This is a beautiful katana by the Echizen Shintô smith Shodai Masanori. His full signature on this blade is Yamato (no) Kami Daijô Fujiwara Masanori. He was active around the Kanei era (1623-1648). He is said to have been the last descendent of Sanjô Yoshinori and his area of origin is Tango Miyazu. He moved first to Kyoto and finally he resided in Fukui in Echizen Province.
Masanori is considered to have been one of the premier smiths of Echizen Province rivaling the most famous smiths of the Yasutsugu school. His works are well respected and sought after due to their high rating of Ryôwazamono (extreme sharp cutting ability).
He left many hira-zukuri wakizashi with a hamon of a strong notare ko-midareba. This blade is an excellent example of his katana which is shinogi-zukuri with a narrow shinogi-ji. It has a torii-zori (the curvature is in the center of the blade). The kitae (grain) of the sword is a beautiful mixture of a flowing itame with some mokume and a few areas of masame. This creates an overall gorgeous jigane. The grain in the shinogi is difficult to see because there are bo-hi (large grooves) on both sides but the typical masame hada for which he is known is just visible in the kissaki at the end of the groove.
The overall length of this katana is 28.25 inches or 71.8 cm. The moto-haba (width at the hamachi) is 1.17 inches or 2.97 cm and the width at the kissaki (tip) is 0.90 inches or 2.28 cm. The sori is 0.624 inches or 1.59 cm. The hamon is a very graceful ko-notare midare based on suguha. It is nioi deki with the habuchi (area between the hard tempered edge and the untempered body of the sword) is covered in fine nie flowing into the ji. There is sunagashi and ji-nie throughout and above the hamon. If you look closely, you will find the top of the jigane just where the edge of the shinogi-ji begins covered with a very fine nie forming almost what looks like utsuri. This sword was awarded NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon papers attesting to its authenticity, quality, and superb condition.
This blade is in wonderful polish with no flaws or problems of any kind. It comes with a two piece gold wrapped habaki in a seasoned shirasaya. It is accompanied by a nice set of Edo era koshirae. The saya is done in a dark black lacquer and is in excellent condition. The fuchi is shakudo with the Samurai’s family mon on both sides. The kashira is horn. The menuki are of flowers done in shakudo with gold wash highlights. The tsuba is a large tsuba from the Kyo-Shoami school. It is carved in a very delicate yet strong design. It measures 3 1/4 inches by 3 3/16 inches. It comes with NBTHK Hozon papers that attest to its quality and attribution.