Nihonto.com is pleased to present the katana by Chikuzen Nobukuni Yoshikane (筑前信國吉包). Yoshikane was is son of Chikuzen Nobukuni Yoshitsugu (筑前信國吉次) and the grandson of Chikuzen Nobukuni Yoshisada (筑前信國吉貞) who was the founder of the Chikuzen Nobukuni (筑前信國) line of sword smiths.
Chikuzen Yoshisada (筑前吉貞), the founder of the school, was called to Chikuzen Province in the early 1600’s by Kuroda Nagamasa who was a famous Daimyo of the Sentoku Era and one of the major Daimyo under Toyotomi Hideyoshi and later under Tokugawa Ieyasu. This school produced many noteworthy smiths such as Yoshimasa (吉政), Yoshitsugu (吉次), and Yoshikane (吉包) (the smith who made this blade).
Yoshikane (吉包) is rated by Fujishiro as a Jô-saku smith (highly skilled). He worked in the Kanbun and Tenna eras (1660’-1680’s). This blade is an excellent example of his work. The total length of the cutting edge of this blade is 71.1 cm or just under 28 inches. The sori (curvature) is 1.6 cm or 0.62 inches. The width at the hamachi (moto-haba) is 2.94 cm or 1.15 inches and the width at the kissaki (saki0-haba) is 2.15 cm or 0.84 inches. The kasane or thickness of the blade is 0.66 cm or 0.25 inches. The nakago has only one hole and is inscribed with the maker’s signature which reads Chikushû Ju Minamoto Nobukuni Yoshikane (筑前住源信國吉包) The ura or backside of the tang is inscribed Motte Nanbantetsu Saku Kore (以南蛮鉄作是). This ura-mei translates to “Made with Foreign Iron”. Using Dutch steel was very popular with a number of sword making schools in the 1600’s when this blade was made.
The overall shape of this blade is graceful and strong with a robust shape and a slightly stretched point. The jigane (workings of the steel) is ko-itame with an outstanding wood-like grain. There is plenty of ji-nie throughout. In the shinogi-ji we find a combination of itame, mokume, and even some masame hada. The hamon starts from the hamachi (base of the blade) in a straight (suguha) and then develops into a robust gunome-midare (regularly undulating) style that has many activities such as sunagashi and kinsuji bordered by a bright nioi-guchi. The hamon continues into the bôshi with a large round turn-back that continues down the mune past the yokote.
Yoshikane died on August 22nd of the sixth year of Genroku (1693) after having served the Kuroda family of Chikuzen Province for many productive years.
Of interesting note is the fact that the son of Yoshikane, Shigekane was born in the first year of Enpô (1673). In 1722 at the age of 49, he was hired by the eighth Tokugawa Shôgun, Yoshimune, and he moved to Edô. He made swords at Hamagoden Palace together with Mondonoshô Masakiyo and Ippei Yasuyo, both of Satsuma. They made swords for the Shôgun and due to their skill, they were all allowed to inscribe the Ichiyo Aoi (single hollyhock leaf) on the tangs of their swords. This was a great honor, indeed and due in no small part to the teachings of his father, Chikuzen Yoshikane.
This sword comes with t very nice koshirae from the late Edô period. The tsuba is iron and inlaid with an abstract design of mountains and clouds done in silver and gold. The hitsu-ana are carved in the form of snowflakes with shakudo sekigane. The fuchi is of gold colored copper with flowers and leaves done in shakudo, silver, and gold. The kashira is horn. The menuki are also of copper which has been colored gold with Tokugawa Aoi mon. The saya is covered in brown leather and the kojiri is shibuichi. There is a kogai which is copper that has been gilded gold and has a Kiri mon and a Kiku mon inscribed.
This beautiful sword comes with NBTHK Tokubetsu Hozon papers attesting to its quality and authenticity.