) In Kinko
1800 – Fuchkashi Ayakoji School War Designs In Kinko
1800 – Fuchkashi Omori Eiman War Scenes In Kinko
1860 – Tsuba Hayashi School – Higo Gold Flowers And Vines On Iron
1810 – Tsuba Hayashi School – Higo Plum Blossoms In Iron
1700 – Tsuba Kanshiro – Higo Matsu (Pine Tree) In Iron
1550 – Tsuba Kanaguchi – Chikuzen Flowers & Insects In Iron
1716 – Tsuba Namban – Hizen Monkey And Fish In Iron
1661 – Tsuba Namban – Hizen 12 Zodiac Signs In Iron
1648 – Tsuba Namban – Hizen Take / Otoko In Iron
1789 – Tsuba Namban – Hizen Dragons And Flowers In Iron
1710 – Kozuka Nara School – Soo Family Hat & Hoe On Iron
1600 – Kozuka Goto Chojo Rabbit On Waves In Kinko
1800 – Menuki Ichi-No-Mia Running Boars In Kinko
1818 – Menuki Tanaka Yoshiyuki Hana (Flowers) In Kinko
1550 – Fuchkashi Pre-Heianjo – Kyoto Foraging Rabbit On Iron
1830 – Fuchkashi Hitachi (Mito) Sparrows And Bamboo In Kinko
1740 – Fuchkashi Nara (Joi?) Shoki And Demon In Kinko
1750 – Fuchkashi Nomura School Court Hats & Hollyhock In Kinko
1675 – Tsuba Masatsugu – Hizen 2 Doves Of Hachiman In Iron
1730 – Tsuba Jakushi School – Hizen Farming Scenes In Iron
1700 – Tsuba Jakushi – Hizen Flying Dragons In Iron
1650 – Tsuba Tetsujin – Hizen Kiku In A Stream In Iron
1720 – Tsuba Wakamoto – Hizen Rats Eating Rattan In Iron
1716 – Tsuba Kunishige – Hirado Dragon & Rel Impl. In Kinko
1850 – Tsuba Yagami – Hizen Drops On Fishnet In Iron
1650 – Tsuba Eikan – Hizen Leaf Fronds In Iron
1840 – Kozuka Hamano School – Edo Sage In Kimono In Kinko
1801 – Kozuka Zeraku – Satsuma Musashibo Benkei In Kinko
1760 – Kogai Inagawa Shigehisa Children Playing In Kinko
1720 – Kozuka Korin – Kyoto Traveler Tying Sandal In Kinko
1818 – Menuki Goto School Kiri Mon (Matsudaira) In Kinko
1850 – Menuki Yasuchika VI Toads Or Frogs In Kinko
1748 – Fuchkashi Hitachi (Mito) Tako (Octopus) In Kinko
1840 – Fuchkashi Ichi-No-Mia Two Sages In Kinko
1700 – Tsuka Heianjo F.K. Samezauka Dragon Fly, Deity
1600 – Menuki Goto Tokujo Kara Shishi In Kinko
1716 – D. Tsuba Masatatsu Matsu (Pine Trees In Iron
1818 – D. Tsuba Imono Masayoshi Sake Drinker In Kinko
1688 – Mitokoromono Kaga Goto Genji – Heiki Wars In Kinko
1680 – Handle Set Goto School Porter Trappings In Kinko
Al and Min at the 95 Nisei Week display.
The following 2 descriptions were written by Blaine Navroth for the Nisei Week displays and written up in the November 1995 Nanka Token Kai Newsletter.
Rai Kunimichi – Wakizashi
The first Dewa no Daijô Kunimichi (1575 – 1658) was the best student of the famous Horikawa Kunihiro (who died in 1614). It is believed that he also studied under Iga no Kami Kanemichi (Kinmichi – active from 1573 to 1596+). Kunimichi worked mostly in Kyôto city, of Yamashiro province, but he also worked in Inaba province. For his sword making skills, Kunimichi was granted the title of ‘Dewa no Daijô’ sometime after the death of Kunihiro in 1614 and before 1617. His blades have a quality rating of Jo Jo Saku (very good) according to Fujishiro.
Data: mumei (unsigned), certified as Kunimichi’s work by the San Francisco Shinza of 1987 on a Jo Jo saku (very good rating) certificate, shôbu – zukuri shape (ridged sides – no yokote line), 38.1 cm (1 shaku, 2.6 sun) long, very little sori (curvature), itame hada (wood grain), notare – midare hamon of nie (speckled wavy irregular temper), abundant sunagashi (floating sand), abundant ji-nie (speckled skin), ômotte horimono is a ken (Chinese blade) topped by bonji (Chinese calligraphic characters), the ura side horimono is simple gomabashi (chopsticks), the nakago (tang) has two mekugi-ana (peg holes), sujikai file marks, a futsu shape with a katayama kengyô tip.
Tamba no Kami Mishina Yoshimichi I – Wakizashi
Mishina Yoshimichi was an artisan of Kyôto city in Yamashiro province. His father was the famous Mishina Kanemichi of Seki city in Mino province, a direct descendant of the great Naoe-Shidzu Kaneuji. Yoshimichi was the founder of the Mishina branch line school of Tokyo. One of his sons founded another school branch in Ôsaka of Settsû province. Yoshimichi was active around the Keicho era (1596) and he was awarded the use of the title ‘Tamba no Kami’ for his swordmaking skills. His blades have a quality rating of Jo Jo Saku (very good) and a sharpness rating of ryô-wazamono (very good).
Description: signed ‘Tamba no Kami Yoshimichi’, certified as genuine by a Japanese are committee, 44.9 cm (1 shaku 4.8 sun) long.
With this wakizashi by Yoshimichi I have a somewhat interesting tale to tell. At the 87 Shinza in San Francisco, both Tom and I were working in the Judges room. Tom came up to me and said that Iida was doing a ôshigata of my blade. I thought “All right”. About 3 months later I happened to be in Ôsaka, Japan. I was hitting every sword shop that I could find to see what I could see. There was one in a mall, that I stopped into. I bought a copy of every sword type newspaper or magazine that they had.
As I walked out of the shop, I was reading one of them (actually looking at the pictures, since my Japanese is still just about non-existent). I open it up to one of the inside pages and saw a ôshigata of my wakizashi, along with a description. I ran back into the shop and pointing at the ôshigata I was yelling “That’s my sword”. I showed it to the shop keepers, and grabbed every copy of that Newsletter that they had. Loudly I was asking “Ikura desû?” They gave me about 6 or 7 copies for free. I think that they just wanted to get the Crazy Hakujin out of their shop, with as little trouble as possible.
Tamba no Kami Yoshimichi Kyotô – Shodai
This section is from the December 1995 Nanka Token Kai Newsletter
Long Sword: Kikuchi Ju Harukuni
by Blaine Navroth
Artisan: Ishinuki Harukuni was an artisan of the Dotanuki group who worked in Kikuchi village of Higo province on Kyushu island, around the Tenmon era (1532). He usually only made tantô (daggers). This is a rare example of his katana (long sword) work. Harukuni’s blades have a quality rating of chû jo saku (above average) according to both the Nihon Toko Jiten by Fujishiro and the Toko Taikan by Tokuno Kazuo. Harukunis style of work was based upon the Yamashiro sword making school.
Blade: signed ‘Kikuchi ju Harukuni’ (made in Kikuchi Village of Higo Province). Shinogi – zukuri shape (ridged sides), deep koshi-zori (strong curvature more pronounced toward the tang end of the blade), chû-kissaki (medium point), 75.2 cm (2 shaku, 4.8 sun) long, itame nagare hada (long word grain), chû-suguba nioi hamon (straight misty medium width temper). The nakago (tang) is suriage (shortened) by 6.7 cm. There are two mekugi-ana (peg holes), sujikai yasuri (right side down file marks), a kiri-jiri (square cut of tang bottom) and the full five character signature.
Koshirae: late Edo (circa 1850) Satsuma mon tachi koshirae (Satsuma clan family crest furniture). The koshirae was probably put together by a member of the Yoshioka (inaba-no-suke) school which specialized in this type of artistic work. This koshirae is one example of the formal mountings used by the daimyo (nobility). The saya is black lacquer with tiny mother of pearl inclusions and decorative kinko (soft metal) inclusions. All of the mounts are a copper colored alloy base with black lacquer and ishime (patterns) on most of them. The mon are gold overlaid, some of which has worn off.
Dagger: Dotanuki Kunikatsu
by Blaine Navroth
Koyama Samasuke Kunikatsu was a sword smith belonging to the Dotanuki family. He was active around the Tenshô through the Keicho eras (1573 – 1615). He first resided in Kinoshita City of Higo Province where he evidently studied the techniques of the Enju school. At sometime he then moved to Kumamoto city. There, he became the personal sword smith of Katô Kiyomasa (1562 – 1611), daimyo (ruler) of half of the province of Higo [Kiyomasa was a relative of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, ruler of Japan at the time]. Kunikatsu so pleased Kiyomasa with his skill at swordsmithing that in 1592 he was granted the permission of using a new name utilizing the second kanji of Kiyomasa’s name. He took the name of Masakuni at that time, retaining ‘kuni’ from his own previous name. His blades have a sharpness rating of wazamono (good) and a quality rating of chû jo saku (above average).
Blade: unsigned, identified on a jo jo saku (very good) certificate issued by the Toensha, hira-zukuri shape (flat surfaces), 27.3 cm (9 sun) long, itame hada (wood grain surface), ko nie suguba hamon (fine speckled straight temper).
Mounting: typical example of the mounting done during the late Edo period (1850). The total quality is rated chû jo saku (above average). The saya (scabbard) is rough black and red lacquer combination with a unique scabbard stop (to prevent saya from slipping out of the sash) in the form of an official’s traveling hat, probably made around 1840. The tsuba was made by an artisan of the Tanaka Kiyotoshi school of Edo (Tokyô) who was active around 1825, the subject is a hoo bird (mythical phoenix) in some bushes. The kozuka was made by an artisan of the Kikuoka school of Edo (Tokyô) who was active around the tempo era (1830), the subject is a sky dragon in clouds. The fuchi-kashira was made by an artisan of Mito city in Hitachi province who was active around 1800, the subject is the paulownia mon (family crest) on a background design of arabesque. The menuki were made by a branch line Goto school artisan who was active around 1810 and probably resided in Edo. The subject is jungle tigers in a bamboo forest.
Long Sword: Rai Eisen (Kinmichi II) And Rai Kinmichi III
by Blaine Navroth
Artisans: Rai Eisen (Kinmichi II) was the grandson of Kanemichi, founder of the Mishina school of Yamashiro Province. Eisen had a long and productive life. It is not known when he was born or died, but dated blades by him (at first signed with Kinmichi) appeared as early as Kanei ju-san-nen (1636) and continued until at least Teikyo yon-nen (1687 ) the date on this blade. This covered a productive time period of 51 years. He was granted the title ‘Izumi no Kami’ due to the quality of his work, early in his career. He apparently became a devout Buddhist and began signing his blades ‘Daihoshi Hokkyo Rai Kinmichi’. He then began signing with his Buddhist name ‘Eisen’. His work has a general quality rating of jo saku (good) according to Fujishiro, and a sharpness rating of wazamono (good). Using the name Rai Eisen, he and Rai Kinmichi III made several blades together.
Rai Kinmichi III was the second son of Rai Kinmichi II. Blades were made by him as early as the beginning of Enpo (1673), and continued well into the Genroku era (1688 – 1704). He was granted the title of ‘Izumi no Kami’ during the Enpo era. He was also allowed to use a kiku (imperial chrysanthemum monogram) on his work. His work has a general quality rating of chû-jo saku (above average) according to Fujishiro, and a sharpness rating of wazamono (good).
Data: omote (outside tang surface): has a special eda kiku mon (chrysanthemum with branch engraving). It is signed ‘Daihoshi Hokkyo Rai Eisen’ and ‘Izumi (no) Kami Fujiwara Rai Kinmichi). The ura (inside tang surface) is signed ‘I namban tetsû tsukuru kore’ (barbarian steel used in the forging) and is dated ‘Teikyo yon-nen ni-gatsu yoshi hi’ (mad on a fine day in February of 1687). It is interesting to note that the ‘yon-nen’ (4th year of Teikyo) was not done in the conventional kanji manner, as the conventional kanji also means ‘death’. The blade was issued a Hozon-to certificate verifying the signature by the NBTHK in Tokyô on Feb. 7, 1984. This was probably done before the blade was polished. There is an excellent complimentary description of this blade in an article on sunagashi (floating sand) written by Francis Boyd in the northern California Japanese sword club newsletter, published January of 1995. Mr. Boyd appears to be ‘right on’ when he stated that the blade was an outstanding copy of an excellent Kotô Yamashiro Sôshû school blade (and this could only have been requested by someone of great importance). It was an exact copy of the original blade, including the cut off tang and three mekugi-ana (peg holes). It has received a special ‘Jûyô’ polish and very likely was submitted for a Jûyô rating. However, it is noted that the machi (notches separating the blade from the tang) have been moved up maybe half an inch at the most, and any blade of this period can be refused Jûyô ranking just for that one modification. It is probable that this blade is the final joint work of the two smiths and most likely one of their best works, if not the best work. The activity and forging of this blade is way above the average work by either smith. As an additional fact, this blade very likely was ordered by a Daimyo (lord) or an important member of the imperial court.
Blade description: shinogi-zukuri shape (ridged sides) with torii-zorii (even curve). It has a chû-kissaki (average point) and a unique maru mune (rounded back) which ends about 4 cm from the point where it is ihori-mune (two sided). It is 66.1 cm (2 shaku, 1.8 sun) long. It has beautiful mokume hada (burled grain) loaded with chikei (gray lines). There is also profuse ji-nie (skin-speckling and a nie suguba-gunome-midare hamon (speckled slightly undulating temper line) with kinsuji (golden lines) along the hamon and very tasteful sunagashi (floating sand) in the tempered surface all of which continues into the bôshi (tip temper) with little or no turn back. The nakago (tang) is ubu (unshortened) and has 3 original mekugi-ana (peg holes) copied from the original Kotô blade. There is sujikai-yasurime (normal right side down file marks) and a kiri-jiri (straight tang end). Finally there is the long descriptive data contained on both sides of the tang