We are pleased to present a very unusual and beautiful wakizashi from the Kyotô Shintô Yoshimichi smith lineage. This blade is signed Tanba (no) Kami Yoshimichi (丹波守吉道). The NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon papers attribute it to the Fushimi Yoshimichi who lived around the Kanei era (1624). He lived in Fushimi, and his style of signature is unique so he is called , “Fushimi Tanba”. In actuality, there is a question as to whether this might not be the mei (signature) of the Shodai (first generation) Yoshimichi in his early or later period of sword making. Further research is necessary in this area of thought.
The first generation Yoshimichi was the third son of Mino Kanemichi, he along with his three siblings, went with his father, Kanemichi, to Kyoto and made swords until around the tenth year of Kanei (1635). He received the title of Tanba no Kami in the fourth year of Bunroku (1595).
His works have a jitetsu of itame, and although the hamon is midare and ô-midare, the sunagashi in all of them have as appearance like sudareba. He is said to have continued to develop sudareba and kikusui ha until his later years. Whether or not Fushimi Yoshimichi and the Shodai Yoshimichi are one in the same smith, there is no doubt that the smith who crafted this wakizashi possessed great skill. Both of these smiths are rated as Jôsaku smiths (highly skilled) and that shows in the quality of this blade.
This wakizashi certainly shows a flamboyant midare/sudareba that has been taken to the extreme. There is a feeling of clouds moving rapidly across the sky throughout the blade on both sides. This blade has a length (nagasa) of 12.375 inches or 31.4 cm. The moto-haba (width at the base) is 1.17 inches or 2.8 cm and the saki-haba (width at the point) is 1.0 inches or 2.6 cm. The kasane (thickness of the blade) is 0.14 inches or 0.4 cm.
The nakago (tang) of the blade is ubu (unshortened) with one mekugi-ana. As noted, the signature reads Tanba (no) Kami Yoshimichi (丹波守吉道) and there is no date. The blade comes with NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon papers attesting to the quality of the blade and its excellent condition.
A feature of this blade that I find truly fascinating is its koshirae. It has a very unusual koshirae that was crafted by Kokuryōken Nenosaki + kaō (国良軒⼦先「花押」). He made all of the various parts of the koshirae with the exception of the kozuka that does not, to my eye, appear to be his work. What is fascinating about this koshirae is the theme. All of the various parts, including the saya, depict game pieces, game boards, and the containers, etc. that are necessary to play the games of Go and Shogi. All of the metal kodogu parts are made of shakudo, except the Go stones on the kashira and kurikatawhich are made of both shakudo and shibuichi to simulate the fact that Go stones are black and white. Most of the Shogi tiles contain kanji characters done in gold. Even the lacquer on the saya is applied so that the entire saya resembles the checkerboard pattern of a Go board.
This koshirae comes with NBTHK Hozon papers that attest to the validity of the signature of the artist who made this koshirae and the quality and condition of his work. The following is a translation of the Hozon papers:
Kantei-Sho (鑑定書) ‒ APPRAISAL
Aogai-mijin bannome-mon nuri-saya wakizashi-koshirae (⻘⾙微塵盤⽬⽂塗鞘脇指拵)
‒ Wakizashi-koshirae featuring saya with mother-of-pearl accents and striped lacquer finish in the style of a Go board
Fuchigashira : Depicting Shōgi pieces and Go stones, signed: Kokuryōken Nenosaki + kaō (国良軒⼦先「花押」)
Menuki : Depicting Go board and Go stone container
Tsuba : Depicting Shōgi pieces and arabesques, unsigned
Kozuka : Depicting Go stone container, Go board, and praying mantis, unsigned
Tsuka : Covered with white same and wrapped moro-tsumami-maki style with brownand dark green rippled sasanami cord
According to the result of the shinsa committee of our society, we judge this work as authentic andrank it as Hozon Tōsōgu.
August 25, 2020
[Foundation] Nihon Bijutsu Tōken Hozon Kyōkai, NBTHK (⽇本美術⼑劍保存協會)
This wakizashi shows evidence of many years of loving wear by its former owner who must have been a true “gamer”. The age of this koshirae, its obvious use, and its current condition all combine with this excellent Yoshimichi blade to make this wakizashi a truly remarkable piece of history.